If you will remember last time: my school wanted to give me extra hours. I agreed to take them thinking (because I was told at the time) we would be working (mostly) together in every class. The school was going to have me sign a contract for these additional hours but at the last second said “the government says you shouldn’t sign a contract so we’ll just do it the normal way.” This makes sense with my visa but still brought up red flags. With or without a contract they changed something everyday until I was working alone with young students (4 and 5 years old). When they tried to change everything further (I would work with 3, 4 and 5 year-olds alone for 2 hours) I fought back and said I shouldn’t be alone with any class ever but would agree to keep doing it with older students.We got in a big argument and I ended up calling the people I work for (the government).
I kept teaching alone. I had no other choice because no one was getting back to me from the government to confirm or deny if I could teach alone on the extra hours. The problem was: if the school pays me with their money do we still have to follow the program’s rules? My coteachers argued, that I didn’t have to follow the program’s rules? Either way, If I quit or demanded things to go the-way-they-should’ve-been they would’ve just shouted at me again and nothing would’ve changed (because this had already happened). A couple things changed (a coincidence) and I thought maybe that the government had already called them and they had wiped their hands of my situation. I wrote a hybrid here’s-how-this-is-going-to-work/resignation letter for the extra hours and sat on it for a week to see what the government would do (they had said they would help).
My coteachers started saying weird things like “well we need to figure out which parents are paying…” “only the kids who pay extra…” Finally someone explained it (long after I had started doing the extra hours). The school had said they wanted me to help teach extra classes so more classes would have more English exposure. Instead they had organized private lessons only to the wealthy kids. Parents were paying 20-30 an hour for the privilege of being in my class (classes I planned for and lead completely for 50 minutes) and I was only making 14 an hour for these classes. So that loud class of 17 little shits? Yeah the school made over 340 euros on that class and I got 14 euros.
The going rate on the island for a private English lesson, with one student, is minimum 15 euros an hour. So I was getting utterly, completely, royally screwed. My school had never been honest about the extra hours being private. I could’ve just gotten 9 kids and made over 700. Instead I was lesson and curriculum planning and teaching 30 kids alone and making 14 euros under the dictator thumb of my school. No one had told me this and whenever I asked about anything they always just said “I’ll ask the director” and would never do it. They were being completely dishonest and avoiding my questions.
The school had organized some private school within a public/private school thing for-profit. And as time went on I stopped seeing the other kids. Only the privileged wealthy kids were allowed to go to all of my classes. Even the publicly funded ones. Since they couldn’t accidentally give the non-paying kids a private class (that wouldn’t be fair to the paying ones) so they said they would start giving me larger groups of the non-paying kids so those kids couldn’t have small classes (like a private class).
Holy shit. No one had ever said it would be like this until after it started. Because no contract was ever signed I never got any of this information. I rewrote the bridge burning letter and sat on it, again. I’m still just waiting for the government to help because it’s their job to be the liaison between me and the school (I work for the government not the school). It really is their job. And also they would just shout at me if I did say anything directly.
To recap: I was never supposed to take primary students alone, then I would only take around 8 alone, then now I was expected to take half the class alone. Then suddenly I wasn’t seeing any of the other students, my co-teacher just sent the paying kids twice in a row and I never saw their poorer peers.
I’m never supposed to grade any students’ tests (like I’m not supposed to be alone in class) but they would do illusion-of-choice and say “well you can either grade these 70 tests or you can make up the class another day.” I graded them. The next day the illusion of choice was worse “well you can either grade these tests now or after school.”
My coteacher finally decided to grade her own tests but wanted to do it in class so she had me teach the whole class alone while she sat and ignored them in the back. I was, oddly, grateful to not be alone. But this still isn’t okay, at all.
Why not just quit the extra hours immediately? If I pissed them off they wouldn’t approve me for renewal. God knows I wouldn’t renew with this school but you have to get a good evaluation to be allowed to renew at all, even if you’re changing schools. So me quitting the extra hours and taking away their extra 1,600 Euros per week income source would probably piss them off. I had pissed them off by fighting back about one little class. Last time I spoke up it had been a 40 minute shouting match and they still got their way. So no, I didn’t want to threaten my own job next year by quitting or renegotiating anything. I needed the government to back me up with their laws and their rules. So we kept waiting.
The Final Straw
If a co-teacher is sick, I’m not supposed to go to class. She had to leave for a small emergency and said “you’ll teach the whole class alone.” I finally hit a breaking point, “No, if you’re not there, I’m not there.” She didn’t listen or care (they did this a lot when I spoke to them)”Right, but another teacher will be there to watch but you’ll have to lead the whole class, so start on page 17-” “No. If you’re not there, I’m not there.” A wicked smile spread across her face “we’ll see about that.” And she left. I ended up teaching a different class during that hour and everyone was rude about it.
I later asked if she was feeling okay after the emergency and if she would be at school for the afternoon classes. She didn’t respond so I didn’t go to school. Soon enough she sends me texts saying where am I. “You didn’t say if you would be there so I’m at home.” (I’m trying to prevent myself from getting suckered into teaching alone). She sent 4 eye-rolling emojis. I got my ass to school.
I had emailed the government again and called them 3 times but no one was helping. Did they not care I was illegally in class with students 20 times a week? Or grading tests. Or being asked to be alone with 30 students to substitute, now? I called the government one last time that afternoon to tell them I wasn’t sleeping or eating from the stress of being trapped in this job with not enough information (of who was actually right about the extra hours). I called them to tell them I was quitting the extra hours and needed assurance they would help me renew for next year.
“I’m very sorry for not getting back to you but we’re… I couldn’t tell you over email … because I can’t tell you over email… But we’re going to send an … He’ll come during your class and ask to see you and we’ll … Then we’ll give you a new school and they won’t have an assistant anymore. So we need you to … and we’ll send the person next week. So keep us updated on all of the new changes and we’ll take care of this next week.”
This was Thursday afternoon. I immediately sent them a very detailed email of everything else that had changed. I keep good records because teaching alone dictates, you know, keeping track of names and times. So I could tell her the exact numbers of students I was working alone with. I told her about how I just learned it was private and I wasn’t even working with the “poor” students. I told her the school was probably pocketing the extra money but no one had told me how much I was even being paid (“not more than 14 per class”).
I didn’t end up having to wait for the next week. A few hours later I got a call from the man who’s title rhymes with alligator and he arranged me meeting him in a location away-from-my-school the following morning. There was a full blown thing with a few different departments and I had to be interviewed (not easy in Spanish).
I’m not sure what changed in their minds, the private lessons? The detailed numbers (that could prove I was alone)? But something changed after I emailed them. Apparently I had just had my last day at that school because I’m not supposed to go back until they, er, look at it, more.
This has been a wild ride and its far from over. There is some school out there in my city that didn’t get an assistant teacher who really wants one. And here’s me, stressed out of my damn mind who just wants to work with a normal school. I think it will be a good match I just have to wait to get it.