I recently finished working at a small cram school called Charlene’s English School located in Yong He. The school never advertises as they have a strong word of mouth. So, in the next week or so they will, if they haven’t already, be looking to fill the position. Here is my experience.
I started with Charlene this past summer. The curriculum is simple. She gives you a monthly list of pages to be taught from Side By Side. The school has plenty of flashcards but no supplements. Should you want to make copies, you will have to pay for them yourself as the school doesn’t have a copy machine. The students range from 3rd grade up to high school. What she expects is the following. Out of two hours teaching time, the first 40 minutes is spent giving the students a quiz and grading them on a dictation(they are required to memorize a passage you create) that they were given in the previous week. Also, drilling them on spelling new words. For one hour, you are to teach the assigned page. Charlene stresses that she would like the foreign teacher to focus on getting the students to practice their conversational skills and learn a certain amount of new words from each lesson. Problem is, when asked if there was a set amount of new words that she wanted to see in the lesson plan she never gave a clear answer. That was just the beginning.
Also, the f teacher is required to grade homework books and quiz books. Which was fine. But it was quite confusing at times which was which. Often I missed grading books because the confusion as to when the books were to be turned in. In the beginning I asked her to let me know which days. Which she did, yet, often those books were never available at the time she told me. So, then I asked her to ask the students to mark the books they use for my class on the cover,with a character for foreign teacher. She would not comply, saying that the students often used the books interchangeably.
When I did once take the books to grade on the correct date, I was called and told she would come by to pick them up because she needed to record the grades. I waited for several hours. When she did decide to come, she sent her husband, who called me at 9 pm. I told him that I would be asleep by 10 pm so would he come and pick them up before then. He agreed, but 10 pm came and went. Suddenly at 11 pm I get several SMS from him saying he was waiting to pick them up. I didn’t get the message until the next day. The creepiest thing about the whole thing was that he mentioned to me that he had walked around my block waiting for me to answer my phone, which means he was waiting outside my house for me to pick up the phone. Because of that, suddenly, she would keep books I needed to check and then complain that the work wasn’t sent in on time. I saw that as a bit of ‘punishing’ me for not being available.
The students. Charlene gives a great amount of leeway for the behavior for the students. When I had difficulties with students, mostly them showing out in class to their friends , challenging authority, she would not support me. She always had excuses for their behaviors, and quite often blamed it on my teaching style. I will admit that while I am a strict teacher, from the point of view that certain amount of discipline is needed in the classroom, I am not interested in being pure entertainment. I think she wanted more entertainment than classroom management. My latest attempt to bring some warmth into the classroom was buying the kids snacks.
When having a meeting with two students who blatantly disrespected me in the classroom, she refused to have them apologize. In another class, when having to deal with noisy students,whom I repeatedly tried different methods of classroom control she refused to talk to them about their behavior. The straw that broke the camel’s back, for her and me as well was this past thrusday. There had been one student who felt the need to converse with his classmate every time I gave instruction. Repeatedly I asked the student not to talk. I even asked the student to leave the room. When the student came back, he still continue to talk while I was trying to explain the homework.
Anyone who has taught for awhile, knows that in a class, the level of listening comprehension varies, so to me it was and is important at that moment that I had their attention. Also, she often would complain, no actually whine, that the students never understood my homework assignments. Well, that is difficult when you explain 10 times and having to do over students talking. Or being little emperors and empresses.
The pay is very good. They start you off at $700 an hour and will give you a raise. Charlene was honest about payment as well as on time. I believe that she pays such a high amount, not because she has a healthy student enrollment, but that in one conversation we had, she mentioned that Thursday’s class tends to be the most difficult for foreign teachers, and in the past she has lost teachers because of these students. Yet, she refuses to lay down the law with them. (Yes, I know that in this buxiban culture, that the owners do tend to give more favor to the students. Yet, I do no hope that the owner would be willing to set some boundaries, especially after all parties have talked about the problem.) Not the case. Charlene will believe what the children say over the teacher.
It’s not hard work and has good pay. I just warn anyone going in to expect to have to deal with some unnecessary crap from students who know they can walk all over the foreign teacher. Also, if you’re still interested in entertaining more than producing some results, then this the place for you.