Monday, April 18, 2011

Now It Can Be Told!

As loyal readers know, I was actually the Director of Studies at the school I worked at in Vodkaberg, Russia, between 2007 and the beginning of 2009.

I worked for a large chain; strangely I'm still hesitant to say the name of it, even though it's fairly easy to figure out which one it was, and it all ended badly enough that I shouldn't give a shit.

Becoming a DOS or ADOS in Moscow was no complicated feat; all you needed to do was stay there for a second year, usually. Very few people did that.

They took me up to Moscow for training; three days of general advice and practice observing teachers. The girl I was doing training with -- a heavy, whiny-voiced American -- was only in her second year of teaching, and she was being made ADOS at the suburban branch she worked at.

My school, down in the provinces, was growing fast at that time, and went for three or four teacher to about a dozen at that point. I was the first DOS -- I got a raise of about $100 a month and my hours were reduced a little.

This week I'm going to discuss some DOS secrets, and reveal some DOS documents.

Was just cleaning out some old USB memory cards and found this. My first tasks as DOS were to make a system of observation, make course schedules and plans, etc, and after I did those thing I offered them this little document:


(REDACTED) Moscow’s business model has always been based on the following assumptions:

• Russian students would accept low quality of teaching as long as it was from a foreigner.
• There would always be a stream of young enthusiastic Americans and Brits who wanted to teach English in Russia for the experience, rather than for the money or benefits.

These things are no longer true!
Russian students are demanding high quality tuition from foreign teachers, and are no longer impressed by the novelty of meeting a foreigner.

Young Americans and Brits are scared away from teaching by stories on the Internet about the bad conditions for teachers at Language Schools, as well as by strict new laws about repayment of student loans in their home countries.

The political climate between Russia, Europe and America is becoming worse; incidents of hostility against English speakers is on the rise in Russia, as several of our teachers can testify.

If an American or Brit wants to work in Russia, there are a lot more profitable positions than as teachers – average salary of an engineer for Alcoa or Petrofac is a good 10 times what a teacher makes!

To attract and keep qualified, enthusiastic teachers, I recommend that (REDACTED) consider instituting any or all of the following benefits:

higher salaries / more holidays / fewer hours. Cost of living in Russia is at least twice what it was 5 years ago; the salary (REDACTED) pays has not increased to keep up with the cost of living.

washing machines in all flats, or a laundry service at (REDACTED). (REDACTED) could install a washing machine in the building, or have one member of staff take teacher’s laundry to a service, and pick it up and return it to the school.

free house cleaners visiting flats once / twice a month. This would not be too expensive for (REDACTED)and would also have the advantage of smoothing relations with landlords as well as making sure teachers are not drinking too much, unable to take care of themselves, etc.

free cable TV / cable internet hookup in apartments. Teachers would have to pay monthly fees, but free hookup would provide a lot of distraction for homesick teachers.

free lunches / dinners for teachers – Many young teachers can’t cook and live off of Pelmeeni – hiring someone to prepare a quick, cheap (and good!) meal in the (REDACTED) kitchen might be a cheap way to improve teacher morale (and health!) If not free, then for a small fee.

discount cards for Pizza Sicily / Beer Loga etc. These could be obtained easily enough by arrangement with these restaurants, which our teachers eat / drink at often. Could we make an arrangement for cheap meals at lunch time for everybody?

Free group health club membership at Planeta Fitness or another sports club. A nice bonus, and it would give teachers a place to bathe when hot water cuts out in the summer.

Free Russian lessons. Survival Russian for new teachers or ALL teachers seems a very easy, affordable benefit with concrete results for everyone, the teacher and the school. A Russian teacher could be hired to give group Russian lessons.)

Profit sharing arrangement. Very motivating indeed! Teachers could be given a bonus for every student that signs up for a new course, that passes a test, etc.

Student - Guided tours of (REDACTED), the Volga, Krasna Glinka, etc. Unrealistic now, probably, but when there are an increasing number of teachers, you might find that there are students who would be happy to volunteer to take teachers on trips for an opportunity to practice their English.

TVs and DVD players for teachers – these are not too expensive now, and would go a long way for making up for the poor quality furniture in most of our flats. Alternately, the school could offer to pay half the price of the cost of these things, and keep them when the teacher leaves for use around the school / resale.

Library of books and DVDs for teachers’ use – We have plenty of books at (REDACTED) (and I have hundreds of DVDs at home) we just need a more convenient location for them.

Free membership on or some other internet dating site for older male teachers who express interest in it! Again, a little effort on our part would probably provide a lot of happiness for them.

* * *

The first response to this was along the lines of: "You have some interesting ideas, we will discuss them sometime soon."

After Christmas the next year, when nothing had changed at all, I submitted it again.

And was told that determining salary and benefits were not a part of my job description, and not to be concerned with such things.

The only thing they changed was the washing machines; I believe in the end, every school flat had a washing machine. That was probably just because they were tired of teachers clothes smelling bad, though. We started a conveniently located library, but I discovered that very few people care to read, anymore. . .

I should say I was wrong about Americans and British people being scared off of English teaching; wishful thinking on my part. No matter how hard I try, there seems to be a never-ending stream of young morons willing to take worse and worse conditions and crappier and crappier salaries.

1 comment:

Eve said...

How very socialist of you! Free membership to, jesus! I have to say, I am unsurprised they basically told you to fuck the fuck off. That being said, the only reason why the teachers at my chain had washing machines is because previous teachers (led by one "troublemaker" ringleader) kicked up a fuss.

PS - Yeah, we all kinda know which chain you worked out but still doesn't mean it's not a good idea to keep those keywords out of the system.