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Ask Headmaster Ken

Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

For private school employment, teaching contracts, salaries, visas, and other employment questions.

Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

Postby kaytee » Sat Sep 01, 2012 11:44 pm

Hi Dr. Greg and Headmaster Ken,

I hope you can help me.

Long story short, I accepted a job online to work in a private school. When I got here, everything was totally different than what they had promised.

I was living with the woman who owns the school, along with her family. Instead of working at the school, they asked me to stay at their home and teach their preschool age children, everyday, for six hours. I actually went along with this for a while because they kept telling me (now I know it was lies) that the school was closing, on and off, due to this problem or that.

Meanwhile other family members (children) would randomly appear for one-on-one lessons with me. They gave me no books, no white board, no proper desks etc., just a couch and a table (their living room) and I was supposed to make magic happen under these strange conditions for hours at a time, day after day.

I mildly protested and their responses started as simple distracting lies, as mentioned before, but then they became utterly bizarre and manipulative (as my protests increased and I mentioned the possibility of quitting due to having been deceived about the actual job conditions). Finally I kind of ran away and refused to work until they placed me in my own apartment (which is explicitly stated in the contract). They did but only after telling me that it was going to cost them a lot of money because no apartments are available in the summer and they would have to pay exorbitant amounts to bribe a landlord to give them a place, and other outrageous things like this. Also the apartment they put me in is filthy and ill-equipped.

The weird working conditions continue. Except now I just teach the owner's college-aged daughter full time: She is taking a year off or something and has all day free and they see me as some variant on the 'year abroad' or something. She is a bit of a rare bird, shall we say, and teaching her is the most exhausting work I have ever done in my life.

Meanwhile they keep postponing the date that I will be transferred to a proper school (it's still being built they say). I tried to quit a couple of times. The husband and wife play good cop/bad cop. I am alone here, I was really excited to come and I have been wanting to come to China for a long time.

So what I'm saying is I am in a vulnerable spot and their manipulative tactics have, I'm embarrassed to say, worked. I acquiesced both times. They managed to make it seem like everything was my fault, for not being flexible enough about adapting to Chinese culture, and not appreciating all the things they have done for me.

They have also criticized my teaching and said that they don't think I am ready for my own class in a real school. I really want to just quit. The contract that I signed though says I can only quit if they fail to pay me. I don't know why I didn't notice this before. I just had a lot of faith and excitement about coming to China. Everything seemed really good in the beginning but now I see that these people are relentlessly dishonest, narcissistic manipulators and they have some weird spell over me.

They know that I am vulnerable here, recently divorced, that I don't know anyone in China, don't speak the language, etc. They seem to like that I am helpless and I think they know they are driving me a bit batty. Is there an organization that can help foreigners like me? They blatantly violated the contract in terms of housing/job description. I, of course, would never have agreed to these circumstances in advance (no one would). They have paid me, however. They threatened to arrest me if I try to quit, and get me banned from the country for 10 years.

What is the truth??? Can I just leave??? HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
kaytee
 
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Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2012 3:16 pm

Re: Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

Postby Headmaster Ken » Sun Sep 02, 2012 12:47 am

Your course of action is simple.

1. Say absolutely nothing to anybody.

2. Fly home.

3. Start your China job search anew, verifying from current and former employees what the real conditions are.

Just so you know:

1. You cannot be arrested. She has already breached your contract. She can perhaps use her influence to get a local official or two to try to scare you but it is all bogus.

2. You are not going to be banned from returning to China. That requires a serious, usually criminal, offense.

3. Avoid the threats and simply leave without notice: This situation is entirely beyond repair.
Headmaster Ken
 
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Re: Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

Postby kaytee » Sun Sep 02, 2012 6:22 am

Thank you so much for your prompt reply and clear advice.

Will I be able to exit the country if I don't have a release letter?

Also, will it be hard to get a new visa if I don't have a release letter from this current one?
kaytee
 
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Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2012 3:16 pm

Re: Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

Postby Dr. Greg » Sun Sep 02, 2012 2:00 pm

While we wait for Headmaster Ken to answer your last questions, I want to emphasize here to all our readers that Kaytee's predicament underscores the critical importance of conducting the most thorough due diligence you possibly can before traveling up to halfway around the world for what could turn out to be a traumatic experience in exploitation and abuse. Her predicament is not uncommon or unheard of.

