Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Footprints - Treading Lightly?

Hello all! I'm bringing you some substance in this one. A lot of this may be clear, but if there's anything that wasn't, feel free to comment or comment anyways! :)

So, I was looking on the recruiting website for English teachers to come to Georgia. On their website, they have information for prospective applicants for their program. I found some statements interesting and others I would like to know more about, were vague, or were just plain wrong. I have done some heavy recruiting in my day, and it seems like they could do a better job. I emailed them saying that I could help them to improve their website, at no cost, of course, to make their website information about Georgia more clear and attract the people who would be most likely to have a successful time in Georgia. I received no response.

Disclaimer: I love Georgian people and culture, and I mean absolutely no insult in questioning the following statements. Also, in no means am I directing this towards any English teacher in Georgia. I am a supporter of and believer in (the potential for) this program, as long as the organizers continue to listen to feedback and criticism to make changes to positively affect the experiences, future and present, of its participants.

On food....
Often dishes are made with nuts but they also use locally grown spices like coriander and saffron and garlic and peppers but a meal is never complete without some form of bread and often various cheeses."*
"Often called Georgia Pizza, Khachapuri is so good.  Kababi's are divine and Mtsvadi melts in your mouth.
On medical care...
"Medical facilities in Georgia are very similar to most public medical centers in any developed country in the world."
On host family selection...
"They are selected from a great number of applicants." 
On cost of living...
"It should be noted that an average public school teacher will make less than $300USD per month and that many of these teachers are able to live well, support themselves and their families." 
On Georgia's background...
"September 2009 was the first time foreign teachers began teaching in public schools.
"Mountains, seaside, countryside and rolling hills and grapevines are among some of the options you have in terms of locations in Georgia to teach."**
On the culture (this is all there was)...
"The country of Georgia is located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe and Georgian culture has evolved over thousands of years.  Georgians are renown for their love of music, dance, theatre and cinema.
On education...
"Classes are small, students are respectful and the schools are generally modern and well equipped.

(some) Marketing slogans:
"Summer in Georgia. Get a tan. Make a difference. Why not?
"Discover Jazz with the Black Sea Jazz Festival in Georgia!"  
*I am interested in which dishes use coriander and saffron?
**and... and? AND I teach on grapevines all the time. (this was just a catty one I thought I'd mention)

As those of you who have read my blog before, I have overall had a good experience in Georgia in the time I've been here. Given the above information (and seriously): Am I in this country? I realize I am in a minority area, but I have lived and taught in other parts of Georgia.

Georgia as a country deserves more than to be treated like an "almost new" apartment/house for sale with "charming wildlife," "intimate kitchens," and "cozy bedrooms" in the "paradise escape just steps away from the city."

Should this recruiting company change its slogan from "Placing Teachers First" to "Giving Grossly Inaccurate Information?" I am thinking of three possible scenarios as to why this happened: someone is not doing their fact-checking; this recruiting company is stretching the truth/completely fabricating things; and/or these people have just completely over-generalized an entire country. I believe there are people (like myself and my colleagues) who want to teach in a developing country. I know the goal of recruiting is to get people to sign, but if someone wants a developing country experience, and they don't do their research, they would most likely move on to the next teaching opportunity. Also, I feel that this information could mislead those coming through this company. There are wonderful English teachers who adapt, do their research, and are realistic, but I think you can still market to people and be successful by giving a realistic perspective right from square one.


  1. On education...

    "Classes are small, students are respectful and the schools are generally modern and well equipped."

    You have got to be kidding me. I'd laugh if I wasn't so appalled by this statement.

  2. Hi there - my name is Jeff. I am one of the owners of Footprints Recruiting. We do our best to provide the most accurate information about our jobs and teaching opportunities. Each school is different just as each city, town and village offers a different experience. We are doing our best to prepare teachers for the experience of teaching in Georgia. Each of the areas you have refuted are being checked and will be revised if the information is inaccurate - in fact, the website is constantly being added to with new blogs from teachers and new articles regarding life and teaching in Georgia. I receive all requests to be authors but generally speaking this is reserved for Footprints teachers. Unfortunately your offer to provide information to us for the website was never received though I would happily accept any and all information about life and teaching in Georgia so that we can present the most accurate image of Georgia possible to teaching considering their options. We are currently in the midst of creating a media mission that will bring reporters to Georgia from Canada, the USA and Australia to cover life, culture and education in Georgia. We also assisted the NY Times in their article about teaching in living in Georgia. Frankly, we are doing all we can to assist this project in a positive manner. Admittedly the tags for the advertisements are not the best. I think our advertising girl was a bit tired when those were created and I will address that personally. I welcome the opportunity to get more information from you to help make the information on our site more accurate. My business partner Ben has visited Georgia but I have yet to experience the birth place of wine though I hope to very soon.

  3. Dear Jeff,
    Thank you for reading and your comment. It makes me feel better about your programs knowing these issues are being addressed. I did notice that some things like "Food in Georgia" have been recently changed. I feel like people honor an honest perspective, especially from recruiters.

    While, of course, each town, city, and village experience are different, there are some true general statements you can make. Some are good, and some are not so good, but for teachers' safety, they should know. For example, with safety: the most common crimes against foreigners are petty theft (no surprise) and minor sexual assault (mostly for females). This is not to scare potential teachers, but instead prepare them that women, as foreigners, should not be too friendly with local men they don't know (and sometimes even ones they do know), especially in settings where alcohol is involved. This is maybe one the more extreme cases where it is important to provide information, but should be addressed. The main idea with this issue and others is that "I don't want to scare them away." But, just knowing that one piece of information can save so many people severe emotional trauma and years of therapy makes it worth it. It's true, Georgians and their culture are based on hospitality, and as long as you know how to operate within the culture you will have a wonderful experience.

    I try to write about my experiences in Georgia from generalizations about certain points, to day-to-day activities that I participate in. Keep reading, feel free to use anything from my blog, or email me --> jeffersonpeaches@gmail.com for further questions. Also, when you make it here, I'd be happy to meet up with you/organize some type of tour.