“Well just saying that the management wasn’t good doesn’t really help people does it? If you’re really warning people to stay away, you should say more about why you left. How was the management bad?”
Fair enough. Let me clarify three things. 1. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t bear to stay there anymore. Had I not gotten a new, better job offer, I would probably have stayed (but mainly because the visa hassle and 20,000 fine were pretty unappealing.) 2. Actually I gave my employers a very specific list of things that they should consider fixing before I left, so I’ve made my constructive criticisms to them that may or may not be listened to. 3. My main point was to say that people that want to teach at Hess (or probably at any language school) need to listen to what the employees say before signing a contract with a 20,000 fine attached.
To be specific, I’m going to first repeat what I said earlier, that the management displays zero concern for teachers. Granted, that’s a pretty general and probably unhelpful statement, but it seemed to be the root of every problem I encountered. There were plenty of little problems, but one of the most bothersome was scheduling.
Scheduling seems like an area that they would at least ask teachers about. I can understand if scheduling doesn’t always work out the way a teacher would like it, but there is an expectation that teachers are available to work all the time. For example, it never occurs to them that assigning a person 6-8 hours of classes (often at different locations)spread out over a 12-13 hour work day might be less than ideal for the teacher that wants to either make money by working more or do something else with their time other than sit around waiting for their next class.
It would have made a difference if the people that make the schedules had at least asked me before planning everything. Their tactic is to plan the schedule and then give it to you a week before the next group of classes start. (They do the same thing with open houses, waiting until a few days before to tell you that they need you to do an open house, which is usually on Sunday, the one day of the week when you do not have classes.) Of course, by this time, there isn’t much you can do about a problem with the schedule. That is what I mean by “displays zero concern for teachers.” The way a particular decision might effect individual teachers is simply not on their list of factors to consider. Maybe that’s because they already have many other factors to consider, but the end result is still unfavorable to teachers.
Of course, how disconcerting you find scheduling depends on your reasons for coming to teach in Taiwan. If it is because you really want to teach and this is a good experience, or if it is because you want to work a lot and make money, I’d imagine you might be more willing to work whenever they want you to.
One of the most common things I heard from my bosses was that I might be really busy, but I was making lots of money. That’s another problem. Taiwanese management knows that you are making lots of money by Taiwanese standards, so I don’t think it really bothers them if they inconvenience you. After all, they are paying foreigners (that may or may not be qualified to teach) $500 an hour to teach. During the summer, I was teaching over 30 hours of classes per week that were often spread out from 8:00 in the morning until 8:30 at night. That’s $60,000 per month, which by Taiwan standards is pretty good. As far as I can see, the fact that they were paying me $60,000 a month justified the situation in their eyes.
By my standards, getting only 30 hours of pay per week and still finding myself with no time to pursue other things is not such a good deal.
Anyway, if there are any of you Hess folks out there, here are my specific suggestions:
1.Any scheduling decision that requires you to work 7 days in a week (i.e. Sunday open houses) should be completely optional. And the branch management should know this and not expect employees to work 7 days per week as a favor to them. In other words, if the employee doesn’t want to work on Sunday, they should accept it and find someone else, they should not continue to plead, guilt, threaten or whatever for another 5 minutes.
- Management should find a teacher willing to do an open house before promising all the parents that they will have one. Short-term planning is more flexible for management, but it puts teachers in the position of either doing the open house or not doing it and forcing Hess to reschedule, teachers should not be put in this position.
3.Summer classes should be limited to 30 hours per week, with anything over this optional.
- Teachers should be included in the scheduling process and should be consulted before final decisions are made.
One of the trickiest issues is setting limits for summer class hours. It is very easy to set a cap of 30 hours, but 30 hours could be good or bad depending on how they schedule the classes. (For example, having class from 8-12 then 1-3 would be really nice. Having class at 2:30-8:30 would be really nice too. Having 2-hour classes at 10:00, 2:00, and 6:40 is a real waste of a day.) Without some kind of concrete measure to limit the spread of classes, the best thing is really to let someone who actually cares about employees do the scheduling.
However, the large supply of jobless Western university graduates, the fact that most teachers leave after one year anyway, and the fine for breaking contract create a situation where the threat of employees leaving is not that great and there is little incentive to spend significant amounts of time being concerned over their job satisfaction.
Barring any huge changes, the best way to deal with this is to move scheduling decisions down to lower level people, possibly to the Head NST, who are more likely to care about the people whose schedules they are deciding.