Thursday, 1 June 2017

I have published a new IELTS book

One of the benefits of working in China is that I get a lot of time to follow other interests such as writing.

I have been teaching IELTS speaking over the last few years and if you remember I did publish a book a few years ago in Beijing.

This time however, I have published one myself on Kindle.  Again it is about how students can do well in their speaking test so a pretty niche marketplace - but at the same time their are many many students who need the IELTS qualification to enter a foreign university of a professional job in the English speaking countries.

I just did a free promo over the last weekend and over 70 copies of the ebook were downloaded.

Here's the link if you want to look on Amazon.

Friday, 24 March 2017

I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in - the musings of a loose cannon.

I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go

I'm filling the cracks that ran through the door
And kept my mind from wandering
Where it will go

And it really doesn't matter if I'm wrong I'm right
Where I belong I'm right
Where I belong.

See the people standing there who disagree and never win
And wonder why they don't get in my door
I'm painting my room in the colourful way
And when my mind is wandering

There I will go (Lennon–McCartney.)

I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in because for the first time in four years in China I am feeling pretty down about it all.  That's not a bad score card I know but I'm feeling down in the dumps, mainly about my teaching and the school I'm at.

If you have read my last two blogs then you might just get a feeling for whats happening here. I am getting more and more uncomfortable with the style of management that is happening. The teaching is fine, I have no problem with that at all and I think it's going well. Student's are achieved good levels on their IELTS speaking exams which is what I am responsible for.

It's just I'm feeling that after four years here, I am being taken for granted. It all started as I mentioned  in previous blogs when we got new management. Now I know for a fact that these people are only here for the short term, they have an interest in a new school being built up North, in fact that have been trying to poach me for their new school.

One of the minor problems of having the PhD is people want it, not you, so they can use it in their marketing to prospective parents, - 'Look we have a British PhD - a University professor (I use the word professor here in the American sense - as lecturer). Then they conveniently forget your actual teaching ability and want to start 'managing you' and getting you to do stuff you don't want to do.

I actually think they are trying to make me unhappy at this school so that I will jump at the offer to go to their school. Call me paranoid, but I'm not completely stupid and gullible.

It might be arrogance, but I will not be treated like a floor sweeper by anyone, I have lived that life, being told to jump and never question it, and  even then I didn't jump, and I'm certainly not going to do it now.

Some of the fun has gone out on Nanjing too, some of the excitement at being here, its getting a bit tedious. Most of the people I knew have left - but that's the lot of the ex-pat. Friendships are transitory, ships that pass in the night.

But it also saddens me when old friendships are forgotten because new ships have docked at the beery harbour. And they are more attractive, more shiny and brighter than the old familiar faces. Someone new to get along with, some one new to tell all the old tales too, someone new to impress with the local knowledge you have accumulated. You can take the role of pack leader.  But unfortunately that does not bring with it an elders wisdom. It brings an arrogance whereby they think they are the senior voice, they can lecture and they will be heard. But it often falls on deaf ears, none more so than I.

I don't need to be lectured. I am my own man. I do what I want and say what I want. The pack leader here is an American as are many of the so called teachers.  Americans are strange. They defend freedom of speech - in fact they have to write it down so they can remember they are meant to be defending it - until they hear something they don't like. Then somehow free speech - the speech they don't like, turns into hate speech. And they become disdainful and passive aggressive or even downright aggressive. And I get told I deserve everything I get - especially if the little puppies want to flame me on Social Media. What I DON'T deserve is to have memes posted on Facebook calling me a paedophile. The big dog though is fine with that because hey, its my own fault, I bought it on myself and he makes money off them fuelling their drunken rants.

But you know - fuck them. I don't know them and wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire.  Oh by the way I am sorry for the bad language Americans, I know some of you snowflakes are offended by that shit. But here's the kicker - You are NOT offended by your smart bombs, by the way, or your murder and carnage in the dusty middle east and your foreign policy of bombing women and kids in Iran and Afghanistan and Syria and your support of the Nazis in Israel, but GOD FORBID I say FUCK, or call some pack rat retard a CUNT or that they are all a bunch of MOTHERFUCKERS then you get all upset and cry about it. Find a safe space retards.

