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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.

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“Discharged”

I haven’t been very public about this but three weeks ago, after a wonderful culminating event at my summer volunteer teacher training, I opened an email from my job saying that they didn’t think they could get me a visa in time (hogwash — you can get one in 4 days or if you go to Hong Kong first 36 hours) so I wouldn’t be able to return to China to teach.

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It was quite a shock and while I’m not still reeling from this, it still is hard to take. What’s more I had a job offer in June, but I decided to stay where I was. Blasted! I should have changed. Now that it’s too late for that job.

I did email back (one day I’ll post the cold toned email I received) to clear up any “misunderstanding” about when I could submit my passport for the visa. I was able to do so August 7th, when last year they didn’t even ask for it till August 16th.

(Yes, last year there were delays and we were all late, but as I wrote you can expedite the process and get one in a few days as I’ve said.)

I asked about jobs at the home campus, but there are none and I asked if I could return to China in the spring, but never got a reply.

Considering that my colleague, who was an exemplary teacher, but vocal about the problems in our program was not asked back, I’m not surprised. I too was vocal and raised issues, like we need a curriculum. (Our program had a que sera sera curriculum where our employer left all the details of the courses up to us. That allows for a lot of creativity, but there should be some framework, not just a textbook. In October, when I asked about putting together a curriculum, I was told that my employer “didn’t have enough skin in the game.” Huh? It’s not a game. Besides, as one former colleague estimated, the university probably earns $1,000,000. So you think they could invest something in their China programs. It seems right.

As a colleague said, “How is X University even accredited?”) Other issues I’ll write about at a later date.

I have been busy job hunting and have focused on library jobs since I’m almost done with that Masters. I’ve also done a lot of writing, revising one project and starting others. I was bound to leave China at some point, but I wish I had more time to job hunt — and a chance to send all my valued belongings back to the US. I’ve got an apartment full of belongings, some meaningful and important and others household goods I can give away. I haven’t gotten around to figuring out when I can take care of that.

Prayers and good wishes are most welcome.

 

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.

SIEC 2017

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SIEC stands for Summer Intensive English Course and it’s the second time I’ve led one of the sessions in Indonesia. This year I went with my friend and former colleague, Helene. Helene taught writing for publication while I taught presentation skills. I dread giving presentations so this was a challenge, but I found some great materials and my students, all working instructors, worked hard and in our final day presented their research in a mini-conference.

I was honored to work with these kind, hospitable people. They quickly formed a supportive learning community and were so kind and helpful in the feedback they gave each other.

On the weekends they took us sightseeing and at the end they showered us with gifts and kind words.

I so admire the dedication and effort they’re putting into making Indonesia more of a part of the academic world.

New Semester

I’m half way through the first week of the new semester. I’ve got new students. Some new English names: Nectarine, Molin (she made it up herself and it has no meaning), Cookie (a boy who likes cookies), Stark *a boy), Jagger I the student never heard of Mick Jagger), Moco (?), Nikey (a misspelling of the shoe company), Ankh *suggested by an Australian friend of a female student), Tab(??) and Garcia (not inspired by Jerry) I’ve had a lot of Cherries and a couple Apples and an Olive as English names, but never “Nectarine.”

What’s very weird is I’m the only English teacher here. The other four are still waiting for their visas. One should arrive this weekend and the others sometime after. I can imagine their frustration with the uncertainty. There’s very little information during this process that started months ago and probably takes longer than any other country.

We’re having weird weather. This past weekend was in the high 60s and today we have snow.

We’ve got one new IT professor and she seems quite nice. She’s got a lot of food restrictions and hasn’t wanted to eat out, which is a shame since food is so central to the culture.

My schedule’s okay, but Thursday I finish at 10 and I don’t teach again till Friday from 2pm to 4pm. I did need Friday morning off to attend my online class, and am grateful for that, but teaching Friday afternoon every week . . . ? First World problem, I know, but how I’d like to move that to Thursday.

The books have all arrived in time and all my students have theirs. For another teacher, who’s teaching IT classes, they’ve boycotted the book because they feel it’s too expensive. I’ve been in classes where the book was expensive, but I just wouldn’t dream of not getting it.

I had planned a few projects for sophomores, but it turns out I’ll just have two sections of freshmen. C’est la vie. I miss my old students, but these new ones will be lovely too.

Not You Again

Yesterday, six weeks into the semester, a student who failed last semester returned. He popped up in my English 2 class, though he failed English 3. His study skills were awful and he missed more than 33% of the classes.

No one explained that he was coming back and his English is so bad that I’m not sure whether he’s now in my class or if he’s just coming this week because he has a test on Sunday.

They give our final exams again to students who failed and then even though my final is only worth 10% of the grade, they pass if they get 60% or better on the test.

I emailed the administrative office and they’re not sure why this boy’s returned. Hmm. If he’s turned over a new leaf, I’ll be happy to take him, but if he’s basically the same, which missing 5 weeks of class suggests, I’ll grudgingly take him.

I hope this gets cleared up tomorrow.

Leaving?

