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TMC "Private Schools from Hell"
Dear all,
During my *almost* 2 years of working experience in China, I thought I have learnt all the skills not to be tricked by the dubious individuals who give a bad name to this otherwise wonderful country.

I had a good job. 12 hours for 4000rmb/month. Superb fully furnished apartment with 2 rooms off-campus, bills paid and so on. It did not come easily, but I was happy.

Then an offer came to my inbox. TMC wanted to interview me. As I wanted to study in Beijing in the future and they had work there, I agreed to have an interview with them.

Great staff from TMC Shenyang interviewed me, and made a report on my teaching skills. An Australian lady and a Chinese man requested me to do a test lesson, and this wonderful staff (very professional in their questions and manners) wrote a report on me. 

Although my parents are from an English speaking country, I was born somewhere else so I have a "mixed" nationality (first language English but nationality from somewhere else). You will understand why I explain this later on…

With their report, which according to TMC was "very impressive" I was able to raise their initial offer in 4000rmb, to a very nice figure of 12000rmb/month for a 25h/week period.

I was overjoyed. Finally I could have the dream of being well paid to do what I loved. TMC mentioned that they will not fall short in offering me the best as long as I could work with them, for they needed very experienced and qualified theachers. So far, so good.

However, there was a little problem. They had an offer to work in Beijing from September 15th, and my last contract expired at August 31st. I could stay a few days more working for my old employer but TMC wanted me now. They would pay me from September 1st regardless of when the actual teaching would start. It can't get better, right?

Well it could if it was actually true.

Upon my arrival in Beijing, I first discovered that the school was not located in Beijing, but in a nearby town of the province of Beijing…well that's still ok. Then I discovered that although I worked 25 hours I had to be in the school "a minimum of 40 hours". In other words, you must stay 8 hours a day "excluding lunch times" to be "avaliable". Well is still ok for the salary.

Oh, did I mention that my salary was before tax? Well there was a 20% tax…even in my extra hours, paid at 65rmb/hour. If you consider that you can make 100rmb/hour for private tuitions this is bad news…still I accepted the job.

Then came the apartment issue. The word "furnished" has a new meaning: TV, sofas, a kitchen wardrobe and a bed. Period. No cooker, no microwave, no fridge…well to be fair they also had A/C. Still with that salary I could buy some stuff…

But then the school refused to pay me the salary…what? Is not a TMC school?…no. Is a "partner". Apparently TMC does not have their own schools in China but "partner" schools.

Good god I had friends in Beijing who gave me accomodation during my "negociations" with TMC. TMC, is fair to say, also offered me accomodation, consisted of a bed in a four-bed room with an attached Chinese style toilet-shower, which I kindly refused for the simple reason that it was located in that town and also I would need to buy food daily.

Vikey, from TMC, mentioned that there was a wonderful TMC school in Xian willing to pay me the promised salary, but I refused telling them that I wanted to work in Beijing, as they promised.

TMC asked me to do a presentation for the leaders of the school the following week, in an attempt to make them understand my values. They mentioned me to focus in explain teaching techniques, rather than make a real lesson.

The next week, I came 10 minutes early for I did not want to make that busy people of the school wait…but guess what? They did not come. Instead, Vikey, the general manager and other TMC staff would attend my presentation. What for? I already gave a presentation in TMC Shenyang…suddenly all this situation was getting funky (you know what I mean).

Needless to say Vikey attacked my teaching techniques with all that she could. From "no real demostration" (but you yourself asked me to concentrate in teaching techniques) to "you speak too much" (of course, we are discussing teaching techniques, remember?). They even asked me to do a real lesson, with one of their memebers who will not open his mouth (was that pre-cooked?). Finally when everything else failed to doom my confidence she mentioned my nationality as a "problem"…"you see, if a student wants to study in Australia, how can you help him/her?" to which I replied "you will then need a teacher from each English speaking country because neither me nor an American or British teacher would be of any help, according to you".

They finally ackowledge that although a great teacher I would not be suitable to teach grammar, but no worries for they needed a math teacher in Xian…I had a day to think about it.

Already without a job, I accept it, but then the next day some TMC staff called me to tell me that the accomodation would have a shared kitchen…ok I said…and I could not bring my fiancee with me…ok too. Everything smooth but that very night Vikey called my fiancee to tell her that Xian would not want me because I was too troublesome…they would not accept my demands of bringing my fiancee with me, to which my fiancee replied that I already knew she would not come and I never said such thing. Also, teachers in Xian were getting 5000rmb per month and I was overpriced…

Later, I called, and Vikey told me that TMC Xian did not want me because I would be picky with the accomodation and I would leave them…"well," I said "if this is the problem you can get some of my salary as a guarantee and give it back to me at the end of the contract"…I was begging her to let me teach, for I did not have any job and no time to find one fast (remember we need visa to live in China). She them came with an offer of 7000rmb. Finally I refused. 7000rmb for 40h of teaching and a shared kitchen…no way Jose. She said this was the salary of the foreigners there (didn't she said 5000rmb earlier on).

Finally, I made my own inquiries about TMC China. Although TMC Singapore is higly respected, TMC China has a very interesting detail: 100% of their foreign teachers does not last more than a year. Notice that I said foreign teachers and not managers or other staff, which I could not talk to. Also notice I am talking about TMC China.

Lessons learned:
1) Too good to be true is simply too good to be true.
2) Wary dealing with private institutions.
3) Do not move a finger without having a signed contract in front of you (oh I forgot to mention that TMC changed their contract 3 times and I could never sign it)
4) New York does not mean New York City. Be careful to be sent to a place where not even buses go.
5) If you deal with TMC, or any other company, don't believe anything that is not in paper.


Michael Cox.