Guangdong Country Garden School

2.2 (5)
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Beijao, Shunde, Foshan, Guangdong, China
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Improved condition for international teachers
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I have been in this school for more than 6 months. Despite all the worries and concerns like the above, I still accept the offer and be an IB teacher in GCGS. I think the conditions for international teachers have been improve a lot since the new principal Mr..James Wu took charge.

James Wu is from Taiwan and he has been in international school for dozens of years. I have to say he is very good at public speech and inspiring people. In the opening ceremony of last semester, some students and parents were even moved to tears when he was talking about his education theory.

With James Wu’s support, the school has paid more attention to the international teachers. For the most recent event, we had a gathering party in a five star restaurant and paintball game together at the end of the semester. And at the end of this April, the school will have a Cycling the Silk Road Activity for the Grade 9 students and international teacher are welcome to go if you have no teaching plan conflict. It’s a pity that I have my class for Grade 11 students during that period. I heard that Grade 10 students will also have their Cycling European Cultural Heritage Sites Activity during this summer. I will see if there is opportunity for me at that time.

Apart from these activities, we gain support from the school in many ways, such as the free pick-up service, five-day free residence in a star rated hotel, living subsidy and food allowance, translation help from the Foreign Affairs Office. And they will also help international teachers to find places to live and help communicating with the lodger.

Certainly, the school also has many shortcomings, such as inconvenient transportation, lack of entertainment, lack of communication between Chinese teachers and international teachers etc. But I have the confidence that the school will be a better place for our international teachers.

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Shady Management
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Every teacher’s experience at this school will be different depending on their relationship with their immediate colleagues/ team teachers. Some teams ask a lot from the International teacher, giving them little or no down time during the day. Some teams are more flexible, allowing the international teacher ample free time during their schedule. Male teachers tend to get away with less, while female teachers are asked to do more. There is no consistency.

Everything you need to know about the school can be summed up in one experience: A teacher discovered that she was pregnant, and shared the news with her team, who promptly shared it with the management. She was still in her probationary period, so the school decided to cancel her contract rather than to pay the impending maternity leave and have the burden of arranging a substitute.

Another probationary teacher’s contract was canceled because she took four consecutive sick leave days to care for her ill child. Administration said that she was not “reliable” — the same administration that told her she could not bring her child, a student, to school due to the illness.

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If you have a family or are not a licensed teacher/native English speaker, this school could be suitable for you. The surrounding area is rather boring with few young people and little to do unless you go into Foshan/Guangzhou (~minutes away). Additionally, despite the Chinese claiming the school is located in the 'countryside', it's really more of an industrial suburb with a polluted river sprawling highway system on all sides of the community.

pay (10-20k + 5k benefits)
low cost of living
few responsibilities at work and lots of free time
you can drive a motorbike/ebike to get around

-day ends at 5:40, isolated location
-plenty of 6-day work weeks, last minute notifications of meetings and rescheduling
-management is all chinese and shows no plan to improve communication/organization. you will learn to come to school every day not knowing what will happen and whether you will have all of your lessons
-each year the school makes changes to the contract/working conditions to the disadvantage of intl teachers. next year there will be reduced sick days
-despite promises of IB training, the school will most likely not give you any official IB workshop training/qualifications. they will frequently hold in-house 'IB' workshops run by the school leaders who have no 'authentic' IB experience themselves
international teachers are not valued or respected
--kindergarten international teachers will spend more time serving food (3x per day) than teaching, not to mention outdoor play/art classes
--primary school teachers usually teach 2 30-40 minute lessons per day and sometimes help with other classes, but spend almost the entire day doing nothing. the international teacher cannot be away from the classroom and there's no real teachers' lounge/office to go to. there are rumors that the school is going to restructure the Primary school English program next year (perhaps having intl teachers teach ESL to more than one class)

overall, there are far worse schools than this, but besides the decent pay and 'IB exp' on your CV, there aren't many positive things to say about the school. It has all of the capability to be a great school if it made good use of the intl teachers and improved the available teaching resources, made simple upgrades in communication/scheduling, but the school for some reason gets a little bit worse each year. it's all about appearance here

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Kindergarten is a Zoo, and you’re the English Monkey.
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Native English Teachers are treated as little more than a student-teacher with a foreign face to appease the parents. Administration has loaded the schedule with trivial tasks (preparing& serving food, dancing), and frequently take away the planning period for poorly organized professional development or meetings. This means many Native English Teachers are forced to work late or during lunch to complete their lesson plans and prepare materials for lessons.

The Native English Teacher is required to serve food at three meals daily. A full chicken/duck/fish is delivered to the table, and the administration expects the teachers to remove the chicken/duck/fish from the bone and serve it to students. They also expect teachers to remove shellfish from the shell.

Teachers are encouraged to purchase resources for their classroom, which is absurd given that students pay a small fortune in tuition and fees.

Although there are four teachers for each class of about 20-25 students, the classes are EXTREMELY chaotic and disorganized. I attribute this to the Chinese teacher’s reluctance to establish procedures and rules, fearful of parent/admin backlash for being too strict.

