The Basic Mezz is:
- 1 month probation at 7000 RMB; afterwards it's 8000 per month. You are responsible for up to 25 hours classroom per week. (Taxed)
- Paid Residence Permit/Work Permit.
- Housing allowance of 1500 RMB (expect to pay at least 2000 for an apartment in Suzhou!) (Taxed)
- Travel allowance of 3000 payable after 6 months.
- 2 days off per week; can usually negotiate them consecutively if you don't insist on weekends off.
- Lunch and dinner provided by the Dreaded Bicycle Boy; sometimes you might even want to eat it.
These are for full-timers. Part-time is 120 RMB per hour...in a town where PT work is fairly easy to find at 150 and up.
- You gotta have, like, a college degree, man. This is, like, teaching and stuff.
- Teaching experience, preferably with adults.
- TEFL cert preferred but optional.
- Be a bipedal mammal from one of the Big 7 English-speaking countries (USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa).
This job is a very mixed experience. GOOD parts include:
- The best students anywhere. Never seen the like.
- Student body completely uninfested by children. Most are adult professionals.
- No hassles with pay and allowances.
- Each class only one hour; no papers to grade.
- Most classes are very easy to teach. We ain't payin' ya to think or nothin'.
- No early mornings. Weekend classes never start before 10; weekday classes never start before 1. (However, a 10am class on Saturday or Sunday can SEEM awfully damn early when all your friends are out having fun on Friday and Saturday night...)
- This is not one of the hardass Web schools. If you have time between classes you are free to wander off as long as you're back and ready for class in time.
- More hot babes than there are stars in the sky. Boffo. A good one, even by Suzhou's high standards. The foreign teaching staff was all male at the time, and we all had to walk like hunchbacked hermit crabs all the time to hide our enormous bulges.
- Mostly very nice Chinese teaching and admin staff. Sadly, however, few of the more important managers and admins seem to get an adequate oxygen supply to their brains.
BAD parts include:
- The schedule from Hell. You will work every non-off weekday evening until 9pm. You will work at least one, and usually both, weekend days. With periods between classes, you can pretty much count on hanging around nearly one hour for every hour in the classroom. This long week makes the salary MUCH less attractive than it might seem at first.
- The schedule makes it nearly impossible for all but the most rabid coffee-achieving mutants to do any freelance work. It's also hard to have much of a social life. You exist largely to teach at Web International.
- There is in theory NO break between consecutive classes, and you will always have 3 of these on weekday evenings. I promise you: I never once taught 2 classes in a row without taking 5 minutes to smoke and curse. I was not hassled about this because none of the admins wanted to shag over and teach the damn class themselves. They say official breaks between all classes are coming, but it's not in place yet. <They are now...>
- Many of the lessons you're given range from downright goofy to completely useless. Some refer to material you don't have and never see; others require objects you don't have available. Still others were apparently written by people who were huffing airplane glue at the time. When these happen, you have to figure out for yourself how to reach the goals of the lesson (which themselves aren't always clear) on your own. To be fair, some of the lessons are perfectly straightforward and quite nice to teach.
- There's no books. All lessons are kept in a file cabinet. You can't prepare at home very easily. If there are handouts etc. in the lessons, you have to have the reception desk ladies copy them. Often you find yourself cutting out little cards, strips of paper, etc. You have to fish the lessons out of hanging files when preparing, and then replace them after your classes. All in all: something of a pain in the ass.
- There's no class continuity. Web's schedule works on an a-la-carte-menu basis; the students can pick any available section they want. So, you don't have the same group of people in any two classes. You never really know what they've already studied or not.
- You may get one-person classes, and others with only 2 or 3. This especially happens with pre-beginner-level classes that should really be taught by Chinese teachers but sometimes you get them anyway. May not sound bad until you consider that you've got a lesson that assumes a roomful of 10. Sometimes you've taught the entire 1-hour lesson, look at your watch, and realize you still have 40 minutes left. As the old saying goes, "How long can you tread water?"
- The level-placement system is entirely computer-based; there are no interviews. As a result, actual student fluency can vary a lot from where it really should be for your lesson. Every new face in your classes is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get. If you're really lucky you get a whole group that can't handle the lesson you have. I called these "The Silence of the Lambs" classes.
I'm probably making this sound pretty bad, and there are indeed many warts. The foreigner-handlers will simper at you and say "Oh, you'll get used to it!"; bear in mind that they tell you the same thing in prison.
In some ways I LIKED teaching there. The students were excellent and some of the classes themselves were delightful. However, in my opinion the cost/benefit equation for this job is pretty one-sided...you have to give away too much of the best of life, for a salary that just doesn't justify such devotion. There's also a strong and increasing tendency to administrative stupidity/weasel behavior, although Web is far from the worst in town in this regard.
Web in Suzhou has become a gateway job, a job of convenience...a staggering number of people have come on there and worked a month or two, found something better, and quickly moved on. Their turnover is so high that they can usually be counted on for at least some part-time hours. It's OK on that basis, but consider carefully before assuming you'll want to come and settle in here for a year.