Pretty Late in the Game

I just was job hunting on tesol.org and saw that my former employer is hiring English teachers. Mind you, they’re supposed to start teaching next week. This ad went up yesterday!

I’ve learned that now teachers will pay about 47% in Chinese income tax and currency exchange fees. So English teachers, who usually put in 50-60 hours of work a week, will earn about $9.60 per hour for all their hard work. Baby sitters make more – some nanny jobs come with housing.

Clark is the ONLY foreign university in China doing this. Rochester Institute of Technology, NYU, University of Toledo and ALL the American and Australian universities I know of don’t have these high taxes.

I pity anyone who takes these jobs. I loved my students and even little Jinan (the other city Hefei is the pits), but the pollution, mold in the apartments and the utter lack of resources makes this job highly undesirable. What a pity.

Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is that I prevailed in my claim for unemployment. Clark lied when they told the Unemployment office that I quit and in the hearing last month, that was confirmed. What their aim is to prevent their employees from getting the protections US labor law affords. Talk about disrespect and hypocrisy since the school purports to be “progressive.”

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Steer Clear of Eton House International School

While Eton House International School in Jinan may be a good first job for someone who’s desperate to work in China, I advise teachers to avoid it. I’m writing a short ebook with more details but for now I’ll share the undesirable aspects of the school, which brings in between $800,000 to $1,000,000 revenue a year. The school staff consists of very nice people, but the school’s policies and poor communication make it a poor workplace. For 2017-18 three teachers have backed out of the position open to teach kindergarten. I’m not surprised.

Points to Consider

  1. The principal lacks experience and has only worked at Eton House International School in Jinan. She’s an example of the Peter Principle, where everyone rises to their level of incompetence. She’s a nice, young woman, but can’t prioritize and is behind in her work. For a couple years the school’s been publicizing that they’re going to be an International Baccalaureate school. The principle hasn’t begun the application. She’s getting the tutoring she needs to fill it out.
  2. Eton House Jinan does not have you sign a contract in Chinese, which is required by Chinese law and in fact is the only contract that’s actually good in China. If they change this, you should have a person who’s neutral, translate the contract for you. Often the English and Chinese wording are quite different.
  3. After you sign the contract, you’re in for numerous surprises. For example, the contract says nothing about the teacher having to pay 4 months’ rent and taxes for the apartment. It simply says you’ll be reimbursed every month for your apartment. Later you’ll be told to bring $2,000 to $3,000 for your apartment costs. Most jobs provide housing so there’s no need for you to take one that requires you to take from your savings back home and then be in arrears for months. You can negotiate for the school to pay the 4 months rent, but when you do, expect to have to remind them and do a bit more persuading so they follow through. Get any negotiated benefits in writing.
  4. Communication is horrible. The Principal’s Assistant is an intermediate English speaker with little understanding of business, education and adult activities such as finding housing. She’s your main contact. The Principal is often busy or off campus. She’s the only staff member who can make decisions. Good luck.
  5. If you have a Masters degree, you’ll be the only one at the school with an advanced degree. I can’t imagine how a school that charges $20,000 a year for pre-school lacks trained professionals of the highest caliber. Thus the conversation and thinking in curriculum and teaching is at a subpar level. Teachers just don’t discuss issues the way professionals do, though some think they do. You’ll see signs in the school for the “writting (sic) table.” You’ll hear teachers talk about the Inquiry Unit on Self-Expression about the Gingerbread Man story, a story where the lead character does not express himself in any meaningful way and where the students don’t do work where they express or think much about their opinion of the story.You’re better off getting experience in your home country and then moving to a real international school, one that already is International Baccalaureate.
  6. All the good jobs, and even the bad ones, I’ve had overseas provided teachers with free housing. With Eton House, you’ll be on your own. You get a housing stipend, but unless you want to live in a hovel, it’s probably not enough. If you teach for Eton House in a major city like Beijing or Shanghai, it will be about a third of what you need. Then on top of the rent, they’ll tell you after a couple days of apartment hunting, that there’s a 50% tax and a management fee. So all the time you’ve been looking at filthy apartments, you don’t realize that you can’t afford them.
  7. The teachers in Eton House Jinan must use the same restrooms as the children. Yes, that’s against the law in most countries — including China. Space is tight in the school.
  8. Space is tight in the school and they’ll eventually move to a new building, but for now there’s no teachers’ room. Teachers have a few tables with computers in the corridor. This lack of space and delayed move to a building that’s of appropriate size appears to be another sign of the principal’s lack of leadership skill.
  9. The school is most concerned with saving money. If you miss your flight to Jinan from a larger city, the first thing you’ll be told is that you need to foot the bill for the next flight. Concern for you as weary, perhaps lost traveler is nil. In fact, money will be a big topic at Eton House. The administration’s main concern is money.
  10. A lot of the problems at Eton House Chengdu (see this review: http://www.gochengdoo.com/en/listings/item/eto_32240/etonhouse_international_school) are evident in Jinan. That review was eye-opening. The principal in Chengdu has advised Jinan on curriculum design. Imagine!
  11. While cheerful and imaginative, except for the blatant Eton House posters which continue to sell the school, the classrooms lack a good selection of books in English or Chinese. There are a few, but no where near enough for 15 children. Like in Chengdu, there are few copyright compliant teachers manuals. The only one’s I saw were infringed copies of manuals for phonics.

