Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

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Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby pokedmund » 20 Sep 2010, 16:12

I'd thought I'd open a new topic as my previous topic was on the "Observation of Teaching Prospects in Hong Kong. This is about my views and observations of actual teaching life in Hong Kong.

So, I've worked for two tuition centres since June 2010 and have been very fortunate to have experienced both, especially being a British Born Chinese citizen (first language English, second language Cantonese, no reading or writing skills in Chinese).

1st Tuition centre - Full time position - Long hours. I worked Wednesday to Sunday, 9am to 7pm, with a one hour lunch break. Probably carried out 30 mins over time each day. 2 days off (monday and tuesday) but the weekends were always hectic!.

Always speak to Parents in English, but if they struggle, then offer to speak in Cantonese. If you don't know Cantonese, advise a Cantonese speaking colleague to get the message across.

I was paid an average, honest working salary - HKD$8000 ... which I found to be quite low. Not only did I have to teach the kids, I also had to clean my teaching area which usually involved rubber gloves and scrubbing out the doodles the kids made on my table.

Although tough at times, the manager was strict and made sure that everything was organised. Tough, but she had her points and things just worked. There was a system which involved a lot of hard work to maintain, but a system that worked and got results.

However, really got on well with my colleagues, majority of kids remembered me and got on well with me, were very cheeky (but in a nice way). Never really got to use any holidays over the 3 months working there.

Tuition Centre 2 - I won't go too much into this as I'm working for them at the moment. If I ever leave, I will explain more.

Organisation? - Absolute chaos. We get the big guns taking messages from parents and I've come back to the office, expecting to have some time to sit down and work on my lessons plans, before suddenly having a parent come into the tuition centre, saying that they have a 3pm lesson (which isn't on my timetable!!!). On calling my boss, she tells me in a I-forgot-to-let-you-know-but-I-don't-care kind of attitude that it is a 3pm lesson in which I hurrily get a basic, and totally unprepared lesson ready for them. How parents still send their kids to this tuition centre like this, I will not know.

Long hours again, but this time working 6 days a week.

Points to mention when agreeing to the Job, although YOU will not be as stupid as me to accept a job without understanding the ins and outs:

p.s. I guess I accepted this job because...being a British Born Chinese, I was just really, really, REALLY struggling to get into a tuition centre...

1 - Apparently, during your 3 month probation, any public holidays that land in the 3 months are taken as paid leave... i.e. you don't come to work, but you pay them to take a public holiday off (wtf?!)

2 - Although your teaching schedule says your first lesson is at (for example) 5pm, you are expected to come in and stay in the office from when the tuition centre actually opens. In some ways, I wasn't too fussed. This just means that I'm not preparing lessons plans at home and will come in to do it.

3 - Low annual leave. And I mean LOW (a single digit figure...for the year!). And you are only entitled to a normal full year's annual leave AFTER you have worked for a year (... in some ways, this does make sense, so I understand their point).

4 - Sometimes, (looking at my schedule, 2 times a week) there is NO TIME to eat lunch, so you can order a take away and eat in class. How professional.

5 - Working environment - The system is an absolute mess. Lets just say that I came in one day, expecting to have 4 hours to prepare some lessons when I was suddenly informed that I had a lesson to teach mid way through, and no one told me!!! (and it wasn't written down). If I was a parent and I saw the way things were run in this place, I would not send my kids here.

Not expecting to last long in this job, but will see how things go.

... 6 - Pay's better than previous job...but there are times when I wonder whether the money is really worth earning.

... 7 - Very surprised that no criminal records check were carried out, not saying that I have any convictions! but I feel that this should of been standard.
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Re: Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby supernova » 01 Oct 2010, 15:03

Very interesting stuff there pokedmund, I wanted to ask a few questions if I may.

Have you tried to get a job in a school? Eg. Government, international. Wouldn't they have far better working conditions?

For instance, the Native-speaking English Teacher Scheme, or if you can't, become a 'normal' english teacher in a government school? There are plenty of Chinese teachers who teach English, and your students would actually appreciate your English skills instead of parents at tutors who can't see past your skin colour.

I'd be very happy to be corrected, after all, you're the one working in Hong Kong and I'm not :)
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Re: Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby kennichi » 02 Oct 2010, 07:55

I've had a look into it the HK government NET scheme needs certification via some exams if you teach in public schools (public schools also have discipline problems as children will be children). Anyway from what I've found is that the NET scheme is cushy in HK. Problem is this makes it SUPER competititve therefore people without boatloads of experience and or qualifications like DELTA or PGCE need not apply!

It is so cushy in fact that people who do get onto it tend to entrench themselves into the position to constantly renew their contracts which limits placement avaliability severely!

The other method is the VTC! Which is uber under funded and equipped! But again if you get into this you're set for life! But again experience and qualifications needed to even get a whiff!

