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Job Hunting

Since I always try to keep my eyes open for new opportunities, I don’t feel like it’s been ages since I’ve looked for a job, but this fall it sure feels like I’ve entered a new era.

When looking for jobs teaching English I rely on my network and two websites, tesol.org and chroniclevitae.com. These two sites have the better jobs. Dave’s ESL Café tends to have poor search filters and worse yet any fly-by-night English school can and does place ads there. I found the dreadful job at KNUE in Miho, South Korea on Dave’s.

This time around I’m branching out. I’m looking for jobs on library websites, which has been straightforward and I’m also using new services like Ziprecruiter.com. So far Ziprecruiter has been the best of the new internet services. Once you set up an account, you get suggested jobs that align with your skills, interests, education and experience. It’s quite tailored and several jobs have “One-Click” applications. Once you’ve applied, you receive emails about when the employer looks at your application and if they look two or three times. Each time the email tells you something like “only 17% of resumes are looked at three times,” which is encouraging.

I’m also testing out Handshake, which University of Illinois offers. Those jobs are relevant to my degree in Library Science. Handshake offers posts on other professions too.

Some other sites like Localwise.com clog your email with lots of unrelated jobs. For example I’ve gotten jobs connected to engineering or physics, areas I have no expertise in at all. Even worse, they sell your email address to anyone so I’ve gotten emails about “opportunities” to sell life insurance. So you have to be leery unless you want to spend your days unsubscribing to spam.

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ESL Watch

ESL Watch is a very useful website for teachers looking for jobs. Like Yelp or Trip Advisor it offers reviews of employers worldwide in the field of English as a Second Language. If you want to avoid a horrible job, checking this site can help you steer clear of the dodgy employers.

Like anything, you have to discern whether the reviewer is a hot head or the employer pretending to be a satisfied teacher. Despite this, it’s a step in the right direction.

Advice

A friend has a friend who’s considering changing careers and teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language. My friend wants me advise her friend and we’ll meet on Tuesday.

I have enjoyed all the students I’ve worked with — from kids in Japan to university students to college professors in Indonesia to adults on up to 90 years old in Japan. Like a lot of teaching work, you get to connect with interesting people and to be creative. However:

  • There are only a few countries where American’s can get jobs without to much difficulty: South Korea, China, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. Japan has become hard to find work in. Europe requires an EU passport. South America has few opportunities.
  • It’s not a job that welcomes older people as you near 60, as we all do, no country I’m aware of wants you.
  • In the US most jobs are part time. The place to work and have job security and decent benefits is the K-12 realm. If that’s not your ballgame, you’ll be stuck stringing together a few part time jobs.

    Adjunctivitis has become the norm and it’s exploitive.

That’s the reality. I pity friends who went and got Masters degrees thinking EFL would be a second career for when they get older. It isn’t.

A Long Day and a Good One

Week Two and we’ve started with two very different days. On Monday after lunch Tara and I had a surprising day. We knew that we’d have a different day as we’d been told that everyone would go to the main campus across town for a ceremony with the Rektor and Vice Rektor i.e. the university president and vice president. I’d hoped we’d have an earlier day than usual, but knew that there was no telling.

I was impressed by the large campus with stunning architecture. While the grounds were stark they, buildings were colorful and for me exotic.

As is not unusual, it took awhile for people to assemble, which is common for Indonesia. The ceremony was supposed to start at two and at 2:20 I wasn’t sure when we’d start. Then a woman holding two headscarves approached Tara and I. She asked if we’d wear headscarves so that “everyone could look the same.” I didn’t have much time to really think about it before we were whisked into a side room to put on headscarves. When we went to the big mosque on Saturday, we had to put on headscarves and take off our shoew, which I gladly complied with as it was a way of respecting a religion. Now I was caught off guard and not sure how to decline. This was just a meeting and some women in Indonesia don’t wear headscarves. This group did, but they also want to become an internationals school with students from abroad and the lecturers want to go to America to study. They’ll have to be around women without headscarves. Anyway, we went along and as soon as we put on the scarves, the woman who gave them to us told us we looked beautiful. It seemed awkward to be told that now that we had scarves on we were beautiful. I’m not sure what to make of that. Some of the folks on the planning committee were apologetic and I think embarrassed about this last minute headscarf thing. People have been so hospitable and gracious, but there still are some awkward moments.

Eventually the meeting started. First the head of the organizational committee spoke, explaining its goals (i.e. to prepare young lecturers to speak in international settings like conferences and to enable them to write for academic publication. It’s a loft goal since a lot of my students can’t write an outline let alone a solid paper. Also the Vice Rektor stated that within about 10 years the government wants all lecturers, not just assistant professors to have PhDs. Now 30% do. To top that off, this university wants to be in the top 500 universities in the world by 2030, which considering that the library doesn’t subscribe to many databases or have a collection of books needed to do the research needed to get highly ranked means it’s sort of a Don Quixote impossible dream.

We’ve got three weeks to teach or perhaps explain the main skills needed to write an article that would be published in an international journal. (I say explain because to me “teach” implies that at least half of the students can do at least a so so version of the taught skill. Here I think a lot will just be able to talk about it and will need more practice before they can apply what’s been taught.

