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BCN Languages Palma - Teacher to DoS to kerb

 
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wylieneill



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
Posts: 24

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 10:25 am    Post subject: BCN Languages Palma - Teacher to DoS to kerb Reply with quote

Hi guys

I'm writing this review not to cast shadows on BCN Palma but to explain how I and other members of staff were treated during our time there. My partner and I moved to Palma in September 2011 after getting teaching jobs in BCN Palma. We had previously worked in Tarragona, Ireland and South Korea. Initially, teaching at BCN was a good experience, it seemed to be well run and we had a good group of teachers who were not only dedicated but also genuinely cared about their students. Apart from the tiring side of working split shifts which appears to be the norm in academies in Spain things were going well and our student numbers were slowly increasing. After my first year the owner of the franchise *(4 schools in Barcelona) flew out to meet with me and offered me the position of DoS. I had recently completed my MA in TESOL/Applied Linguistics and gladly accepted the job hoping to move up in this well regarded company. I had the standard unpaid summer without contract and did some odd work in Palma, laboring, private classes etc to make ends meet. The thought of finally having something solid in terms of a contract kept me going during this time.

Problems started to arise as soon as I started as DoS. The director of the Palma branch JV de la R was immediately hostile towards me from the moment I started in my new position. Nevertheless I tried to maintain a good working relationship, which was sometimes impossible due to his aggressive changeable moods. I brought in some changes to the school and generally tried to maintain an open dialogue with students, parents, teachers and staff. I cut unpaid staff meetings to an hour instead of three hours and tried to work additional hours myself to compensate. Being a teacher I was appalled at the manner in which both the director and one of the secretaries, MP, used to treat teachers. Teachers were periodically given minimal notice to work additional hours and work weekends. I argued that because some teachers were not being given full time hours at the school it was unfair to expect them to drop everything and run to BCN as they had to do privates to make do. The ever diplomatic director advised to fire teachers who did not immediately comply saying that BCN was paying their social security and that they should be available around the clock. This was the case for teachers who were being given 12 hours teaching and thus had to do as many privates to cope. Teachers calling in sick was always a thorny issue and some were threatened with the sack if they did not turn in no matter what the complaint (one teacher’s mother was rushed to hospital with chest pain and the teacher was nearly sacked for going to the hospital with her).

As these issues persisted I became increasingly dismayed with what I was seeing on a daily basis. It rapidly became clear that us teachers were treated like expendable commodities and if we left or were fired another stream of teachers would always come through the door. When I tried to defend the teachers I was told that I was too soft or not rigorous or imposing enough (I am 6”2). One of the final straws for me was hearing the director openly say that my work was terrible to the owner of the school. It became clear that the director was somehow threatened by my presence. From my working perspective I was told I had to be available from 9:00 to 22:00 and that they could call me anytime to do speaking tests for student placements. I took this as always without complaint. I wa also told that when the owner came to Palma I had to make myself available all day (13 hours) without notice or additional pay. I was actually earning 30% less as DoS than I was as a teacher due to “job security” whatever that means – only in Spain!

My partner and I had a baby while working for the company and thus my partner could not work the split shifts she had formerly done. I remember being phoned minutes before going into the delivery ward saying that I had to work the next morning as they would not cancel the class and apparently a sub could not be found. This was something that always stayed with me. I felt a line had been crossed, a legal line which if pursued would result in my dismissal. We agreed with the school that my partner would work in the morning so that we could send our daughter to childcare. This was working fine from January until in June the director told me that she had to work mornings and evenings. Flabbergasted I explained that the agreement was she would work mornings and afternoons for the above reason and his response was “vale, buscar otro opcion”’. I literally could not believe what he was saying . We had been loyal and hard working teachers for the school for 2 years, never caused issues, never called in sick and always gave 100% in class. Our student feedback was always excellent and quite frequently the best. I told JV de la R that if I am expected to fire her that it would also be my last day for the company to which he said fine, go. His manner was so aggressive and his request so unreasonable that I phoned the owner in Barcelona directly and he told me, much to my surprise, that he supported the decision and that I was thinking with my heart instead of my head!! So firing the best teacher, who also happens to be my partner, thus rendering our time in Spain obsolete as we would need two wages to survive was the right thing to do!? Yes… totally.

It was a very disappointing end to our teaching in Spain but we have both learned so much from the Spanish work ethic. Indeed, in speaking to my ex colleagues (6 of whom resigned after I did) it seems clear that if you have a good work ethic in Spain -you will not succeed. You will come up against so many barriers that will eventually lead to you giving in or reducing efforts. Perhaps this is true, perhaps it is not but one thing is for certain – English teachers in this company are treated miserably and this is an issue not specific to BCN Palma.
Just something I had to share.

Cheers,

Neill
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MuscatGary



Joined: 03 Jun 2013
Posts: 766
Location: Spain

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think maybe the most important lesson to be learnt from this is that if you allow yourself to be treated as a doormat then you will be trod upon. For me the first incidence of that kind of behaviour is the last.
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wylieneill



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
Posts: 24

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not a case of allowing yourself to be treated as a doormat and in my case I had to constantly assert myself to avoid being trod on. It has a lot to do with circumstances at the moment in time I.e having a young family needing to work my nuts off to try to support my family. It was a learning experience and in my current position I feel all the more fortunate for having had to work for such an organisation.
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MuscatGary



Joined: 03 Jun 2013
Posts: 766
Location: Spain

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

" From my working perspective I was told I had to be available from 9:00 to 22:00 and that they could call me anytime to do speaking tests for student placements. I took this as always without complaint. I wa also told that when the owner came to Palma I had to make myself available all day (13 hours) without notice or additional pay."

Accepting this kind of bs "without complaint" is being a doormat. I would have walked instantly.
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wylieneill



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
Posts: 24

PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2014 6:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unfortunately in Spain it's the norm for a DoS. With 25% unemployment you have to consider yourself fortunate to even have a job. Must be a far cry from where you are based.
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MuscatGary



Joined: 03 Jun 2013
Posts: 766
Location: Spain

PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2014 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wylieneill wrote:
Unfortunately in Spain it's the norm for a DoS. With 25% unemployment you have to consider yourself fortunate to even have a job. Must be a far cry from where you are based.



Actually I'm just about to walk from a well-paid job because the HOD is disrespectful (not to mention being a plagiarist). I'm just not prepared to take bs from anybody.
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