Now the big chief, if he is reading this, will say 'I told you so'. He pointed out in his long letter to me that  'I would regret it' and that 'This is going to cause you pain, for a while, and not just from all the people you have been fighting with. It is going to cause pain within'.  Thank you, but no thanks Yoda, keep it to yourself.

He might point to this blog and the fact that I'm feeling pissed off as proof positive that what he says is true. But as you can see, if you look at the past two blogs, I have been feeling pissed off for a while. This contretemps with a bunch of Yankee pack rat retards was nothing more than an afternoons amusement. - But of course people will say hey look it is affecting you because you feel the need to write about it. 

Here's the thing, I write. I've been writing blogs about my feelings since 2004. I've been writing this Blog since 2011. I currently writing a memoir about my last five years in China I FUCKING WRITE right. So it's not a new thing me having an opinion and writing about it.

Some people seem to read my blogs but not actually understand the words that make up the sentences, then  their brains make up other words and emotions, that are actually, if one read the bloody thing, not even there. My earlier blog, (go read it) I'm told it is a diatribe against Americans and how I hate all my ex American colleagues. In fact I use the word 'American' once - and barely mention my colleagues. I write a bit about my own emotions and diss China a little but I was suffering from PTSD I think from a road accident I was in. So maybe people could be a little more forgiving and actually read what I wrote, not listen to other people who think they know what I wrote.  Or think I am a loose cannon.

So I'm writing that's the good part of this gig. I finished a novel that's with a publisher for consideration. I have lots of time to write and think without concerning myself with what other dickheads in China think. If you look at my blogs from a few years ago you will see exactly what I think about the quality of teachers here in China are especially those who just come here to party and fuck about.  To call themselves Teachers is a travesty. I piss more intelligence away every day than they have in their tiny brains. I am halfway through a second novel and I am writing a memoir about my last five years in China - this is shitloads more than the knucklehead Americans have ever done with their lives and ever will do - the losers. 

I am feeling a bit of a general malaise regardless of all this fussin and a fightin - that is a mere distraction and an entertainment.  It's probably do to age. I am feeling my mortality, even more so since my good friend Mark passed away suddenly around  this time a year ago. A couple of other ex-pats has passed on in sudden circumstances, and an  Australian was repatriated out because he was so ill he couldn't work. Out West an English teacher, much younger than me, suffered a heart attack and was stranded in a Chinese hospital. His brother had to resort to crowdfunding and getting huge loan to fly him back home to get treated in a UK hospital. It brings it home to you. Its a worry. 

We live on a tightrope. At work from one year to the next we never know if we are being re-employed. I'm over 60 so cannot get a Z visa I am working out the 5 years I have on my residency visa, I have a year left what then?

I have no loyalty what so ever to Nanjing or this school - although the big boss slipped me five hundred yuan today (£50) and told me I was the Senior Teacher.  Here today, gone tomorrow friends are not in the equation because they too will move on. I cannot and will not concern myself with them. It is pointless. We all move on. It was great while it lasted, it's not you, it's me. 

I need to find another colourful room with door you will never enter. 

Once you were welcome.

Once you were my friend.

Now you are nothing. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The O'Jays - Back Stabbers

They smile in your face - the backstabbers

I am sure we have all come across these people at work. They make out they are your friend, smile, bye nice, even give you little presents. But all the time they are working to undermine you and to stab you in the back.

This has been happening to me since September. And I'm not a happy bunny.  We had new foreign teachers turn up. Not so much foreign as a Chinese guy who had been bought up in Australia and his Chinese Girlfriend.  Apparently she was going to be our new Academic director and he, well he was here to teach business studies, and sort of manage the four foreign teachers.

They re making a right hash of it, And atm I am too pissed off  to even  finish the post.

I'll leave you with some music.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

When the worm turns... things get ugly in China.

