Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cutthroat English Industry

I have an English pimp. I apologize for the rather crude analogy, however, I found that I have something to sell here and a pimp is the best way to describe my boss. Her name is Ms. Jean and she refers to herself in the third person. In her broken English I often her, “Ms. Jean no like…” or, “Ms, Jean like…” She is old enough to remember the Cultural Revolution and how it stripped her once affluent family of its wealth, but young enough to have kept her contacts and business tactics. She would be a part of China’s nouveau riche except that she is really part of China’s revived riche. Like many entrepreneurial Chinese, Ms. Jean knows a market niche when she sees one.
If you didn’t know, or if you have forgotten, this school boasts an American style and American teachers. When you walk in the school are there are American flags at the entrance. All of the American teachers have framed portrait pictures in their classrooms which have been atrociously photo-shopped onto the background of a nearly florescent American flag. I have never looked so pasty white! All the better I assume. When the Chinese staff answers the office phone, they say, “Ni hao, Am-mer-ic,” meaning, “Hello, America.” Judging from conversations with my students, most intend on traveling in, studying in, and or living in America. Ms. Jean has powerful contacts everywhere and the school obviously acts as a middleman for obtaining the highly coveted American visa. This school seeks to employ only American teachers marketing to rich parents who believe that America is the be all end all for their single, priceless, treasured, and completely stressed out child.
In short, I am a blonde haired, blue eyed, American accent sputtering commodity. My value is high in China. Ms. Jean gets me my hours and I just look and sound American for the students, and much more importantly, the parents of the students.

This is not to completely discredit the school, or the work that I do there. I am indeed teaching English to those who are for the most part genuinely interested in learning. However, I have quickly observed that this is business first and an educational institution second.

Frustrations here have sent me searching for a new job. Hope to be done with this place mid June. The next update will give a full report on job searching in China, and my next move.

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