Because of this ‘Little Emperor Syndrome’ most children exhibit incredibly bad behavior. Well, that’s not quite true; most of the girl’s will be attentive, regardless of their age. But the boys, well, the boys are another story altogether. Let’s just say if you’re moving to China to teach English with English First, bring a bottle or two of headache medicine.
When I left the public school and first started working for EF in 2010, I was quite excited. They had what they called the ‘PM Folder,’ which had all kinds of Provided Materials. These were things that were prepared by the main EF headquarters in Shanghai and shipped over the servers to each of the schools.
Many of them were quite good, and the books they gave us to use were also adequate. Somewhere along the line this all changed, or my opinion of it changed. I found myself more and more preparing my own materials, mainly because the student in my classes were so bored. You see, each year the provided materials are exactly the same, perhaps with just tiny variations. Many EF students go to the schools for a couple of years, so they’ll invariably see the same lesson twice, perhaps even three times.
It soon became obvious to me that the Provided Materials were much more of a hassle than they were worth, and by my last year of teaching I’d pretty much abandoned them altogether. And that’s when my classes got real popular. I started making all my own stuff, stuff that you can find on esladventure.com and in my book English Rocks! The students loved it, and it made my last year at least partly bearable.
Because my school quickly ran out of space for all of the students they were adding they were forced to start staggering classes. This meant that teachers wouldn’t all be teaching at the same time on the weekend anymore, which had traditionally been 9:00-11:00, 1:30-3:30, and 4:30-6:30. Instead there’d be one class at the usual starting time, followed by another that would begin at 10:30 or 11:00. Many teachers had to come in early or sacrifice some of their lunch hour to accommodate this.
With the diminished office space, the increased number of students, and now these staggered classes, it really meant that teachers had nowhere to go to plan their lessons or even just take a quiet break for a bit. Instead of trying to solve the problem by limiting the number of new students, management simply put forth a policy that created more problems. Teachers were encouraged to come in on their own time to prepare lessons, a policy which I think only created animosity towards management.
At least twice a year, in theory, you’re supposed to be observed by your Director of Studies (DOS). He or she will come to your class, with advance notice of course, and watch about an hour or so. They’ll take down a lot of notes, ask for a copy of your lesson plan, and then schedule time to give you feedback.
This was something new to me, since the second year I taught in public schools no one watched my classes even once. No one that I knew at EF ever liked these observations, but it was the company’s policy. And those observations directly affected how much you’d be paid if you decided to work for a second year or more.
To have a stellar observation you’d need to get a score of 3 on everything. That would mean you’d be eligible for the highest pay raise, about 1,000 RMB or so extra a month. Of course, the company wouldn’t want to give anyone all 3’s, in my opinion, as that way they wouldn’t have to pay them more. I think I got a few 3’s, mostly 2’s, and a couple 1’s on things like contribution to the center, staff morale, and some other silly things that had nothing to do with my teaching.
Each year I was therefore awarded about a 700 RMB a month raise. I couldn’t believe it, since each year the taxes and my rent were going up by that much at least. And during the feedback part of the observation it was clear that only the bad would be pointed out to you, none of the good. Most likely it was simply in EF’s best interest, a private company, to ensure their bottom line remained as robust as possible, which something like employee pay raises would only get in the way of.