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歐博思

A teaching job review/rant?: Hangzhou Wanxiang Polytechnic 杭州万向职业技术学院

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歐博思

Hi all,
Having taught at this 高职 (maybe think Ivy Tech if you're from U.S.?) vocational university for about 1.5 years now, I'd like to give a run down on some of the pros and cons as I've personally experienced. I know some of you reading this may be considering a move to China for career reasons. This post is for you! I'll try to talk in-depth about the city, campus, housing, students, classrooms, colleagues, administration, etc. Please ask questions if you'd be more interested about a specific aspect of teaching in China/Hangzhou/vocational schools that I didn't mention!

Summary at a glance/TL;DR: I can no longer endorse coming here after the "colleagues" and "administration" sections.

Hangzhou:
Personally one of my favorite cities I've been to in China. I won't go too in-depth here as this info can also be found elsewhere, but you can have a look for yourself by Baidu'ing the school's name and then 全景'ing around, very similar to Google's ground views. Notable sights nearby include 西溪 Wetlands Park, which is very good for jogging and natural scenery, and a bit farther away is the famed West Lake.

Campus:
Two campuses: new and old. New campus is only a few years old and is very modern. The library and administration buildings are all in the new campus. Old campus is as the name suggests. A ten minute walk between campuses will reveal to you a street full of small eateries selling all sorts of cheap and tasty food. The school's cafeteria isn't too bad either. Don't expect a 清华 or 浙大 campus, but I think the campus looks OK.

Pay:
-pretax 6700 RMB.
-18 hrs/week, mostly scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday–a huge plus in my book
-paid winter holiday
-unpaid summer holiday
-99% paid on time. Since last month, on time moved from 10th of the month to end of the month

Housing:
I probably struck gold but I'm led to believe it's hit-or-miss. Other foreign teachers have encountered such wonderful things such as snakes and unfinished apartments. Speaking of that unfinished apartment, while it was being "finished", that teacher lived in the 0/5 star Hangzhou special down the road on the school's dime and had mold and vines growing into his room and clothing, all the while the school's brand new, basically 5 star hotel on campus sat unused.....

BUT my apartment is seriously pretty nice. Probably my favorite part about the school and I pinch myself often: "how did I get this beaut(iful apartment)?" I have half wood paneling on my walls, wooden floors, and 70's style Soviet wooden furniture. It's chock' full o’ character. From what I've heard and seen in other apartments, however, I would recommend taking the housing allowance 9.5 times out of 10.

Students:
There are book smarts and there are street smarts. The students here typically fall into the latter, but can run the gamut from 'never cracked a textbook' to 'could study abroad in an English speaking environment tomorrow'. In general, study skills are weak while cellphone skills are strong. I've really enjoyed being around the students, but I feel like a middle-manager more often than I feel like an educator. That's probably to be expected though because the school is a vocational school (basically a 四本, for students whose gaokao scores weren't up to scratch for 一二or三本 schools).

Classrooms:
Old campus: that ole' 96 Grand Prix with the broken turn signal and 27 other problems that only you know how to drive without causing a nuclear meltdown.

New campus: slightly better. Maybe a Nissan 300Z. It looks much nicer–and it’s pretty fast–but probably still lacking in a few of the most modern of amenities.

Overall, hardware and software are outdated; however, each classroom does have an overhead projector, so a higher-tech classroom is possible once you figure out the capabilities of the machines and get past the learning curve.

Colleagues:
I've met some really awesome colleagues here–some of them also members of Chinese Forums: you know who you guys are–and one psycho. I shall call him 'Magic 8 Ball', for every time his background story is different. For example, on separate occasions he’s told me he’s from South Los Angeles and Cuba, if I recall correctly. Of course, he could just be a third-world kid with multiple places that feel like home, or he could simply be a sham who loves to 吹牛 and can’t keep his story straight; regardless, he’s harmless either way. Plus, it’s fun to grab a beer with one of the awesome colleagues and ruse for a bit about where he’s really from (his accent doesn’t match any of his stories). We were all on good professional terms with him, and occasionally we’d go out together–definitely not enemies.

 

Things changed one morning last month when Psycho came into my class drunk and babbling nonsense:

I intercept him at the door, smell the alcohol on him, and sense something is up; however, I have to kindly shoo him away to keep my lesson going. Ten minutes later, he’s back and extremely agitated. I leave my classroom at this point to find some people to act as mediators to calm him down and get him out. He comes out and continues to be calmed down and restrained by many teachers, including our department head. I go back in the classroom and continue my lesson while he is only becoming even more agitated outside, screaming and carrying on for a good twenty minutes in front of 5 stories of classrooms full of students about some imagined racial transgressions and how he’s going to “…kill that ************”.

