Saturday, April 25, 2009

Warning! Teaching Can Be Hazardous. Roadmap, Anyone?

(Note: another example of a submission to This one uses the Creative Commons Non-Commercial copyright, the idea being that if someone saw this and wanted to use my idea in a non-commercial way to benefit all English teachers abroad, they should just give credit to me, but if they wanted to profit--web-advertisement from pageviews on such an application as the one I mention--they would have to pay to buy the commercial rights. I guess we shall see if this is how things work in practice, but the system Borgger has at least encourages people to write down and share their "in-the-shower" epiphanies, hopefully with a result of added-value to society as a whole.)

A trend, of which I am a part, is for native English speakers to teach their language abroad. Demand for these services have increased dramatically in the past few years, particularly in regard to the recent, massive expansion of China's economy. This type of job opportunity is only likely to become more popular as economies in the West shrink and China's economy pulls along with (relatively) good prospects for growth, leaving college graduates with a choice between dead job markets at home and a large demand abroad--particularly in view of the fact that many English training schools in Asia have incredibly low (actual) requirements for the qualifications of the presumptive teachers.

One problem this creates--particularly with schools with "lowered expectations" of their teachers--is that many of these places are hell holes. Many a TESL/TEFL forum is crammed with teachers complaining that they were subjected to: nasty, dilapidated living quarters; racist treatment; fights with the managers/owners over salary or contractual obligations not being met; lack of teaching support; being lied to about any manner of expected conditions at the work location; Triads/toughs their boss hires; and the list goes on. Now as much as I would like to say that lecherous, 50-yr-old paedophiles lacking a college degree who end up in teaching in China (or other places) because they're running away from (a) creditors, (b) alimony payments or (d) the feds deserve what is coming to them. Of course at least half of all the ESL teachers in Asia hopefully don't fit the aforementioned mold, myself included.

That said, what would be most useful to this increasingly relevant band of didactic economic refugees that doesn't seem to have been provided in any of the major ESL websites? A map that corresponds with the addresses of schools that have gained a bad reputation among teachers, and correspondingly should be blacklisted. This map could be cross-referenced with details about major locations that teachers find themselves living/working in and separate reviews pertaining to life in those places. I think this would be exceedingly useful, especially for the first-timers who often, out of no fault of their own, end up in crappy schools in crappy locations.

Example: me. My first six months in China was spent in a town I often described as a pock mark on the ass end of nowhere, yet the city was also too large to be considered nice for purposes of 'quaintness' or 'fresh air' of which it had neither. I also spent a goodly portion of the six months fighting with a boss/owner about the specifics of my contract. All this because when I was choosing where to go, the best that my google search could come up with was the company's own description of [said hell hole] as a seaside city with fresh air, mountains, beaches, and waterfalls.

Now wouldn't a cross-listed map of recommendations and blackmarks have been useful! Now there are surely fresh-eyed teachers still being snookered into going to that place in dire need of a WARNING sign. On the other hand, hoboes newly-minted by the global downturn and looking for a good place in the middle of nowhere to hole up and avoid their creditors could consider a 'reversed' strategy when looking for schools with low expectations for teaching ability and low interest from other foreign teachers with better credentials (hence greater demand for the services of said bum).

Surely this wouldn't be too difficult to put together, especially with the tools Googlemaps provides, no?

1 comment:

David said...

Good idea. It's particularly interesting to me, because I write these kinds of map-enabled web applications for the USGS at work.

You're right that this would be pretty easy to put together using the Google Maps API. I could work up a simple concept version in short order if you want to work with me on the details.

I think the real issue with a site like this is one common to any internet forum. How do you filter out the trolls and misinformation? Or do you?