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Teacher satisfaction

November 24, 2008

Hello again,

I want to tackle a slightly unusual topic in this post. I hope you will let me know what...

...you think.
Every school I know makes a great effort to get students’ feedback. And, for obvious reasons, student satisfaction is extremely important. However, I am not aware of many organisations that seek to discover the level of satisfaction with the school of teachers. I think this is a pity.

I said in my last post that I felt that teachers were not particularly motivated by financial gain. If this is true (although I am sure teachers will always welcome a salary raise) then it seems to me that schools have little to fear and much to gain by surveying their teachers’ level of satisfaction.

I assume that happy teachers perform better. And if teachers perform better, then students are happier too. It seems to me that schools could get regular feedback from teachers to find where, within budgetary constraints, they could help make teachers’ experience of the school more enriching.

If the teachers are working away from their native land, then they may feel it is difficult to get to know locals and to really discover local culture. Perhaps the school could organise some trips and some social occasions to help with this. Are there areas in the school that teachers could make more their own? A special staffroom where they could make drinks and cook food they like, for example. Are they constrained by the teaching methods or the materials? If so the school may be missing out on the teachers’ creativity and expertise, so why not let them contribute more? Do they feel lonely in the evenings or at weekends? Why not make the school available for them to watch DVDs, hold social gatherings? And what about activities? Do they miss a particular hobby or sport? If so, why not set up staff/student clubs t bring these activities into the school and so enrich the lives of both students and teachers?

I think it is important for all the people in schools to feel valued and to be drawn into a circle of mutual understanding. If you think about it, a teacher who has travelled half way around the world to learn about a new country and culture has a lot of initiative. With the right treatment, that teacher will invest that initiative in the school.

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  1. taken advantage of Says:

    I have been working as a teacher in a School in Germany for longer than I care to remember. With a permanent contract, it used to be a wonderful job.
    ..don't misunderstand me, please. The students are still wonderful and I LOVE teaching, but in the last 5 years the standards have gotten worse and worse... and I can only put it down to bad management and incompetent teacher training.
    And now the management are planning on reducing the basic starting pay per lesson to under ten euros! Here in Germany the cleaners receive more than that!
    Any sort of outside school activities are left entirely up to the teachers to organise amongst themselves, and mixing with students outside of teaching hours is prohibited! Maybe the school is worried that students may approach teachers to give them lessons privately.
    New teachers are given 10 days training then thrown in the deep end with material that is incredibly disorganised. You are only allowed to teach with the shool's, or school approved, material and very irregular further training(if any at all) is offered. A large number of lessons take place outside of the school premises, at the customers offices, and there is almost no possibility to speak with other teachers or the local instruction supervisor, when problems occur.
    Amongst the freelance teachers there is a mutual distrust. 'Maybe this new teacher will have my lessons allocated to them.'
    You are completely at the discretion of the lesson planner, and woe betide if you fall ill and have to call in to say you can't teach... 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' or a lesson planner at 8 o'clock in the morning who needs to check through her list of telephone numbers for 'stand in' teachers. Beware! you are quickly replaced and you are demoted onto that list!
    Does anyone know of any schools that treat their staff better?
    [Note from Moderator: name of school withheld.]

  1. Eric Roth Says:

    Perhaps universities provide a better working environment than ESL schools and language institutes, but they also require more pieces of paper and greater experience. It's a tricky, difficult situation - especially during a recession when more English teachers are willing to tutor on the side for extra cash. Your situation in Germany seems more typical than exceptional.

    In the United States, private language schools often pay far less than public adult schools or community colleges. On the other hand, teachers have far more freedom and fewer students. The international students also tend to be far more academic and professional students more serious than many of the other adult students. As a former director of a CBO and adult school teacher, I have seen many different sides of this situation. It's also worth noting that the quality of teaching widely varies between and within each category of schools.

    Because my financial needs were less than some other teachers, I preferred smaller, better classes. On the other hand, 10 Euros is far too little to pay for a professional teacher.

    Good luck.
    Let's hope 2009 provides more smiles and fewer sighs in our ESL classrooms and schools.

