Saturday, February 7, 2015

I Got Fired

Since October, I'd been working for the union ANPE as a conversation teacher. This was in addition to my job at a high school for the NALCA program. A week ago ANPE asked me to come to their headquarters immediately. They gave me two hours notice, and I knew something was up.

Since the beginning, I'd had many problems with the other teacher and most of the students. For starters, I held a speaking test on the first day, which only half of the students attended (I chalk it up to their fear of speaking English). Of those who did the test, only half were at a level sufficient for the group they'd signed up for. But when I brought up my concerns, my co-worker's reply was, "We need to bring up their level in the next 8 months." Quite a difficult undertaking. Leapfrogging two levels of English in 8 months requires a lot of work, and they were scheduled for only 1 hour a week with a native speaker (me).

Due to their low levels, they couldn't understand me when I spoke English. In the B1 and B2 classes, I spoke at a level of A2 and B1. It floored me when my co-worker asked me to start speaking in Spanish because the students couldn't understand. I had never done that for any students in my entire teaching career. Well, perhaps a word or two, but in ANPE's B2 class I was using Spanish 50% of the time, and in B1 80%. Unbelievable.

Which leads to the complaints students had about my work. The main complaint I heard was that they were not speaking enough in class. Believe me, every lesson I planned included speaking activities. But when you're having to explain each word of vocabulary and grammar to 18 students, the hour you have gets used up pretty quickly.
Even when planning lessons, it doesn't always go as planned...
Sure enough, at the meeting ANPE fired me, although they gave a fake reason at first: "We can't continue to employ you without a contract. Since we do contracts for one year, and we don't know where you'll be in June, we can't make one for you."

"So, why not make a 5-month contract? I know auxiliaries that have 8-month ones."

Pause. "ANPE doesn't do that. We only do one-year ones."

Lies. In reality, the students' complaints were the real reason. At the same time, I'd been frustrated with their lack of ability to understand me when I spoke in slow, low-level English, and with having to speak Spanish in order to placate them. I would have rather have heard the truth, instead of being lied to at the meeting.

It was quite a blow to my ego. It always is when you try really hard to do a good job. I really wanted my students to do well on their exams. I've been complimented numerous times on my work since I became a teacher in 2013, and many have suggested I pursue a career as a teacher. But like love relationships, sometimes the one bad incident plagues you more.You forget about the good ones.

In typical Andalucían fashion, my co-worker said if I ever wanted to drop by and grab a coffee, we could. Although in the same breath, she lied and said how bad she felt that the contract laws didn't allow ANPE to continue to employ me. In my mind, I dismissed her fake offer. I turned and left as quickly as I could.

Lesson learned. If I'd had a contract, I could have prevented more salt being thrown in the wounds: ANPE only wanted to pay me for the two hours of class I gave, despite giving me only a couple of hours notice for my firing. Under normal circumstances, i.e. with a contract, when you're fired here you are entitled to approximately two weeks of salary. I would've thought that as a union, ANPE would treat me better. But the boss' view was that without a written contract, I was teaching clases particulares for "friends that they'd gathered together to learn English" (a.k.a. the students). Which was a skewed point of view, considering there was a public information page on ANPE's website for my class.

I was so insulted by the lack of respect, that I rejected their pitiful two hours of salary and walked away. This hugely embarrassing incident is a prime example for auxiliaries on what they deserve as teachers. I may never get the money I am owed, but I am excited to have the opportunity to seek out work that I'm more passionate about (translation, video editing, photography) and leave behind what wasn't working for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment