Repect Your Time

Matt | Teach English in China | Sunday, April 27th, 2008


Time is precious.

Time is money.

Time is really all you’ve got.

So, when you are looking at work opportunities, including Teaching positions, make sure you understand all the time requirements involved. Often when I’m looking for teaching jobs in China, I’ll look at the teaching hours and that is all. But this is a mistake. There are lots of hidden drains on your time that you really need to consider before taking on new work. Again, time is money. As my students like to kid, “no money, no honey”. (My students are adults too by the way!)

The standard way to look at teaching jobs is the base teaching hours. This usually is in the form of a 45-50 minute teaching hour. Usually if you are teaching 2 hours at a university, you should have a 10 minute break between classes to run to the toilet or fill up your tea. This will likely make up the bulk of your working hours. The standard contract at a university is 15-20 hours for about 5,000 RMB per month (plus housing, university holidays and an annual flight home). Included in here you should find out about other hours such as English corners. Make sure you know what you are signing up for exactly.

Besides the standard teaching hours, the second biggest time drain is probably the preparation time. I include in preparation time, the time needed to pre-plan the whole course (usually done before the course starts) as well as the time needed to plan each lesson and the marking hours. My rough rule of thumb is for every hour taught, I’ll usually spend about ½ hour planning or on administrative work. So if I’m teaching 20 hours, I can estimate I’ll spend about 10 more hours planning.

The one thing that I didn’t expect is that there is another drain on my hours that really added up and stole time, and money, from my days and that was travel time. Normally, travel time is not paid for. The taxi time should be, but not the time spent in the cab. But, in a city the size of Beijing, which is similar to Toronto or London, and often you’re work is across town, you can imagine the commuting time. In Toronto, I used to think it took at least 30 minutes to get anywhere. Well in Beijing it’s closer to an hour. Including the walking and public transport, things take time.

In the past, I had some average teaching jobs. But when I factored in all the time spent. I realized why I was so tired and why I felt ripped off. In one job, I was travelling 1 hour each way to teach a 1 ½ hour job. Plus it took about 30 minutes of preparation work for each lesson. So the summary was as follows:

Teaching hours 1 ½ hours x 150 RMB per hour = 225 RMB

Travel time 2 hours (1 each way)

Preparation time ½ hour

Total 4 hours = 225 RMB or about 55 RMB per hour ($8 CAD per hour)

While you likely can’t get your travel time paid for, you can and must negotiate for everything in China. So, in a recent job which was a one hour commute away I finally did this. This university offered the standard 150 per hour for general English. I said I needed more

Teaching hours 8 hours per week (2 days at 4, 50 min periods per day)

Travel time 4 hours (2 hours per day x 2 days)

Prep time 4 hours

Total 16 hours per month.

I negotiated to 200 RMB per teaching hour. This is only 100 RMB per total hour used per trip. But it is better than the 75RMB per hour they offered (150 RMB per teaching hour). And it is much better than my $8/hour fiasco in the old job. And I think it’s a fair point to negotiate on. Time is money. Commuting time is exhausting. So when you are considering your next teaching job, think of this and save your money.

Violence Against Teachers

Matt | Teach English in China,Working in China | Friday, April 25th, 2008

Attached is an email I received about a teacher who was attacked in the Southern Chinese province of Hunan because he shopped at Carrefour. Now, it hasn’t been verified yet to my knowledge, but it is still a frightening thought. He was supposedly attacked because he had chosen to shop at a Carrefour during the boycott and was mistaken for being French.

During my 3 years in China I have seen and heard some Chinese people get worked up, QUICKLY, against certain things. But usually, white foreigners were exempt to these herd movements or stampedes. A lot of the hatred and boycotts were focused against Japan or other countries or movements. Unfortunately, it seems like this may no longer be the case and that western foreigners in China may now have to be more cautious. This is a thought that is honestly frightening me. Now, I live in Beijing and I’m not worried for my sake, but I do worry about what could happen here very quickly. You read on and you decide.

