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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 14th, 2006, 02:27 am
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Clive Hawkins
 
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Default When to say 'no'.

It's often thought that teachers have a pretty easy life - long holidays and few hours in the classroom - but we know different, don't we?

I don't know about where you work, but here in Italy paid holidays are almost unheard of for teachers at langauge schools. Therefore, make hay while the sun shines is as true as ever.

My question to you is how many hours can somebody work before the quality of the teaching starts to dip? I'm currently doing an average of 32 hours per week but previously it was nearer 40 and I felt that I was just going through the motions. I cut some private work and now I have a few precious extra hours to prepare better lessons and, more importantly, to have a break. I had to say no to offers, which was hard to do.

How are your workloads?
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 14th, 2006, 04:12 am
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Just reading the title, I had a feeling it was about saying no to work. Maybe because I have a hard time with it.

I have 24 classes at my private English school. And, I go for 16 hours a week to a junior high. I have to be there for the whole time but teach (that is to say I'm in the room) for about 8 classes a week. Recently, I took on 2 company classes a week. To ring me in at... 34 classes/week

That's in the off season. From April to October I have nursing college classes as well. I generally have about 6 a week there to totally do me in.

I think they say a healthy schedule is 25 classes.

I try to say no. Honestly! The company that I just got a contract for didn't seem to understand 'I DON'T HAVE TIME!" Then I asked for what I felt to be an unreasonable amount of money and they said, "OK."

I feel myself just going through the motions at times but right now I'm pretty on top of things. My lessons would be a little better if I wasn't spread so thin, but they're still pretty good.

However, it's really bad when I'M the one yawning in my classes. :sleepy:
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Unread Nov 14th, 2006, 07:10 am
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

I think it depends a bit what sort of courses you're teaching and how many levels. Because it's not only the hours in the classroom, but also the preparation. For instance, if you have five beginners courses all of the same age group and at the same stage, you only have to prepare one hour for each five hours you teach. They might not all hit the same lesson the same week, but when they do the preparation is already done. On the other hand, if all your courses are different, you'll need to prepare for each class you teach. And if you teach high level 1-to-1 ESP courses (as I do), you may have up to two hours prep. for each hour taught - for a lesson that may never be taught again. In this case classroom hours need to be adjusted accordingly (if you're on a full time contract) or the preparation time paid. In general I think 25 hours of classroom contact with normal general purpose classes is about right if you want to keep sane and keep standards high. You can do more for a short period but not for too long. And sorry guys but I think over 30 is crazy.
Unfortunately, it isn't always a matter of how much you want to do though, but how much you need to do to live. Don't know about elsewhere, but in Italy teachers are generally really badly paid. And the cowboys make it really difficult for the more serious organisations. Very few clients are willing to pay double what other schools are asking "just" for qualified teachers who are receiving a professional salary and working conditions.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 14th, 2006, 03:46 pm
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
Quote susan53
For instance, if you have five beginners courses all of the same age group and at the same stage, you only have to prepare one hour for each five hours you teach. They might not all hit the same lesson the same week, but when they do the preparation is already done.
Indeed. That's why I even 'pick and choose' classes to a certain extent to try and take advantage of this.

Using a coursebook makes life easier too, especially one you know well. It's those other courses that make things tough - the ones with no book, mixed levels in the class etc etc.

Even if I nearly always do over 30 hours I agree with you about it being too many. I too work in Italy (Sardinia to be precise) and it's tough to make a decent living. Where are you working, if you don't mind me asking?
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Unread Nov 14th, 2006, 03:49 pm
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Clive Hawkins
 
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
Quote mesmark
To ring me in at... 34 classes/week

That's in the off season. From April to October I have nursing college classes as well. I generally have about 6 a week there to totally do me in.
That's really heavy. Is that normal for where you are or are you just particularly hard-working?

And where the hell did you get the time to do those pumpkin carvings?????
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  #6 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 14th, 2006, 04:39 pm
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
Quote clivehawkins
And where the hell did you get the time to do those pumpkin carvings?????
Not to mention running a couple of websites ... and having a family ...

I'm in Milan, Clive. Which probably means higher prices than in Sardinia - but that works both ways : higher income, but also higher cost of living .... and no beach
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  #7 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 14th, 2006, 07:51 pm
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

My workload is heavy and I'm bursting at the seems. I'm actually at the breaking point where I might need to hire someone. The problem is I don't really have the facilities for a two teacher operation.