Teaching in China is a pretty good gig. I should know as I have been doing it for five years now. I know my postings haven't exactly been regular but along the way I hope I have given you all some insights into what life is like here in the Glorious Peoples Republic.

Life, for me at least, is pretty good.  The job is good and I enjoy teaching in a High School although it does have its frustrations. The students are a real mix some want to learn English, other like Albert, cannot be arsed and prefer to while away their days sleeping or disrupting the class.  In Alberts case its not that he's stupid, he is not. It's just cos he is rich. He doesn't need to learn English because there will be a nice cozy niche in the family company when he has finished his penance here. I use the word penance advisedly because I am told his mum just doesn't want him at home. This is underlined by the fact that his mum did hire a home tutor, but the home tutor gave up the ghost cos she couldn't handle him. I just shout at him. He scored 20% in the oral exam I just gave all my students for the end of semester which sort of underlines my frustrations.

Frustrations of another sort is the management style of my agency bosses. Over the last two or three weeks they have resorted to a bullying style of management with me. And its a style that I just do not respond well too.

The first I knew of it was when an new guy to the team who has a sort of management role knocked on my front door.  He came in and sat down and explained to me that the main boss, a female, wanted me to teach TOEFL (an american qualification) to a student from the High School (not our Foreign Language Department) in the evenings after school. I was asked to quote a price for my time - which I was happy to do. I asked around and found out that this sort of tutoring paid between 200 and 300 rmb. So I quoted the 300 figure as you do.  I was told that the they would pay 250 rmb which I was happy with.

Then the next thing is I'm having my contract quoted at me and that the most they will pay is 150 rmb. Plus I started to hear all sorts of rumours about how people were unhappy with my teaching. That I was swearing at students and how I was 'uncooperative.'

This started to make me angry because I am the most co-operative foreign teacher on this campus. I have done everything from speaking to parents, writing letters of recommendation to foreign universities, I even used my credit card to pay one students £2000 deposit at Royal Holloway London. These rich parents don't have credit card, I was repaid by international bank transfer.

I had also been told not to tell the school about this work as it was 'a secret.' Apparently the boy was the son of a friend of the principle who was pulling strings to get the student extra tuition prior to him going to the States.

So it went on. I didn't keep it secret of course, I went straight to my school manager, who is different from my agency manager, and asked him about these rumours. Of course he didn't know anything about them cos they were all bullshit.

In fact he started to tell me that just the day before he had asked my agency manager to pay me a bonus for all the good work I had been doing this month.

Now this is where it all goes tits up - pay attention.

I heard the words 1000rmb - now his English isn't great, but its good enough. So I walked away from that meeting thinking I was inline for a 1000 rmb bonus.

But I was still seething that I had been bullied into accepting this TOEFL work. Not only that they tried to move the goalposts. First it was why not 3 lessons a week and not 2. I said No. Then it was we need you to start right away. I said 'No the arrangement was for after the spring break holiday'. At first they also wanted me to teach him in my apartment. Of course I said no, I need a classroom. Plus I do not have any books or materials. They said buy some (they would refund) I said No.

I was not feeling at all cooperative after all of this. And feeling pretty pissed off that all my efforts over the last four years at this school seemed to have no value at all.

Then the interlude of the annual agency party.

I had been asked to give a 'performance' as is the tradition. I said no. and I wasn't very cooperative for the group photo. I kept my head down. We foreigners are always pushed to the front to stand next to the big boss.

Yes I was sulking.

Then pay day comes and I look at my salary - and no bonus.

So I call my HR woman and say where's my 1000rmb bonus. She says they had not been informed of that by the school.

So I went and spoke to the school boss who had mentioned the original 1000 figure and he clarified it. I had misunderstood him. He said their is a 1000rmb pot and he asked the other manager to give me a consideration this month. OK so thats cleared that up.

Usually the bonus for good work is 500rmb so thats fine.

Then I get a message that my bonus is 100rmb - £10!

 This is funeral Money this is NOT real RMB - Policemen please take note.

10 measly quid for all the work I've put in, all the letters of recommendation I've written for useless students.

