A True Teacher Talks

With his own language training center and Youtube channel, Fernando Munoz discovered what it means to define yourself as a teacher.

Fernando Munoz first landed in Shanghai during late 2000 and after job-hopping for a few months in Harbin, Mudanjiang, Xi’an and Shenzhen, he ran across an offer online to work at a summer camp in Dongguan. He took the job and was offered a permanent position upon completion of the summer camp duration. After some time, he felt an undeniable connection to the city and decided to make Dongguan his home. At age 45, it is the city where he has lived the longest.

Fernando told me, “Dongguan was right for me for a series of reasons. Most developed cities didn’t want non-native English teachers but in a developing city like Dongguan, my passport was not an issue. I thought this could be the path to create a name for myself and develop my career in China. As for downsides, there aren’t really many. But one thing has always been that foreign English teachers are seldom respected for their ability. We are often seen by employers as photo ops or cameos for their businesses.”

Fernando advised, “It is wise to go where your skill set is in demand. At the turn of the century, Dongguan was not very appealing to foreigners. I had to go to Shenzhen to buy deodorant, for example. This is why anyone willing to relocate was handsomely rewarded. I saw opportunity and I had the will to endure the annoyances of life in a small place.”

What really moved him to pursue a career in teaching was knowing that his work could change the lives of those sitting in front of him.

Curiously, Fernando knew from a young age that he wanted to teach. Back in Colombia, Fernando chose to volunteer for 18 months in high school in an anti-illiteracy program. And he was hooked. He simply loved the attention. That’s superficial, but at a deeper level, what really moved him to pursue a career in teaching was knowing that his work could change the lives of those sitting in front of him. Wisely, he believes that this is the true nature of a teacher.

“My dad was terminated after 20 years of high-level management work for a large American multinational. It hit our family really hard. I promised myself then and there that I would do anything within my power to always be my own man and own boss. I established my first training center in my home country at age 23. Working in Dongguan wasn’t going to be an exception. In 2003 I approached my first and only boss with a plan to partner up by opening a branch in another town, in order for me to expand and grow, but he rejected it. And so, I went ahead planning, saving and strategizing until I established my own center in February 2005, teaching English, Spanish and French,” Fernando proudly explained.

He went on, “The biggest challenge has always been and will forever be finding good teachers. The issue is really with everything that is encompassed in the word good. It’s not just qualified, energetic, flexible, culturally open-minded, dedicated, responsible, or reliable. It’s all of that and more rolled into one individual.”

An inspiring story, Fernando earned himself an Honorary Citizen Award in October 2011 for his contributions to the city. That year he was announced as one of the suggested candidates and was ultimately chosen as one of the 35 people honored during 2011. Fernando told me, “I wanted to do my bit to help Dongguan be better so I started taking pictures of road signs with incorrect English in them. I classified all the mistakes into categories and wrote a book about the most common mistakes I saw and how they could be avoided. I ordered 20 printed books and gave them to some of my friends in the government in 2007.”

For those who have a YouTube channel, you will know that it really takes time and perseverance to gain an audience and maintain their interest. 2017 marked the inception of Fernando’s YouTube channel show known as “ChinaTeacher.” He doesn’t use the channel to teach English to students as such, but to educate teachers. He claimed, “The strategy is to create valuable content consistently, even when it doesn’t get viewed. I remind myself that I am “a nobody” to the world, and that is fine. If after five years I’m still “a nobody,” then that is not okay and I should seek other endeavors. But I believe the value of hard work will be discovered one day, and all the sacrifice will pay off.”

I asked Fernando about sustaining a life in Dongguan and how we would guide others I this sense. According to him, “All the glitter and the party noise can become old real fast so it becomes possible to pursue your passions. Dedicate yourself to fully exploring your life in Dongguan, stop seeing your time in the city as a hiatus. It is then and only then that you commence to inadvertently grow deep roots.”

His advice specifically for teachers was, “I think teachers need to choose what kind of teacher they want to be.”

See more of Fernando on HERE! Teacher Talks on HEREDG’s Facebook or Fernando’s Youtube channel.

Category Who Would Know