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Author Topic: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?  (Read 2277 times)

abaseman

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Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« on: August 29, 2008, 06:27:31 PM »
Hi,

I'm a new graduate with a BA in psychology, and I'm about to travel to China to teach for a year. I got a job with Aston English, in Baoji. The city of Baoji seems to be what I'm looking for- I taught in China for a few weeks 4 years ago so I have an idea of what to expect. I've already bought the ticket (with flight insurance, but I don't know how to collect that should I need to cancel). I have a few questions about what I should do now.

 I'm a bit concerned about Aston. When I joined this site Raoul immediately warned me about bad experiences he's had with Aston in the past. This worried me, and I wanted to check about what I could do if I get there and decide I could find a better offer elsewhere.

I had heard people saying good things about Aston, but I also saw this again: http://www.eslteachersboard.com/cgi-bin/forum/index.pl?read=41856   A site where what seems to be an obvious Chinese shill is defending Aston.

Hmmm....

Then I found out this: http://www.middlekingdomlife.com/guide/27.htm
Quote
In order to change employers, you will need two documents: a chopped "letter of release" and, as of May 2008, a letter of recommendation that, at the very least, specifically addresses whether the employee is "worthy of continued service in China," according to one provincial foreign affairs office official.
As of May 2008, entry Z-visas can no longer be obtained by "visa-runs" to Hong Kong or Taiwan.

Prior to May 2008, the school was under no obligation to provide the foreign teacher with a letter of recommendation, nor was it technically required by the new employer: The "Letter of Release," which is just an official government document completed by the school indicating that the terms of the contract have been fulfilled, was entirely sufficient for continued employment with a new school. It no longer is. It has been reported from reliable sources that new employers applying for a residency permit on behalf of a foreign teacher must present a letter of recommendation from the current employer (technically from whoever has sponsored your current residency permit) to the PSB along with the letter of release and that this reference letter must include some statement regarding the character of the foreign teacher (there is now a new "letter of recommendation form" and as soon as we have a copy of it, we will provide a link to it here).

Unfortunately, what this new regulation means is that if your current employer is very unhappy with you, you may—in fact—have enormous difficulty procuring employment with a different school.  This also completely eliminates the possibility of pulling a "midnight runner" unless one plans to leave China permanently. In light of this new requirement, foreign teachers are strongly advised to make certain that they leave their current schools on good terms only. Another manifest effect of this new regulation, perhaps quite deliberately so, is that it now forces any foreigner who has been working in China on anything but a residency permit to return home with the required paperwork for obtaining a Z-visa before being able to accept employment at a school authorized to hire foreign experts.

Uh oh- my contract says I could leave with a month's notice (and forfeit the end bonus).  Question 1
Does this mean that in the event I end up with an untrustworthy franchise owner, I could be told to accept whatever conditions they want or not get a recommendation? I don't want to be unable to work in China- I've been planning on coming back for years!

Question 2
 So I'm not sure what to do from here. I've been in talks with these guys for months- can I drop everything even as they're about to send the invitation letter/permit?

Question 3
Is it too late to do a public school this year- do they all start September 1st?

I spoke with westerners including the regional manager at Aston- right now I plan on asking for contact information of people who work and have worked at the school to make sure I can trust the people I'll be working for. It's taken me a while for them to get the papers for the Visa- if the worst that could happen working for Aston is that I might lose money or be overworked, I wouldn't be as worried, as I could look for something better. But could a school actually hold FTs hostage by threatening not to give a recommendation letter?

Raoul F. Duke

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Re: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2008, 08:28:06 PM »
Wow...

As indicated, I personally don't recommend using Aston; my own experience with them was awful. A few individual schools seem to have a better track record than others. Many of the schools are franchises, which leaves you completely at whim of local school owner mans. The foreign part of the corporate office (perhaps not exactly Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer themselves) will not necessarily do much on your behalf.

And as I always say...even when honest, schools like this are a terrible deal...very hard work for highly variable SHARED housing and unexciting wages.

I'm curious...who was saying the positive things about Baoji? Anyone not connected with this school?
Do the research...it's hard to imagine this being a great place; maybe I'm wrong.
Baoji is a big center of heavy industry- machinery, chemicals, textiles...all fired by big nasty coal-fired power plants. It's INCREDIBLY polluted...coal byproducts, heavy metal dusts, and oh, so much more. The climate is not the best. Baoji DOES host some historic sites...enough to kill a few weekend afternoons...but otherwise it ain't exactly Paris.
Maybe I've missed something...what was the good part?

The information on the changes- the recommendation/character assessment requirement- was very interesting and I appreciate you sharing it here. This is a brand new development and my first instance of hearing it. I may cite you elsewhere on the forum about this. If this is in fact a new requirement everywhere, it's not good news.

Question 1
Does this mean that in the event I end up with an untrustworthy franchise owner, I could be told to accept whatever conditions they want or not get a recommendation? I don't want to be unable to work in China- I've been planning on coming back for years!

Yes, I'm afraid it does. School owners ALREADY have quite an arsenal of things- such as your end-of-contract benefits- to hold over your head.
I'm not sure how much impact on future employment it will have...an awful lot of places are still delighted simply to have a foreigner at all. It's also possible that frank discussions of problems with former employers might also blunt a little of its effect.

Unfortunately, if this requirement is true everywhere, the problem will not be confined to Aston. It'll be true anywhere.

Question 2
 So I'm not sure what to do from here. I've been in talks with these guys for months- can I drop everything even as they're about to send the invitation letter/permit?

Absolutely. No problem. Nothing is really set in stone until you show up at the school; either party can still dissolve the whole thing up until that point. Dropping them NOW would also be a lot better than doing it after they've actually gotten the documents for you.

Question 3
Is it too late to do a public school this year- do they all start September 1st?