Anyway, I'm saving for a house and for the future. I discuss the whole thing about once a week with my wife. We've sort of come to the conclusion that I'll work hard for a few more years and then back off.

I don't watch TV, and although my time with my kids might only be an hour or two each day, it's time spent playing together, reading books, drawing and whatever. I guess what I want to say is it's how you spend your time that counts.

All of my English school classes are very similar, so I can repeat the prep. The nursing college classes are the same each year. So, now that I'm going into my third year I just need to do a little changing here and there. Take out a few flops from last year and add in a couple new and hopefully better activities.

I do have a few websites but everything I make for my English school classes is what you see on www.mes-english.com or www.mes-games.com and my nursing college classes materials go on www.hospitalenglish.com . Other stuff is just for fun and web activities are sort of a hobby.

I did have to take a few weeks off from a lot of things to get Halloween ready, but it was well worth it. Check out these party pics www.marks-english-school.com/news/ (The party was more work than the pumpkins.)
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Unread Nov 14th, 2006, 08:08 pm
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Interesting topic!

About two years ago I was working at this private institute and since I was too easy then I was walked all over and ended up doing 50 classes a week. Yep 10 classes from Monday to Friday and they wanted me to work Saturday as well. Granted that the pay was good (about 3,500 euros) but I was dying after a while. My classes started to suck big time, I wasn't prepared as I wanted to be and I have little or no free time. At the weekends I could do nothing as I was sleeping all the time.

Then I had to say no. I had to cut back. The managers and owners were major pissed off and didn't care that my teaching wasn't as good as before and I got very annoyed at their indifference and reminded them that my wife also worked at the same school. To make a long story short, the owner threw a computer on the ground and we (wife and I) walked out.

Fast forward to now where I am 10 times happier. Money doesn't mean anything if you don't have time to spend it! I am doing all part time classes, mostly on M, W and Fri and have the afternoons off on T and Thur. If I wanted to work more then I can easily but I have the right balance now. I am just looking for one or two private classes and then I will be more than happy. With the wife teaching too it's definitely easier on both of us to be honest so we can enjoy life more.
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Unread Nov 15th, 2006, 01:38 am
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
Quote livinginkorea
About two years ago I was working at this private institute and since I was too easy then I was walked all over and ended up doing 50 classes a week. Yep 10 classes from Monday to Friday and they wanted me to work Saturday as well.
That's insane! Have the people who run these institutes ever taught? It seems not. You just end up with tired, grumpy resentful teachers.

As teachers we're lucky in some respects that it's fairly simple to work a little extra if you need a little extra money. Private lessons are never hard to come by and you can pretty much pick and choose what you do. It's difficult to do the same if you're a secretary or shop assistant. However, going back to the original point, at some stage 'no' is the only answer. Otherwise you just end up burnt out and another casualty on the TEFL scrapheap.
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Unread Nov 15th, 2006, 04:06 am
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

I think there is a number of teaching hours which is optimal and this varies for each teacher.

But here is what I noticed for myself. Right now I am teaching about 14 hours a week which is ridiculously low. So low in fact that i can't get in the groove. My free time distracts me from concentrating long periods of time on school. But I am NOT complaining.

On the other hand, my lessons used to suffer when I was approaching 30 contact hours a week.
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Unread Nov 15th, 2006, 04:34 am
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
Quote clivehawkins
However, going back to the original point, at some stage 'no' is the only answer. Otherwise you just end up burnt out and another casualty on the TEFL scrapheap.


Clive you highlighted an interesting area to be honest. My contracted work is 35 hours teaching per week. I don't teach this but I have 28 classes per week, thus 28 hours. At times I get very stressed, and due to a lack of management at my Hagwon, and don't seem to be able think about topics per classes. At other times I get an inspiration for topics. This is further helped by this website.

Furthermore, my wife has some classes in the morning and evening and if my wife is stuck for topics or anything I help out preperation wise.

So I have a pretty heavy workschedule plus the time to look after my son blah blah blah blah clean the apartment blah blah blah blah and cook at times blah blah blah blah.

I would always say "No!" if I had to. It is important for teachers to stand their ground and assert a form of professionalism within the profession or people take advantage of you.

