Monday, March 14, 2016

Professional Development Is a Money-Making Racket for Professional Developers

At my work, we all have contracts that specify we work Monday through Friday for a maximum of 40 hours per week, and that if we work more than that, we get paid for overtime. Now, it seems it's standard practice in China that when you get a government-mandated holiday, you make up that day on the next weekend, so there have been about 10 times over the past two years that we were required to work on a Saturday or Sunday. But this year I've been moved to a different department, and our department head routinely schedules work events on non-holiday-makeup weekends.

In October he scheduled a two-day training for a weekend and told us we could skip the school field trip the day before as "compensation." In February he scheduled a two-day training for a Friday and Saturday and told us there would be no compensation because we were getting to miss classes on Friday, and that was our compensation. He said, "Your students are missing classroom instruction time on Friday, so that's the time off."

When he said that in the meeting, I said, "So are we compensated based on when our students study or based on when we work?" There were grumblings of agreement. He hesitantly acknowledged that he couldn't make us work on Saturday, so if we were going to skip the training, let him know and teach our classes on Friday.

It appeared that many of us would take him up on the offer. So we got a curious WeChat message from the other teacher I mentioned yesterday. It was a plea to attend the training, with reference to how hard it will be to secure school funds to schedule future professional development training if no one has attended the events in the past, and how this will then make it impossible for us to maintain our teaching credentials.

I responded:

As an economist, I know that the true value of an item is reflected in its cost, and the true cost of an item is its opportunity cost--what you give up to get it. If the school is unwilling to find time in my contracted work week for this training & is unwilling to compensate me for this loss of personal time, I have a hard time believing this is as valuable as we're being told it is. It's easy to be spendy with other people's time and money, which is why command economies (cough cough) don't work.

This is the background for me not working here anymore: the star employees are the ones who allow the school to ignore our contracts (and who agitate among their colleagues for the same) and the rest of us aren't invited back.

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