Very disappointed to be having to post this account of my first experience in China, namely Guangdong Province. I lasted just 3 months. I have to return home due to terrible office working conditions and also the fact that I've been constantly ill for the past 11 weeks. I put the illness down to a change of environment and possibly living in a city, whereas I’m used to the outback! Dali Experimental School is a least 25 minutes by taxi away from Foshan City and 45 minutes from Guangzhou. If you travel by bus then of course it can take considerably longer. Dali itself has nothing. Do not expect any western familiarities whatsoever. Sure you will get a coffee and a subway in Guangzhou, but in Dali nothing of the like, just busy noisy streets, no bars or cafes.
I came to China to encompass the culture and cuisine, the people and the atmosphere, but this is not the place to do so as I was constantly told during my 3 months there. The phrase "The people here are so much different to other areas of China" was said over and over by other experienced westerners here. They meant different in a bad way by the way.
Anyway, the subject school itself is ok. The accommodation provided was adequate. The classroom sizes were between 30 to 35 and for 80% of the time I enjoyed teaching the kids (grade 2 & 3). The assistant teachers were a mixed bag. I had 16 classes, and 6 different assistants. 2 of the teachers were excellent. The other 4 were crap. Crap is simply best way to describe them. There supposed to be there to assist with discipline or help with communication. What they actually did was mix of texting on their mobile phones, marking books and paying no attention to my class, turning up late or even not turning up at all.
Free food was great if you like rice and chicken feet. I like rice. Overall the admin of the school was pretty good; if I needed medicine then I got it. If I had a maintenance issue with my room then it was fixed. The Principle was a fair guy and never caused me any problems at all.
So, what was my problem with the school? Ok, let’s begin. I’m a completely new out of the box ESL teacher. There was absolutely no induction given by the Office Manager. I was told on day one the 60 year old International teacher who dates one of the 26 year old Chinese teachers, that it didn’t matter what you taught them in the class. ''The school just wants to see a white face, do as little as you can and get paid''. Not exactly the sort of welcome and professionalism I had hoped for on my arrival. This was following the comment "Let me know when you want to go to Hong Kong, I can get you laid if you need to". So, straight away I had serious doubts regarding this man and his suitability to be at this school in any guise.
I received no teaching aids or assistance with lesson planning despite numerous requests. The happy helping face of the Office Manager soon faded away when a couple of suggestions were made on how I might improve my classes and my own teaching ability by way of me locating myself with my assistant teachers as opposed to being seated in the self glorified "International Office".
It is important to mention at this time that another teacher, who taught in the attached kindergarten, had been taken to a mental institution having been known to suffer depression by the Office Manager and Senior Teacher for quite some period of time. The teacher was not visited once in the time he had been taken to the hospital and it was in fact of great humour to the Office Manager in the office. I and two other foreign teachers were mortified to say the least!
It transpired that the Senior Teacher hated everyone and I realised after a short time that he didn’t have a good word to say about anyone and nobody actually liked him. He has been 56 years of age for the past 3 years apparently, so I’m bemused at what "special arrangement" the Office Manager states he has with the Senior Teacher being at the school.
Before I forget, I have a degree in Business and no TESOL qualification. At least I didn’t have a TESOL qualification until the Office Manager without telling me had "obtained" me a certificate from an online institute in California.....................I only noticed one day as I walked past his desk and saw my resume on his computer screen, with this added certificate detail and the fact that I had also previously taught at another school for one year. This simply wasn’t true. I was told that this was normal procedure in order to obtain the expert certificate for new ESL teachers. I do not believe for on moment that the school were aware of this and it was purely the practise of the Office Manager. He told me that the Principle would probably not have accepted me if he hadn’t ''lied" on my resume....................Personally I would not have taken the position had I known that this was how the Office Manager operated and I would have gone elsewhere..........legitimately.
I end up leaving with release letter and being told that the school will not cancel my work visa. My release letter states that I need to return to Australia for a reason not stated. This again is simply not true and I have no need to return anywhere. Again, I’m sure that the Principle of the school is totally unaware of the ongoing deceit and lies of the Office Manager. He simply doesn’t want me at the school anymore despite the fact that my teaching was very good and that I was a "natural" in the Office Managers own words. I had received no complaints from anyone and had only simply asked that he be upfront with me and honest. Obviously the latter request was enough to place the noose around my own neck and thus save ''face'' for the Office Manager.
Despite the Office Manager threatening to cause me problems with SAEFA if I say anything bad about him, I feel I have to relay my experiences to others. Not just for this school (or more so this particular duo of people) but for the general experience which I’m sure is not unique to this school and/or area.
I have already contacted SAEFA and several recruiting agencies and have been assured that having the letter of release is sufficient not to have any problems when applying for work visas in the future. Any action taken now by the Office Manager ill be seen as post the event and be considered as purely spiteful and of no relevance.
I look forward to returning to China before April 2012 and will choose a less populated area to work. I have my sights already set on Inner Mongolia!!!
However you read into this account, please bear in mind that I could have been a damn sight more offensive with my comments, that I appreciate that this might sound like sour grapes and that each person and their experiences are individual and from their sometimes biased perspective. I have learnt a valuable lesson and will be much better prepared on my return suffice to say.