|THE "DAVID PERRY" WUHAN EXPERIENCE|
|As a couple who have taught in China before at a large Business Institute, and encountered all the positive and negative sides of the experience, we were not prepared for what happened upon our return for our 2nd time. We carefully chose another School in the same City, as we loved the people and the city of Wuhan, with the usual spitting, crowds, staring, "wai guo ren" or "hello" hundreds of times a day, but that's China.
This school presents very well on their website, and offers and follows through with good apartments, state of the art with quality fittings etc. That's about where it ends - The owner, since the greatly respected David Perry passed away, is Bruin Xiong. He comes across as a very caring, well educated and flexible individual with the good of his teachers at heart. But talk is cheap, and when it gets to real life, after one week, you just don't want to be working for them. You know something is seriously wrong but promises are made by Bruin Xiong and you stay a little longer but they don't really follow through.
Is it too much to ask for a "teachers room" where we could have a desk or at least a drawer to prepare and store our lessons etc. The teachers room was always full of Chinese teachers, parents, students and anyone else who wants to just walk in. Also what about the internet access, almost non existant, so slow, windows in Chinese only, and most of the time out of utter frustration in trying to plan lessons or even send emails back home, we had to resort to public internet bars with the passive smoke and noise, for which we had to pay.
Cleaning ladies turned off the water heaters in mid winter, so we had no access to hot tea or coffee, which we provided, which helps when doing 8 HOURS STRAIGHT on saturdays and sundays, with only 10 minutes break between lessons.
Air conditioning was not working in many rooms, and simple things like power points not working so we were not able to play the tapes or CDs which were part of the lessons. No access to photocopying, we had to ask for this to be done at certain times of the day only, as the door to the room was kept locked and only certain people had the key. When we eventually got our copies we received half of what we asked for to cut costs, so students had to share.
Now they advertise the BEST ESL library and private library in Wuhan well…..It is in the owner's office/lounge, which is kept locked also except when he is there. Even the bookshelves are locked. What good is that?
For 18-22 hours teaching per week they pay ok. Except they don't tell you before you arrive that 14-15 hours of that is on the week ends. Unles you want to teach 2-4 year olds and act like Ronald McDonald using flash cards and jumping around, there are very few classes during the week for serious students of English. They could not even put together a Business English class. For my first 2 months at the school I did not get my rostered day off, as the Director of Studies made a big mistake in the roster and it fell back on to me to take a class, on what would have been my day off. I only got my day off when I forced the issue. Mind you we did postering, handing out brochures, demonstration classes etc all on our day off. During your free time….between classes, day off, etc
you are expected to give demonstration lessons to firstly the "faculty" which consisted of Chinese English teachers who had no qualification except that they had graduated from University and majored in English (in China of course). You are then told what is wrong with your teaching and compared to other teachers who were no longer at the school. Then you do the same lesson for students and parents, then again as a first lesson of what you think will be the course class, but what you don't know is that you are being assesed by all the above and the Owner and being severely criticised both to your face and behind your back. The whole experience is totally demoralising and negative to the extent that you wondered why you studied and became qualified to teach ESL as you are given no recognition of your skills what so ever. As a "Foreign Expert" you are treated worse than the cleaning lady, who by the way came into my class and gave exams. We were not allowed to give exams. Some of the text books are 50 years out of date, and not acceptable by today's standards.
One of the biggest insults was that they opened up bank accounts for teachers, but each teacher's account was with a different bank?? Under different conditions. Part of our salary cound be paid into these accounts, in our choice of currency which was a good idea but…..you try and get it out when you return back home. Also some accounts were opened for utilities, electricity etc and amounts were supposed to be deducted by the school each month from wages to cover this. The deductions were made, but when the electricity accounts came in the money was not in the accounts and the teachers had to pay up again. By the way electricity accounts are exhorbitant to the extent that they compare with ours at home. But then they double the account next time and then double it again until you demand to read the metre yourself. Westerners are looked upon a "fair game" when it comes to money dealings.
Some experienced teachers were criticized so badly that they were made to believe they they were incapable of teaching English as a Second Language and their self confidence was severley reduced. Negative criticism is something which has no place in ESL teaching, whether it's aimed at the students or teachers.
We had to ask for our last month's salary many times and eventually got it enroute to the airport when we left, by the way we saw out a 6 month contract some how. The Chinese representative of the school who inspected our apartment before we left, to make sure we did not break or damage anything, wanted to keep the money in liew of a manual for the airconditioner which had gone missing. Very shonky.
Overall we were treated with contempt by the school, but not by the lovely people of China. The street vendors, shop keepers, and locals who we got to know and spoke to in Chinglish each day gave us their respect and we in return gave them ours. That's how mutual respect works.
Bruce and Beryl Dwyer,
28th October 2004.
Brisbane - Australia.