Starting Anew, Part One: Amateur Hour
Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
337Trip End Ongoing
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Istanbul is a city of 15+ million people, some of them incredibly wealthy. As a result, there are dozens and dozens of expensive private schools people can send their kids to. Many, many of these are subpar institutions that charge a lot while simply maintaining the facade of excellence -- mainly by spending money on expensive equipment, toys, and animals (one school has two camels on its campus!) that actually have no impact on the quality of education on offer. Needless to say, the support offered to teachers at these places is usually nil, while the expectations of and pressure placed upon them are very high.
Our goal was obviously to avoid any of those schools and focus instead on the more quality ones. Fortunately, three years of oral examining around the city had enabled us to visit a number of different schools and get a feel for both their staff and students, so we had a decent idea of which schools we should steer clear of.
There are a dozen or so excellent schools throughout the city, many of them with multiple branches, but a number of those schools required their teachers hold Bachelor's in Education, which took us out of the running, leaving us with a handful or so to consider. At the beginning of May, we sent out a few CVs to places around the city, doing our best to be selective based both on location and also the school's reputation. The majority of schools do their hiring at the beginning of the calendar year, so we knew we were a bit late to the party, but thought that we'd at least get a few bites given our qualifications and experience.
In fact, of the thirteen schools we emailed, only one responded. They immediately invited us into their headquarters for an interview, and we agreed to go and see what they had to say. My requests leading up to the interview for information about the teaching conditions, benefits, and salary were ignored, leading me to be a bit dubious before we even made it to the school. Our interviews were scheduled one right after another; I went in first and was even less impressed with the school than I'd been following our email correspondence. The interview was a complete role reversal, basically consisting of me asking them questions, the answers to which didn't instill any further confidence in the school. I left feeling uninspired, and still without any information about benefits or salary (the details of which would not be provided to us until after the third interview -- which blew my mind), but still willing to consider it as an option.
Late on a Friday afternoon while we were touring ruins in southern Turkey with the family, we received a follow up email from them telling us that our next "meeting" was on Monday morning at one of the schools. The email also mentioned a demo lesson, but wasn't at all clear on whether we would be giving the demo lesson or watching it. The lack of notice and information further solidified my impressions of the school, and made me extremely reticent to agree to this "meeting."
I wrote back and said that we were on holiday so wouldn't be able to attend and asked for clarification as to what they meant by demo lesson, and left it there. They wrote back a week and a half later, scheduling another "meeting" for two days later, but providing no further information about what was going to happen during those times. Further inquiries revealed that Human Resources, our point of contact, "could not answer anything regarding the specifics or demo lesson" and gave us the email address of someone else at the school to ask. By the time we got a reply, it was less than 24 hours before our "meeting", and we were told to prepare a demo lesson that we'd be delivering to one of the classes on-site. They just told us the ages we would be teaching to -- nothing about the content or materials we needed to use for the lesson.
That was the final nail in the coffin for that school -- I wrote back a long email outlining the problems I had with their recruitment process and informing them I no longer wished to work with their school as a result. Both Konrad and I were in shock by the lack of transparency and near absence of any information at all. After talking to other teachers around town, we learned that this procedure is common across the board -- something my former recruitment self found appalling, but something my current self would have to learn to deal with if she was going to find a different position.
Unfortunately, we hadn't heard back from any of the other schools we'd applied to, so the prospect of changing things up was looking unlikely. Eventually that would change....