Dates vary a bit...and a lot of schools will face being unable to find a teacher before school starts; these will still be hiring after the term begins. There's also some turnover soon after classes start- some teachers get better offers and bolt, and schools will find themselves having to boot a terribly undesirable teacher. It's quite often possible to get a position that way. Bottom line: the peak season has just passed its full bloom, but some jobs will still be open, and a few jobs can be found throughout the year.

Quote
But could a school actually hold FTs hostage by threatening not to give a recommendation letter?

Yup. See Question 1. aoaoaoaoao
I wouldn't panic just yet. This may not really happen everywhere.
TIFC. (This Is F*#king China) uuuuuuuuuu
"Vicodin and dumplings...it's a great combination!" (Anthony Bourdain, in Harbin)

"Here in China we aren't just teaching...
we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)

abaseman

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Re: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2008, 09:29:03 PM »
Thanks, it seems this is complicated.

This diary painted Baoji in a good light:
http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/goodygrass/round_trip-2007/1181984460/tpod.html

As well as this poster: http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=56598&highlight=baoji


I also just found a person posting on Shanghaiexpat who worked for Aston in Baoji- I'll try and contact him and get an opinion.

Also- would there be any problem for me getting an invitation letter from the same province, if I decide to bail out now?

Shroomy

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Re: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2008, 10:00:54 PM »
I think what abaseman found about the letter of recommendation is probably true.  When I signed my contract for this year at the end of last semester I was asked to get another letter of reference from my old employer, despite having given them one when I was hired.  The not-so-lucid FAO only said that they needed a letter from my last employer.  I told her she (the Uni I was working for) is my last employer and they could write the letter, not realizing why she was asking.  I think now I understand.

At my first job in China, with a franchise of ill repute called EF, I saw many FT's exercise their contractual right to leave within the one month probation.  They were treated fairly, despite the school owner being less than an upstanding citizen.  So there is a possibility of a clean getaway.

Hope you can work out something that is good for you.
Back home and still confused about what the locals are saying.

Lotus Eater

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Re: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2008, 10:50:50 PM »
You haven't signed anything yet, so right now you are under no obligation to anyone.  So - no blacklisting can happen.

Baoji, Shaanxi?  I think Becs was there for a few years and really loved it.  It's close enough to Xi'an to come in for weekends and the couple of times I've been there it looks OK enough to live in.

If you haven't done anything bad yet, you'll have no dramas working in the same province.  Check for positions in Xi'an - it's the 3rd largest education place in China, and schools/unis etc are always looking for people, even this late in the season. We've started work, but I know other places won't start until early-mid September.

becster79

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Re: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2008, 12:07:26 AM »
Hey, Baoji isn't THAT bad, actually, over the 2 years I was there I was seeing more and more blue skies!

Baoji is a good place, Aston, I would steer clear of! It's right downtown, which is good (met a few of the Aston teachers in Maccas from time to time, stiffled a few giggles under my breath!). Mega fast train to Xian, takes about 1hr10mins to get there, easy day trip for food. You can buy pasta in the main supermarket, JiaMeiJia, also Vanguard.

If you want to ditch Aston but stay in Baoji, jump on the no.17 bus over the river to Baoji University of Arts & Sciences, ask for George (Liu Qangding), the FAO. Lovely man, might still have a job for you. Lowish pay, the reason I left (was going to sign another 2 year contract but they didn't offer me any more). Let me know, I can give you details. I'm still homesick for Baoji ananananan!

<Please use SCREEN NAMES online unless you have the person's permission to do otherwise. Also, "Maccas" seems to be Aussie slang for "McDonalds"... -R >
« Last Edit: August 30, 2008, 07:36:04 AM by Raoul Duke »
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abaseman

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Re: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2008, 12:46:01 AM »
Becster: thanks for the info!

I had forgotten where else I had read good testimony about Baoji- I had read some of your posts as well.


There seems to be an ad from Baoji University of Arts & Sciences here: http://www.abroadchina.org/person/all.asp?page=2&key=22


What else can you tell me about? i.e. How much was the pay/ how should I reach them?


almondblight

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Re: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2008, 03:23:10 AM »
My friends liked Baoji a lot.  Really good food, I heard (though this is always a matter of taste).  They really wanted to learn the language, so for them it was nice going to a place where there weren't many Westerners.

Raoul F. Duke

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Re: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2008, 07:44:15 AM »
Cool...maybe the headlines belie the reality. Some of the headlines were not pretty.
My main concern here was that our poster was getting an Official Snow Job from the school regarding the town. I've SEEN Aston do it, and it happens a lot of other places too.

I'd bear in mind that some people LOVE the isolated small-town experience, while others quickly develop the Twitching Awfuls. Might be good to know which you are before signing anything...

And...really. Honestly. Leaving a contract still far away and in process will NOT have any bad effects on you. bfbfbfbfbf
In this case it will likely be a good thing... oooooooooo
"Vicodin and dumplings...it's a great combination!" (Anthony Bourdain, in Harbin)

"Here in China we aren't just teaching...
we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)

becster79

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Re: Can schools blacklist now? Should I change my plans?
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2008, 10:07:16 AM »
Hey Abaseman, I was getting 4000/mth for 16-18hrs work (I actually only ever worked 14hrs/wk- given 2 writing classes and 5 orals), 8000 airfare each year and NO travel allowance. I signed on for 2 years, and wanted a raise if I were to sign on for another 2 (which I REALLY wanted to), so you can see I was a little miffed.

FAO George's email is box:bwlwb@163.com . Ask him if he kept the FFS (Foreigner Fallout Shelter) from the earthquake- we were all living it in for a week on the oval ahahahahah

Let me know if you want anything else.
10 easy steps to stop procrastination.

1.