For-profit schools have their problems and many are on display at Eton House. It’s a decent job because the salary is okay for someone who is new to the field or just seeking a job in China. The sort of professional nomad. If you have a degree in education, I’m sure you can do much better.

Considering a Job?

Dear EFL Professional,

If you’re wondering whether to take a job with Yucui “Education” Consultancy, Xiang Jiang High School, or Korea National University of Education, contact me. I can give you the low down. Not just my opinion, but that of others.

Remember I’m here to help.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

squalid room for teachers in Korea at KNUE

squalid room for teachers in Korea at KNUE

Nanjing, Presidential mansion

Nanjing, Presidential mansion

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced. 2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag. 3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great photos from each month’s most popular challenge. Other great photos:

Returning

After a lot of back and forth with the University of Macau,I’ve decided to return to Jinan where I’m happy and know what I’m getting into. In teaching overseas there’s a lot of unknowns. Like many teachers, I’ve been burned by broken promises and false claims.

The trouble I ran into with this job arose over housing. As I’ve said, that was my first question when I was offered the job. I was told, very clearly told, that all overseas hires would get housing.

Then six weeks or so later, we learn that we have to apply for housing. There are 350 apartments and 1200 eligible employees. A point system would be used. Distinguished Professors get 75 points. Associate Professors, 60 and Assistant Professors 40 and Senior Lecturers and secretaries 20. Huh? Secretaries are valuable and I’ve done that work, but it does not require higher education and it’s not a source of a college’s reputation. Teaching is.

How insulting!

housing points

I’d get 30 points. Hardly in the running.

The contract, which was in Portuguese, stated that it superseded all communication between the employer and employee. Thus a director’s email promising housing had no weight. I wanted to practice negotiating, but my requests for changes in the contract were denied. I wasn’t just asking for special treatment for myself, but for all in the department.

In my interview I’d specifically asked about how the administration treated and supported the department. I got a bland “I think they value us pretty well” sort of answer, but the housing policy showed that wasn’t the case.

The problem with interviews is that you don’t really know what you’re getting into. No one honestly answers the tough questions.

I have reached a time in my life where I’ve learned to stand up for myself and insist on a certain kind of communication and organization from a prospective employer. As enticing as a salary might be, I realize it’s better to mind the red flags rather than move forward with a potentially iffy, hence stressful job.

I am looking forward to returning to Jinan in the fall so all’s well. I think in EFL and other fields there’s a temptation to disregard red flags. That’s usually a mistake. Job hunter, don’t sell yourself short. Hold out for a job worthy of your competency and dedication.

Job Hunting

I shake my head whenever I think about this. I never thought this new job offer would become so confusing and annoying.  I haven’t even been up to writing about it, though I’ve mentioned it ad nauseum to my friends. Now I’ve been approved to keep my current job so all’s well. It didn’t look good 10 days ago though.  Here’s a run down.

