Are you going to come to an unpaid meeting on Saturday morning?

this is how i feel when you talk about my working without your paying me
this is how i feel when you talk about my working without your paying me

Are you going to come to an unpaid staff meeting on Saturday morning? 

No.

We’ll take everyone to lunch afterwards.

Nope.

I am a part-time teacher at your school. I am only there for four hours on Fridays. I only teach two classes. Combined, I see only 12 students every week. I always come early. I often stay late.

I have never refused to do anything that you’ve asked of me. I take the attendance and fill out the class record book every time. I double-check the homework and tests. I check the homework my co-teacher has assigned whenever I have the time. I bring in my own markers, my own ink, my own props and games. I have shared my classroom decorations with you and I have sourced my own worksheets to supplement your materials. I bring the kids candy and stickers in addition to your proprietary point cards.

Your school has more administrative work that any of the other schools I work at and it’s not lost on me that you’re paying me less per hour than any of the other schools I work at.

I came to your school last week for my classes and it was closed. When I messaged you, you said you forgot to tell me that all the students had gone on a field trip. It’s not the worst thing in the world to find out you have four hours to yourself on a Friday afternoon, but I value my free time very highly and I would have really appreciated being able to plan on how to use it most effectively.

I don’t think you are very organized, and I think it’s indulgent to ask for the whole staff to come for a meeting to learn how to keep you feeling organized. If you had to pay us all even a portion of hourly wages to sit through a meeting for one or two hours, you would recognize quickly just how many human-hours you were using up.

If it isn’t worth it to pay us, then you aren’t saying anything valuable. Why should we come?

For more than a year, none of the other schools I’m at have asked me to come in for an unpaid staff meeting. The last staff meeting I was ever asked to attend started just thirty minutes before our afternoon classes. I don’t think you value your teachers’ free time very highly if you think that we should make ourselves available for a few hours on a Saturday morning, without pay.

I have known about this meeting for nearly three weeks now, which means it has been hanging over me and I have been considering how to handle it for three weeks. Now that I’ve said, “No, I can’t make it this Saturday” and “Sundays are impossible”, I have ugly feelings of anxiety in my stomach which are also taking up my time and energy. I am trying to redeem this loss of time and mental real estate by writing this post. I hope it can be one tiny contribution to the ongoing conversation about how teachers and cram school administrators in Taiwan can have healthier relationships.

But see how discouraged I must be: I am giving 110% to this school where I only work for a few hours, one day a week, and you are asking me to give you more time, for free.

It’s not fair and I don’t have to, so I won’t. I have that much privilege: you won’t fire me because even though you are trying to take advantage of me and my coworkers, you know that I am a reliable, solid teacher. If it came to it, I could quit, knowing that for me, right now, in Zhongli, it would be easy to find more hours for the same pay. In a different context, I might have to attend this unpaid meeting, no matter how much it chafed my behind. I know some of my coworkers might not have or believe they have the latitude to make

I hope that my not coming will push you to be more creative: How can you communicate with your staff in a way that doesn’t require the combined hours of many people, all of whom certainly have other things they should or would rather be doing? Do you need 24 or so combined human-hours to convey your administrative policies? If it takes that long to share your administrative policies, do you want to consider if they are too convoluted?

Please remember that I like you, I like my coworkers, and I like my students at your school. If I had problems, I would have left by now. But ours is a professional relationship that only began and continued because there was an agreement about the hours I would work and the amount you would pay me. To try to renegotiate that relationship at this point so that you get my time at no cost–except my lunch, whatever that is–is unfair and disrespectful.

 

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