  1. Dave Davies Says:

    I have worked in Greece , Germany and Italy and in a lot of bad schools
    I work in a badly paid school right now in Italy but there is interaction between teachers and between the teachers and the management and I really like the English Conversation Club

  1. Jo Segell Says:

    Sounds like the topic for a University study....

    I guess the turnover rate of teachers gives a good idea of how satisfied the teachers are. There are places that pay very well. It certainly helps in the retention of staff to a point.

    Teachers (just like students!) will always complain, though. It's just human nature :)

  1. Andrew Aigner-Muehler Says:

    With the pay, I sought off agree in other positions and definitely other countries, but here in China, and especially the smaller cities and towns, you as a foreigner can tell if the teachers care, and half of them don't, you can see that in their teaching style, by the way you talk to them, and as well as, they know they are a babysitter not a teacher. The students parents only send them to school, to get them out of the house and to be looked after. With myself, and probably many foreign teachers out there, are here for the experience, a chance to travel China and not here for the money. Already we are getting almost double what the normal teachers are getting plus all the perks like accomodation, internet and cable tv etc etc. I personally give everything in my job, I am only on 4000rmb per month, I have to plan my own topics, I spend a lot of time each week in planning a topic which is suited for my students. I am here to help these kids as I know how important it is for the Chinese to know English, as China is in the prime position at the moment to be world leaders, and already you can see it, when applying for a job, Chinese managers want people to know English. Middle school students of today, do not know how lucky they are, if they get a good education and know very good English they will set themselves up. It does not matter how hard or soft or caring or non-caring or happy or non- happy their Foreign teacher is, if they want to learn, they will learn, if they don't, they will not.
    With their normal teachers, during the lunch break, you will see them a sleep in the office, not doing work, which leads to me saying, i think the pay is great here, but the working conditions for example work hours is too long for the teachers here, and I am speaking about non-foreigner teachers, even the students are at school for too long. The students are also getting so much home work. They do not even have a social life as a kid which is so important to kids these days. I wonder why they are so shy and quiet when it comes to asking them questions. Think about it, they are not getting any better grades than students in America or Australia or Europe. In Australia, they are in class for half the time per day as their Chinese counterparts, and I tell you, the grades would be much better in Australia. We will probably never know, as the students here in China can not fail a subject in any class for example I can give students A's and B's and C's and D's and F's but the students with the D's and F's will be marked up to A's and B's. If the students fail subjects here, the school has to give them back part of their tuition fee.I honestly think the education system in China needs a shake up.

  1. Lim Ai Keng, Alicia Says:

    I like the idea of having extracurricular activities in private language schools for the teachers and students to mingle and get to know one another better.

    Many centers, I know focus so much on maximising profit to the detriment of teachers' wellbeing and student satisfaction.

    For example, in Malaysia, we can take advantage of the various festivals i.e. Mooncake, Deepavali and Teachers Day to hold a dinner and games session. For a small cost, these events may serve to stengthen as well as expand the student base.

  1. Janice Russo Says:

    I am nearing completion of my 2nd year teaching in language schools in the Slovak Republic.I am certified to teach English, and I have three degrees from a top-ten American university. I 66 years experienced, looking great and feeling hot! When I decided to switch gears by making use of my Masters in Business Administration and become an English/Business teacher in Europe, I trusted everyone. My first rate of pay amounted to about $1.00 an hour! My 2nd position pays 8 Euros per hour and deducts 25 Euros every two weeks for shared housing. Housing that is filthy and disorganized. Okay. Why stay here? Certainly not for the depressing living conditions including the school with no communication, teacher's rooms, computers,regular payday,lesson planning, etc., etc., etc. You get the point. I would have left the day after my arrival due to the conditions, but I choose to stay when told "Slovaks live like this!" Not true! Most of my Slovak friends live in beautiful homes with lovely gardens. Americans are exploited by language school owner/directors because we stupidily want to believe what we are told. I love my students, and they graciously return the love to me. That's the only reason I have stayed here for my two year teaching experience. I sugguest anyone wanting to come here be on the ball and check out the conditions. Ask for references! And don't believe everything they tell you. Remember, language schools want bodies of native speakers to fill a demand as they get rich from your contribution. Be cautious, folks!

