The Real Value of the Teaching Forum

Folks,

We are getting into a somewhat new territory in the teaching forums. We are seeing more and more comments about individual schools. Not just “is such and such school good or bad” but rather pre-emptive strikes.

These types of discussions, I believe, is the most valuable product the Teaching Forum provides its users. And I want to encourage more frank discussions along this line. We also want to be fair in handling what may become rather heated.

I think along the lines of leaving all comments on the board unless someone can come to us and PROVE what was said is false. I also think that schools who are being attacked should post public replies. That is the best way to handle posts that attack them. A fine example is the Kojen thread where the manager posted a very nice rebuttal to cyber attacks on his person and school.

The big bosses have been made aware of this question but I would also like to hear your comments about this.

I would say that sharing your own first-hand experiences, good or bad, is fine.

But if someone told me that they knew someone who had a brother that had once met a teacher that had heard bad things about a particular school then it has no business on these boards.

“This woman is insane, she did XYZ to me” is acceptable if you’re prepared to defend what you say. Bear in mind that there are two sides to ever story and ‘discussions’ of this nature can turn into nasty little flame wars. All the same, in the interests of fairness, anyone posting this sort of stuff should inform the school so that they can exercise the right of reply.

“I heard that this woman is insane, and someone told me that she might have…” is pointless. Teachers airing sour grapes in the pub, someone believing them and repeating one-sided arguments here, does not enhance our reputation or the service we provide. I would say leave it out. How can a school defend against vague insinuations with no detail?

Also, there is a natural tendency to bitch rather than be constructive. Newbies in particular seem to only see the story from their own limited perspective, without ever considering the possibilty that they may share part of the blame if things have turned out badly. This is a foreign culture, different from what most of us grew up with, and also we’re dealing with commercial enterprises bound by constraints that many teachers never consider.

Having said that, there are a lot of crap schools and shady characters out there. Listing the worst, and detailing why, is a good thing to do. Bear in mind though, that what is good for one person may be bad for another. ‘No training’ for one means ‘no interference’ to another. ‘Provides accomodation’ for one means ‘control freak’ to another. It’s going to be hard to keep it balanced.

Is it worth developing a list of points to consider, and discussing the pros and cons of each? I drew up a list, maybe 18 months ago, of points to clarify before going to work anywhere. Maybe this should be dusted off and updated as part of the same thread?

Would this growing list be better in a different sub-forum? Or our new wiki?

Yes, a sub forum organised alphabetically. No ‘recommendation’ or ‘warning’ in the title, just the name and location of the school.

Place a preferred format in a sticky at the top.

Question. How are most of the schools in question going to hear about discussions happening on an English forum that is largely frequented by expats?

How can they respond if they don’t have any idea what is going on?

All the while some disgruntled ass may be harming their business.

Then again, the complaints may be valid.

[quote=“Bassman”]Question. How are most of the schools in question going to hear about discussions happening on an English forum that is largely frequented by expats?

How can they respond if they don’t have any idea what is going on?

[/quote]

Bassman,

I hear what you are saying but that is out of our control.

It is up to them to defend themselves.

My questions:

If a teacher specifically named a school, and gave “They suck” or “They’re crooks” type comments, would moderators step in and ask for more details from the teacher, making the teacher state clearly and in detail what the grievances were? That is, if no one else stepped in to do the same thing?

I don’t want to take the school’s side automatically, but neither do I want to take the teacher’s side automatically. And what if the schools did the same thing, posting, “Don’t hire Joe Blow because he’s always late, dresses like hell, is arrogant, rude and can’t teach to save his life.”

Would moderatots step in and ask again for details. I guess my question is, what are the moderator’s responsibilities in such cases?

Would a school or teacher be contacted, so that they could post their perspective?

Then, isn’t the board becoming more (ideally) journalistic in its purpose: searching for the truth?

Is this the function of the board?

Are we trying to make enemies here? If someone is going to come here and name the names of people and schools they had better be able to PROVE that they have their facts straight, and that they have spent some time looking at the situation from the employer’s perspective. Otherwise you are just begging for a lot of malicious gossip. This will especially be true if posters are allowed to maintain their anonnymity while making personal attacks. The fact is that damage is done once the accusation is made regardless of whether or not it is true. For decency sake I would ask you to discourage this kind of posting unless it is well founded, in which case, of course, it does a great service.

I agree Bob, especially on the anonymity part.

Are we trying to make a people’s court thing here? If so, then it needs to be transparent.

[quote=“Durins Bane”]
I think along the lines of leaving all comments on the board unless someone can come to us and PROVE what was said is false. [/quote]

So, in other words, guilty until proven innocent. DB, don’t get me wrong. I have followed your posts for a long time. You are a voice of reason in what can fast become an insane flame-riddled world, as this very forum has become from time to time during the past 6 months or so.

But this attitude(?) seems fraught with peril. Say I disagree with something someone posts, or someone flames me. Can I then start throwing wild accusations about, claiming that this person is unhirable? Or a less than trustworthy employer?

This is a good discussion. I look forward to participating more. Gotta run tho. Keep up the great work DB.

Peace.

Unfortunately the alternative just doesn’t work - deleting them until they’re proven right?

