Warning signs: Life in a language school in Ljubljana

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Ewa
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Oct 28 2014 09:42
Warning signs: Life in a language school in Ljubljana

I red this article about the language school in London and I can tell you it is similar to my experience in a language school in Ljubljana in Slovenia, a small country in the Southeast of Europe bordering to Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. Slovenia is a country which has everything: Mountains for hiking, the seaside for swimming and in general beautiful landscapes and good food from local farmers. What the country does not have, are jobs. Thousands of young, well-educated people are moving out each year to find jobs in preferably German speaking countries. That is how I could make a living for 1 year: I was teaching German, as a German native. I do not have a specific education in the field of teaching. I started 1 year before I came to Slovenia in another country just on my own to organize classes and teach people some basics in German.I took it seriously because I really wanted the participants to get the opportunity to learn something. And at the same time I could improve my team building and guiding skills, which I had developed during previous engagements. So I continued with that in Ljubljana. I applied to different schools and got answers. Of course none of these schools offered a contract, they offered some sort of Freelance basis. That would mean a contract for a particular amount of lessons which I would teach and only get paid for that. First I got 9,6 Euro per 45 minutes. Later it changed to 6 Euros because the government put higher taxes on these sort of contracts. And not to forget in this amount is only the time of teaching included, no preparation time, no time for preparing myself and driving to the courses – you have to know that the courses were all over the city, not just in the language schools itself. The courses also took place between 7 am and 9.30 pm. So imagine: For barely 600 Euros a month (if you are lucky) you are working very hard. And the worst thing is, that with this sort of contracts the employee does not have a right for paid sick leave or any sort of social security. The employer does not have to guarantee anything. But the employee has to guarantee that he is providing good work, that he is prepared and always in time at the course. The employee is exploited, squeezed and left alone.
And particularly one school is in “good” memory for me: They were highly presenting their image of themselves, as international and open, because they had native speakers in their school. At the end they are exploiting each one of their teachers and try to push them down. During my time there I got told a couple of times that I am just a beginner and therefore not experienced enough. But it was not a problem for them to send me to a very important business German course at a well-known company, where the participants were quite demanding. My feeling is that the boss of this company is going to specific seminars for Managers (since she is hanging out with many managers and some of her clients were managers), where they learn these sort of behavior, like “Tell your employees, that they are not good enough! Tell them that they are just beginners and never tell them that they did something good! Keep them down, so they will do everything you want from them without demanding more money or better working conditions”. Always when I had a meeting with the boss she came late. Once I had another meeting with the boss at the school. So I went there, she wasn’t there and after some other person from the office workers called her, it turned out that she was sick and had forgotten the meeting. Guess what, the next time I meet her she tells me that she had a bad cold from the air condition in Dubai, when she was there on a meeting. My guess is, that this is another one of these advices she got from one of the manager trainings: “Do never show up in time when you have a meeting with one of your employees! Do not show them any respect! Show them that they have to wait for you and not the other way around! And once you do not show up at all and tell something from a place, which sounds important to them so they will have even more respect!”
She was always smiling and talking a lot, so that you would forgot or would not have enough times for your questions which you had in mind. So she was counting on nobody being able to refuse her anything. Which worked with most of the teachers. In this connection you also have to know that Slovenia is a country where people do not go on the street very often. In the last couple of years there were some demonstrations but they were not consistent enough and at the end did not change anything. Mostly the people are swallowing their anger which can be connected to the past of the Slovenians, who mostly were slaves of some other folks. Unfortunately, you can feel it when you are speaking with the people. Employers are not used to employees demanding something. They are used to employees taking everything without question. And this was the point also with this particular language school: I did not want to continue taking this conditions. I was thinking, that for the same amount I could be working in Germany in a Supermarket with less stress. It was very stressful not just from that point of view that I had to prepare the courses each day and be in time at the different places, anyway if it was raining or snowing. But also I had like 4 different meetings with the boss just to discuss what my final payment per hour would look like. She hardly provided me with some numbers. Then one of the office workers gave me another number, then this what she once said, so I asked her about it and she tried to turn the tables around so I would have to justify for something else and she could quickly turn the attention away from herself. I think such behavior is always a sign that the person knows what’s going on and is just manipulating you. Manipulation was one important part of her behavior.
