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Author Topic: WITT  (Read 5605 times)

matt_kunming

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WITT
« on: November 25, 2007, 06:57:05 AM »
For two years, I was employed by Beijing WITT, a company that hires teachers from around the Anglophone world and assigns them to one in a network of schools around China. I was quite happily employed there (am now a full-time student) and would like to encourage anyone interested in a new job in a new city to give it a look.

Here's how it works. You would work for and get paid by Beijing WITT, not the school. The school will help you get set up with a Chinese bank account and your monthly salary is directly deposited there. Beijing WITT currently employs a Canadian HR Manager who would be your recourse in the event of any living/working issues.

Your monthly salary, for a new teacher, is 5,000 RMB per month. In addition, you receive a bonus of 1,000 RMB per month which accrues monthly and can be collected at the completion of your (one-year) contract. Teachers who re-up for a second year are also paid throughout their two month summer break, and there is the possibility that WITT will increase your salary.

At each school, one of the foreign teachers is the "lead teacher", essentially acting as a go-between among the school, the head office in Beijing, and the rank and file teachers. Teachers who are well-received by both the company and their school have the opportunity to apply for a lead teacher job, which provides a very generous bump in their salary. The lead teacher typically teaches less per week but has additional responsibilities, such as observing other teacher's lessons and organizing end of semester exams.

The curriculum is standard throughout each of the schools in the WITT network. Your job is to prepare Senior Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3 students for the IELTS exam. Each student is given a workbook and a textbook, but teachers are expected to prepare detailed lesson plans for each class to be checked by the lead teacher. Teachers are also encouraged to use outside source material to supplement lessons in the book. Before the start of the schoolyear, WITT flies its teachers to Changzhou, Jiangsu for a training seminar in which you'll be taught the structure of the IELTS exam and exchange ideas with colleagues from around China about how to best teach toward the test.

Here's the downside. Most schools ask their teachers to do additional classes that have nothing to do with WITT. You do have a certain amount of leeway there, and if you feel that you're being taken advantage of or working too many hours then you do have the HR manager to complain to. In many cases, though, there's very little he can do to ameliorate the situation.

Where are the schools? Most are in medium-sized cities along the East Coast, though there are a few scattered elsewhere. Few of the locations are all that attractive, though there are exceptions such as Suzhou and Chengdu. Many of the schools are located in cities that frankly have very little to offer other than an authentic China experience. In some cases you and your colleagues will be among the few laowais in town. If you insist on living somewhere very interesting, you may well be disappointed. All the same, I find living in a random place a worthy experience that will prepare you well for other experiences you may have in China.

Accommodation varies. The school arranges your apartments for you and pays for your rent and bills. In most cases you won't have to flat with a colleague or stranger. Some of the accommodation will be located on campus and some will be off (if you're lucky). Again, lucky ones will be getting a very nice place to live with all of the amenities you could ask for. Others will be living more modestly, but remember that your Chinese colleagues in all likelihood will have even less. That being said, it never hurts to ask your school to provide you with basic items such as a hot shower and washing machine.

Each school appoints a teacher or administrator to act as a liasion toward the foreign teachers. Usually, these coordinators speak English well and will handle your various PSB/Visa issues. Nicer ones will even help you to handle day-to-day tasks if your Chinese isn't up to par. The school will also have one of its teachers observe your lessons from time to time.

In Beijing, WITT also employs an academic manager who is your resource for anything related to the classroom. Once or twice a year, he will come to your school and observe your lesson, and he also will help you set up the end-of-semester exams and administer the IELTS speaking test.

Ah...this is getting way too long. If you're still with me, let me conclude by stating what I perceive to be the advantages and disadvantages of working for WITT.

Advantages:
- very competitive salary, especially in smaller and poorer cities
- professional training in teaching IELTS, which can come in handy if you seek work elsewhere
- stability and support from Beijing
- a network of colleagues from across China
- excellent benefits including health coverage, bereavement leave, and vacation pay


Disadvantages:
- no choice on where to live (though if you decide to re-up for a second year Beijing might be willing to accede to your request)
- possibility of on-campus living, which could lead to certain restrictions on your mobility and freedom
- possibility of irregular hours (no weekends usually) and extraneous work foisted on your by the school
- possibility of living in a small, dull city

Obviously, this job doesn't suit everyone, but I think an ideal candidate might be:
- if you don't mind living somewhere out of the major cities
- if you want a earn a good salary with benefits
- if you're interested in pursuing ESL as a career and/or IELTS training in particular.
- if you're in China for only a year, want to make a decent living and save, and don't want to bother with the hassle of sorting out your own accommodation or work situation.