As I said when I got the offer, I asked about housing and was told it was available for all teachers recruited from abroad. That’s why I accepted the job.

Then the new teachers got an email about 60 days of temporary housing. What? That’s not what I wanted, considering Macau’s the 5th most expensive city in Asia. I wrote to the director explaining how important housing was to me.

A week later all the new teachers got a long email and one of the items was housing. We were told that all new hires would get housing and that anyone who wanted housing had to apply for it. Is this too good to be true all of a sudden? We’ve gone from 60 days of temporary housing and the possibility of campus housing in January to immediate campus housing.  That’s good.

Well, by Monday, the relief had worn off and I was back to doubting. According to a PowerPoint on how to apply for housing, everyone must apply for housing. Housing would be allocated according to job title, family size, and a few other criteria. Distinguished Professors get 75 points, Professors, 60, Associate Professors 50,  Assistant Professors 40 and lowly Senior Lecturers and Secretaries 20.

Twenty?! Talk about insulting.  Now I would get 10 points for getting recruited from overseas, but I am single so unless I get a live in maid, which would net me 10 more points, I don’t qualify for the additional points for a spouse or children. Since I’m new I can’t claim credit for years of service.

The contract arrived on Monday. After marveling at the Portuguese, I got an English translation. The contract states that it supersedes all other communication between the employer and employee. Seems the email promising housing would count for nothing. Also, once you sign the contract, you have to give three months notice before quitting. So if someone signs it today and finds out July 15th, she doesn’t have housing, she either works for at least a semester or pays three months wages to the school. I’m not sure how they’d collect, but that’s what is stated.

Another interesting document came with the contract. It was a booklet explaining what income and assets teachers, as government employees have to declare. Macau wants to end corruption, which is admirable. They require people working in Macau to declare property, income, investments, jewelry, boats, and airplanes owned – whether they’re in Macau or elsewhere. Employees must declare such assets with a value over 500 points. I couldn’t figure out what a point is worth, but it was interesting that they insist on this. How would they check the veracity of foreign employees’ declarations?

Not my problem as I’ll be back in Jinan, but it’s interesting.

That 20-point scheme for English teachers is just galling. I bet it indicates how we’re treated across the board.

The Job Hunting Problems Continue

Must confusion and anxiety be such a big part of job hunting?

March 8th a university offered me a job in Macau. I emailed them with two questions:

  1. Is there housing for the teachers?
  2. Is there insurance?

A day later I this reply:

Dear Susan,

Thank you very much for your enquiry.
I would suggest you to read the attached document concerning the medical scheme of UM. Yes, we will arrange on-campus accommodation for oversea recruited staff.

Should you have more questions, please let us know.

Okay, sounds good. That’s what I wanted so I accepted the job.

Time goes by and getting final approval for the job is taking longer than I expected. While a colleague told my employer I got another job, I write to my current employer, who only needs 3 or 4 teachers in the fall, to ask if I can return. I’m told all the spots are filled. Well, I’m still excited about the job so that’s no skin off my teeth.

Well 10 days ago I got an email from an assistant at University of ___ asking me when I was going to arrive in Macau so that she can arrange – wait for it – my temporary housing. I reply asking what she means by temporary housing. She refers me to personnel and they don’t respond for over a week.

A couple days ago I learn that there is no campus housing. The planned move to a new campus is postponed. Why they didn’t know this in April boggles the mind. The newspapers reported that the campus was in the inspection stage. I learned that the 108 new teachers who were promised housing now get 60 days of housing. Then maybe when the new campus opens in January, we will get campus housing. (Some will. Some won’t.) Between October and January, you’re on your own for housing. The school will subsidize housing with about $200. Apartments range from $800 – $1200 per month. So I’d be making $12,000 less a month.

As learning to negotiate is one of my goals, I emailed the director. I wrote:

Dear E.,

I’m very excited to start teaching at University of M, but I’m also very concerned about the uncertainty with the housing. As the email below shows, housing and insurance were my two main concerns when I accepted the position. In fact, I turned down an interview for a job that had both because of Ming’s response (below)*.

