Doing A Demo Class in China: Performing Monkey Syndrome

If you’re in China looking around for a suitable teaching job you could eventually be asked to do a Demo Class at a prospective English Language Centre.

If you currently have a job in a Kindergarten or Children’s Training Centre, you may still be expected to do Demo Classes for prospective children and their parents on a regular basis or at least from time to time.


The more organised centres will give you a little bit of notice about the group, for example, how many students, their ages and the kind of topics they’d like you to cover along with the duration of the Demo. But, sadly, such precision is far from the norm.

It’s more likely that you’ll only be told the duration and an approximate number of students. You’ll have to make your own enquiries to determine their age group and the kind of topics suitable to cover i.e not too hard and not too easy.

A Demo Class shouldn’t last any longer than 30 minutes in my opinion. Actually 20 minutes is enough to see your teaching skills, classroom management and personality. Some centres will ask for 2 hours which is taking advantage. A 2 hour demo class isn’t a demo it’s a real lesson which you should get paid for. GroupPartySept20155

The whole point is for the centre to evaluate your skills and aptitude, in theory. In reality it’s to see if their students and parents like you. You could do a great class where the children learn something but if no-one gets a whiff of your charm, you won’t get the job, no matter your credentials or experience.

For this reason many ex pat teachers see Demo Classes as Performing Monkey events. Chinese staff press you to make the children laugh and have fun and equally important; the parents (usually sitting at the back, or sometimes behind a glass window looking in), want to see happy, relaxed children because apparently, this signals a future ability to speak English like a native.

The end result is that you start to feel like a bit of a clown as opposed to a professional and experienced teacher. This is one of the reasons I stopped doing Demo Classes a long time ago.


A potential employer can see from my CV that I’m a seasoned teacher, therefore if you want to see me in action give me a normally scheduled class to teach and pay me the going rate. If you like what you see and I like your centre, afterwards we can negotiate. If not, we agree to say goodbye and you’ll have paid me fairly for doing a good job.

One of the reasons why Western teachers are encouraged to entertain as opposed to teach during these sessions is that training centres and private Kindergartens are businesses first and foremost. Education is simply the train on which the cash rides towards them, but it’s not their primary concern.

The more children and parents enthralled by the hilarious western teacher means more bottoms on seats. More bottoms on seats means more money rolling in. More money rolling in means that the children of the business owner and the shareholders can go to schools and universities in America, Australia or England where supposedly their child will gain more than just a good time. This is the Chinese theory.JennyVanessa

Now if you’re currently doing the rounds of Demo Classes, or about to embark down this road, please don’t think I’m trying to put you off. I’m just recalling the experiences of many of us before we found a place that fits.

On the plus side, doing a Demo Class eliminates all of the waiting around to see if you’ve got the job that comes with a more formal interview because if they like you, they’ll hire you straight away.

Sometimes the centre may call you in for an interview when the children are actually at school. In these cases expect to do your demonstration with the sales or admin staff who are usually very receptive as they’re delighted to be called away from their desks. This could be a little more challenging as their levels of English will vary but you’ll walk into a room full of smiling faces and maybe even some polite applause which is always nice.

Waiting for the Performing Monkey? No, sorry, I mean, waiting for the Demo Class to start.

All in all I’d advise not to take Demo Classes too seriously. My best ones (where I was instantly offered a job), were the ones where I had as much fun as the children.

Putting the Performing Monkey syndrome aside for just a second, it is great to see the parents happy because their children are happy and to have the Head of the Centre give you a big grin and a thumbs up sign during your class.

Also, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs

I intentionally create a relaxed atmosphere where laughter comes naturally as I believe that this creates the best environment for learning. I also want to give my younger students an environment which is different to their school.

In my classroom I’m in control in whereas when doing a Demo Class you tend to become the Performing Monkey at the whim of managers and their staff.

You may not enjoy this feeling, few people do.

Just something to bear in mind.






2 thoughts on “Doing A Demo Class in China: Performing Monkey Syndrome

  1. It’s funny reading this considering I had two demos today. Ours is a little bit different. I do demos not to get employed by a school, but because I am an employee at a training school, I do demos because marketing wants to showcase our classes to bring in more kids. If the kids parents sign right after the demo then apparently the foreign teacher and Chinese teacher gets a bonus. However, marketing department will get a bonus if after three demos the kids parents sign. So you can see why I may see the same kids three times in a demo. I hate it cause the demos are pre-programmed and it’s not a perfect indication of how I personally run my classes. I would prefer if parents came in or a child participated in one of my regular classes. I think that those observations will be far better than a 30 minute performing demo class.

    Liked by 1 person

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