I was working for EF, and the place had gone right down the tubes.
It was a dark moment, the kind you see in movies before the hero rises up, and I didn’t yet know what to do. I decided to right out my grievances, everything I saw wrong with the way ESL was taught.
I hope this gives encouragement to the people out there struggling in sub-par and poor teaching conditions. Some of you have contacted me via email, and I know there are many others facing similar situations.
I never planned to put this out - the book I have that says similar has terrible reviews - but from some of your stories and encouragement, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and go ahead.
Here is my Ultimatum to ESL Training Centers:
No matter how hard I work, there is no room for advancement.
There is no incentive to work hard. I can make all the cool games and classroom activities for my classes, extra things not provided in the teacher’s folder, and students can love my class and teachers will really like me because I gave them activities for free. But I still get paid the same and I’ll still get the same standard pay raise. So my question is: Why should I work any extra than I have to?
Kids move up without having learned anything. I’ve seen it numerous times: A student who does not know the material, who got a 36% on their test, will move up to the next class just the like the rest of the students, no matter what. It’s the exception as opposed to the norm for a student to be moved down or be held back to repeat the level.
What happens when you have students that are unable to do the work in class? Their behavior is bad and the teachers grow frustrated and then indifferent. How does this help anyone other than ESL language training centers who will get their money?
The teachers at my school are forced to work in a cage that we affectionately refer to as an office. An environment like that is not good for morale, health, whether physical or mental, or safety. There is not enough room to sit, and there is barely enough room to move. I’ve never seen such an abhorrent office situation in the sixteen years I’ve been working on-and-off again in offices. When I see that work environment, and environment that management has known to be inadequate for several years now, I know that my school does not care about teachers. I feel ashamed when a new teacher has to come and work here. I feel sorry when I see their face the first time they walk into our office. I feel sorry for training centers that have a corporate culture which fosters and encourages such scenes again and again.
What are the product development people in management doing? I guess they are spending all of their time working on new products, next year’s new thing, but they never give us anything we can use in class. I never see emails from them telling us of the new handouts or PPTs on the computer. Why is that? Why do teachers, who are already busy teaching 7 classes every weekend, have to come up with their own extra materials as well? Materials which, I might add, are essential to a smooth and well-running class, since the materials that are provided in the teacher’s folder just do not take up two hours. That will become painfully obvious, I think, to many teachers when seasonal classes roll around and they find they have an hour of class on their hands and nothing to do.
The amount of time I spend sitting around the school doing nothing is purely astounding. I have a feeling that for many teachers that have been teaching at ESL training centers for a year or longer, the job is very easy. Most people can plan their lessons a week in advance by that point, which of course frees up a lot of time to work on other things.
But again, why work hard? What will it do for me? Get me one more 3 on my bi-annual evaluation. What will that do, give me an extra 100-200 RMB a month? Maybe 300? So that’s what? 10 RMB extra a day? In America that would be like a raise of, what, $0.35 an hour. When ESL training centers care about me that much, why wouldn’t I want to work harder?
Ok, I'm done!
Remember, you’re not going to be teaching ESL forever. Things might suck now, but in a year or so you’ll look back and be thankful you went through such a terrible situation and made it out alive.
Hang in there!
(Thanks Molly, Rick, and Sa for your encouragement!)