The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Alex Cuetos

Do new teachers set their expectations too high?

In my experience of working with new graduates from other countries, even a six-hour working day can apparently be 'too much'. Is this a generational gripe, or something more systemic? 

One of the worst things about working in China is being so far away from home. Seeing so many people come and go, it becomes difficult to keep saying goodbye to colleagues who decide to leave. But it can be equally difficult to understand why so many teachers leave because they’re tired of being 'treated like slaves’.

I was recently surprised by a colleague telling me that our school had asked him to work untenably long hours, and teach more than one class.

We work six hours a day Monday to Friday, with a three-hour lunch break and no more than two hours allocated to teaching. The majority of our time is given to preparing lessons in the office, or spending time with pupils during breaks. Yet some new teachers still complain of being like slaves.

The more I think about it, the less I understand it. What did my colleagues expect when they started? Admittedly many of our new teachers are recent graduates, so there’s an inherent learning curve. But is the contract they sign before moving to China not a clear enough indication of what they are meant to do?

'Free food and bean bags'

At first I suspected a cultural shock; being far from home for the first time and having to adapt to a very different culture, it’s easy enough to project concerns elsewhere.

However, it seems that many colleagues, particularly those twentysomethings from the UK, have genuinely felt exploited.

Are these the self-absorbed, rarely satisfied ‘millennials’ I’ve heard so much about?

Only recently, some of our teachers held an unofficial meeting to discuss their concerns. It became clear that, rather than blaming an entire generation, we need to look at the extent to which graduates are prepared for the realities of teaching.

After all, working six hours a day and having almost complete freedom to teach whatever you choose can hardly be called slavery!

We need to look at the extent to which graduates are prepared for the realities of teaching

12 out of our 25 foreign teachers are leaving within the next few months, some before finishing their contracts. Does this also happen in the UK? If so, who or what do you think is to blame?

Our school’s solution is to start hiring teachers from the Republic of Ireland. We’ll see how that goes.

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