I would say Sandman had a good point with this post on another thread:

[quote]This is a tough one. Durin’s Bane, do you think it would work if you put up a great big message in red at the start of the thread saying words to the effect of:

“The following are a list of rumours and complaints made by individuals about various schools. The information expressed is in no way to be construed as either true or false but only as the individuals’ personal feelings. There are many, many reasons for teachers to become embittered about their employment conditions here and these posts are a reflection of that.
It should become fairly obvious if one particular school is singled out numerous times that prospective applicants should exercise caution when applying to work there.
It should be equally obvious that where complaints number only one or two that there is very high possibility that the poster is just an embittered former employee with an axe to grind.”

You would also need to do pretty careful IP checking to make sure the same person isn’t posting his complaint under multiple handles.
[/quote]

I would make the person state the exact nature and timing of their grievances. We might also make the extraordinary step of contacting the school or demanding contact details of that school. It does seem a bit of hassle and extra work, but do we really want to get the same reputation or modus operandi of tealit? Do schools or wronged individuals have a right to defend themselves without having people whose job duty is to keep track of their reputation online(i.e. Hess has someone look at us for such purposes, great folks met em at A’s).

Just some ideas. While I feel it’s important that we warn people of bad schools/individuals, I feel it would be even worse to be a tool to tar the innocent.

CYA
Okami[/quote]

I heavily favour the idea as out lined by DB. Yes, people who complain about schools are quite often unjustified in their complaints. However, I think most of us here have the critical skills to see through these kinds of individuals. I believe we should take all comers. They will have to deal with the responses they will get here if their complaints are frivolous.

We might have the critical skills now, but when I was a newbie here I probably didn’t. In fact that may have something to do with how much I bitched about Taiwan in the early days, I hadn’t got used to how things work. As most (but by no means all) of the unwarranted criticism is going to come from relative newbies it’s probably of the sort that other newbies will listen to and accept without questioning.

This is, or course, a sweeping generalisation. The point I’m trying to make is that people who can have informed balanced opinions about these sorts of posts are probably not the sort of people who need warnings about schools. The ones who need the warnings need the balanced posts the most.

Maybe this type of subject should really go into business and money as anyone who has been here a while knows most of the schools here are really businesses. I don’t see what the subject has to do with the practice of teaching. I agree that it should be in another category.

Have to disagree, Loretta. Being new in a country doesn’t make one automatically unable to read internet posts critically. I wasn’t any more gullible in this regard when I first got here than I am now that I’ve been here a few years. I also do not believe in supressing this sort of information simply because some may not be able to see some complaints for what they really are: sour grapes and personal grudges. Some people out there-- hate to say it-- are stupid. We can’t change that fact; nor should we censor discussions simply because some will fall for shysters. Like I said, alot of people on this site will not tolerate axe grinding and will not let it go on without a response. Baseless attacks, I think, will quickly get revealed and ridiculed; other complaint posts will receive due scrutiny and criticism as well, I’m sure.

I think this site can do a real service by allowing discussions of specific companies and recruiters in the English teaching game. Some sites (Eg Dave’s) will not allow discussions critical of recruiters who pay for ads on the site to stand and delete any threads that do so, regardless of merit. I was quite heartened to see a discussion about a recruiter that was clearly ripping off a teacher was allowed to stand here a while back after its counterpart on Dave’s was removed. There are some really shady individuals and companies in this game. I think people ought to be able to talk about these problems

[quote=“Durins Bane”][quote=“Bassman”]Question. How are most of the schools in question going to hear about discussions happening on an English forum that is largely frequented by expats?

How can they respond if they don’t have any idea what is going on?

[/quote]

Bassman,

I hear what you are saying but that is out of our control.

It is up to them to defend themselves.[/quote]

It is up to them to defend themselves, this is true. However, how do you defend yourself against something you know nothing about. It could be, for some schools (not all), like having a thousand knives in your back and not even knowing why their is blood on the floor.

I know that things work this way. I know a kindergarten boss who can’t get enough staff. He has been short staffed for over a year. What he doesn’t know is that the word is out everywhere about his working conditions and environment. It is not that the school is bad, it’s just that there are better, and now, everyone knows it. Only one person that doesn’t know … him.

So why not tell him?

[quote=“Durins Bane”][quote=“Bassman”]Question. How are most of the schools in question going to hear about discussions happening on an English forum that is largely frequented by expats?

How can they respond if they don’t have any idea what is going on?

[/quote]

Bassman,

I hear what you are saying but that is out of our control.

It is up to them to defend themselves.[/quote]

How are they going to defend themselves if they don’t know they need to show up in the Court of Forumosa and defend themselves? Fairness dictates that some notice be given so that they are given an opportunity to rebut/refute unsubstantiated writings. We are talking about people’s businesses after all.

A critical issue here is that Forumosa needs to insure that it’s a conduit of useful information. Forumosa’s reputation and popularity is its good helpful information. Hearsay is neither good nor useful information.

This goes beyond buxibans, obviously. What about feedback on restaurants? What if you want to say McDonald’s sucks? Does the size of an organization matter? Can you say McDonald’s staff at Location X are idiots? Can you say that Hess’s director at Location X is incompetent? We’ve always allowed criticism, but obviously a line needs to be drawn. I think that only first person accounts should be accepted. Beyond that, I think there’s not much we can do.

Big Chief has spoken. Thus it shall be.