In the ideal world, I would rather be a freelance and pick and choose the schools or classes to teach.
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  #12 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 15th, 2006, 07:50 pm
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
Quote Eric
But here is what I noticed for myself. Right now I am teaching about 14 hours a week which is ridiculously low. So low in fact that i can't get in the groove.
Wow! There's no way I'd get anything done. I'm a stare-down-the-barrel kinda guy. If I have 70 things to do, I'll get them all done. If I only have 5 things to do, I will get absolutely nothing done and waste my entire day.

I used to work 46 hours a week in the states and so a little more now, but it works for me. Clive mentioned somewhere else maybe about taking a lot of the stress home but I think you just need to shut it off. When I'm teaching or planning, I can take a vacation from 'home' and when I'm home, I leave the 'office' at the office.

It will all get done.

I also think there is a bit of talent involved in what we do. I'm in no way going for teacher of the year, but I like to think that I'm good at what I do, and that's why I like it. So, maybe it's easier for me to teach more classes than the norm. NOT, that I want any more than I have now.
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  #13 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 16th, 2006, 05:20 am
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
Quote susan53
I'm in Milan, Clive. Which probably means higher prices than in Sardinia - but that works both ways : higher income, but also higher cost of living .... and no beach
Just in case anyone is curious, most teachers in private language schools here in Cagliari get between 15 and 19 euros an hour (gross) depending on experience and qualifications.
Work at the University is paid at 31 gross and there are some government courses that pay a bit more again.

An average teacher will work around 25 hours in the school, so taking home somewhere in the region of 1400 per month. This is October to June. October, December, April are short months ie there are holidays so you'll earn less. Holidays are rarely paid and neither are days off sick.

The average rent for a small appartment is around 400-500 per month plus bills. You can certainly survive but the tough part comes in the summer when most schools are closed - 3 months without a pay cheque is no joke.

Is it the same where you teach? A lot of you are in Korea it seems - how are things there?
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  #14 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 16th, 2006, 06:13 am
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

I'm in Japan.

Here, school is year round and about half the jobs are at 'cram' schools (which are after school private classes.) Most contracts, bot public and cram schools, pay between $2,500 to $3,000 (USD) per month. There is almost no difference with qualifications. University contracts pay more - about $5,000/month (I believe.) All the contracts are paid out year round, generally with vacations off. Some schools make you go even when there are no classes.

Those are the salaries for teachers under contract. If you have a visa that allows freelance work, then you can do better than that, but you have to find the work. (Hourly rates are better than salary.)

Sorry, I'm not sure what the conversion to Euro is.
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Unread Nov 16th, 2006, 07:07 am
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
Quote mesmark
Wow! There's no way I'd get anything done.
I think you need to distinguish between contact hours and working hours. Like Eric, I'm only teaching about 12 hours a week at the moment but those hours are scattered all around the city. Last year I too taught 30hrs a week at one point, but only in one place per day. That meant I could start at 8am and, even with a couple of breaks, be finished by 2.30. If every hour you teach is in a different place then thirty contact hours may involve 45 hours or more, including travel.

Then you need to take into consideration preparation time (which I talked about before) and any other work you do - I'm currently writing three different courses and monitoring students on an on-line course, for example. But the contact hours are the most draining psychologically. I reckon I work 50-60 hours a week, but I still wouldn't want the majority of those to be contact hours.
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Unread Nov 16th, 2006, 08:16 am
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Great topic guys! I love to hear about other places, the working conditions, pay etc...

Here in Korea it's similar to Japan. The average wage is about 2 (1,600 Euro) million but I have seen jobs for 2.4 or 2.5 million depending on your location and experience. All contracts here include an apartment (different than Japan I think) and an airplane return ticket from your home country. That's all for 30 hours a week. And oh yes I nearly forgot, you get a month's bonus when you are finished too. Not bad I think. Majority of contracts last for a year. I heard that something like 70%~80% of first year teachers leave after a year. Majority of the teachers are fresh out of college and loads of them come here to pay off their loans.

There are many private schools here which are similar to the cram schools that Mark mentioned. There are certain schools teaching only English, others for math and others that inculde all subjects for elementary, middle and high schools. The Koreans are crazy about English. Seriously crazy about it. I say that about 80% of students go to a private school to study English more after school. They pay on average 150,000 won (125 Euros) a month and that is just for English about three hours a week. Include some other subjects and sending your kid every day to a private school and you can easily hit the 400,000 (330 Euro) mark. Parents care a lot about education but sometimes it looks like that they are throwing it down a hole.