  1. Matt choking on stress Says:

    I've been working for a school in Vietnam, they're terrible. It takes me up to 20 phone calls to get a simple answer, they never pass on information, they expect us to be psychic. Computers, photocopiers and anything else you can think of are constantly broken. They shove all different level students into the same level class to save money. Even if i give the students their final exam and they fail, they still move up to the next level with the rest of the students! They screw up teachers pay every fortnight. I have never seen such a messy operation. I also worked for a Secondary School, they were no different, I would arrive at school, go to my class, then be told, "sorry your class is not on today". Gee, thanks, you could have told me yesterday. Even students at the Secondary School have told me that the school doesn't care about their education, it's just a money machine. I'm very disappointed with my school, the big problem is it's not just them. A lot of schools in Vietnam are setup for one reason, money. I could ramble on for hours, sorry.....

  1. Bob Toomey Says:

    Greetings, All,

    I live and work in Beijing. I taught in California schools for 22 years before coming to China. I have been here for 16 years now. From what I have seen, I would work in any Chinese school nor work for anyone in China. The Chinese don't understnd education, or else everyone would be speaking English perfectly by now. The other people running language schools don't seem to understand education either. It sounds to be like a lot of language schools around the world are marginal at best to be working for. As in America where we were encouraged to improve upon the teaching materials we were given, I encourage people who work for me to improve upon the teaching material we provide. I have received some good comments over the years. Also, teachers are rewarded with increased salaries periodically throughout their time working for me.
    It sounds like I am better off in China than other places in the world, which I find incredible. Best of luck to all of you.

  1. Charles A. Barbieri Says:

    I taught in Chengdu, China from September, 2008 to January, 2009. I taught Oral English to first year students. I decided to leave the University because teachers were not respected. There was absolutely no teacher trainer. In fact, teachers came to the school from the airport and were dropped off in their apartment- they did not even know where the school was. Some teachers thought that the College was the private elementary school seen from the apartment. Class schedules were not given out until one day before class and teachers did not even know where the buildings were on campus. Teachers that the school management liked were told of special events at the school while everyone else was not invited to the school events. I was told that I would be fired if I questioned when we get paid!!! I finally got paid with a bank card that had the wrong password on it and then I had to wait another week to get the money. I think that we are not asking for a royal treatment. We just need basic functional information that seems to lack in many Chinese Universities. I find that how Chinese students learn a foreign language goes against all of the research about how to learn a language! To just simply repeat after the teacher reminds me of the song "we are just bricks in the wall" by Pink Floyd. There is rarely active, "lived language" embedded in personal experiences. I think we can learn from holistic education that it takes the whole person to learn a language. Another difficulty is having only one class a week. Simple logic says that to learn something new you have to do it every day and be willing to make mistakes and improve on mistakes. Students leave the classroom and go to Chinese language immediately. The chance of truly grasping a foreign language is slim given this fact. The Chinese University educational system helps help!!!

  1. Lynelle Says:

    Note to "taken advantage of":

    You may want to consider moving next door to the Netherlands. Teachers are treated quite well here and, from what I have seen in job postings, make a higher hourly wage. Travel to work is always covered by employers (standard to any job by a Dutch employer). The Dutch usually have a high level of English, so you would mostly be teaching B1 and B2 students. Frankly, I am quite happy at my school and love my job.

  1. Bob Deaver Says:

    I may be very new here teaching in China but as I see it, if I ever get as cynical as some of these commenters it will be time for me to go home. I may be a bit naive thinking that I can make a difference but I am going to give it my best shot. Sure materials are not provided and the course objective is to get as many students to participate as possible but I take that as a challenge not a handicap. If you want to motivate your students and get them to respect you try this in class one day. Challenge each student to tell you something about their culture that they think you don't know. Surprise them, let them see you are interested in their culture. Sometimes it is not enough just to try to show that you are interested in their education.

    Good luck to all.

  1. karin lackner Says:

    hello everyone.....
    i am interested in going to taiwan....has anybody experienced teaching there and would care to comment?

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