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Suburban Reflections
Steve Ruelle
July 2 / 2004
struelle@canada.com
Shanghai (Malu, Jiading)
My contract officially finished at a suburban high school in Shanghai. The name is Yucai Senior High School, it is a boarding school, a key school, and the largest of its kind in the Shanghai "province".

I posted a lot about my experiences as they happened in the Job Discussion Forum, but would like to sum them up here.

Pros: The campus was large, spacious, clean, and quiet. Free meals and dorms were provided to FTs. Class sizes were small, between 20-25 students for the orals, less for the optional courses I taught. Chinese teaching staff were very friendly and helpful. Generally, students were well-behaved and sharp. Hours were reasonable, and most classes were in the morning. Pay was good, 80RMB per period (40 min each). The school provided free coffee each morning. Internet access was also free, as were all utilities.

Cons: The suburban location made for some nasty commutes into town for parties and part-time work. As well the isolation added to the extremely strict controls on both teachers and students. For example, there were no phones to dial out of the school and the place was surrounded with walls and guards.

I was free to teach my own materials, and overall the oral classes went well. But we'd get surprise observations that, would change the dynamic of the class and decrease the much-desired STT. As well, management was quite disorganized and unclear of the aims for having FTs here. Communication between faculty was extremely poor. For example, an optional class of mine got cancelled on a whim after 1st semester for unclear reasons. 

In terms of the contract, most of it was honored but I had to push really hard to get my salary, vacations, and airfare. As well they had a $2000 US breach penalty for breaking the contract. Things got really tough in April and I was going to quit, but this penalty whittled down my options to either: (a) stick it out or (b) do a midnight run.

In the end I stuck it out, and overall the experience was positive. But this was, without a doubt, the most challenging and demanding contract I've ever done. Now I'm back downtown and am doing other work, but the school doesn't know that (face issue).

Feel free to email me for more info. I would recommend future teachers here, but will be frank about the difficulties involved. Pay is around 6000-8000 per month.

Steve