Guangdong Country Garden School

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Guangdong Country Garden School

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Beijao, Shunde

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Kindergarten is a Zoo, and you’re the English Monkey.

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

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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