Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that Saturday was my friend Luzanne’s party where we began with pizza, salad and a vintage candy buffet with old time treats like Ice Cubes, Good & Plenty, candy cigarettes, Caramel Cremes, Slo-pokes, licorice, Razzles, Tootsie Rolls, Sugar Daddies, Dots, Swedish Fish, Necco wafers, and dozens more. Current goodies like M&Ms and Snickers were also included.

There was quite a collection of Christmas sweaters, headwear, and jewelry. One guest wore this suit (or something very close) which had electric colored lights blazing from under the material. The two hostesses wore blue dresses like those worn in White Christmas. They also had the blue gloves and fans.

After people had their fill of candy, we moved on to the Music Box Theater for their 35th Annual Christmas Sing-Along showing of White Christmas. Before the film started the Southport Carolers led the audience in song accompanied on the organ. Then Santa arrived and led us in more songs including one the organist wrote.

Then the movie starts but the singing doesn’t stop. The audience sang along with Crosby, Kaye, Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Also there were plenty of funny comments during the film including hissing at the nosey housekeeper. I’m glad we got jingle bells at the party because they came in handy throughout the evening.

Sunday I visited St. John Cassius church in Chicago. Built in 1893, it’s listed as one of the “11 Churches You should See in Chicago.”

It’s a magnificent building which would fit in in Europe. Lots of gold, art, and majesty. I went to the 11 am Latin mass. It was the first time I attended a mass in Latin done in the Pre-Vatican II method. The priest didn’t face the public, but the altar. This mass differed from what I’m used to. While I studied Latin in college, it’s rusty. They had a small choir of people who sang the responses so there was more response than a few mumbles from people who’d forgotten their Latin.

The rest of the week was mainly slaving away at the department store, which I have quit, and helping a friend with some work problems.

Thanks to Eclectic Alli for hosting this Weekend Coffee Share.

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Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m excited that advent’s started. Yesterday I went mass at Northwestern University’s Catholic center where I heard an exceptional homily.

The job is not going well. I’m counting the days. Last Monday, I learned that a colleague was taken away in handcuffs. It’s all very hush hush. Obviously she was caught stealing in one way or another. So we’re extremely short on help. I’ve volunteered to work extra. I immediately regretted that since I don’t like this store much and the woman who asked didn’t even say “thank you.”

The library’s reading challenge has begun. I haven’t been reading novels as much as I’d like so I’ve resumed. I’m reading Zola’s L’Argent (in English).

We’ve started to decorate the house for Christmas. Like last year, we’re doing so gradually. I’ve come to like that better than getting everything out in early December. I think this way there’s more anticipation.

Thanks to Eclectic Alli for hosting this Weekend Coffee Share.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that we had quite a bit of snow last night. Our newspaper is somewhere mixed in one of the little banks. I can’t recall ever having snow like this in November. Usually, we don’t even have the proverbial White Christmas.

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I started a new part time job at a department store. After I quit, I’ll give you the name. After college I worked at a very well-run store. My sister worked there, a family friend and her two daughters, some of my sisters’ friends, two other family friends. So it was a very congenial setting from day one. Training was thorough and scheduling was fair With this new job, the store has rather unreal expectations – especially for part timers. I’ll leave it at that for now. I am wondering why we only have 4 people in my department and three of us are relatively new. The manager’s only been there for 3 weeks. Of the four of us who began training last Monday, three of us decided by lunch time Monday that we’d keep our eyes open for other jobs. I do find the customers gracious, so that’s a plus.

We had a lovely, though smaller Thanksgiving. My parents went out to my sister’s in Utah. My other sister stayed out East. I went to my brother and sister-in-law’s where I was treated to a feast and got a generous doggy bag.

Though the website had some issues, I managed to upload and submit 3 scripts and TV show ideas to the Upfront event for Act One, the Christian Screenwriters and Producers. This event allows aspiring screenwriters or producers to present their ideas to companies that have reviewed summaries. It’s so hard to get noticed so I’m so appreciative of this writing program that looks after its alumni so well. Act One is now taking applications for the 2019 program.

I’ve gotten about half my Christmas shopping done! One problem is that for two of my nephew’s I ordered something from eBay and its earliest delivery date is Dec. 24th. It’s coming from England. I may wrap a photo of the item since they aren’t toddler’s and can wait.

I got another job offer and will begin working at the Winnetka/Northfield Public Library December 17th. Alas, it’s just part time, but it’s a foot in the door. I could have started today, but I didn’t want the department store to be in the lurch. What was I thinking? They’re paying less and are quite unappreciative and inflexible.

Thanks to Eclectic Alli for hosting this Weekend Coffee Share.

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.

Never Again

Today’s project seemed simple: Upload the $#@ job interview video and email a link to the university in Japan that wants this by Monday. Of course, my VPN isn’t working so I can’t upload to SkyDrive (now OpenDrive), Google, YouTube or Dropbox. I’m sure they’d accept a link to Youku.com, though. After all, all they have to do is click the link and then click the play button.

What I hadn’t expected was that this video would take 13 hours to upload onto Youku. It’s only 9 minutes long! I started uploading at 4:30 pm and still have hours to go. I’d hoped that the 11 hour estimate was way off base and that it would be done in a couple hours. Oh, no.

Remind me to NEVER bother applying to a job that requires a video.

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!