Monday, November 17, 2008
In my estimation of things, being a Chinese employee at the language school I teach at is Hell on Earth, almost literally. The job consists of a disheartening combination of low pay, long and often extended working hours, constant surveillance by superiors, one day off per week, and politics and in-fighting among co-workers.
Add to that list a weekly meeting where your faults and errors are reported publicly, and during which you are asked to explain in front of the entire Chinese staff what you did wrong that week and what you’ll change (problems include wearing high heels, losing a student to another school, and being late by literally one minute). On top of this, there are also required demo classes every week that are carried out in front of co-workers. At those times I’m not sure who is less fortunate, the co-teachers who have to act the part of ADD-stricken 5 year olds or the teacher who has to smile and giggle in front of them for 20 minutes as supervisers check-scratch-smirk-and-grade at the back of the classroom.
Telephone tests are of course another pleasure, since if a student isn’t home when you call you have to phone again when he or she is back. Usually about half of your students will have forgotten the arranged time, so don’t expect to go home on time.
Almost every week there will also be a foreign teacher who calls in sick, gets angry and leaves or just plain doesn’t show up, which of course means you have to teach those classes as well, or be docked pay. Of course you don’t show your anger to the foreign teacher, lest he leave the school, probably resulting in the school sending you out the door the same day.
And that brings me to the most soul-destroying part of being a Chinese employee at this school. After you’ve held your tongue in meetings, swallowed your self respect in demo classes, wasted hours making phone calls to kids who don’t actually care that you used your only day off to find time to call them, and smiled at foreigners who screamed at you last week for being disorganized and laughed with managers who are secretly plotting against you...after all that, the management docks 20% of your pay for being late once and for losing that student whose parents decided to change schools --- and no, you don’t get extra pay for recruiting those 3 students during the promotional afternoon in front of McDonald’s.
In the office there is propaganda above our heads, mottos we are apparently supposed to worship:
管理是严肃的爱 Management is strict love. (you will be controlled)
培训是最大的福利 Training is the greatest kind of benefit. (accept any and all training and know there are no other benefits coming your way)
片言只语体现修养 Speaking few words shows one’s education. (shut up)
享受工作， 珍惜拥有 Enjoy work, and cherish the possession of it. (we giveth, we taketh away)
I don’t think the teachers here have it so bad in comparison to many positions in China, but that doesn’t matter. Terrible conditions are still terrible. It’s hard for me to diagnose the problem here though, since one could easily say conditions in China and in that office are ten million times better than they would have been 30 years ago. So what is it then:
Heaven in comparison to the past or;
Hell in comparison to a potential future?
How should we interpret today’s working environment in China? Sometimes I wonder if they’d have been better – and happier – if everyone had just stayed on the farm and planted rice and corn for the rest of their lives.
Picture: Perform or die.
位置在： 11:22 PM