Discovering the Power of Blogging!!!

The power of blogging

The power of blogging © Marco Rullkoetter

I started this blog, mainly as a way to keep friends and family up-to-date with what my new life in Prague is like. It also has proved to be quite therapeutic and has helped me clarify my thinking by having to write things down in a form that others can read and understand.

From the outset, I have been very conscious that I am a public figure (albeit a minor one) and that what I post on my blog promptly appears in the public domain. Therefore, I have always tried to be accurate with my facts and distinguish clearly between what is fact, over and against what is my opinion. But I never really expected it to be read much beyond my former parishioners in Oxfordshire, UK, various family members and friends, and now increasingly by members of my Prague congregation. It has also been discovered by a small circle of expats living in various corners of the world.

However, in the last ten days, much to my surprise, I have discovered the power of blogging. Simply by writing about how two TEFL teaching members of my congregation have been forced to leave the country because the Caledonian School failed to obtain work permits and visas from the Czech Foreign Police, within the required time limit of 90 days, I am suddenly in demand! It is not just the power of blogging but also the power of Google! Put ‘Caledonian School, Prague + TEFL’ into the Google search engine and guess what pops up on the second page of results? My blog!

On the afternoon of Friday 15th May, I received an email from the TEFL Course Coordinator at the Caledonian School, offering me the opportunity to meet with the Executive Director of the School so that we might discuss the current visa situation and what the School are doing to sort out and resolve the recent problems. That’s when I knew this blog had been found!!!

So it was that last Thursday, Nanebevstoupení Páne (Ascension Day for those who can’t read Czech!), I had an hour-long meeting with Monika Kubátová, the Executive Director of the Caledonian School at their headquarters in the suburb of Andel. To her credit, she did not dispute any of the facts contained in my blog posts about what had happened to Karen & Anna. So in turn, I promised her that I would post in my blog, how the Caledonian School understood the situation and what they have been doing since Karen & Anna’s forced departures, to try and put things right for the future.

The following is therefore a summary of the main points that Ms Kubátová made to me.

  • Caledonian knew about the official rule that a work permit & visa has to be obtained for a non-EU national within 90 days of that person arriving in the Czech Republic. However in the past, this rule had always been quietly ignored by the Foreign Police with regard to language schools because they understood the difficulty of doing it in 90 days, especially as the Schools don’t want to start the process until TEFL students have successfully completed their one month training course. Ms Kubátová claimed that they had no warning that this rule was suddenly going to be strictly enforced with effect from the beginning of 2009.
  • Caledonian are embarrassed & upset about what has happened to Karen, Anna & the others in their group & what is likely to happen to those in the two following groups. The whole business has cost Caledonian money (having to pay air fares), and upset some of the companies who buy their services. Both Karen & Anna were known as good teachers and the students liked them!
  • Despite the economic downturn, Caledonian still have plenty of companies & individuals who are buying their services. Therefore they are keen to retain good TEFL teachers.
  • The Owner of Caledonian has had a meeting with the Head of the Foreign Police 10-14 days ago & is having a further meeting this coming week which Ms Kubátová is also attending. The Head of the Foreign Police has promised that all non-EU TEFL Teacher applications from Caledonian will in future, be processed within 60 days. In turn, Caledonian have instituted new procedures, getting trainee teachers to complete paperwork whilst they are still undertaking their initial one month course, so that applications can be submitted immediately the course is finished therefore giving 60 days for the visa process.
  • Caledonian want both Karen & Anna back as soon as work permits & visas have been obtained & there are jobs waiting for both of them on their return. Ms Kubátová claimed to be in email communication with both Karen & Anna and that by them submitting visa & work permit applications from outside of Schengen, there should now be no problem in getting them approved within 60 days.
  • The Czech Tax Department & the Foreign Police do not talk to each other or share information. However, it is a serious offence not to pay tax & therefore Caledonian start deducting tax from salaries of TEFL teachers before they have work permits, to avoid that the teachers or Caledonian get into trouble with the tax department.

These are the facts as the Caledonian School understands them. What now follows is my opinion.

