By Penelope 1 Comments
So my busiest days here are Saturday and Sunday. I work 10 hours a day both days with a 30 minute break for lunch (if I'm lucky and on schedule for my classes). It can get exhausting but at the end I've cleared $600 for the weekend. This is mostly due to the fact that after only being here a year, I'm already the longest held employee this school has (including Chinese personnel). Turnover is high in China. Workers tend to do a couple month stint at a place before either moving back home or finding a slightly higher paying job and moving on. Most of my fellow teachers are college students earning spending money on the side. They cancel classes often, don't know how to give good demo lessons, and really think that English lessons consist of talking at their student for the 50-100 minutes they signed up for. This works in the short run, but after a couple lessons, the student catches on and realizes they are paying through the nose for not really learning anything. They don't sign back up. So six months ago when my company took a minute to look at their books and realized that I was the drastic outlier in successfully actually... uh teaching English, I've been booked straight through. This all leads up to the fact that after looking at the books and total lessons sold and taught, I am responsible for roughly 40% of this schools revenue and responsible for 80% of their returning customers. This is great! For the company at first, but even more so for me.
Let me explain. It's my micro econ classes being put to good use.
Since I now know that my quitting would essentially mean an impossible to recover loss of revenue for the company, the company now essentially works for me. Coupling this knowledge with my growing understanding of how the English teaching business here in China works has lead to a drastic increase in wages, quality of work, and management. Today, my company moved to a much nicer, larger more professional space with money earned almost entirely from my students.
Ego much? Let me have it. It feels good to be really good at something.
Here is an example where the obsessive number cruncher in me comes in to play in a move I am very proud of. Mom, Dad, if you ever wondered if all those years of playing video games would ever pay off, let me tell you: they have. Just like in a game, once a system becomes thoroughly understood, it can be manipulated to earn the maximum gains for the person. Except now since the company works for me, I also get to tweek the rules of said system.
For example, the company used to have a policy of paying 200 RMB for new teachers recruited. Approximately $35. That's not much. That's barely more than I make in one 50 minute lesson. So I sat down with the finance lady and told her I had a couple of great friends who were looking for work but I was hesitant to tell them about jobs there.
"Why not Mark? You'd get 200 RMB!"
"Yeah, but if in the future, they end up taking even one lesson from me, I've essentially broken even. Actually, I probably stand to lose money in the long run."
"See, students here have their choice of teachers, I'm pretty much booked and my schedule is hard to work around because of it. By introducing these other good teachers to you, I actually stand to lose money. Therefore it is actually in my best interest to keep these other highly capable teachers away from here."
It is at this point I should note, that teachers who are actually good at teaching English are a rarity here. The prospect of being able to have more than just one (me) good teacher working for a company makes casino noises start playing in their heads.
"Okay, so what can we do?"
"How about for every 50 minute lesson a teacher I refer teaches, I get 20 RMB?"
"What?! But then you'd be getting paid for just setting it up!"
"Isn't that how you guys get paid?"
"...We'll think about it."
They thought about it, and now I earn roughly 200RMB a week for doing nothing. Also, I am busy interviewing new teachers for the school as I am infinitely more qualified to find decent teachers than the Chinese staff is. Their job has become to find students, and my job is to make sure we have better teachers to make sure the new students keep coming back.
I like being the puppet dictator of a company. Especially when it becomes apparent to the people in charge that it's actually working, and everyone is making more money.
It's kind of like after the first 6 months they looked at each other and went "Wow, this kid knows what he's doing. Uh... maybe we should let him keep doing it?"
If this long boring rant about how I'm manhandling my way up the income ladder has made you think I don't have a soul I promise you that's not true. I started teaching English, and then found out I really actually liked teaching as a job. More than I ever thought I would. I have a passion for languages and I love actually being able to help other people progress in their own studies.
Some of my fun students?
Saturday mornings I start with a two hours science lesson with a 10 year old boy named Joe. We spend it reading through a basic chapter from a science book on the solar system, biology, physics, chemistry or energy. I correct his pronunciation, help him with new vocabulary (telescope, lens, gravity, solar system) and finally make him practice some of the grammar he seems to be struggling with. This normally takes an hour and then we spend the next hour surfing wikipedia, talking about outer space, NASA's current projects, the history of evolution, and a million other things. Sunday morning starts off with 75 minutes of teaching a 3 year old boy. We do colors, sing songs, and practice flash cards while I make funny faces and act ridiculous. Want to know how to keep a 3 year old coming back? Act like a raving lunatic. Is the flash card of a gorilla? Act like a gorilla, chest pounding and all. It not only works, it's a hell of a lot more fun than anything in a textbook. Also, the parents (ie: the paying party) will love you. Then there is Caroline. Shes 13, but way too smart and mature for her age. We talk about J-Pop stars, read magazine articles, practice vocabulary and trade manga and anime suggestions. Also she has my exact birthday but twelve years later which means we are both rabbits and Taurus'. It was awesome finding that out.
My favorite student of all though is John. John is an 11 year old boy I only see for an hour on Saturdays. We started doing science chapters 5 or 6 months ago. We finished those quick enough and now work through several language art books. While we do work through the books, we spend most of our time talking about our lives joking and discussing cool new things (while correcting and practicing grammar and pronunciation I promise). He's way too smart for his age and one of the best children I've ever met EVER.
I just recently bought my tickets home for my vacation to see my family and to get a new Visa. I'll be gone for all of February as I enjoy some well deserved R&R. I mentioned this to John and was blown away by his reaction.
"You mean, you'll be gone for February?"
"Yeah, I need to get a new Visa and see my family again."
"But... all of February?"
"Yeah, I guess so, but I'll be right back at the start of March."
I've never seen a child close the distance between two chairs that quickly. He hugged me, and he hugged me hard.
"I'll miss you..." he said.
Few moments in my life have been as rewarding.
"I... I'll miss you too John."