When considering China EFL job offers, you cannot take anything for granted or at face value. Never assume good faith: ambiguity in the wording or meaning of the contract will always be used against you. At the very least, you need to use our China EFL Pre-Employment Checklist and check off each item as you ascertain the answer to that issue.

Accepting EFL employment in China is serious business: it's not like changing jobs in the same city back home or traveling to a resort in Mexico. You must choose your first school VERY CAREFULLY!!! For more information, see Finding and Applying for Jobs.
Dr. Greg
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Re: Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

Postby Headmaster Ken » Sun Sep 02, 2012 2:16 pm

Due to the complexity of the poster's issues, I have switched to email correspondence in order to ascertain the specific details of her situation.

Once Kaytee's situation is resolved, I will post some general answers to these final questions.
Headmaster Ken
 
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Re: Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

Postby kaytee » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:13 am

Hello Headmaster Ken,

Well I finally managed to get away. It was not easy. I'm in the safe arms of someone who loves me, outside of China (unfortunately, as I was really looking forward to living there and learning the language and culture, history, etc).

I'm still a bit overwhelmed or maybe even slightly traumatized by everything I went through there in Qingdao. I'm taking some time off, not sure what I will do next.

I really want to warn people about this school. Also I want to say that I did due diligence on them prior to accepting the job. I didn't go into this situation totally green. Their organization is legit, very legit, actually. I am going to blog about it all in the near future and I'll post that link here if you'll allow it, in case anyone wants to read all the gory details.

The bottom line is they (man and woman who are the school directors) are just very unscrupulous personalities, who think they can treat their employees like property. Somehow, though, they seem to enjoy a high profile in their community and are apparently raking in the dough. Sigh. Wow, I just have a lot to say about this. It was a very eye-opening experience, to say the least.

Thank you very much for being there, for having this resource available to us teachers, and for your quick and informative responses to all of my questions. I really needed someone to affirm that what I was experiencing was indeed out of line treatment.

I wish Godspeed to all my fellow teachers out there, may this kind of nuttiness never befall any of you.

Kaytee
kaytee
 
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Re: Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

Postby Dr. Greg » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:51 am

kaytee wrote:Also I want to say that I did due diligence on them prior to accepting the job. I didn't go into this situation totally green. Their organization is legit, very legit, actually.

A school can be entirely legitimate in that it is licensed to hire foreign teachers and can still be owned and managed by sociopaths who treat their teachers like chattel.

I'm curious, how many current and former foreign teachers at this school did you communicate with before accepting the position?

Please don't misunderstand my intent in either my prior or current post. I am not trying to blame you as the victim and I do fully appreciate that one could follow every single item on our pre-employment checklist and still get burned. However, as your experience poignantly illustrates, when it comes to teaching English in China, you can never be too careful.

While communicating with current and former teachers is certainly no guarantee that you won't be abused, if you can read between the lines and there are in fact serious issues to be concerned about (as there obviously are with these particular people), some alarms should go off if you're being deliberately lied to. Certainly, if the school balks at all in providing you with two or three names and e-mail addresses, you should run--not walk--as far as you can from the job offer.

Now that Kaytee is safely out of China, Headmaster Ken will provide some general answers to the questions that were originally raised.

I hope you can find meaning in what happened to you in China and that, eventually, you become at peace with it.
Dr. Greg
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Re: Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

Postby Headmaster Ken » Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:05 am

I think the most general, and important point for others to take away from this poster's experience is this, "It doesn't get better."

If things are bad going in, they will likely only worsen. Remember, this is your employer putting his best foot forward upon your arrival.

If your employer doesn't respect the contract, then he doesn't respect you.

I always maintain that the housing your employer provides is a mirror of his respect for you. That's why I strongly suggest teachers insist on photos of your apartment before agreeing to terms.