This was the straw that broke the camels back.

I went to see my academic boss and complained about it with her. I was steaming. I had a 100rmb note in my pocket - so I took it out and said here give back to my employer I don't want it. Its a fucking insult.  I don't want their stinking money.

I said that they were treating me no better than a street cleaner. Oh you must do this, then you do that then do this and here's 10 quid for your extra trouble.

Now I was really streamed up.

We were at the annual staff meeting on the last day of the semester - just yesterday actually.

I went and sat down with my colleagues. Muttering about what a bunch of bastards my agency was.

So then I was pulled out of the meeting and asked to go and speak with the school boos, the agency boss, the woman from HR and the academic boss - all chinese BTW.

I told them that offering me 100rmb was an insult. I was told no it wasn't and had my contract quoted at me again.

I still had the 100rmb note. So I took it and ripped it up and threw it across the table at them. Told them I didn't need their bonus and in fact if people actually spoke to me nicely that might just get me to do all of that extra work for nothing.   Then I left and went back to the meeting.

This is not real RMB this is funeral money - policemen please take note.

At that meeting I gave a presentation and received feedback from my students. (a questionnaire had been used by the academic boss) I got 100% satisfaction scores and on the weekend I had received my fourth in a row Excellent teacher award from my agency.

So after the meeting there was another meeting with the same faces as above. We agreed that there was a misunderstanding about the 1000rmb bonus. But they could not understand why I felt the 100rmb was an insult. Given all I do for the school. They were also pretty upset I'd torn the 100rmb note up as apparently thats illegal win China and is disrespectful. So they were more upset that I'd torn the note than how I was feeling about their actions towards me.

Anywho the upshot of the whole thing was the main problem lay in the fact that they had changed the bonus system from one where a good report got your 500rmb - which I had received a few over the years - to one where you got 10rmb (£1) for each point you were awarded. You could only get a maximum of 120points thus 120 rmb bonus. This new system was put in place in March and the agency boss had not bothered to tell us - or me anyway - which he apologised for.

The upshot is they said they would contact head office and increase my bonus to 200rmb! (£20). Thus missing the whole point of my ire which is the money is not important all I want is a bit of respect for the things I do.

Is that too much to ask in a country where 'face' seems to be an important concept?

Rant over - sorry if I bored you.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Yowzah - where has the time gone?

Ok my last post was just at the beginning of the semester and today I taught my last class.  I always impress upon my students that time flies but never heed that advice myself when it comes to this blog.

Yes my last class, but tomorrow is exams and I'm doing the oral English exams so that means at least six hours of listening to students who have not worked too hard struggling to speak coherently to the IELTS questions I put to them.

Then on Wednesday a staff meeting. That will last about two hours and will be in Chinese.  But then over one month off.

Thats the great thing about working in China is that they know how to have a good holiday, none of this wet weekend bank holiday stuff. Yes a solid month off for the Spring Festival and New Year. Woo hoo.

I am off to the Nam for 10 days come the 19th. Snooky of course will have to stay at the vet.

The reason why I haven't been posting here that much really, I guess, is that I have been putting all my writing efforts into finishing my Novel - Meditations on Murder which I am hoping to get out to agents and publishers soon.

The good news is that one publisher has requested the full manuscript and I'm about to send a query letter and the first 5 chapters to another publisher who is accepting submissions at the moment.

But I have to re-do my synopsis as its not as good as my query letter at the moment.

You can find out more about my novel on my other blog here

Here are some photos of my students performing at the 'Christmas Party'

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A new semester - another ESL teaching year in Nanjing China

Its Monday, the second week of the new semester and already we have a holiday on the horizon. Well much closer than the horizon Thursday to be exact. Its the Moon Cake festival. Last week it was teachers day (although not a day off) which entails students congratulating their teachers and giving gifts, I got a flower, a nice 32GB USB stick and a luggage tag! I also got a personal gift off one student which was a little security box that looked like a book.