Me? I continued with my boring unrewarding underpaid (seriously think 15K!) job as an accountant but teach at weekends to get some experience before I finally jump over to Asia due to economic woes here!
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Re: Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby pokedmund » 07 Oct 2010, 02:50

I arrived 'late' to Hong Kong and missed out on the possibilities of applying for HK schools. Having had a bit more time at my work place, I still feel that it is very unorganised (again, had to grovel to a parent yesterday for my boss changing her 5 year old's lesson to tomorrow, with the parent not being informed....)

But, apart from the very long work hours (7-8 hours non-stop, 6 days a week), no lunch/dinner breaks (taken during a lesson), working weekends...I think that most of the problems come from being a new TEFL teacher. I've taken a step back and have decided to try and learn as much as I can from my work place, and maybe give myself more time (to learn how to be a teacher!)

Hopefully when I become a more experienced teacher, I'll get used to making fun lessons, making lesson plans in less than 10 mins, learning to control rowdy classes and start to be a better teacher!

... I hope...
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Re: Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby supernova » 19 Oct 2010, 08:28

by 'late', do you mean after the school year began? If so, can't you try applying next year?
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Re: Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby pokedmund » 19 Oct 2010, 15:53

I started applying for jobs as an English Teacher in hong kong schools in May 2010, and didn't get a single response. After speaking to one of my uncles who works for Hong Kong University, he advised that it would have been more ideal to apply in January/February. However, he said that because I was Chinese and because I didn't have a PGCE, the chances of getting a role would have been lower.

But not impossible.
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Re: Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby gerrychuan » 20 Oct 2010, 04:30

Why not teach in other places and in hign school or college of vacational and technical? Universities in China always ask for a high degree. That is why chinese students do their utmost to get a higher degree,leave alone their practical ability.
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Working life as a Chinese looking English Teacher in Hong Ko

Unread postby pokedmund » 09 Dec 2010, 04:18

I'd thought I'd give an update on my situation in Hong Kong.

But in reply to Gerry Chuan, Mainland China is definately an option for me in the future to teach, and yes, it is easier to get a job in China as it is a vastly larger area and more employable. However, at this moment in time, my heart is set on Hong Kong as that is where my parents are from. It's also been nice to have a better look at how my relatives live in this fast moving metropolis!

Having spent a few weeks in my job working in a Hong Kong Tuition centre, I found my employers (who are not teachers, they just find parents to get their students enrolled) changing my contract hours. They changed my day off at the last minute (affecting my plans to meet with relations), constantly booked students into my rota without telling me what I needed to teach them, sometimes, I've had to find materials from random textbooks or the internet to teach the children as the children didn't have the text book (these students were new students who hadn't bought the new books yet...it didn't help that the centre didn't have these new books in the centre to use when a student was without a book!)

Also, when students missed a lesson, the centre loved to give the student an extra lesson sometime in the week to make up for it (once a month)...so once, I had to teach an English Grammar lesson in one hour to 4-6 students. I had one class which ranged from 6,7,8,9,10 and 11 years old, all learning from 3 different books, at different sections and topics....
I can categorically say that this doesn't happen week in, week out, but I found it very hard to teach all the students if their grammar varied between the teaching content and the age groups. It was a very big shame that my employers weren't teachers as they just didn't understand the logic about placing students in classes at the same level, not to just put students in a class to save money and time. My solution to this predicament was to just do my best and get the students answering exercises. It was VERY boring, and I don't believe the students learnt a lot from the lesson...which was a shame...

After one too many changes, there was one particular change (extending my weekend hours) I wasn't happy with in which I immediately told my employer. Her response was that as I was a Chinese looking NET (and that if I didn't like it), then at the end of my probation period, they would terminate the contract and find a non-chinese looking NET to fill my post easily. They also said that I was paid a very high salary for a NET considering I was Chinese and that I wasn't teaching a lot of lessons in the week, so I should accept the extra working hours to make up for my salary.

So what was my response to this? I took it on the chin and went home. In my email account, I had 2 requests for NET interviews at other centres which I hadn't replied to (as I wasn't considering leaving). I decided to visit one centre, signed a contract with the centre (improved salary) and handed in my notice to my boss.

The next thing I knew, I found myself being offered dinner with my boss, who was offering to pay for my dinner et al before having a discussion about staying at the centre. I was now being told that they would increase my salary, give me a longer holiday and offer me less hours in the week as a lot of parents loved me and they wanted me to stay with them (and break the contract I had with the other centre). However, I informed them that I had signed a contract with the other organization and that I never go back on my word. 2 weeks later, they finally succumbed to my demands and hopefully I'll be starting my new job soon.