When you arrive, you should be prepared to switch to "Plan B" at a moment's notice. Have all your job search documents in hand, scans of them online, adequate funds, and a mental plan, "If this goes south, I'll be on a plane to Hong Kong tomorrow."

Make a mental escape plan. Be prepared to use it at the first deal-breaker, (shoddy apartment, extra uncompensated teaching, etc.). With this mindset and preparation, you can better escape these situations.

I want to thank Kaytee for sharing her experience on this forum.
Headmaster Ken
 
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Re: Deceived, Manipulated, and Frightened

Postby kaytee » Mon Oct 08, 2012 4:04 pm

Dr. Greg wrote:
I'm curious, how many current and former foreign teachers at this school did you communicate with before accepting the position?

Please don't misunderstand my intent in either my prior or current post. I am not trying to blame you as the victim and I do fully appreciate that one could follow every single item on our pre-employment checklist and still get burned. However, as your experience poignantly illustrates, when it comes to teaching English in China, you can never be too careful.

While communicating with current and former teachers is certainly no guarantee that you won't be abused, if you can read between the lines and there are in fact serious issues to be concerned about (as there obviously are with these particular people), some alarms should go off if you're being deliberately lied to. Certainly, if the school balks at all in providing you with two or three names and e-mail addresses, you should run--not walk--as far as you can from the job offer.


Hello Dr. Greg,

To answer your question, I must admit that I didn't speak with any current or former teachers at the school.

I also must admit that I asked the man who hired me, the school's "president", for this information twice. Both times he just ignored this question but answered every other one promptly.

I didn't consider this a deal breaker for a few reasons. One, wishful thinking was involved, yes. Two, I thought something along the lines of-- "Well, maybe they had some things happen that weren't ideal...nobody's perfect...s*** happens. There are certainly some past employers of mine that I don't necessarily want future potential bosses to have lengthy conversations with (not because of anything about my work performance but because some of them were bizarrely furious at me for leaving and I would not trust them to give a fair reference)."

Third, because I had jobs in the past (2, to be precise) that turned out to be awful in spite of the fact that, prior to accepting, current teachers gave me glowing reviews of the places. Later, after arriving & getting to know these personalities, I saw into their motives & personalities, and it was a very educational experience. In one case, the poor teacher was just a weak-willed individual who had probably been bullied into lying by the tyrannical boss; in another case the teachers themselves were the source of the toxic dynamic in the workplace and saw nothing wrong to report....

Now, looking back on it, I realize that it probably wouldn't have made a difference, even if I had gotten someone's email address, or spoken with someone, etc. I had the bad luck of accepting a job in a school run by a man who was/is fundamentally dishonest. And that's the nicest thing I can say about him.

Even if I had, say, asked for a photo of the apartment where I would be living, I know he would have just sent me a photo of the apt where I ended up being sent-- where the female director lived with her family. It was well-appointed, and spotless as a hotel suite, since that anorexic, epically arrogant, neurotic, talentless woman compulsively cleaned it for hours each day. I would not have been able to tell that anyone lived there, and of course they had no intention of making this clear.

Or even if I had insisted on being able to communicate with a current or former teacher, he would have done what he did to another teacher who arrived at just the same time I did. He gave her contact info for someone who we later found out was coerced/bribed into replying and saying something nice.

So I realize now he was/is just a relentless liar, bent on getting, and convinced that he is entitled to getting, whatever he wants. Even if I had done a bit more inquiring/investigating, I am pretty sure he would have found a way to hide any truths that might dissuade him from getting his desired results.

I will write more about this in my blog, as mentioned previously. Haven't been feeling ready to do that yet but I'm starting to. I think if people read my full account they will see more clearly why I was taken in by this racket. I'm not saying I am the savviest person in the world. A wiser person no doubt would have avoided this trap. Ultimately it was a perfect storm of sorts. I'll explain this thoroughly in the near future, and I'll post the link here.

Let me say thanks again to Dr. Greg and Headmaster Ken, you're lifesavers. Don't doubt that. This website is a gift to teachers like me, thank you very much for your service.


--Kaytee
kaytee
 
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