At the temple

This will be my fourth year here at Nanjing Dongashan Foreign Language School so I guess they like me or I must like them. I think it is generally mutual. I like living here because I have a nice apartment in the grounds of the school so we are behind the fence and have security on the gates not that China is dangerous or insecure. On the weekends and the holidays me and Snooky pretty much have the place to ourselves. Most of the teachers that stay here in the week go home. Most of the students have gone although there always seem to be a few wandering about (not during the long holidays, mainly at weekends) leading me to speculate whether their parents don't want them at home or perhaps they are just too busy working.

Students on a day out

On the wider front many of the teachers I have know over the past few years have left to go home or to move on to pastures new. Of all those I met when I first arrived in China back in 2011 only AJ and Tom and Peggy are left. Of course as teachers leave their places are filled with new faces but most, to me, are merely acquaintances I meet in the bar when I go across to Xianlin which is where I first lived. Tom and Peggy have taken over the running of a cafe/bar, Gilly's, in Xianlin which is proving to be successful catering for both the local expats and a Chinese clientele as well.  The Blue Marlin has become Manhattan but has fallen out of favour a little with Gilly's being the place to go.  They also do good American style food which is a plus for the mainly US and Canadian expats that congregate there.

At the moment there is a dearth of teachers here in Nanjing many of the schools and training companies are desperate for Native speaking teachers, to such an extent that that category 'Native Speaker', might just be overlooked if you can speak English and look the part. (I am being coy here because it is well known in China that if you are Black, even if you are a Gor Blimey Native English Speaker, then its difficult, not impossible, but difficult to find work on the other hand if you are a pretty blond Ukrainian Girl with poor english and a horrible 'russian' accent then you would be a shoo in for the job)

Being short of teachers also is good for us because the school doesn't want to lose us as the salary auction pushes salaries so they treat us a little better. This year we were short of a teacher and didn't actually find someone suitable until a day or two before the start of term. Some of the people we interviewed were clearly unsuitable and this is because we were scraping the bottom of the barrel. People with no experience, people who had experience but had serious visa problems, people who couldn't even be arsed to turn up to the interview (and this is a good school which pays really well).

In the park

If you are reading this because you are considering coming to China, do come. Get your TEFL course done, dust off that degree, hand in your notice and change your life. You will not regret it. Today is Monday as I have mentioned I have 1, yes one, class of 45 minutes today. My longest day is Fraday when I do have 4 classes. 1 before lunch and 3 after lunch. Then I have my almost 3 day weekend. And the days in between are not so bad either. 2 days with 3 classes and 1 day with 2 classes. Thats 9.75 hours of work a week.  Onerous isn't it? I do also have to put in some 'office hours' nominally 8 a week.  But thats not heavily policed. I will go to my office later and put in an hour as it is useful planning time. Yes, I do still have to plan my lessons so I do it in my office so people get to see me around the corridors and know that I am at least fulfilling some of what my contract states.

I am teaching Year 11 this year - I taught this class as year 10 last year so I know them and they know me. This year we are doing oral English and they are split into groups so for some I am teaching towards the IELTS test because they want to go to the UK or Australia or Canada and for other I am teaching toward the TOEFL test for those students who are aiming to go to the USA. This is not too hard, but what is hard is getting them to speak and especially getting them to speak outside of the classroom so that they can practice what I have been teaching. Its early days yet but these kids do seem a little bit more motivated than last years year 12.


Out of school I am hoping to try and see a bit more of China. I have been here around 4 years now and not seen as much of China as I would have like. I am really keen to get over to the West and North West of China over to where the Silk Road exits the country. I was interested to watch the Silk Road programmes on the BBC recently together with the spin off programmes 'Hand Made on the Silk Road'. If I get the opportunity I would like to go by train which would be a three or four day journey so I might have to consider going during the Spring Break rather than somewhere more exotic like Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia which are all good tourist destinations.

Of course first I have to earn some money as my bank account looks pretty empty but on the plus side, and something you should think about if you come to China is that I am now debt free in the UK all the credit card debt which cover many of the idiot things I did more than a few years ago have been expunged. This is because it is possible to have a good life in China teaching English and it is also possible to save money.