  • I do still believe that the Language Schools were warned by the Foreign Police at the beginning of 2008, that the official rules were going to be enforced in future & they were given 12 months to get their act sorted out. There are references to this in the forum of the website. Caledonian, (and also the James Cook Language School), just didn’t believe that the Foreign Police would do it. I also believe that leaving it 7 weeks between completing the course & applications being submitted just made the situation worse.
  • I also believe that because of what has happened to Karen, Anna & their colleagues, Caledonian have been forced to change their procedures. The ‘proof of the pudding will be in the eating’ as the saying goes, but I do think that Caledonian have now got an agreed framework for visas with the Foreign Police that should work in the future.
  • Whilst I do think Caledonian are now trying to make amends for their past mistakes, I do note (and pointed out to Ms Kubátová) that both Karen and Anna have suffered financially as a result of all of this & whilst it is great that there will be jobs waiting for both of them on their return, they still have to support themselves over the intervening 60+ days since they were forced to leave the Czech Republic. Also, they both lost the flats that they had here in Prague. I did get an acknowledgement from Ms Kubátová regarding this point.

Not only have I had the hierarchy of the Caledonian School after me, I have also been contacted by an American student who has signed up with Caledonian for a TEFL teaching course in August this year and by a College Career Counsellor from an American University. You can see their respective comments on my previous posts. I’ve written back by email, offering what information and help I can to them both.

So it is that, much to my genuine surprise, what was originally planned as a newsy update for friends, relatives and former parishioners, has also created a few ripples both here in Prague and the USA. I’ve discovered the power of blogging!!!!

8 comments to Discovering the Power of Blogging!!!

  • Hi Ricky,
    It’s great to hear that you’re learning about the power of the blog! And that you’ve taken an active part in trying to help solve this situation. I feel so sorry for all of those who were forced to leave. When Karen left, I lost a friend…and am hoping she will be back!

    We have an update about WBSD you can read here:

    We also have a reporter for WBSD–Thandelike–you can read about her on the post, too. Here’s the bio to include for Thandelike (along with a backlink): Anastasia Ashman is an American cultural producer based in Istanbul, and is a creator of Expat Harem, the anthology by foreign women about modern Turkey. Her Tweetstream focuses on women, travel and history and she shares resources for writers/travelers, expats, Turkophiles & culturati of all stripes.

    If it would be easier to email about WBSD, please send me a note!

    Have a great day,
    Sher :0)

  • Ricky, I just want to say thank you to you and Sybille for all of your support. Both of you have soooo been there for Anna and me. As you have discovered the power of blogging, I have discovered the power of a community of faith. Never in my life have I felt so supported. Truthfully though, I never reached out before and given a community of faith a chance to support me emotionally as I go through something. Thank you.

  • Ricky, a case well presented and a satisfactory outcome in one sense. Blogging is a powerful tool especially when used in a good cause. The bottom line for me however is that the employer got it wrong and should have fully compensated the students.

  • Ricky

    @Sher – I’m just glad that it does look as though this whole mess is going to be sorted out. However, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place! Please note I now have a WBSD logo displayed on my front page!

    @Karen – That’s what I and the St. Clement’s congregation are here for. Don’t be afraid to hassle Caledonian to in turn, hassle the Foreign Police to process your new visa application quickly!

    @Mike – I agree. Both ladies are going to be out-of-pocket because of all of this and they shouldn’t be.

  • A job well done. My blog is supposed to be for exactly this kind of thing, and I’m not sure I’ve achieved anything yet! I think a lesson for all of us is that a blog is most powerful when it is used in conjunction with the phone, face to face contact etc.

    If you ever find out about a school that is incorrigible, let me know and I’ll publicize it on mine

  • Hi Ricky,
    Thanks so much for putting the WBSD logo on your blog! That will help alot!!

    And again, it’s great to see that you and Sybille are so very supportive of those in your care. We’re blessed to have you both!

    Have a great day,

  • Hello Ricky,
    Bravo! I was extremely interested in your posts regarding the events surrounding Karen and Anna and was upset that they were sent back home. It’s very difficult for Americans to get their paperwork to work legally and if a school promises assistance, and then fails to follow through, it’s extremely costly to the applicant. Thank goodness you wrote about it, it came to Caledonian’s attention, and they had to do something about it to counter the publicity. You’ve helped a LOT.

  • Enduring

    Hello, Thank you so much for posting information about Karen and Anna, they are wonderful people and my respected colleagues. I am one of the unfortunate who have endured the bureaucracy not only of the foreign police but of Caledonian School. I have had to return to the states and work part time jobs until they get their act together. I am sad to report Caledonian school has not changed. They are still up to their dishonest ways hurting people financially and offering empty promises as a way to lure recent college graduates, retirees and others to dole out thousands of dollars for a certificate only to have to return to the US and Canada after 6 to 8 weeks.