Any glance into a classroom, and you’ll see that Chinese teachers are not mentally present in the class, instead they are glued to their cell phones. They’re communicating with parents, providing real-time updates about what is going on the classroom, as well as managing the mountain of messages from the various work groups.

Chinese teachers are not guaranteed a job from year to year, they participate in teaching competitions, and avoid any parental complaints to ‘win’ their job from year-to-year. This means that Chinese teachers will do whatever necessary to appease parents. They will also prepare elaborate Open Classes, that are not at all representative of how their normal lessons are formatted.

Administration sells tickets for visiting teachers/guests to tour and observe the classrooms in Kindergarten. This means that in any given week, there are hundreds of visitors in the Kindergarten. They walk around, taking pictures and recording students/teachers without seeking consent first. This is particularly concerning, as they are recording students in various stages of undress, including when students are showering following outdoor activities. The visitors enter classrooms, disrupting routines and take pictures of classroom decor, portfolios and students. All without seeking consent first. When Native English Teachers complain about being recorded, we are told that it is part of our job to welcome visitors.

There are also surveillance cameras in common areas and canteens to monitor activity in the school.

Though there are meetings a few times a semester to discuss complaints/suggestions from Native English teachers, very little change ever occurs. Administration does not respect our perspective or experience, and they are not at all concerned about reducing the high turn-over.

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High Turnover, Dissatisfied Teachers
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Country Garden is a fairly quiet, gated community about 45 minutes south of Guangzhou. It is a very affluent community. One look around the school parking lot, and you’ll see a variety of luxury cars (Tesla, Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover) It is ideal for families, there are many parks and the housing&living allowances would allow a family to rent a house. There is very limited night life nearby.

Below are some details about Kindergarten and Primary working conditions for International Teachers:

The working hours in Kindergarten are 7:40-12:00/14:00-17:40. Meetings are scheduled within those hours. International teachers work with a team of three Chinese teachers. The schedules for the other three teachers are varied to ensure that there are always two teachers present with the children between 7:20am to 8:30pm (this is a boarding school).

Within the classroom, the International Teacher is the highest paid by a large margin (2-4x). This does cause some problems in the classroom environment. The hierarchy in the classroom is Head Teacher, Language Teacher, International Teacher, Life Teacher.

International teachers will have about 6-7 classroom management hours daily. They will be responsible for 3 lesson plans weekly (English, Unit of Inquiry, Circle time/Phonics). This covers about 6-8 hours of instruction weekly.

In addition to teaching duties, there will be many nanny-like duties:
Undress and Dress students before/after outdoor activities (students exercise in underwear)
Assist with student personal hygiene (bathing, toilet time, brushing teeth, hair brushing, etc)
Serve 3 meals daily (distribute food, oversee canteen time)
Prepare and serve fruit 1-2 times a day (15:00 &17:40)
Guide/Accompany Students to all extra-curricular lessons.
Manage Classroom during all transitions
Leading Outdoor Dances/Exercises 2-3 times daily
Dance/Perform at Special Events 4-5 times annually
Dress in Costume for Special Events 3-5 times annually.
Parent communication in WeChat (provide feedback for homework up to 20-150 files daily)

A typical day in Kindergarten looks like:
07:40-08:00: Warm-up exercises/dances led by International Teacher.
08:00-08:30: Breakfast, served by International Teacher
08:30-09:00: Circle Time/Phonics, led by International Teacher
09:00-10:00: Lessons, teacher based on classroom schedule.
10:00-11:00: Outdoor activity, led by International Teacher
11:00-11:40: Lunch, served by International Teacher
11:40-12:00: Transition to nap time, International Teacher
12:00-15:00: Students nap time, International Teacher lunch/planning/meeting
15:00-15:30: Snack time, led by International Teacher
15:30-16:00: Lessons, teacher based on classroom schedule
16:00-17:00: Outdoor activity, teacher based on classroom schedule
17:00-17:30: Dinner, served by International Teacher
17:30-17:40: Transition to hometime/ fruit preparation.

The working hours in Primary are 7:40-11:50/14:10-17:50. Within those hours, International Teachers will be responsible for English Instruction with a Chinese Co-teacher for two classrooms (usually the same grade, but not same ability). International Teachers will see each class 5 times weekly as the lead teacher, and 5 times weekly as the assistant teacher. International teachers assist for ten lessons and lead ten lessons, 35 minutes each (usually paired into double lessons of 70 minutes). The International teacher is responsible for up to 10 lesson plans weekly. Beyond Instruction, the International teacher is responsible for assigned extra curricular activities and duties. Primary International Teachers are required to attend a weekly meeting after normal working hours from 18:00-20:00.

International Teachers in Kindergarten and Primary may leave campus for lunch. There are a variety of restaurants nearby including a Subway, KFC, McDonalds and two Italian restaurants.

In both Kindergarten and Primary, there are frequently last minute notifications, and administration is generally disorganized. There is a very high turnover rate (60-75% from year-to-year), as well as a handful of teachers who leave mid-contract. Most teachers feel undervalued.

The salary package listed on the website is from a previous era. After a new education group purchased the school, the International Teacher salaries were reduced drastically. International Teachers generally receive monthly salaries between 10,000-20,000rmb and a housing/living allowance of 5,000rmb.

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