 

The crazy thing was, I could almost still relate to him at that point: most all of us are minorities in China, a society which has been pretty closed off to foreigners in general. Some days the cultural differences or some perceived ignorant behavior can get under our skin. I totally get that. But back to just talking about Mr. Psycho, we remember more belligerent behavior and threats of killing back in a meeting at the end of a meeting last year. On top of that, other foreign teacher have witnessed Mr. Psycho drunk on multiple occasions, including one time in particular that ended in “food poisoning”, him completely blacked out on the floor, and a trip to the hospital.

 

I suppose some reading this may be thinking that the drunken scolding was deserved since we did enjoy many chats about Mr. Psycho’s background stories. For what it’s worth, he could never keep a straight story when we asked him, and we grew tired of him blatantly lying just for lying’s sake; thus, we naturally became curious.

 

Later, documents were leaked showing the true identity of Mr. Psycho with a nationality matching none of his stories. In addition, his state of California teaching licensure, which according to our school’s official handbook he had obtained, was found to be nonexistent. Go figure.

 

So now at this point, he’s a school approved sham (not even a nice humble sham who takes his job seriously), an alcoholic, and a violent alcoholic at that. Just how many “strikes” does it take for a person to be cut loose from this school? Unfortunately, Mr. Psycho is the head foreign teacher, so this makes my job much more awkward when he is the school approved channel for communicating with them.

 

Moral of the story: be on the lookout for your local psycho and don’t be prepared for the school to do much if anything about their behavior.

 

Administration:
Pros:
-Threw us a Christmas party last year
-Buy us little gifts throughout the year
-Occasional group outings: we went to a 龙井 tea village near the outskirts of Hangzhou for lunch last year
-Pay is 99% on time. However, last month on time changed from the 10th of the month to the end of the month.

 

Cons:

A little bit incompetent (inefficient?) overall, but I suppose what organization isn’t to some degree?

 

Concrete examples of inefficiencies:
-Partially exported grades from our online system by the school’s system administrators preventing final grade entry
-Service requests being ignored/forgotten/shoved under the rug for over a month in some cases. As I’ve found out recently, if you know Chinese you’re better off just calling the relevant department yourself.
-Contract renewals being delayed to the last minute, thus giving teachers no power at all over anything in the contract. It’s really shady how they did it.

Summary about me (for perspective):
This won't sound relevant but bear with me: I'm young, good-looking, am a native English speaker (I'm no Shakespeare, but this ain't no Shakespearean prose either. Edit: hopefully a little more 'Shakespearean' and less 'rant' after the edit), and speak pretty decent Chinese.

In theory, I may be the ideal teacher for the Chinese education system at this school because I’m very relatable to them, can communicate with them, and am willing to act as a leader for them I can bang cymbals and sing ‘n dance real gud.

On paper, I've got the highest platform completion rate among students of any of the teachers here. I get stuff done. Particularly didn't enjoy one foreign teacher meeting last year with the department heads where we were basically told "...we don't have the same requirements for foreign teachers as for Chinese teachers...". As if we both aren't educators just teaching different courses, but I don't recall that being the spin they were going for. I work hard too :nono 

Recommendation:
Only come to this school if you have already attained a working level of Chinese upon which you can passively build while in the classroom and actively outside. Or if you have some other driving factor for being in Hangzhou. Or an exit plan in place. Otherwise steer clear. I'm sure there are other, better stepping stones to an actual teaching career.

*Will update if anything becomes more positive, especially regarding the 'Colleagues' and 'Administration' sections.*

 

edit note: While I personally enjoyed the rant style as it was before, I'm not writing this just to hear myself talk. I hope others who are considering a big move could build on some things I've written here and avoid some of the situations I've seen before they could begin. Thus the edit for readability.

Edited by 欧博思
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歐博思

*reserved*

 

Forum etiquette demerit point? :shock:

Edited by 欧博思

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edelweis

(Dunno who pushed the red button.)

 

I found #1 interesting but quite difficult to read. English is not my first language.

 

What is #2 reserved for? Is there a 2nd part being typed up? Is it for photos?

Curious about the Soviet style furniture.

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ChTTay

I found it a little difficult too. I am a native speaker.

Too "train of thought".

Sorry you don't think your experience has been that worthwhile.

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歐博思

Apologies for the readability. I wrote it last night/this morning while still under the 熬夜 effects of Halloween. I'll try to clean it up a bit after lunch while still trying to maintain its core character. :)

 

I wouldn't say it's been not that worthwhile. Among other things, I think I've learned how to be much more of an organizer and go-getter. There are also some more positive aspects that I'd like to get around to as well, but like sometimes happens with online posts, negativity was a bigger driving factor in my posting last night.

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