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Author Topic: Sunflower English Review (Positive)  (Read 1017 times)

giesej

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  • American Teacher in China.
Sunflower English Review (Positive)
« on: August 11, 2015, 04:58:23 AM »
For those curious about Sunflower,
 
Intro: I was hired by Sunflower last year after graduating from Seattle University.  I read some negative things about the company, but was glad to get back to Suzhou where I had studied the year prior.  I went through my visa process, and spent a fairly uneventful year in the Employ of Sunflower.  Now that my first year is over, I want to share my experiences and brighten up the discourse surrounding this much despised training centre. Never in a whole year did anything horrible or untoward befall me.  I come out of the first year with a good opinion of the company.  This is of course only my opinion and should notbe construed as objective fact, an attack on other's opinions, or a trap for unwitting newbies.

Visa/coming to China:  Because I was just out of college, lacking experience, money, and time, I agreed with Sunflower that I would come on a tourist visa, which would be changed to a working visa after my TEFL training in Beijing.  I was fully aware that this was a loophole method, and was technically not legal (still more legal the the companies that offered me jobs with shady work Visas), but I was certainly not tricked or forced into it.  I was offered the opportunity to apply for the work Visa, but it seemed unlikely that it would approved, so it was the L visa track for me.  Sunflower sent me a list of everything that I needed to compile, arranged for my hotel when I arrived, and answered all of the hundreds of question I sent to them weekly. When my plane landed in Shanghai, the company had someone waiting to pick me up and bring me to Suzhou.   In Suzhou, they helped me set up house, and prep for the work Visa.  Never once has anyone talked to me about getting an Ebike, and since I work at one school per day, I have not needed one. With TEFL done, they gave me two weeks notice, and booked me a flight down to Hong Kong where I stayed overnight to apply and pick up the approved visa.  Back in China they sent in my passport and had the final visa copy pasted in.  Although a long process, everything about it was explained to my in a thorough way and never less than a week before any given deadline.  I now have a legitimate, perfectly legal work Visa, and got it without the slightest hiccup. 

Contract:  The contract for Sunflower was indeed slim, and in places I needed to request amendments or for specific information to be written into blanks.  The contract at Sunflower consists of a Chinese labor contract with an English Language translation.  There was little in the contract because all of the specifics were in the addendum at the end of the document.  I insisted that these details be written in, and they were.  The contract specified my hours, pay, vacation, and a dozen smaller things.  All four copies were signed (employer Chinese/English: employee Chinese/English) and they were stamped in such a way as to make the addendum binding.  Since singing the contract, I have twice been asked to do things which were outside of my contract.  On both occasion I was given a choice, and chose to work, with overtime and bonuses paid to offset my extra toil.  Sunflower has used the contract to enforce decisions and requests, but I have also been able to us it to protect my own interests.  In general when issues come up regarding the contract, a short civil conversation has always been enough to correct the problem. I have always been paid in full and on time.

General Teaching Environment: The environment at sunflower has been okay  There was one TA whom I really did not like, and upon my request they were transferred to a different foreign teacher. The schools are fairly clean and have a number of resources, although only a small portion are available to foreign staff.  As a general rule we are not supposed to use the computers, projectors, or interactive boards.  My one request to use the projectors was approved, but the hassle discouraged me from using them again.  The CCTV cameras in the classes were a big issue for me at first, but have stopped being an issue after I learned that no one watched them and that footage was deleted every afternoon.   I ignore them now, and don't notice their presence.  More disturbing is the addition of tripod cameras in the testing rooms.  This for me remains the biggest problem with working here.  The disruption that a tripod camera causes is immense and hard to work around.  The Foreign Teacher at Sunflower is responsible for speaking and listening. Grammar, writing, and reading are covered mostly by one of the Chinese teachers.  The majority of teaching assistants I have had have been fairly qualified and helpful.  The turn over rate of Chinese teaching staff is worrying, but to a large extent does not bother my routine.  I have never been pressured to sign new students, or held responsible for those that did not re-sign.  Nor have I been fined for any reason.  Although tardiness is taken as a serious offense, their system for monitoring it, and dealing with infractions is no more draconian than that of my former employers in Seattle.

Management/bureaucracy:  Most of the negative things I have heard about sunflower, and that frightened me the most were about the owner George and his management staff.  Since these horror stories were first posted, there must have been a lot of changes at Sunflower.  In my year here, I have seen George and upper management less than a dozen times.  Each time has been exactly the same.  I am greeted with a loud hello, a handshake, and a quick goodbye.   On the very rare occasion that I have had to seek out George and confront him, he has replied nicely, and told me to go speak to one of the applicable office staff.  It seems that after what happened two years ago, George has removed himself from everyday interaction with the foreign staff, leaving all issues and decisions to the office staff.   The office staff have been okay, I have argued with a few regarding specifics of my contract, but have never felt any hostility, and have always been able to come to a good compromise.   Like I said in my reply to another's post on the subject; If you are understanding and professional towards the company, the company will be understanding and professional to you. 

Leaving Sunflower:
  I will not make much comment on this.  I have been working on behalf of a friend who quite sunflower, and dealing with the company to make the transition as easy as possible.  It has been a big headache, but no one has blocked my efforts or tried to make it harder than it needed to be.  The big problem with pushing through my friends leaving has been with the clueless and disorganized nature of the Visa processing staff here, not because of any spite or revenge scheme. I cannot say for sure how other leavings are or were handled, and do not speak with the certainty of objective truth.


Overview:  Sunflower certainly does have some problems, but that being said it has proven to be a fairly good and trustworthy employer.  After thinking hard, I signed for another year with sunflower.  I know that some people have had horrible experience with Sunflower, but honestly believe that you get out of life and work what you put in.  I have been positive and cooperative all year, and for me it has paid off.   Sunflower is not the company for everyone, use your own judgement about schools and take all things into consideration.  Review complete :)  Time for a beer  agagagagag

-Josh
Wenn das Geld im Kasten klingt, die Seele aus dem Feuer springt

babala

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Re: Sunflower English Review (Positive)
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2015, 05:56:46 AM »
Quote
Never once has anyone talked to me about getting an Ebike, and since I work at one school per day, I have not needed one.

This is George and the reason he wrote it is that a Sunflower teacher got into an accident on his Ebike. He got stuck paying out 100,000 yuan and the accident was not his fault. George and the Sunflower staff left him in jail for awhile and completely fucked him over.
Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try. Homer Simpson

Calach Pfeffer

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Re: Sunflower English Review (Positive)
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2015, 08:09:59 AM »
There is something wrong with the tone of this review. I suppose an employee can become an employer advocate but, giesej, in this case it's not clear why you are advocating on behalf of this employer. Are there any possibly conflicting interests we should know about?
There is little in history to support the proposition that China was indeed the centre of the Asian universe commanding deference among less civilised states around its periphery...

ericthered

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Re: Sunflower English Review (Positive)
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2015, 08:57:18 AM »
I once spent 24 hours on a fishing trawler catching and gutting herring and that did not smell half as fishy as this review.
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination." Oscar Wilde.

"It's all oojah cum spiffy". Bertie Wooster.
"The stars are God's daisy chain" Madeleine Bassett.

eggcluck

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Re: Sunflower English Review (Positive)
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2015, 01:16:24 PM »
Just noticed these. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however it is my understanding that this was indeed written by a foreign teacher however they are paid +1000 RMB for each new foreign  teacher they recruit, might be some bias there. Of course I can not directly prove that statement but I would not say it if I thought it was not a genuine possibility.
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