Disclosure: I'm a close friend of the academic manager, but neither he nor anyone else affiliated with WITT asked me to write this post. I myself haven't been employed by WITT since June 2006 in any capacity. My motivation for writing this is to throw it out there for people who might be interested. In my opi


Raoul F. Duke

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Re: WITT
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2007, 12:32:29 PM »
Well done review, Matt.
Curious...how does WITT differ from a...hate to use such a filthy word...recruiter?
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we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)

AMonk

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Re: WITT
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2007, 12:34:16 PM »
You would work for and get paid by Beijing WITT, not the school. The school will help you get set up with a Chinese bank account and your monthly salary is directly deposited there. Beijing WITT currently employs a Canadian HR Manager who would be your recourse in the event of any living/working issues.

Your monthly salary, for a new teacher, is 5,000 RMB per month. In addition, you receive a bonus of 1,000 RMB per month which accrues monthly and can be collected at the completion of your (one-year) contract. Teachers who re-up for a second year are also paid throughout their two month summer break, and there is the possibility that WITT will increase your salary.
........ but teachers are expected to prepare detailed lesson plans for each class to be checked by the lead teacher.

Here's the downside. Most schools ask their teachers to do additional classes that have nothing to do with WITT. You do have a certain amount of leeway there, and if you feel that you're being taken advantage of or working too many hours then you do have the HR manager to complain to. In many cases, though, there's very little he can do to ameliorate the situation.



How "detailed" is Detailed?  That could be a sticking point for some teachers (me, included).  Plans take TIME to prepare and (for an experienced teacher) not much more is needed beyond a note of text and page number(s) and topic-to-be-covered.

And...

If WITT pays the salary....What would the School willing to offer for Extra Services Rendered?  Because if they think that it's already covered, they would be sadly mistaken, if it's beyond the contracted times/duties agreed to by the teacher.
Moderation....in most things...

MK

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Re: WITT
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2007, 01:49:32 PM »
There's thread about Witt over on ESL Cafe at the moment.  Warning: As usual, you will learn more about the culture of posting on the Cafe forums than you will about the school / recruiter in question.

matt_kunming

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Re: WITT
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2007, 03:59:21 AM »
-WITT isn't technically a recruiter because its teachers are directly employed by the company, not by any of the individual schools. WITT also offers support in dealing with both the academic and human resource side of working at a Chinese school which, in my experience, goes well beyond what recruiters do.

-As for lesson plans, you won't have to produce a transcript of your lesson with minute-by-minute descriptions of what you plan to do and say. Most WITT teachers have a partner who teaches the same class, and you and your partner would sit for a couple of hours on a Monday morning and plot out what lessons and materials you will prepare for the coming week. Lesson plans and preparation are good for their own sake and actually make teaching far easier despite the additional time. I'm sure most of you would agree that there's nothing worse than going into a classroom unprepared, and a good lesson plan prevents that from happening.

-Technically, you're not supposed to do any extraneous work, but quite a few schools ask you quite forcefully to do so anyway. Most teachers acquiesce, but if you do find that you're being asked to do something unreasonable you can raise the issue with the WITT managers in Beijing. In reality, this varies from school to school. I've heard of some schools that require their teachers to teach as little as 6 hours per week and others where the number exceeds 20.

One of WITT's flaws, to be sure, is that it's nearly impossible to standardize working conditions across a large network of schools in China. As we know, every school operates at their own rhythm in this country, so a lot of it boils down to luck, attitude, and circumstance. If you do decide to give WITT a go and they give you certain promises about working/living conditions, keep this in mind.

- Thanks for the heads-up about the ESL Cafe thread.

matt_kunming

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Re: WITT
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2007, 04:25:37 AM »
Just finished reading the ESL Cafe thread (those bastards are making it a b!tch to register) and can definitely see that there has been a range of opinions about the company. This makes sense; some people have had great experiences, others not as much. I'm lucky to count myself in the former category though I'll be the first to tell you that their set-up isn't perfect.

I think working for WITT is best suited for people without much prior experience living or working in China. If you've been here for awhile, speak Chinese, and have a pretty decent understanding of how Chinese business relations work, you could probably wrangle a better deal for yourself elsewhere.

But as we know China can be a rather intimidating place to be in when you're brand new and aren't sure what to expect. WITT offers several advantages in this regard. For one thing, you'll be placed in a school with other foreign teachers who will be doing the same job you are. You have a staff of Westerners in Beijing in case you need support, academically or otherwise. You'll be given an apartment and won't have to worry about going through a real estate agent, sketchy leases, and vanishing security deposits.

