Teaching in a bilingual school presents many unique challenges and opportunities for teachers. Increased cross-cultural learning and development opportunities are a strong draw, as is improving their own second language skills through working with other faculty and students who are native speakers of a different language.

In September 2020, we opened the first bilingual school in our network–BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen. Being a founding member of faculty or school leadership in a new school always presents a variety of challenges to overcome and situations to adjust to, and starting the first bilingual school can amplify these challenges. Our founding faculty and leaders adjusted and improved their lessons, techniques, and practice regularly throughout the school year to achieve the great success and continued growth of the school.

What is unique about working in a bilingual school? What were some of the challenges they faced? In what ways did they grow as educators? Our founding local and expat faculty shared their reflections on creating a new bilingual school with us.

What do you enjoy most about teaching in a bilingual school?

“Being in the classroom and talking to the kids. We’ve got a really good group of students and their English level is great. Even down to the kindergarten level you can have real conversations with them and their enthusiasm for learning and happiness at the school makes this a great job.”

– Chris McGee, Science Subject Expert Teacher/Chair of Science Department

“I think the best thing about teaching in a bilingual school is that I can always work together with my co-teacher. In a bilingual school, every class has two fixed homeroom teachers, one Chinese teacher and one expat teacher. We can work together to plan our lessons, events and activities, we can also learn from each other, support each other and share our experiences. Such class settings help us to build a strong positive relationship, not only with each other, but also with our students.”

– Shelly Qiu, Early Education teacher

BBSZ Early years teacher teaching in a bilingual school

“Teaching in a bilingual school has given me the opportunity to be immersed in a rich cultural experience. Initially it took me out of my comfort zone and made me think differently about the way in which young children learn and develop. The part I most enjoy, especially with the younger age group I am teaching, is seeing the progress the children make and the fun, loving, and individual personalities they each develop.”

Gina Winthrop, Early Education teacher

“As the first bilingual school in the BASIS system, we have a special co-teaching model, and that is what I enjoy most teaching here. This is my first year as an official teacher. With the co-teaching model, I can seek help from my co-teacher whenever I have any questions and I can learn so much from observing how my co-teacher, who is much more experienced than me, runs his classes.

Besides learning and observing, I also have plenty of opportunities to lead classes. When I’m leading, I can practice my teaching skills and apply what I learned in my classroom. We also had the chance to try different teaching methods that would not be achieved with only one person. In many classes, we are able to both stand in the front of the room and teach together.

For students, the collaborations between the two teachers can set a great role model for them. Our students are getting more and more respectful to each other as the year goes. We can see that from their daily interactions with each other. If the two teachers can work together, it is a great system that provides support for both of the teachers.”

– Tracy Hu, Grade 3 Homeroom Learning Enhancement Teacher

If you have taught in a bilingual school before, what has been unique about your experience with BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen?

“What I love about working here is that the experience has really supported and helped me settle into Futian and the school itself, and as a result I am learning a new language, culture, and perspective on education. Both my family and I were welcomed very warmly by BBSZ and every one we have met here on campus. My employer, Dr. Guan, is very generous and kind towards all employees and my school head, Mr. Tom Davison, leads by example. He transferred skills of teaching routines and procedures as well as many areas of expertise regarding classroom organization and management.”

Tammy Naik, Grade 3 Homeroom teacher

“I’d say two things, first is that this school demands the highest standards, we want our kids to succeed and we want our teachers to do the best job we can. Second is the support from the administration you receive in trying to achieve these goals, everyone is there to try and help you every step of the way.”

– Chris McGee, Science Subject Expert Teacher/Chair of Science Department

teaching in a bilingual school STEAM class

If this is the first time you’ve taught in a bilingual school, what were some of the things you had to learn or adapt to?

“The first time teaching in a bilingual school, I need to adapt to the change of the curriculum, content system, teaching organization, and I do really enjoy the journey working with all the experienced colleagues, I have learned so many teaching skills from them.”

– Skye Zhang, Early Education teacher

What has the collaboration been like between the expat and local faculty?

“Unlike most of the schools I’ve worked at, the expat and local faculty function as equal partners in homerooms. Each has their own strengths to bring to the table and work together to teach their subject areas to the best of their ability and supplement the other teacher whenever possible.”

– Tim Yackley, ELL Coordinator

“From the students’ aspect, the co-teaching model helps a lot with overcoming the language barrier. Most of the children feel less anxious and more comfortable expressing themselves during the beginning of the year. It also helps them achieve better learning outcomes with two modes of language and different ways of thinking and solving problems.

As a member of the teachers, I have enjoyed this mode of teaching so much, co-teaching offers me not only amazing colleagues but also close friends in life. We teacher and co-operate closely on each lesson, we always help each other, share the responsibilities and sometimes anxieties. Having co-teachers makes me feel fearless and I know that I am never alone with any challenges no matter at work or in my life.”

– Skye Zhang, Early Education teacher

“It’s been good. We collaborate on classes and work together on student affairs. I think this point is especially important for a bilingual school as we need to teach the Chinese compulsory curriculum as well as the BASIS Curriculum.”

– Chris McGee, Science Subject Expert Teacher/Chair of Science Department

“We need to collaborate all the time. There is a sense of healthy collaboration, however, certain activities, perceptions, etc. are still a work in progress. Whilst being a “smaller” new school until next year (2021-2022), and in light of COVID-19, we have built relationships and our commitment and understanding of each other is growing and being strengthened. Many expats and local faculty spend time together after work or on weekends. The local faculty are extremely helpful regarding apps, getting around, or even simple things like ordering of food and groceries.”

– Tammy Naik, Grade 3 Homeroom teacher

BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen

The campus at BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen has expanded and been completed for the 2021-22 school year, adding new science labs, an auditorium, classrooms, gym, and more outstanding facilities to support the school’s continued growth. Our multi-national team of teachers is growing together along with our students, and will continue to improve, learn and grow alongside each other as educators and individuals.

Visit our careers website for more information about teaching with BASIS International Schools.

Explore opportunities with BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen for the 2022-23 school year here.

On Thursday, December 2nd at 6 pm US MST/Friday, December 3rd at 9 am China time, we are hosting a live webinar about opportunities with BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen for the 2022-23 school year. Register for our webinar here! Can’t make it at that time? A recording will be sent out to all registered attendees after the webinar.

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