After graduating from Bath Spa University in the UK with a degree in creative studies in English, Andrew Russell did a five-week TESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course, which inspired his interest in teaching.
"The experience changed my life. After the course, I felt as if a fire had been lit inside me and I was very excited about teaching, so I decided to take up teaching jobs in Asia," he says.
"I originally wanted to move to South Korea because I had heard that [it] was the best place for low living costs and a high salary. However, I had some very bad phone interviews with companies there, and finally a friend suggested Hong Kong to me. I performed much better in the interviews with Hong Kong companies, so I decided to come here. After about one month, I fell in love with the city. I have lived here for more than four years and I have never looked back."
Russell taught at International House Bristol in Britain before coming to Hong Kong to work as a native-speaking English teacher (NET) at Munsang College. Recently he joined Headstart Group and was assigned to work at Kwun Tong Kung Lok Government Secondary School.
"One of the reasons I like teaching here so much is that the students find a Western style of teaching quite different. I often try to encourage the students to stand up in the lesson and shout or be unconventional. This is something that can take them out of their comfort zone and helps them to think outside the box. I feel that these issues are important when understanding Western culture, and in turn the language," he says.
To stay updated with the latest teaching developments, Russell returns to Bristol every summer to work. "They provide feedback on lessons, even if it is a short contract, and have a very forward-thinking approach to teaching English as a second language," he says.
He thinks it is important for NETs to learn to fit in with the local culture. "Communication with the local teachers is a great asset," he says. "I often ask them for advice and they are always willing to help. They can offer insights on university courses that can help enhance my teaching skills. They also share different avenues of work, be it the Education Bureau's NET scheme or international schools."