Many of these extra duties are not that helpful. In fact, they’re often conducted so poorly that they could hurt you more than they help you. Instead of trying to change these things to make them better, however, the EF management chooses to do them the same way each year. It seems that they don’t really care if it helps or not, they just want to do it, or perhaps even have to do it. When you choose to teach English in China with EF you’ll quickly find out what these things are really all about.
ESL Professional Development
If you’re a new ESL teacher there’s a good chance that you don’t know what you’re doing. Teaching English to Chinese students can be quite intimidating when you first start out, even overwhelming at times. That’s why EF started doing professional development workshops each week.
These usually occur during the middle of the week, usually on what would be your Monday. The problem is that they aren’t conducted that well, and in fact are often fraught with problems. What started out as a good idea quickly turned into a big hassle and many teachers dread attending them, which unfortunately they have to.
One of the biggest problems with them is the time in which they occur. You’ll have to go into work at about one or two o’clock in the afternoon for a one-hour session. This is a huge pain because your first class of the day won’t be until after five in the afternoon. That means that you’ll either have to sit around the office for three to four hours, or go home for an hour or two and then come back. Many teachers don’t like this.
Another thing is that the workshops are often conducted by teachers that don’t know that much about the subject they’re discussing. The workshops have certain topics each week, topics that are usually decided upon months in advance and don’t change. Some of the topics include things like grammar, pronunciation, and other boring topics. Many times you won’t have workshops on things that can actually help you in class right away, such as fun games, cool worksheets, or projects that students actually like doing.
Also, many of the topics are prepared already by the people in Shanghai, complete with PowerPoints and worksheets that teachers need to discuss. Many of these materials come from obscure books that often have archaic language. Lots of times arguments break out over exactly what the meaning of certain words are, so it’s like lawyers arguing over certain terms. Many teachers leave feeling more frustrated than enlightened.
Although many teachers complain about these workshops, EF refuses to stop them or even change them. What could have been a good thing instead turned into something that hurts more than it helps.
EF Holiday Training
When you work at EF you’ll have to work very hard during both the summer and winter holidays. The curriculum will also be quite different and that’s why EF has mandatory training sessions to get you ready. This is a good idea, but the implementation leaves much to be desired.
The holiday training sessions usually start in the morning and last for about 4 to 5 hours. There are different workshops based on the different areas you’ll be teaching, such as kindergarten-aged students, primary students, higher-level students, and the different reading and writing classes that EF offers.
One of the main problems is that the EF management often doesn’t know which teachers will be teaching which classes when the training commences. So you’ll find yourself getting trained to teach younger students when you’ll in fact be teaching older students, or vice versa.
I can’t begin to tell you how many teachers I’ve seen getting trained in one thing only to find they’ll be teaching something completely different. The training, therefore, is completely useless for them and they have to go back and train themselves on what they’ll actually be teaching.
Another thing is that the training they offer to you is really nothing more than you could teach yourself by looking at the PowerPoints on your own time. So you’ll have to sit in a classroom and listen to a mid-level manager or senior teacher for an hour when you could read the exact same information yourself in about 10 to 15 minutes. This is just another example of how EF loves to waste their teachers’ time.
And instead of giving you great ideas for games, activities, and lesson plans, you’ll really just be informed about all the administrative things they expect you to do. Again, EF is more interested in making their money than they are in teaching English. They’ll spend 20 minutes explaining how to do attendance and progress reports for parents, but they won’t give you any ideas that will actually help you get through those 3 hour classes. It’s a real shame that they feel the need to do it this way.
One of the worst things you’ll experience when you work at EF is webinars. Webinars are training seminars conducted online. You’ll have to go into work early, often at one o’clock in the afternoon, and sit down to listen to a Skype-like presentation coming from Shanghai. You won’t see any people, only hear them as they go over a PowerPoint.
You could really read that PowerPoint yourself in about 10 minutes but they’d rather have you sit there for one hour for some reason. And I can’t begin to tell you how poorly done these webinars are. The people talking often get stuck, lost, or just lose their train of thought. Long lapses will occur and everyone in the classroom with you will shift around uncomfortably as they wait to get out of there.
And the technical difficulties are immense. Oftentimes the sound will go out, the voices will be too low in volume, or the whole presentation just won’t load. Sometimes it’ll take 10 to 15 minutes for the whole thing to start. And when things do get going you’ll be surprised to find how useless the information being presented really is. Again, it’s mainly about administrative matters, not things that will actually help you in the classroom.
I just don’t understand why EF doesn’t want to give teachers the tools they need to teach effectively. Perhaps it’s because the people conducting the webinars don’t really have that much experience teaching, or at least haven’t done it in some time.
One thing that EF likes to do about 1 to 2 times each year is to take their employees out on an outing. This is a great thing for new teachers because you can get to know your co-workers outside of work, especially your Chinese co-workers who you might not socialize that much with otherwise.
You’ll usually go to some place outside of the city, such as a spa, an old village, or some kind of ancient temple. The whole group will usually stay overnight and it can be quite fun. It’s also a great way to show your managers, both foreign and Chinese, what you’re really like. This is good when it comes to your bi-annual evaluations. You’ll definitely get high marks for contributing to workplace morale and contributing to the workplace’s well-being.
One thing that I never liked about these, however, is that they’re always on your day off. That means you’ll be sacrificing a full day off as well as most of your second day off for the travel back to the city. Remember, EF will never cancel classes if they don’t have to, so be prepared for this.
Another thing is that if you choose not to go you’ll get browbeaten. The managers, especially the Chinese managers, will really give you a guilt trip for not going. And of course this will reflect badly upon you when it comes time for your evaluations. That’s why every single one of your Chinese colleagues will go; they don’t really have a choice. If they don’t go, they’ll probably not be working at EF much longer.
At least once or twice a year EF will have a big, full-day workshop. When I was working in Shenzhen this would happen one year in Shenzhen and the next year in Guangzhou. And if it is happening in a different city you’ll have to spend several hours travelling that day. It’s a real pain.
Teachers will be encouraged to come up with some kind of presentation based on what they do in class. It’s a good way to share your ideas of what works in class as well as what doesn’t work. However, you’ll often find that many of the workshops being presented don’t really help that much. Again, things like grammar and pronunciation will be the main focus, not things like games and activities, the things that students really enjoy.
Workshops will always be held on your day off, so you’ll lose that. And of course you won’t get paid any extra for this. And again, if you don’t go it will reflect poorly on you when your evaluation comes around. EF really loves to have these catch-22’s where you have to go or you’ll be lowered in the eyes of your managers. It doesn’t matter if the things being presented don’t really help you, you’ll have to go regardless.