Anti-Carrefour mob attacks American in Hunan

Attack on an American volunteer by anti-Carrefour mob in Zhuzhou, Hunan
Here’s an email we received from a volunteer teacher from an Ivy
League university volunteer programme in Hunan Province (who shall
remain unnamed to protect the identities of everyone involved) ~{!*~}
a chilling account of an attack on his colleague by an anti-Carrefour
mob in Zhuzhou. The matter has been brought to the attention of the US
Embassy in Beijing and should serve as a warning to all Caucasian
readers, particularly those living in second-tier cities, to avoid
large crowd gatherings at all costs during these crazy, crazy times.
Our foreign correspondent friends in Shanghai and Beijing have been
receiving death threats on their mobile phones and through their
faxes, but clearly, this is something else:
Last night [Editor’s note: Sunday, Apr 20] around 7pm my friend was
attacked by a mob of about 150 people outside the Carrefour in
Zhuzhou, Hunan (near his placement site). When leaving Carrefour some
of the crowd started shouting at him and he tried to say he didn’t
have anything to do with the Olympics, but 3 men started to push him
and then he was hit in the back of the head at least 3 times. He
started to run, and the mob chased him. He jumped into a cab, but the
mob surrounded the car and started shaking and rocking it. The cab
driver was shouting at him to get out. Then they started hitting the
car. The crowd was shouting “kill him! kill the Frenchman.” He called
the Field Director while in the back of the car. The cab driver
abandon the car when he saw police coming. Two police made there way
though the mob and managed to drive the cab away. The Field Director
alerted the Director Shu of the Hunan Department of Education. The
police got him another cab and he took it from Zhuzhou to the field
director’s home in Changsha. He spending the night here in Changsha
and is likely leaving China as soon as possible.

[My colleague] is only 22, an American (not French), and a volunteer
teacher. He graduated from Boston Collage less than 10 months ago. If
he can be attacked anyone can be. The situation in central china is
becoming much worse very quickly. James has been cut up pretty badly
by the glass and the people trying to grab him.

I didn’t think the situation and protests were anything to worry about
before now, but if the mob had gotten him outside of the cab he could
have easily been killed.

Foreigners need to be more aware that this is a real danger and MUCH
more careful around the protests here in central china.

Im also sending this letter to the embassy.
People need to be more much careful.

The following letter was sent by the Field Director of the programme,
to all their volunteers in China:
Dear Volunteers,
It goes without saying that right now is a very sensitive time in
China. I wrote to you last week to avoid talking about the three ‘T’s’
and other controversial topics in China now.
By now, you’ve probably all heard about what happened last night, but
before I go into details, I’m going to tell you TO AVOID PROTESTS AND
PLACES WHERE PROTESTS ARE BEING HELD. This is extremely important for
your own personal safety. I spoke with the US Embassy in Beijing this
morning, and the officer that I spoke with told me that there have
been cases in the past of protesters in China targeting innocent
foreign bystanders. Despite what you may or may not think, just by
going to Carrefour, you’re making a statement to say that you don’t
agree with the protesters, and they can very well take that to mean
that you don’t agree with China. From here on out, there is no need to
put yourself into this situation. Also, if you feel that you want to
go ahead and become involved in protests of a political nature, keep
in mind that you’re directly violating the Conditions of Participation
that you signed at the beginning of the year, specifically by getting
involved in political events. We’ll call you all individually, so if
you have any more questions, please feel free to ask. We’re just
trying to make sure that everyone is and feels safe and that people
are not put into avoidable situations.

Last night, a Zhuzhou volunteer walked into Carrefour despite the fact
that there was a sizable protest going on outside. This volunteer
chose not to become verbally or physically involved in the protest,
but like I said before, choosing to shop at Carrefour while protests
are going on is making a statement in and of itself. When the
volunteer finished shopping and tried to leave the store, the
protesters did not let him leave at first and a mob mentality quickly
ensued. The volunteer was forced to run through the crowd to safety
while a couple people threw punches at him and others were chanting
and verbally threatening him. The volunteer managed to jump into a
taxi and close the door, but the mob surrounded the taxi, trying to
break in, tip the taxi over, and smash the windows. The police were
finally able to get the volunteer to a safe place and the situation
was settled, for the time being.

This situation is no joke at all. The volunteer told me that he felt
extremely unsafe, and he even feared for his life at points. When I
spoke with the US Embassy about this (which I suggest everyone sign up
for,, they said that
this incident was the first violent one in recent news involving an
American citizen. However, they said that they didn’t know if it would
be the last and that they urged me to talk with you all about how
important it is to avoid Carrefour and protests. [Another colleague]
also gave the same advice. From here on out, there is no reason that
any of you should be going to Carrefour or be involved in any sort of
protests. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, or if
you see a large group of protesters and mobs of people, avoid the
situation entirely. Also, please keep close communication with your
fellow volunteers, so that in case you come across a place that you
feel is not safe, let others know about it so they can avoid it.

