We have barely begun 2017, and already things are changing. A colleague has got another job in Beijing and has now left. This was surprising to us. Most of us only found out on Thursday, and on Friday the member of staff left.
What that will mean for next semester, however, is unclear. An email has been sent from my manager to all foreign teachers, saying if we know anyone who could fill that position, they should email them asap. There are no guarantees, however, that the role will be filled and a very real possibility that next semester we will have one less teacher on our team.
What will probably happen is that we will drop a grade – likely to be an EDP grade – and the teachers of that grade reabsorbed to fill the other classes of our former colleague. Certainly, often (and what we were supposed to do this year, before it was dropped entirely), we only teach EDP 9 in semester 1, so there is some precedence for this. And also we mostly teach on average 15 classes a week but our contract says we can teach up to 18 hours. So we could absorb some of their classes that way.
Not only that, but there are wider, more fundamental changes in the works which may or may not be introduced next semester (and perhaps only for the Junior students). The gaokao – university entrance exam which Senior students take – is to have an English speaking component in it from next year, so next year’s Senior 1 students will be the first ones to take the new exam. The zhongkao – which Junior students take in their third year, which is the high school admission exam – is also going to have an oral English component to it, but this will be introduced sooner. Therefore our lessons potentially become a lot more important. Added to this, is the fact that Chinese English teachers, across all the grades, will be losing one teaching slot a week because they apparently have too many (so if they teach six classes a week, one of which is given to us, now they will teach five classes a week, with one given to us). So their number of lessons they are in class for might fall from five to three. Again, this means our classes are all the more important.
As ever, nothing is certain about these changes and when they will happen. It is rumoured that for Juniors it will happen next semester, and for Seniors, next year. But the nature of the changes is vague and, we are told, more discussion is needed – which will likely happen next semester for some things. We may return from winter holidays, however, and find our classes look very different, with a Chinese English teacher in the class with us. This is another suggestion which not only causes logistical issues (we split our classes and the teacher cannot be in two places at once), but also how that would actually work, and how much input the Chinese teacher would have in the class, remains to be seen (if it even happens at all).
We have finished teaching now, for the semester, and teachers are going off on their winter breaks early. So much is unclear; what we do know, however, is that change is in the air. When term begins again on Monday 20 February, our lessons may be very different.
In addition to these changes, there are also longer term issues which we have recently learnt about. The Foreign Teacher Manager – my manager – is leaving at the end of this year. To what, or where, I don’t know. But we have all received an email informing us that a) he is leaving and b) if we want his job, this is what we need to do. I do not plan on applying for his job – it is a bit of a poisoned chalice, especially because you have to apply by 20 January and the changes – as yet unknown – are not likely to happen until after that. So you would be, in effect, going into it blind. That, and there is nothing about salary in the job advert we were sent, and he has been especially vague on this issue. Also, it is perhaps, time for a change in my own environment next year (but more on that later). So what will happen regarding his job, no one knows either.
I described 2016 as an interesting year. Already, barely a week after the start of the New Year, things are already proving to be interesting, here in this small corner of the world.