I’m supposed to get my passport and visa tomorrow. I had emailed my supervisor asking to get Sunday delivery for my passport if it came today. I proposed that if my passport arrived on Saturday, I could get the airline ticket to China and get reimbursed. That way I could arrive on Monday and teach Tuesday and Wednesday so I wouldn’t have to make up so many classes (twelve hours). That part of my email was ignored in the first response.

I have been busy today rather than just sitting at home waiting to go to China. After a trip to the bank, yoga and lunch with a friend, I got home and saw another response to my email that said the supervisor, who’s very strict Monday-Friday in his hours would book my travel on Monday. Ugh. I’d leave on Tuesday and now there are no seats available on direct flights. So I’m looking at a 45 hour journey via Korea, Taiwan or Western China (Chengdu).

None of these options are inviting. By Monday there will be less options.

At least there’s an end insight to this saga.

What will I do?

Well, like Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is known to have said, “Just watch me.”

 

Still Waiting

Should I give up hoping to get to China by Sunday the 4th?

Rather than sending the paperwork she got back from Immigration to my employer via an overnight express, this woman who’s done the job for years, emailed the teachers for their addresses expecting us to take the paperwork to a local consulate which we’ve never done. (In Hefei, the other site of a program did the same thing and unfortunately, the teacher complied. His paperwork is on its way to Arizona, where there is no consulate. He’ll just have to ship it all to Massachusetts.)

So she wasted Monday causing another precious day to be wasted. I emailed her to find out what day of entry to put on our forms for our paperwork and was told Sept 13th! Luckily, when I asked the woman in China who’s in charge of this, she said if we put Sept. 13th as our date of entry we would be able to enter before then.

Fingers crossed.

I better also say some prayers to be safe.

Limbo

Though classes start on September 5, none of the teachers going to China have their tickets to Jinan and the English teachers don’t have visas. There’s some unspecified delay in China. The office staff waited till August to do the paperwork on their end. Monday we were told it was submitted (no date was given) and that it will take two weeks there to get it done.

After that they’ll send it to Massachusetts. Then we’ll be asked to send overnight our forms and passports. Then these items get sent to the embassy in New York. I hope they’ll expedite the process so they’re done overnight. Then everything will have to be sent back to us from Massachusetts. Then we’ll get our airline tickets. I’d love to leave late next week.

The woman in China in charge of this says there’s no problem as we can make up the classes. The two teachers will teach 24 hours per week. Whoever teachers with that sort of schedule have had to make up classes (one because her father died, the other because his wife gave birth to a still born baby) at night. So they taught from 8 am to noon and 2pm to 4pm and then from 7:30 pm to 9:30pm and then the next day at 8 am. They had to do that Monday to Thursday for three weeks or more.

I have no interest in teaching such long days. Usually, I plan and grade at night and my days are plenty long. The other option would be to teach on the weekend. Neither of these options appeal to the students. I hate how the students and teachers are stuck in the middle and how no one will offer an apology or sympathy.

What to Wear, Teachers

As the new school season approaches, teachers, especially new ones may wonder what to wear to work. I’ve noticed a lot depends on the context. Yet overall, I tend to believe in looking professional. We’re not paid highly in most places so you don’t want to rack up dry cleaning bills so I’d go with pants, skirts and dresses (the last two for women) that are washable cottons or synthetics. I’m also conscious of the weather. Air conditioning isn’t a given everywhere and you don’t want to melt in August. The first week play it safe by going with short sleeves and skirts or dresses that go to the knee. Once you’ve seen how the other teachers dress and note any negative comments made about other teachers, you’ll figure out the norm.

You want the administrators to have a good impression of you so don’t be too rebellious.

If you’re teaching overseas note what the local teachers wear and be as or a little more formal than they are. While in North America some professors wear jeans, in Korea suits and outfits you’d see bankers wear was the norm. In China they’re less formal. Some men wear a nice shirt and pants, while women can wear dresses and skirts. A few would wear athletic clothes, but I would avoid that. We did have some foreign teachers who dressed like they were going to do chores, i.e. they wore an oversized t-shirt and shorts. None of them got a whole lot of respect.

Jeans are popular and can be dressed up. It all depends on what you wear with them. Still I’ve avoided jeans. Gossip is part of teaching and when someone’s writing an evaluation or criticizing they’ll say, “the teacher wears jeans all the time,” not “the teacher wears dark blue jeans with tops from Ann Taylor all the time.” I also figure if I want the profession to earn the sort of salaries business people and lawyers make, why not dress accordingly?

In Muslim countries women’ll probably be told what’s acceptable. Always ask first. In Indonesia most settings are pretty open, but cover your shoulders and knees. At my last setting we sometimes were asked to wear veils. It didn’t seem to be worth the fight for a three week stint, but we were told that the faculty was debating whether or not non-Muslim visitors from overseas should have to cover their hair. Thus a respectful conversation would be fine. What are the guidelines in the Middle East? Comment below if you know.

Below is a fashion take from an American Middle School teacher, who does go more casual some days than I would.

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