I understand that things change, however, there should be a way for the university to live up to Ming’s response, whether it’s extending the temporary housing till the new campus is ready or some other convenient solution.

I’m starting to have doubts about my decision, to be frank. When I was invited to interview, I was told my travel expenses would be reimbursed. I immediately replied saying I was flying from Cambodia to Macau then back to Jinan. No one told me that would be a problem. I was very open about coming from CAMTESOL. Then the school refused to reimburse my flight from Cambodia to Macau. Had I known that would have been denied, I would have used frequent flier miles for the first leg of my trip.

So you might be able to understand that I’m worried that the employee will bear the brunt when problems arise.

Can you see about a better housing option?

Regards,

Susan

I got this response:

Dear Susan,

I can understand your frustration. In fact, many of the current staff have anxiety over housing issues as well, since we have no idea when the new campus housing will be ready to move in.

Unfortunately, this is not a problem easily solved.+ Currently, on this old campus, I am on the only person who lives on campus. Everyone else lives off campus in apartments around M and T. which range in cost from 6000-10,000 MOP per month. Some of the live with other teachers so as to reduce the costs. The housing subsidy is 1,650 MOP (I think) for Senior Instructors, so even with the subsidy, they have had to come up with a significant portion of the rent out of their own pockets. However, considering that the salary is much higher at UM than most places, especially universities in Mainland China, this is to be expected.

With the new campus, we feel sure that housing will be provided for teachers who were recruited from overseas, as M said. The housing is based on a point system, so that foreign teachers with families get priority over single foreign teachers. Local teachers or teachers who own housing in M are not eligible. Therefore, since the ELC mostly recruits from abroad, I feel confident that you will be offered an apartment on campus ……….. The problem is when the on-campus housing will open. It may be August, or it may not be until later (even next year perhaps). In the meantime, we can provide temporary housing at least for 60 days if on-campus housing is not provided.

Please realize that the other 8 new teaching staff at the ELC as well as over 100 new teaching staff at UM face the same problem.

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

We will keep you informed about housing just as soon as we know something.

Take care.

To her credit, I think the director does wish she could do something. My problem is that I’ve worked for good directors in situations where they had no ability to change anything. The teachers were expected to deal with horrible or substandard situations. Now that may occur in any field, but it happens 99% of the time in (EFL) teaching. I’ve been told that we should be able to teach on a desert island, with no resources by someone who never taught a day in her life. Whether we should be able to do so, is an arcane question. The question I find more pertinent is Why? Particularly when the needs were known months ago.

While I have a good impression of the director, I’m not swayed by the fact that 108 professionals who probably were promised housing won’t get it. That just shows me that the school doesn’t care about its teachers or that they’re so overwhelmed that they can’t handle problems so they foist them on to the new staff.

What makes the whole matter worse is that I was told there’d be housing. I accepted the job and stopped interviewing and applying for others based on that information. Now there’s no action resulting from my stating that. There was no update on the housing once it was known that we’d be denied this benefit. Why should I trust what the school tells me? Why should I move forward with a job when there’s no trust and consideration?

I’m going to give the school another chance to come up with a better option. I’m going to put together another email and hope for a better outcome. I don’t like that the decent salary is made to sound like a king’s ransom just because other places pay a lot less. What does that have to do with the tea here (in China)? The market for my skills is not just Asia.

Needless to say I feel duped and miffed. I keep remembering all the times I’ve landed in bad jobs. I saw some red flags, stayed positive, and went ahead against my better judgment. Hell always followed. I won’t let that happen again. I’m going to try to get something better, but if that doesn’t work out, I won’t move forward. It’s been my experience that when I hold out for what I’m worth, I get it.

I realize not everyone gets an apartment with their job. That’s beside the point. My concern is that I asked a straightforward question and got a clear, simple answer, now they’re backing off their response.

When you discount your worth, people walk all over you.

*Such redundancies bug me. I should edit better!