Working at EF Changchun I wanted to write something on the good and bad/grey about working at this particular school.
Lets start with the good.
The amount of money that the school offers you, in salary and bonus, is true. They pay is on time and the end of the year bonus (with some technical bureaucratic issues i will talk about later) is a nice way to walk away from a year in northern china.
The teachers are all fairly good people. Friendly and helpful co-workers here are in good supply and, with amount of information and office work that is required to succeed, you will need it.
If you are trying to get lots of experience in teaching multiple levels of English ability, this is the place. You will teach everything from kindergarten to business English. You will learn and get some limited training in EILTS and TOFEL as well as making lasting connections in one to one classes. Kids can be difficult but rewarding just like teaching anywhere.
There is room to move up in this company. If you work hard and are a good teacher you aren't just tossed aside. People during my stay there became senior teachers and even moved to new school in higher positions.
Now the bad and grey.
When you start working in EF Changchun, it can be like getting thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool. Though you may be limited to 20 hours a week of teaching, you can also get a possible 20 hours of ''office'' hours. These ''office'' duties include testing new students for their english abilities, training other new teachers, observing and being observed by other teachers, lesson plan creation and the maintaining a folder for each permanent class that contains information on each students progress etc etc. These activities are not necessarily difficult but time consuming. You may also start as early as 8 in the morning and end at 8 at night, with a few hours in between classes to prep or just sit at your desk (why go home when all you got is an hour here or there to wait?). The amount of time you actually spend at school during a week can become overwhelming though it is still somewhat in your hands. If you come to china to have very long hours in a school, you will get it here. I think the question is more of how hard you are willing to work and take that into consideration. If you come here to see china, plan more to go before your contract starts or after...or maybe pick a job with a less intense schedule.
When I started working at EF, one thing was made clear on multiple occasions: This is a business, not a school. Parents and students of the school are the customers and you as a native speaker are the commodity. If students complain about something, they are right and you are wrong. A teacher can be too tall, to tanned, to fat or not from the right nationality and you will lose the class no matter what your teaching experience is. It's hard not to take these criticisms personally when they are, in fact, personal. The school also will not hire certain nationalities due to skin color before even considering their qualifications. Is this a fashion show or a teaching job? EF Changchun needs to learn how to stand up for its employees and believe that they have that ability they sell so well to their customers, no matter where they come from.
When teaching classes it can become frustrating when dealing with weak students. Students who are struggling are often left behind. Local sales staff and management don't want to hold them back, in fear of parents asking for refunds or taking them out of the school. Students are often placed in classes to difficult for them, either by mistake or because they can not keep up with other students. This is very rarely fixed. Students are not allowed to fail tests, even if they fail. This defeats the purpose of a school and makes it clear that it is a business. You can only do so much as one teacher when you have a whole class that is moving forward and one student is not. It is a sad reality of working in the classes here and one that can easily be avoided by being honest with parents and helping kids get the best education they can by repeating material till they are comfortable with it.
Upper management can sometimes be questionable and, I found, were not always looking out for the best interest of the teachers under them. An EF policy is to have a Foreign DOS with at least 2 years of teaching experience, teach classes along side other teachers and have a university degree from an English speaking country. They are the boundary between you and upper ''powers that be'' who don't always have the same beliefs and business standards that we may have in the west. The DOS ,at the time of my employment, was a Local Teacher assistant who was moved up into this position. They did not teach classes and had a limited ability in English. With this person being the intermediary between us and upper management, it was often strange or non-existent when it came to important communication .
The treatment of the local staff (Teacher assistants) was, at times, hard to bare. They are paid very little, worked very hard and are given very little room for mistakes. Yes, I understand that business is done differently in other countries, but does that mean we need to be complacent about it or turn a blind eye? We are all teachers and they should receive just as much respect as any other, no matter where you were born.
Their is a lot of middle management going on in EF Changchun. Instead of having a strong DOS they have created a mass amount of people in between you and them. Their is A team and senior teachers. They have less hours of teaching but are given more hours of office work which, in most cases, should be completed by the DOS. They are also who you go to when you have problems. However, by the time your complaints go through them (with all the best of intentions) and to a DOS (with all the best of intentions) who is not qualified for the position, things get lost in translations more often then not. The DOS also wanted to make upper management happy and at times seemed to beat around the bush when it came to touchy subjects of work hours or complaints.
Holidays in china can be great. You are given 1 week for spring festival and 3 days for national day as well as list of other days throughout the year. However, the school can get quite technical and will switch days at random or give days in lue. These things often work out in the end though you have to be ready to argue a bit so that you days are explained clearly. You are given 10 days holiday in your first year and this will go up depending on how long you work there. But trying to map these holidays with the busy times of classes, you might feel like your fighting against the current if it doesn't fit in with what the school wants.
The contract you sign can sometimes be vague and I urge you to discuss each part in detail before taking a position at EF Changchun. At the end of the contract you are given a bonus that is equivalent to 4500$ USD. Though most former teachers have had no problem acquiring this, they can get quite technical with problems to your apartment or charges that were not existent. One teacher was charged for bed sheet that were supplied by the school, others for internet that never worked and others for Cable television that was not existent in the apartment. These are not big issues, but this is money you have earned, so don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and that things are fairly done. Just words of guidance.
In saying all this, I want to state that when you are actually teaching, this place can be great. Kids are cute but testing like any teaching job will be. You become fast friends with a good community of teachers in a city that can be very hard to live in. I think the reasons you become close though are, sadly, through the struggle you have together with dealing with the upper management of a poorly run school. Just be smart. Weigh the good with the bad and don't take my advice alone. Ask to speak with multiple teachers over Skype who are not senior teachers or upper management. You will start as regular teacher so talk to ones who are experiencing it.