Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Knowing When to Fold 'Em

So I found a little "school" here in our new city that works as a sort of broker between private students and English teachers. It seemed good at first; I met with the owner over Skype and later in person.

I've since discovered that it's just a one-man show, that this owner is a fellow foreigner (who doesn't speak English) running an "English school" out of his apartment. (He tried to avoid telling me this part, which made it very hard when I was trying to find his office building but should have been looking for an apartment.) The guy is totally dishonest and sneaky and all-around not a good guy.

I won't go into the whole story, but the point is that he's a cheap bastard and that he has lied to me about a lot of things.

He makes students buy books from a series that he heard about (he has no teaching experience or training), but he won't provide the teachers with copies of the books. He says, and I quote, that "books for teachers are a waste of money." He said if I wanted to have a copy of the book, that I would have to buy it myself or download the PDF illegally and carry my laptop around with me to my classes. He also provides no support material but expects us to plan extra activities for 66% of the class time (saying the book can only be used for 30% of the class, to make the class more "dynamic:" One of those words people love to use when they don't know anything about teaching.)

He told me the students were paying much less than they actually were to justify paying me so little. He said I needed to go to a student's house and that she couldn't come to me, even though it was a really out-of-the-way bus ride for me that ended up taking almost 90 minutes door to door. Turns out the student works seriously 5 minutes away from my apartment and wanted to come to me, but he lied to her about where I lived so that he could charge her more for classes at home (while paying me the same). He actually thought she and I wouldn't talk about these things?

When I informed him that the student and I talked and that she would be coming to my house instead, he got very upset and insisted on having a "meeting" over Skype. This meeting was just him lecturing me on all these excuses on why I need to let him negotiate all scheduling information with the student and why I shouldn't talk about ANYTHING with the student except English. (This is really his attempt at not getting caught in any of his many lies, and it was obvious that what he was most pissed about was that the student would be paying less and it would be coming out of his cut and he couldn't do anything about it.)

He then informed me that he had some new rules: students could have unlimited make-up classes, and also, if a student decided to cancel a class without a reposição (why would they do that if they can have a make-up class?), I wouldn't get paid. His logic? "Oh, well I should keep the money for their canceled classes, because I'm the one who has to deal with all the administration stuff." Nope, sorry buddy. The conversation actually got pretty heated, mostly because he thinks I'm an idiot and I'm not. He kept talking himself in circles and not answering my questions. He tried to scare me, tried to say I would never get students if I were as strict as that, tried to bluff that students wouldn't accept limits on reposições, etc. The truth is that students DON'T get to cancel classes, but he tells me they do so that he can pocket the money.

He said that he had a new student who wanted classes with me, but that he doubted the guy would accept my terms (24 hours' notice to change a class and only one class a month can be changed -- the guy was only going to have 1 hour a week!). Well, this owner guy had to put his tail between his legs a bit when the student accepted my terms and still wanted classes with me.

The problem? I don't want to be involved with this shady guy anymore. I'm a little worried that I'm being too picky, that I'm too new in town to be turning down students, but it really comes down to cost-benefit. This guy requires so much paperwork for the students, so many "meetings" on Skype, and he's dishonest as all get out. It's really not worth the pennies he's paying me per hour.

I would love to be able to work with anyone; I would love to accept every student that calls, but you gotta know when to fold 'em. My instinct is telling me, "run, run away!" so that's what I'm going to do.

I will also, of course, steal away my current student from him if she wants. It'll be my little payback for all his douchebaggery.


  1. Oh no! Fold, fold, fold!!! Are there actually other English teachers in his "school" who accept these messed-up terms?

  2. He sounds awful. I would stop working for him immediately, and tell him why. What the hell is wrong with people?

  3. Oh god. How annoying.

    Don't worry, you'll find students when you least expect them!

    Where is he from?


  4. Trust your instincts: run run away! You can ( and will) do better.

  5. Maybe I didn't understand very well, but he doesn't speak English? Are you kidding me? And does he recommend books to his students? I will start recommending books of Greeks to my friends who want to learn it.
    The last English class I had was two years ago. I read your blog for about 18 months, since them I don't want to find schools. Things are way worse than I thought.

  6. Thank goodness you found out now! What an unethical opportunist.

  7. yikes, same old same old for us teachers. That's why I am going into retirement with schools. And depending where you are private teaching is hell too. Danielle, I am a firm believer now if you don't teach executive or inside companies you can't make it unless you open a school. UNLESS you live in a super big city live Sao Paulo.

    Go to Sebrae and get your tax id. It's 32 heais a month! Go to all the big companies and wave your berkley diploma. The End.

  8. I say Fold'Em now. That situation sounds murderously awful. You desserve better!

  9. Yuck, this guy sounds like some shady pimp! I know nothing of the English teaching world, but I hope you can find a way to cut out the middle-man, especially this horrible guy.

  10. Run, run as fast as you can! Have patience, I am sure the right job -- and a legit one at that -- will open up.

  11. That lad sounds like a right schnake in the grass. Do you think he is worse than that Mormon moron you were working helping out?

  12. This guy is worse, I think, because his sneakiness is intentional. The Mormon guy was crazy and perhaps not aware of his craziness.

    This boss guy (who's Peruvian, Alex), called me today after I emailed him with my resignation, trying to tell me that I was being inconsiderate to the student for leaving and that I owe it to her to stick around. He even tried to argue that I already "messed up" by going on vacation after my first class with her, except I told him in my job interview that I was going to the US, and he's the one who lied to the student when she signed her contract, choosing not to tell her I'd miss classes in the first month, because he was scared she would want to wait until I got back to sign up.

    That annoyed me and I flat out said that he lied to me and the student about too many things and all the stress and lack of communication wasn't worth my time. He got super offended and actually said (in Portuguese), "my mother didn't raise no liar." (I just had to translate it that way!) I ended it with, "well, we clearly have different opinions, so it's obvious that we shouldn't be working together. Good luck with everything." Can't argue with that!

  13. One thing I really love about you is that you don't take crap from anyone/anything. Good for you!

    And you know you'll do great. As soon as word spreads, you'll be completely full in no time at all!

  14. What a dirtbag, thank goodness you got away from him now. You will find a better situation I am sure of it. I don't understand how people can be so shady and not expect it to blow up in their faces sooner or later.

  15. Wow and I thought ol Matt from Converse was a dick. Well, he was actually more annoyingly passive/aggressive. After I gave my 2 weeks he still insisted I have my job review. While they were perfect before, in this one all of a sudden I wasn't dressing professionally enough and was late for meetings (because I was at Kinko's copying material since the copy machine there ALWAYS broke). lol. And his lame ass reference letter.
    Life is too short to deal with such douchebags and you're lucky you got out in enough time so he didn't rip you off totally!

  16. Run Run Run! You will find students. Hell, I'm sure half of his will end up yours one day ;)

  17. I don't know want it is about English School in Brazil but I always know I'm in trouble when they say - "You know you don't get rich teaching English" or "We like our teachers to have Flexible" hours. (But they never say what the hours are or what flexible is. ) One school I quit from wouldn't let teachers take books home. You were expected to drive across town and do all your lessons at the school, on your dime.


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