This describes my brief experience at a (now infamous) language school in London. It would be great to hear from others who have had similar kinds of experiences.
I saw an advert on gumtree for a TEFL teaching position. Having been on the dole for a month or so, the desperation was already kicking in and the scummy wage now seemed sort of half reasonable. Within half an hour of sending my CV, I had a call back to arrange an interview. Realising they must be desperate for teachers, I made my husband apply too.
It was the weirdest interview I’ve ever had in my life. There was a dog in the room which was never mentioned, and they asked really confrontational questions. Why did I stop being a teaching assistant and was it because I hate children? Anyway, they told us both that they’d get in touch later that evening to let us know what their decision was.
Excuse me for a second while I blow my own trumpet - I have a damn-sweet-as-fuck qualification in teaching English, and shit-loads of teaching experience. My husband has less experience and a less distinguished qualification.
That evening, he received an email saying he had got a position starting on Monday. I checked my email. Nothing.
When he started the job, he asked them if it was likely I’d get any work. They told him that at the moment they had an Upper Intermediate class which he was better suited to, but that if a lower ability class opened up, it would suit me better.
I’m not sure what led them to believe I’d be better at lower levels and he’d be better higher levels. Except the presumption that men are better at the meaty grammar and women are more suited to teaching colours and the alphabet. Infuriating. Especially as it just so happens that I’m quite posh and have pretty “good” grammar, while my husband is an American who shows an utter disregard, contempt even, for grammatical convention. ‘I wish I would have…’ and the positive ‘anymore’.
A week later, they asked him to pass a message on to me. They needed a cover teacher for a beginner class. They didn’t feel the need to directly ask me (as if I might actually be a person in my own right), but instead let my husband tell his little auxiliary add-on that they might just trust her with beginners for a couple of weeks.
Once I started I realised, of a total of nine English teachers, I was one of three women. All the receptionists were young women. The whole IT department was men. Many of the sales and IT staff were former students, hand-picked by the managers. So the skewed gender balance couldn’t be due to the demographic of job applicants. It was due to the preferences of management. Their preferences were men.
I’m afraid my writing style (if I have one) is like a walk on a building site. So the next few paragraphs are like some poorly laid metaphorical bricks.
A female teacher requested some extra teaching hours. The response of management was ‘are you sure you’re ready to teach intermediate grammar?’ A male teacher with about the same amount of experience, without requesting it, was offered an advanced exam class (CAE) which is super heavy, dense (pretty useless) grammar.
In November, two teachers were hired. One was male, one was female. The male was given a paid class immediately, while the female was expected to do several months of unpaid lessons “to gain experience”.
All staff were expected to attend unpaid meetings, unpaid trainings and preparation time was basically unpaid. I’m sure most education workers can relate to this. It goes without saying that this has a disproportionately detrimental effect on women, whose responsibilities outside the workplace generally outweigh those of men. In my workplace this was certainly the case.
Because another teacher left, I was offered the Upper Intermediate class (the class I was apparently not suited to, what with my tiny lady-brain).
After a couple of weeks, a few more members of staff were hired. Well, not technically ‘hired’ but people halfway through doing their TEFL courses, or people who had just finished, were graciously given the ‘opportunity’ to work for free. While I was there, two men and one woman started their unpaid labour. The two men were offered paid classes within a couple of weeks. The woman still hasn’t been offered anything as far as I know.
During my time there, I witnessed a female receptionist being unfairly dismissed. Apparently, she hadn’t understood that receptionists are supposed to work as general all-round servants to the bosses, and was fired because she refused to submit to and accept their treatment of her. I later found out that she was at least the third member of staff who’d been fired without notice, the other two also being female.
After about 5 weeks working in this festering wank-flannel, I found a job elsewhere. The day after I handed in my notice I was told there was no need for me to come back as they already had a new teacher. My husband was fired 15 minutes later. (He’d been asking questions about new contracts management were trying to bring in.) Basically, it was too awkward to keep me on for my final week as I was just an extension of my trouble-making husband. They fired him and they didn’t want to keep one of his ribs.