Sunday, April 9, 2017

My New Job

I've always told my kids that they should never quit a job unless they have one to go to. As I counsel them, so I hold myself: leaving this gig in less than three months means I have to secure something before I board the plane out of here.

Actually, I've been in the market for a new job since last December, and the growing trend of online education seems promising. Curmudgeon that I am becoming, I probably wouldn't mind not having to step into a classroom (or office or other workspace) in order to get paid. In fact, I've long been thinking of transitioning completely to an online persona in order to suit my desire to vagabond.

I have to wonder: am I becoming curmudgeonly because of the way things are here, or have I secretly been a curmudgeon all along, only now permitting that aspect of myself to emerge because it is more forgivable to be a crabby old woman than a crabby young woman?

I guess we'll see, when I leave here: will I still be ill-humored?

Quite frankly, the best and widest variety of teaching jobs, online or in a classroom, is in China. However, seeing as I cannot physically be here (and, at this point no longer want to be here), teaching Chinese students online will mean that I will have to adjust my schedule to Beijing time no matter where in the world I am. Online teaching hours are generally from 6 to 9PM.

Some places wouldn't be too bad, such as America's east coast, which is only twelve to thirteen hours behind China, depending on daylight saving time. However, at least for a time, I anticipate being on America's west coast, which means that I will have to be up and enthused at around 2AM. That's something to look forward to.


But I need a job. And, let's face it: jobs don't get easier to come by as you get older (I think I already mentioned that in a past entry). And here's another factor that might cause me problems on the job market: I am not the most highly educated person in the world, and the sad truth is that, it doesn't matter how talented, experienced and capable you are. If you don't have the right degree listed on your resume, you won't even be considered for a position.

And so you can imagine how giddy with relief I was when I nailed my online interview last December, with an upstarting company out of MIT – yes, that would be Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who are coordinating native English speakers for Chinese students. And then came trouble.

Apparently, the company embraces blue polo shirts as a uniform of sorts. I am to make a video and post a profile picture, wearing such a shirt. Furthermore, I should be so-clad when demonstrating my teaching skills online, prior to signing a contract. The problem is that my wardrobe is seriously lacking in blue shirts because blue is not my color. I am not going to refuse a job simply because the uniform is blue, so the hunt was on for a blue polo shirt.

Being much bigger than most Chinese, finding any type of clothing to fit me is a challenge, never mind a blue polo shirt in the middle of winter. It took me until March to find a suitable shirt, and that was right around the time the company emailed me: I hadn't scheduled my teaching demo yet (a necessary step prior to actual hire). What is the delay?

Communication seems to be lacking in this company (oh, the irony of an online company failing to communicate!). I had been keeping my recruiter up to date on my blue shirt search but she apparently hadn't informed the manager, who was asking me why I hadn't held my demo class. Upon hearing my shirt dilemma, he assured me I could demo without a blue shirt, and so I scheduled my mock class posthaste.

And failed it.

I did make the disclaimer at the outset of the venture that I could not view the training videos, as they are on YouTube, which is inaccessible here. When I had pointed that out to my recruiter (in the states), she forwarded my concern to the Chinese contingent, who made the videos available to me on their cloud storage. Baidu (pronounded 'by-do'), China's answer to Google, demanded that I download their cloud player in order to watch the videos. I choose to not download anything from Baidu as it is so intrusive: there is not so much as a popup blocker. Were I to download anything, I would be assailed with constant popups.

And who knows what else Baidu would install on my computer.

I should tell you that we went back and forth on the demo class scheduling. In all, I think we scheduled and rescheduled five times over the period of one month before we finally synced our calendars. After all of that effort, it was disappointing to have 'failed'. The evaluator assessed me at forty-seven points out of a possible sixty, and sent me a critique of my performance. He did note that I was not able to watch the training videos and that most likely impacted my score.

But I need a job!

Fortunately, the company invited me to try again. We back and forth'ed again, this time four reschedules, before getting together. And this time, it was a different evaluator. She sneezed, sniffed and coughed throughout my demo, so much so that I interrupted my 'show' to ask if she was OK. She averred it was only allergies but, ten minutes into my spiel, she ended the mock class by asking me to reschedule. The next day she sent me the evaluation form from my first mock class, with the exact same ratings and critiques, albeit with the date changed to reflect my latest effort.

By now I'd had enough of this monkey outfit. Sure, I need a job but if they can't get it together for a simple teaching demo, how could I be assured they would even pay me on time and correctly? I started combing the internet for other job possibilities that very night.

The next morning, bleary-eyed from having job searched past midnight, I logged into my email and saw: “So sorry... We are a start-up company... I was happy to let the software do the work... letting qualified teachers such as you slip through the cracks... changed assessment parameters to include scores between 40 and 60... If you'd still like the job...”

I will be in Oregon in 3 months, and essentially in transit for the next 6 to 9 months. No matter where I hang my hat for that time, I will have to be up at 1AM and blasting enthusiam to small Chinese children on the other side of the world. Whether I stay at my son's house or find a roommate arrangement, my anticipated solution to being transient, I will be bothering somebody in the middle of the night.

There are other jobs. Not necessarily teaching jobs, which I feel I am a bit burned out on. Jobs like translating and proofreading and editing of journals: things I've been doing, here and there, since I've been here. In fact, some of my edited work has been published in trade papers. Why not explore that?

But I need a job, and they are offering me a job. Why not take it and see how it works out?   

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