7.21 Placement Programs

CETP and placement programs

I didn’t talk about CETP ( Central European Teaching Union ) so often, but this is who I was in Hungary with. The last year, they had about 100 native English speakers throughout Hungary. There were a good many returners and also quite a few new people this year as well. Although I heard for the following year the return rate went down. Originally, the program was just for students at a college in the US and this college would send students over to Hungary. After a while, the college wanted to retire this program and the Hungarian director, Hajni, found the current American director, Mary, who were able to continue placing teachers in Hungary by having a director in each country for government reasons. There’s a lot more that could be said here but this is the basics.

I don’t work directly for CETP. Their job is to find native English teachers for schools who have contacted them about having a need for a teacher. Bilingual schools in Hungary must have a native speaker to keep their status as bilingual. That’s what so many of us are doing here. They connect teachers to schools with a minimal interview but many of us are never in contact with our schools before we go. My interview with CETP was more of “do you have any questions, when are you buying your ticket?” than a real vetting process.

I went with a placement program because my housing was included with my contract and so was my visa/residence permit. All contracts with CETP have these things taken care of. For the first move out the of the country, that was quite comforting. They also had one week of orientation in Budapest and that’s why I packed up so quick after I decided to go, so that I could go to orientation.

To begin with my thoughts on them, orientation was nearly useless. I learned next to nothing about the language or teaching or anything else they promised would help so much with. I was under the impression Mary and Hajni would be a big part of the classes at orientation. I think Hajni talked twice. Also, the room of girls next to me had bed bugs in their dorm in the hostel CETP chose for this week. The most valuable part of orientation was connecting with other teachers, especially other first year teachers. That was the biggest reason to go and did serve me well throughout the year to have connections with other teachers.

Since I signed up a week before leaving, there was a lot information that I missed out on that was sent in emails weeks or months prior. It shouldn’t be that hard to send me important information as well if there’s good organization, right? There was a lot of things I had no idea about because of this, and when I would ask I was told “well it’s in the email, why don’t you know?” This was both the start of and furthered some communications between myself and CETP.

One of the things CETP really sells themselves about is the level of support they offer. I read other peoples blogs and reviews that Hajni was like a Hungarian mom to them. Before leaving, this was so comforting to me that this fierce Hungarian woman was just a phone call away and would then spring into action. Unfortunately, I did not have this experience. I wish that I did and that I would have a different opinion. Hajni called me (and everyone) two or three times after we got to our towns. The last phone call with her I expressed that I was starting to feel not so sure and really overwhelmed. After that, no more phone calls from her offering support or a listening ear. Not long later, I emailed Mary and asked for advice since she had completed one year here before becoming the American director. We sent a couple emails back and forth (max I got 2 from her) and her last one said “Hajni and I will put our heads together and see what we can do”. I have never heard from Mary again.That was in October. It was May when I started this post.I’m really disappointed about this. I had such a good impression with Mary before and it is just disappointing she was no longer interested in helping me.

I asked to stop teaching gym class because my contract says that I do have to teach English classes and I don’t have to teach grammar, PE, art, etc. What did this conversation with Hajni and my school get to? One less gym class a week. “there’s nothing we can do, it’s your problem”. Finally I made the decision that I needed to move towns or go home. Coordinating that with Hajni was a disaster. It was unorganized, it was hard to communicate, it left both of us frustrated. She blamed me for all of it, when in reality it was that she didn’t communicate well with me. I’m really disappointed about this because while I was trying to get some help with my situation, new teachers arrived, some even in Budapest. And nothing in my situation was changing. Hajni told me which date I would be moving. I made weekend plans and so on around this date. Two days before hand, she asked me to stay longer and when I said this wasn’t okay, she blamed cultural differences and how difficult her job was on this mistake. After I moved, she didn’t said anything to me save for when I emailed her and asked what I should do about my residence card etc. being stolen. I could not have had a more opposite experience of what I’ve heard from other people. Did she find me somewhere to move to? Yes. Was she pleasant about it? No. At one point, she admitted to me she should have come to my town and talked to my school in person about my problems as my contract wasn’t followed.

One of my most serious gripes with this program is the history of my first placement. I was told by a few people that the guy two years previous to me broke everything in the apartment. All the windows, lamps, etc. The lamp I had was still broken there. If someone had such a bad experience in a place that he was so depressed or anxious or whatever feelings he was having, that he broke things like this, in my opinion it’s not okay to continue sending people there. At minimum, that should be told to someone taking that position. To me, this sends a message that CETP is only in it for the money and doesn’t care about what happens or the experience of the individual they placed.

My second placement in Hungary was wonderful and Judit and Janos were wonderful to me at my first placement. But I would greatly caution anyone and using CETP in the future and I would never go with them again myself. I don’t think the services provided are worth the fee – which they lower based on things I’m not sure of for each person. I am also more cautious about going through placement programs in the future.

I did learn valuable lessons about standing up for myself and contentment throughout the course of the year so it the bad parts weren’t all for nothing but I’m still not pleased with how my situation was handled.

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