Don't want to go too detailed into my surroundings, but I guess if you are going to work as a NET in Hong Kong, expect the following:

1: Friday evenings and the weekends are like Gold Dust to the tuition centres. These are the periods where the students come in droves and this is where the centres make their money. I admit it was my fault in signing a contract to work weekends...so be aware! (or at least ask for more money on the weekends!...if you prefer money to spending time with friends on the weekends like I did).

2: There are greater opportunities to teach Children than adults in Hong Kong. Having met new friends in Hong Kong working for different companies, many people have a intermediate level of English. It's ok, but not great for businesses. The solution in Hong Kong? Employ foreigners/non native chinese people who speak English. Hong Kong is a funny place in which there is a lot of money that is going around and organisations, instead of improving the English of their employers, are happy to pay for someone who speaks English instead. I'm not sure if it is because it is cost effective or time saving, but it just seems to me that they just don't trust their own people. There's the money to be spent, so spend it on employing people from the outside.

HOWEVER! This is good for people who aren't from Hong Kong as it means that we (can exploit) get opportunities to work in these countries at high salaries and low living costs.

3: The children (7-11 years old) are trying to learn Cantonese, Mandarin and English before entering Secondary School. They need to learn this at a level where they can hold a good conversation (to make this more understandable, the students will be taught at some secondary school lessons all in English (apart from Chinese of course)) and are expected to be able to read at a very high level. Many of my students (11 years old) at the moment are struggling with The Cat in the Hat.

Many...and I mean MANY are struggling (not using English enough, poor English Teachers in primary school, students not wanting to learn English, learning difficulties) and many parents resort to tuition centres to help improve their child's English.

Again, the job opportunities are there for the time being as the Hong Kong education system is still up in the air and isn't going to improve any time soon.

4: Sorry to state the obvious, but once you've got the work experience, as a Chinese NET, you become a lot more employable in HK. Not really wanting to leave me current job role, I did update my CV and posted it onto the internet for potential employers to see.

When I first came to Hong Kong, I posted my CV onto websites and sent nearly 70 applications, ending up with 3 responses (and accepting one job offer).

When I got my first job, I updated my CV and posted it onto websites, not applying or any jobs. I received 4-5 responses from centres asking me for interviews!

5: My final point is a discrimatory one (doesn't really apply to non-chinese and I don't think it applies to Schools)... in which I don't want to cause offence to anyone specifically, but I thought I would share my experience as it did happen. It's probably a one off... but before leaving my tuition centre, I helped them with the recruitment of the new NET and interviewed candidates. A horrible thing I was told was to look for someone (who was oriental) who wasn't....scary....or who was good looking (wtf?!)

I interviewed many candidates and many were Orientals born in other countries (they all ticked the right boxes for me as I sympathised with them...the ones with the tefl certs anyway). However, my manager dismissed some, explaining that some of the students are picky and they don't like an oriental person who looks scary, or who doesn't look like they will be a lot of fun...(therefore = loss of students, loss of revenue). However, if you are not oriental, the parents will like you, regardless of looks and they will force the kids to sign up.

In a horrible way...I agreed with this. I'm not saying that you have to look like the Chinese Leonardo Di Caprio, but unfortunately, the tuition side of things looks at appearances, and if you are employed to teach very young children, then you will have to look friendly or be... good looking (whatever this means).

This has also got me worried myself, as I'm not getting any younger (duh) and if this is how Hong Kong works, then in a couple more years, I myself might be out of a job (teaching primary school kids)...not because of my credentials, but because of how my appearance turns out in the end.

So...part explanation...a lot of ranting (I'm sorry!), but I hope this will help someone out there.

...6: Although Hong Kong is part of China, to actually work in China is a lot different than Hong Kong. Also bear in mind that the opportunities (and if I'm made to believe the benefits?) of working in China are getting better and better...
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Re: Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby ChiniFT » 18 Oct 2011, 14:09

Thanks for all that information - very interesting reading!

I'm not in the running anymore for teaching jobs in HK or China for that matter - age - I'm over 60. BUT my wife and I both taught in China for 7 years from the time we were 54 and 55. We taught the last 6 years in a college near Guangzhou and loved it. They had American-born and Canadian-born Chinese teachers - I can't recollect there being a British-born Chinese teacher, but I do know that would not have been a problem. We had a wonderful 6 years there and enjoyed just about all of it and were paid very well by Chinese (and European) standards and had accommodation and air fares as well. The college also has an apartment in Hong Kong (Tseun Wan) which the teachers can use at weekends (limited amount of times per teacher as the college has up to 80 foreign teachers) - a very good perk. Guangzhou is only 90 minutes from Hong Kong by train.
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Re: Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby CELTASkelta » 25 May 2012, 19:34

Please. What is "teaching NET"?

Thank you
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Re: Working life as a Teacher in Hong Kong

Unread postby pokedmund » 28 May 2012, 03:47

NET means native english teacher.

Native being your first language is English.
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