The Head of the Language Center spoke and I was surprised how much of his talk was administrivia (e.g. we reserved the hotel for the teachers on July 16th, I’ll fill out the forms for their stipends on Tuesday, and things of that ilk, which we’d just handle through email or less formal meetings).

So all the department leaders, Tara and I and two students all spoke. One student included a lot of religion in his speech, which I doubt would have been included in a similar speech at a Christian university.

So the meeting finally ended and then people took a lot of photos before finally leaving.

We’d driven with an administrator named Fuzan and a lecturer and were going to return with him. But a very bright outgoing student offered to drive us to the hotel. Fuzan politely, but firmly said he would because he’d been assigned to. We thought we’d just go with whomever was less inconvenienced. There was quite a lot of back and forth and finally the program director intervened and had us go with the outgoing student. OK. Maybe he lives closer to our hotel.

More

I Miss Time

I haven’t had much free time. As usual, teaching requires so much preparation and grading. I won’t bore you with that, but suffice it to say, there’s no end to the work. This term I’m trying to introduce a few basic research skills since our students come with almost none.

I’m taking one class, which usually isn’t too hard to fit into my schedule, but this time the teachers are disorganised, They roll out the syllabus week by week. I like to work ahead to balance my school and work responsibilities. There are just 10 in the class and we’ve got three T.A.s and a professor. Too many cooks. It never rains but it pours as last week we had to hand in the drafts of two papers and set up a digital library program on a remote server. We have to hand in drafts, because the professor gives such vague directions and then we “get” an opportunity to rewrite. I’d rather just get specific directions (or be given free rein) and do the paper once.

I haven’t had much time to blog or breathe. I have a long to do list, but it’s just getting longer. I could really do with an assistant, one who I can explain tasks to who doesn’t need much supervision. How do I get that?

Back to grading.

FYI

I did recover that darn interview video off the the university. I’m not too hopeful though.

One of Those Days

Yesterday wasn’t a bad day, but it was “one of those days.”

One of those days when there was no point to leaving the house — almost.

It started out with a trip to see my aunt at her new (3rd) rehab center. (The second one was good enough, but they didn’t want her to stay there her full 21 days — as Medicare allows as she doesn’t have the cash to move into their permanent living, which takes no Medicare at all, ever. Thank you for-profit Abington.)

She wasn’t feeling energetic so we just visited in her room, which was fine.

Next all my efforts to complete my errands failed. It took three trips to the office supply store to get my ink refills. First time I didn’t have the model number that was listed in their books so I had to go home to get that — I didn’t want to trust my memory, though it turned out my memory was right. Second time I forgot my wallet and these ink cartridges are amazingly expensive. The third time was the proverbial charm.

Next I had to send out a DVD I’d sold on ebay. For the life of me I couldn’t find it. I spent hours on Sunday and Monday searching. Never found it so rather than risk getting a poor recommendation, I bought the buyer one on Amazon. It worked out that I didn’t lose (or gain) any money from that.

Then I went to the library, but there were no parking spaces at all. At the post office again there were no parking spaces. Since I just felt that Mercury must be in retrograde I decided my mail could wait. Also, since my luck was running bad, I decided not to do any writing or send my script out. I didn’t want to jinx it.

Have you had any such bad luck lately?

It did turn out that Mercury, which astrologists believe governs communication, is in retrograde. So be careful. This lasts through the 11th.

The cloud of bad luck seems to have dissolved. I got to the library with no problem, found some interesting books  and films via serendipity.

I also polished and printed out my script. I’m off to the post office with it now.

Any prayers are welcome as I’m sending it off to a real TV producer. It takes a miracle for even established writers to get work.

At the Park, Harbin

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The Zhaolin Park in Harbin is small, but packed with greenery with lots to do and see: groups singing or doing tai chi, children on the merry-go-round or watching the peacocks or rabbits in their cages.

I love how popular and well-used Chinese parks are. Early or late, you’re sure to see people dancing, walking or exercising.

Hŭ tóu shé wĕ

Hŭ tóu shé wĕ is translated “tiger’s head, snake’s body.” This Chinese saying describes how things can start out well with a project or partnership and then (all too soon) the quality fades. In the book Poorly Made in China, this saying is mentioned a lot as it is how the Chinese like to do things all too often.

I saw this at Xiang Jiang High School where I taught for Coastline Community College. They cut back on time spent teaching English, on resources, but not on tuition. It’s happened with the Australian program here and my program. When I first started teaching here students got 10 hours a week of English. Now they get 8. Next year some freshmen will get 4 hours with the others soon to follow suit as they did with the Univ. of Tasmanian students. When all the first years get 4, then all the other students will just get 6. They’ll have more time mainly for test prep with the Chinese English teachers, some are fine and others aren’t. The less skilled Chinese English teachers just talk about English in Chinese. It’s the best they can do. They use a lot of rote learning. As these hours with Western educators decreases, the students will be less prepared to take on the daunting task of business or technology classes in English.

The program becomes a Potemkin Village, with a high price tag.

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!

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