Once again, [we] will call every one of you individually and talk
about this more. Please be respectful of our advice, and try not to
put yourself into a potentially dangerous situation.

Take care

Analects of Confucius: Chapter 4

Matt | Analects of Confucius | Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

This chapter has some of my favourite passages in it. It’s heavily focused on being a gentleman, being benevolent, understanding and respecting ones parents and making the right decisions.

As when I first read the Analects, I didn’t have a clear definition of being benevolent. So here is the definition from FreeDictionary.

be-nev-o-lent (adj.)

1. Characterize by or suggestive of doing good.

2. Of, concerned with, or organized for the benefit of charity.

be-nev-o-lent-ly (adv.)

Synonyms: benevolent, charitable, philanthropic

These adjectives mean of, concerned with, providing, or provided by charity. See also synonyms at kind.

Let’s jump into the Analects chapter 4

5/ Confucius said, “Everyone desires money and high position, but a gentleman would not accept them unless he got them in a right way. Everyone hates poverty and low status, but a gentleman would not get rid of them in an unjust way. How can one be called a gentleman if one betrays benevolence? Under no circumstances should a gentleman forget to practice benevolence.”

7/ Confucius said, “The mistakes one makes has to do with one’s social position. By looking at someone’s mistakes we can see what type of person he is.

8/ Confucius said, “If one learns the truth in the morning, on e would never regret dying the same evening.”

10/ Confucius said, “In dealing with the world, there are no definite rules as to how things should be done. A gentleman simply does things according to the actual situation.”

I take this as we have to face the situation at hand. Make our decision based on what we see. Act. Then move on. Hopefully, we’ll learn something about this for future decisions. Take what comes your way.

12/ Confucius said, “One will incur ill will if one does things to one’s own interest.”

Being selfish will lead to misfortune. Give. By giving to others, to your community you will truly gain more for yourself. I think this is true, although I don’t always act on it. I’m quite selfish. But when I have given unselfishly, to volunteer organizations, I truly get back a lot more in return. Now I just need to this more in relationships.

14/ Confucius said, “Don’t worry about having no official position, but do worry about your ability to fulfill a post. Don’t worry when others don’t appreciate you, but you should strive to make achievements.”

I take this as do your best in all situations and don’t worry if others appreciate it or not. Do your best that is all you can do.

17/ Confucius said, “When you meet a man of virtue, learn from him. When you meet a man without virtue, examine yourself to see if you have the same defects as he has.”

This is one of my favourites. It’s similar to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote that I’ll paraphrase, I can learn something from every person I meet. So in that way everyone is my teacher.

19/ Confucius said, “When one’s parents are alive, one should not go far away. If one has to, one should tell them where one is going.”

Good sensible, caring advice. I for one am not following this too well as I’m living in Beijing, China now.

20/ Confucius said, “A man can be called filial if he sticks to his father’s ways for three years after the latter’s death.”

This point led me to a question: Is it better to listen to your parents and be unhappy or to listen to yourself and be happy? Is being happy, being selfish? Don’t’ parents want their children to be happy? So by doing what you parents want and making yourself unhappy, will this not do them a disservice?

21/ Confucius said, “One must always keep in mind one’s parents’ birthdays. ON the one hand, one is glad to offer birthday congratulations; on the other, one is worried to see them grow one year older.”

24/ Confucius said, “A gentleman should be careful in speech and quick to act.”

Life is about actions. Be cautious of the words you speak. Like a bullet fired from a gun, once words are said, no actions can call them back.

26/ Zi You said, “One will suffer humiliation if one repeatedly remonstrates with one’s ruler, and one will suffer isolation if one repeated advices one’s friends.”

Don’t give your friends or anyone advice unless they ask for it. They have to live their own lives and make their own mistakes.

Weekly Roundup: Following the Herd (of Dragons)

Matt | Blogroll,Chinese Culture | Saturday, April 19th, 2008

I don’t know why, but in China people seem to follow the herd and follow the masses a lot more than in Canada.  It may be just that I’m noticing it more here.  And it could be that there are simply more people here.  But many times I’ve seen the herd change direction with a frightening result.  For example, last year when the bird flu rage was in the papers most of my Chinese friends and students all of a sudden stopped eating chicken.  Even though you can only get the flu from live poultry, still in restaurants and in the supermarkets people passed on chicken to the joy of pork producers.  Lately, with the pro China anti-Tibet movement going on, there was a frightening incident that happened to a Chinese student living in America, Ms. Wang.

