Tropical weather for the winter!
05.08.2011 - 23.10.2011 82 °F
Vacation had ended and it was time to go back to work. For the previous two months our job had been trying to push a new contract on us. The new contract would reduce our hours of work, and also our pay. While this should not have been a big deal, they definitely made it one. For everything they wanted to change in the contract to make things better for them, we tried to add something that would appease us. For example, we wanted the same days off in the contract. After about 3 weeks of arguing, it finally happened. For other requests, we simply received a reply (2 weeks after the request) that it was not possible. Knowing that this was false, we contacted the main office in Dalian, near Beijing about the situation. To make a longer story short, we were frustrated with the fact that the manager at the school cannot manage herself out of a closet, and that common sense or efficiency are not understood here. The only somewhat comforting thing about the ordeal was that the other foreign teachers were having the same problems, so we had someone to fight with.
Due to all of the issues, Liz decided to look for other jobs in China, just to see what was out there. I was amazed when I saw her results. I knew the demand for a foreign English teacher is very high here, but what I saw did surprise me. Many jobs offered higher salaries, bonuses, flight reimbursements, etc. compared to our current situation. We inquired into a few of them, and received replies from each. Several were deemed not practical, while one job definitely stood out. The position was for teaching oral English only. After several email exchanges, a position was offered for Liz to teach Kindergarten, and for me to teach Primary school. Neither of us wanted to teach these levels, as Liz was looking for Primary and I wanted anything above Primary. Due to this, we turned the contract down and signed our FINALLY finished contracts at Aston. Amen. The debate was finally over. Until the next day.
One day after signing our new contracts with Aston, and deciding to stay in Yinchuan, we received another email from the school. This time they offered Liz Primary School, and Middle School to myself. After taking some time to think about it, we decided to make the move to the new school. It was not an easy decision. In the end, the biggest reason for deciding to leave came down to our current school being unable to manage anything, and the fact that we had seen everything to see in our current city. We had seen most of the things we wanted to see in the north of China. Our new position put us in Foshan, a small little suburb of Guangzhou. Guangzhou stands today as the second largest city in the world by population right behind Tokyo. Foshan, a suburb of the city, has a lowly population of 7 million. Another great part of the city is that it is in the deep south of China, and therefore, warm in the winter. This also played into our decision making process. When the decision was made to leave, we immediately advised Aston and had to wait there for 6 weeks (per the contract) to move to the south.
The new term at Aston started 1 week into our waiting period. Due to this, I had to teach several classes there for 4 weeks. It was a strange feeling doing this, because I wanted to get to know students’ names in the classes, but I knew that I would be leaving in 4 weeks so it really didn’t matter. The weeks seemed to fly by too. We spent most of the time having goodbye dinners and playing pool with our closest friends prior to leaving. Perhaps the thing we would most miss is the donut shop that moved into town about 3 weeks before our departure, and was located very close to our home. However, as the weeks went on, we both realized that we made the correct decision. We had seen everything we wanted to in Yinchuan, and if we stayed longer we would probably be bored. It was a great experience there, and we met friends for a lifetime. It was now time to move on to a new location.
Our contract terminated with Aston in the middle of the National Holiday festival. I was worried that travelling through the airport at this time might be crazy; however it really wasn’t too bad. We had a direct flight to Guangzhou, where the airport was quite large, but easy to navigate. We then took a bus to our new school. On the bus ride, we could see the entire sprawled out skyline of Guangzhou. For the entire duration of our 1.5 hours bus ride, it seemed like we never really left the big city. It’s like an Energizer bunny that just keeps going, and going, and going. Upon arrival to the school we were quickly shown where things were in the gated community where we now lived and shown to our room.
To say that the new apartment was small would be an understatement. It was essentially a glorified dorm room, as it had a tiny kitchen and bathroom in the room. The living room and bedroom areas however were very small for two people especially. We spent the remainder of the week unpacking everything and making the place look presentable. There were no teachers around as the school was off for the week due to the holiday, so we just became more acquainted with our surroundings over the next few days. On Saturday, we started our new job.
The first day was interesting. I met my supervisor who is an 8th grade English teacher. He told me I would be teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I was happy to be teaching these grades, but wanted to go no lower. The teacher hand me books for the 6th grade, and one book for both 7th and 8th grades. I asked why, and he said that the material is the same. Again, all education in China is based on these stupid exams. They get one score, and that is it. No points for anything else. This completely broken system is what I now had to try and teach in. My supervisor simply asked me to teach the same material to each class, but to make it “harder” for the 8th grade. The first week was not too difficult as I essentially did the same lesson for both classes. By week two, I was told that I would also be teaching the 9th grade. When I met with this supervisor, she told me there is no book. She told me to use the 8th grade book and make it harder. So, now, I’m teaching the same material, to three different levels of classes, 17 times a week.
My schedule is not too bad. Classes only go for 40 minutes, so time flies pretty fast. After every class there is at least a 10 minute break, so I have plenty of time to prepare for my next one. Usually I have a 1 or 2 class break in between anyway, and spend the time reading the news in my office. My favorite part of my schedule is that on every other Monday, I don’t have class until 2:30 p.m. Due to this, I can stay up on Sunday night from 1-4 and watch the Cleveland Browns on the internet. Liz does not have this luxury. Speaking of her, as I previously mentioned, she turned down a kindergarten job originally because she didn’t want to teach that young of a child. She accepted a primary contract, and was given 1st grade. I’ve been by her classes once or twice, and can honestly say that I could not do it. The kids have way too much energy, no control, and are too loud. All in all, I think she is handling it pretty well. That’s about it for this entry. I’ll have more about our recent travels into Guangzhou in the next one.