Actually the plan was that I would have taken German teaching courses at their school. They pushed me to it and wanted me to pay half of the course the other half they offered to pay (just think about this: They did not have to pay anything because it were their teachers who were doing it and in their rooms, so at the end they would even earn something from their own teachers teaching the other teachers – a perfect money making machine), but I only had the time to attend half the course, Since I should take another course about how to teach children during the second half of this course. But they still promised me that I would get a certificate, but only after one more year of teaching for them. At that point I thought, that I would stay one more year in Slovenia anyway and would want to continue teaching, so it would be fine. But after asking more and more questions and after digging deeper I found out that they actually would not write in the certificate that I was participating in the whole course. And I mean, what can I do with half a certificate? What would other schools think about it? The best part in this was when the boss herself said to me: “Common, at the end nobody knows the certificate from our school anyway.”
Another tough story was, when they asked me about my schedule and I told them that I am also working for other schools and they said that they don’t want it, since they are “investing” in me with letting me pay “only” half for the courses about teaching. They did not have to pay any money for these courses and at the same time I had to promise them to always be free and wait for their offers, but they have no obligations towards me, they do not have to promise anything to me. And what if they would not offer enough courses? And what if I keep my schedule free for them, refused to take other courses from other schools and would not be able to pay my bills at the end? That was a hard lesson to learn for me: These people see employees as cockroaches who want to be exploited.
Back to the course: In any way I was still thinking that it would be nice to have been participating in a course about how to teach German for myself and so I decided to pay the whole course, so that I would get the certificate immediately and would not have to wait for one year until I could get it and then even only half of it. The boss was not amused, since we had agreed on something else before – that I would take half and pay half and continue for one year working for them – but she realized that I was not planning to stay and so she wrote to me in an email, that under this circumstances that I was deciding differently in such a short period of time the school would not want to continue working with me. I know it was on a short notice from my side. But what was in it for me? There were no guarantees for me whatsoever and I had to promise everything. I am thinking right now, that they were happy to get rid of me, because I was a potential trouble maker.
I have to admit that at first after I red the email I was a bit down and thought about myself, that I made it badly and I did not succeed. At the end it was the best for me: Why should I work in such a bad atmosphere of exploitation, with absolutely no benefits for me, accept of maybe a minimum payment with which I would be barely able to pay my bills. This is what the capitalist bosses want you to think. They want the workers to feel small and worthless and not to connect with each other. This is another thing which is visible in Slovenia. I had a colleague with whom I spend some time talking about this bad conditions and the point was that he was so afraid to lose his teaching hours (“hours” because I cannot say job, as it wasn’t a job) at that school, that he even denied knowing that I had dropped out of the school in front of other colleagues who asked him about me and knew that we had spent some time together. This is how the system works: It is separating each one of us from our colleagues. When you are standing alone it is harder to negotiate for your own rights and needs and that is what makes it happen, that we have a minority of people owing so much that they will never ever in their life’s be able to use all their resources and the majority does not know how to pay the bills.
And remember, Slovenia once belonged to Yugoslavia, which was a socialist country with strong unions. Nothing is left from that era. The capitalist businesses did their best to destroy each union or workers associations. Within 10 year this beautiful country went down and there is now recovery in sight. Remember, this is in Europe. The next country could be yours!

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Angry Language ...
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Oct 28 2014 12:50

Hi Ewa! Thanks for posting this up!

We'd love to host this as a blog. I've just PMed you, but feel free to email us on TEFLsolidarity (a) gmail.com

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Steven.
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Nov 9 2014 15:28
Angry Language Brigade wrote:
Hi Ewa! Thanks for posting this up!

We'd love to host this as a blog. I've just PMed you, but feel free to email us on TEFLsolidarity (a) gmail.com

hey, are you going to do this soon? As this account is way too good to be hidden in the forums, so if you're not we will just rejig it slightly and move it into the library (Ewa, we did actually give you posting permissions so you could post it to the library yourself!)

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Chilli Sauce
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Nov 9 2014 16:53

It is, I promise! It's just been a super busy week for libcom's TEFL crew - which you'll see more about soon enough.

But I'll get this up as an ALB blog this week, you've got my word.

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Steven.
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Nov 9 2014 17:48

Coolio.

jojo
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Joined: 30-06-12
Nov 10 2014 06:00

Thanks for this fabulous article detailing the horrors of working for capitalist exploiters like your lying hypocritical boss.

Just one small point. Yugoslavia was never a socialist country. It was a state capitalist country and the strong controlling unions, keeping the working glass suppressed, prove it.