From ThePekingDuck, It’s Time to Grow up.  Please? This talks of the frightening way China’s masses are mobilized into a frenzy.   It also shows a horrid, disgusting, vicious manner in way some things get done here.  Like if you upset people, somehow your personal information may get posted on the Internet.  (This happened to a friend of mine when she didn’t buy a place from a realtor.  He was disgruntled. She went nuts trying to find him and to get the info down.)

In China there is also now a boycott against Carrefour, the French retailer.  The reason for it is because of how the protesters acted in Paris.  Through the use of MSN, instant messenger and mobile phones most of China knows of this. This could be bad for business for Carrefour.  Mind you it’ll be good for me, as I will finally be able to shop at Carrefour on the weekends.  Here is article from Absurdity, Allegory and China on this topic.

English Corners Questions

Matt | Teach English in China,Teach English: Eng Corners | Friday, April 18th, 2008

Have you ever been thinking of a topic for English corner and your mind went blank? Do you have to think of topics and questions for English Corners weekly, and dread the thought?

Well if so, here is a great site I found that has question starters for just about any topic.


Finding Yourself (in China)

Matt | Finding Yourself,Working in China | Monday, April 14th, 2008

One of my main reasons to come to China was to find myself.

I clearly remember when I first came to China, a few weeks into teaching and I was standing outside the school gates thinking. I was thinking, “What the f#$k was I doing?” Why had I given up a 5 year career in the world of business to come to China to try teaching? I had remembered being in Toronto, lost as well, and hoping that this experience would help me to gain some traction, to figure out what I was doing and why I was here.

Then it hit me.

I realized that even though I changed almost everything – my career, my job, and even my country – it did not matter.

The problem was still with me. The problem was still me.

I remember standing in that intersection, in Beijing, China, staring at the cars, looking at the McDonalds behind me and realizing that even though I changed almost everything, I didn’t change myself. I was still the Ottawa kid, who used to live in Toronto and now was lost in Beijing. Actually, I may even have made matters worse, in the process of finding myself, by coming to China. Now, I don’t regret coming to China, but I have learned a few things about finding oneself during my stay here.

One problem with leaving to go to another country to find yourself is that you bring the biggest problem with you: and that’s you! The problem usually isn’t your job, your family, your friends, your country, but instead the problem is probably something within you. And actually, by separating yourself from your friends and family, your safety net, you may even exaggerate the problem. It is lonely, difficult and awkward when you move to a new country. Then all of a sudden you are lost, with the problem you, and you have nowhere and no one to turn to!

If you are in this situation, you’ll probably have to build up a network of friends and “family” here quickly for support. I recommend a club like Toastmasters, the public speaking club. It’s a great way to meet amazing people and to improve your leadership and communication skills. You could also join any other club or organization. Living overseas you depend on your friends to act as your family too.

To find oneself and ones meaning in life, I don’t think you have to travel halfway around the world, but itself you need to do something more frightful: turn off the TV and open a book. You can do this anywhere. Now, you may need to take a holiday from your regular schedule; to find a quiet place like a cabin in the woods or even your own home, and simply relax, rest and read. I find that when doing this, the right books you need will come to you; the right messages will come to you; by taking the time away from your busy schedule and truly getting away you’ll be able to listen to the inner voice inside yourself (usually just above your belly) that always tells you the right thing to do.

Now, I do realize that going away for a year offers a person a better opportunity to do this. Because being alone, overseas, I do have more time to think and to read. I do believe it can be done anywhere and I’m positive the first step is turning off the TV and picking up a book.

Books will find you when you are ready for them. Here are some that I found at the right time that often are telling me a similar message.

Now, I know some of these you’ve read and some of the others you aren’t interested it. If that’s the case, just pick up some books that you like and start reading. Lately, I’ve been focusing on some classics as there’s a reason why they are classics. Also, I’m working through a top 10 list from TheSimpleDollar. If I get a book recommendation from a friend and I like the first book, then I’ll want to read everything that person has recommended.  You may want to read some religious books, which are also high on my list, or some philosophy books, but I think the solution is the same: sit, read, and think.

I think just finding a quiet place, opening a book and thinking are the first steps to figuring out what you want and who  you are.

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