One more thing- don't underestimate the value of being trained in teaching IELTS- this is a marketable skill in case you decide (as I have) to freelance as a private teacher/tutor after your time with WITT. In Kunming, where I live, there is no shortage of foreign teachers who offer conversational English services. Qualified IELTS teachers are few and far between here and thus we are in far greater demand (and can charge our students more)  agagagagag

On the balance, it's not a bad deal. I was pretty well taken care of during my two years working for them, and with a few exceptions I think most other people would probably agree.

AMonk

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Re: WITT
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2007, 04:47:51 AM »

-As for lesson plans, you won't have to produce a transcript of your lesson with minute-by-minute descriptions of what you plan to do and say. Most WITT teachers have a partner who teaches the same class, and you and your partner would sit for a couple of hours on a Monday morning and plot out what lessons and materials you will prepare for the coming week. Lesson plans and preparation are good for their own sake and actually make teaching far easier despite the additional time. I'm sure most of you would agree that there's nothing worse than going into a classroom unprepared, and a good lesson plan prevents that from happening.

Thank God for that!!  I have (in the far distant past) been asked to produce extremely detailed - 5-pages per lesson - scripted plans!! aoaoaoaoao  When one is carrying a full load of classes/subjects/groups this is ridiculously overwhelming.....up to 6 separate lesson plans per day.....30 per week!  A total of 150 pages, just of plans aoaoaoaoao aoaoaoaoao asasasasas

Do I plan and prepare?  You bet your A!!!  If I didn't, I'd be dead in the water!!  But the plans I carry/produce for show only have text, page number and topic.....Just enough info for my own reference purposes. 

If WITT has team-teaching, then coordination would be a MUST.  So cooperation/consultation time makes sense.

Thank you for clearing that matter up. 
Moderation....in most things...

matt_kunming

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Re: WITT
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2007, 07:12:10 AM »
Wow....there's lesson planning and then there's obsessive compulsive forced life scripting! My team partner in Fuzhou was a Kiwi who liked to get things done as quickly as possible so that he could sneak outside and smoke cigarettes, so we generally finished a whole week's planning up in about two hours including printing items off the web and photocopying.

Wags

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Re: WITT
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2008, 02:09:29 PM »
Well done review, Matt.
Curious...how does WITT differ from a...hate to use such a filthy word...recruiter?

You raise a good point here Raoul. I too work for the same company though with the college level at the moment, that's run through BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology). I guess on some levels there is no real difference between these guys and recruiters on a technical definition. The head Beijing office hire you then send you to your destination school, usually of your choice.  One big difference is I trust these guys, where I've fled screaming  aoaoaoaoao from other recruiters. They've treated me well and promptly fixed any problems I've had. I can't say a bad word against the any of the people I've had contact with.

Another huge difference is the contract system. The "official" Chinese & English contract that is signed is considered a shadow contract. The actual contract that is worked upon is worded only in English and removes such items as contract breach penalty payments and adds extra entries clearly defining benefits/ bonuses and where applicable extra managerial duties.

Since I've only joined recently I was going to wait before posting any feedback, but I happened on this thread so I may as well say somethings now.

In my experience, they have been quite fair and honest with me. Things are negotiable, within tolerance levels I guess, but so far I've had no troubles with gaining what I've asked for. They do provide a great support network, it's good to bitch about some particular annoying small point to a boss and have them not say, "Why is this so much trouble to you? It's only a small thing." Small things add up and become big things asasasasas

The head office understand the needs of the teachers well, they were all teachers in China themselves. They're often required to tackle schools head on, especially with issues such as suitable accommodation and transport. "Yes Mr Headmaster, these accommodations are nice and spacious on campus, but our teachers must take 3 buses and 2hours to get to the supermarket......." for example. They can't always win these battles however.... bibibibibi 

Another big plus in my book is that they supply proper health insurance, if I get a cold I'm probably not gonna make a claim. Yet, if I suddenly need that heart/lung replacement I'll be shipped back home and get it done for nix.  bfbfbfbfbf

It's all run in a fairly relaxed manner, but it's well organized. The systems and structures used are firm but not inflexible. Advice, support and team-manship is readily supplied.





As my students would say, "In a word, I very much enjoy working for these guys, they've treated me well, and as such I feel like I do much better work now"  bfbfbfbfbf
 agagagagag uuuuuuuuuu agagagagag