The standard here is very different too. Some chain schools who would avoid due to the stories that you would here. Other schools are brillant but it's hard to find the right balance. I have met some great and some useless teachers. I have met a lot you really don't care and just want to hit the bars and count down the days until they get their airplane ticket and bonus.

Right now I am working part time about 23 hours a week teaching kids and adults in 3 different places. I am making just under 2.8 million (2,330 Euro) and have Tuesday and Thursday afternoons/evenings off. It's fits me perfectly as if I want to work harder I have the time and if I want to cut back then that is possible too.

Korea is definitely not for everybody. Koreans can be very direct. Some of my friends were a little big and Korean would tell them to their face! You have to be thick skinned that's for sure but it's very enjoyable for us and we will stay here for another 2 years at least enjoying the good life

(p.s. sorry it's a long post)
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Unread Nov 16th, 2006, 12:21 pm
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
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Sorry, I'm not sure what the conversion to Euro is.
The current rate is 1 US Dollar = 0.77 Euro

Seems that the pay where you are is higher than here, but what's the cost of living like? How much would you be paying for a one bed appartment in the centre of the town in which you work? A night out etc etc

Mind you, I don't suppose you'd have the time to go out. I don't, and I work less than you!!!!!
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Unread Nov 16th, 2006, 05:13 pm
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

An apartment where I am isn't too bad. a studio would probably be about $600-$700/month. However, many schools offer teacher housing and the rent could be as low as $100 in those cases. In bigger cities, it's more.

Out on the town is a little steep. It also depends how deep into the night you go, but when I do get out it's anywhere from $50-$150.
The low end is just dinner and drinking, maybe a stop by a karaoke bar or for something to eat before heading home. The higher end is when you hit several places in a night. There are sitting fees at most places, so you've spent $10-$15 just walking in the door (with that you generally get some small appetizer.)

In general, things are pretty expensive here.
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Unread Nov 16th, 2006, 05:21 pm
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Quote:
Quote livinginkorea
There are many private schools here which are similar to the cram schools that Mark mentioned. There are certain schools teaching only English, others for math and others that inculde all subjects for elementary, middle and high schools. The Koreans are crazy about English. Seriously crazy about it. I say that about 80% of students go to a private school to study English more after school. They pay on average 150,000 won (125 Euros) a month and that is just for English about three hours a week. Include some other subjects and sending your kid every day to a private school and you can easily hit the 400,000 (330 Euro) mark. Parents care a lot about education but sometimes it looks like that they are throwing it down a hole.
It's amazing and since I work at both (public school and private) I can see the waste. The sad part is that the Japanese school system has become reliant upon the after school (private) system to sustain the level of education, IMO.

I may be part of the problem.
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Unread Nov 16th, 2006, 06:53 pm
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Default Re: When to say 'no'.

Price wise things are pretty cheap here as long as you stick to Korean food and beer. I like to have a nice steak once in a while but as long as you are not doing that everyday you will be fine. We eat in about 5 days out of 6. We get Pizza Hut every Friday which costs 30,000 won (25 Euro) and have a nice meal and drink on most Saturdays costing usually 60~70,000 (50~60 Euro). I never like to stay out late as there is always football to watch on TV and besides Saturday night is full of people and I'm not fond of that so usually we are home by 12.

For the house bills, it's all very cheap. Electricity, heating (which is electric), Internet, apartment management (for the lady who cleans the halls and takes out the trash) and the phone are all very reasonable. I am really suprised how cheap living is here. If you stick to Korean food and Korean products (clothes etc) then you would save a lot of money here! I know some guys who have saved 1,500,000 won a month out of 2 million which is very good. Generally I am saving that much but make more than others.

Also the housing system here is different. If you have some money then you can put the "key" money down on a house, let's say 20 million won (16,600 Euro). The landlord then takes that money and invests it and you don't have to pay any rent. After a year you can take the money back or stay there. Either way you are literally getting a house for free!

It's true that Korea, Japan and some places in the middle east are the highest paying for English teachers. I guess that not many people come here and since there is such a huge demand there has to be an attraction to entice people to teach here. Good pay, free housing, airplane ticket and a month's bonus seems to be enough to draw people here.
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