Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A New Record?

Thursdays – how I've come to hate them!

This semester, that day is my busiest, with 3 classes, back to back (including a 2-hour lunch break between the second and third set). In spite of having requested no early classes because of my anticipated late night tutoring sessions online - what I had hoped would be my nest egg to fund the next step in my vagabond adventure, with the possibility of it turning into my sole means of support - I have early classes every single morning.

Come Thursdays, I am already through the ringer, what with having to get up early all week, something that is definitely not suited to my circadean clock.

And now, there are night and weekend classes! I knew to expect them sometime this semester because we had a meeting to kick off the Double Majors program our school has embraced just this year. Until now, David, one of the better teachers here, has spearheaded the extracurricular classes but he is now overwhelmed: his regular course load plus assisting graduating students with their theses.

The first night class, last week Tuesday, wasn't so bad, even though I wrapped my last regularly scheduled class of that day at 5:15 PM and had to be back to teach at 6:30, until 9PM. Getting up Wednesday morning for 2 back-to-back classes was a struggle, but all in all, it was not a bad experience.

And then, the night classes suddenly and mysteriously changed to Thursdays. And the afternoon class schedule changed too: sessions now start at 2PM instead of 1:45.

And I had promised to help tutor a former student with a speech she was to give in a few days' time.


Up at 6:20AM for some quiet time before the day's madness starts. Breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich, is included. And coffee. A BIG mug of coffee.

8:10AM – first class.

10:10AM – second class.

11:50AM – break for lunch. And I was hungry!

12:10PM – no gas to cook with! In spite of changing the meter's batteries, I couldn't get any flow. I resorted to heating a bratwurst in the microwave and ladling out a portion of potato salad that I had prepared last weekend in anticipation of this most hectic week.

12:30PM – just as I am preparing my plate, the phone rings. Long-graduated student and dear adopted daughter Vanessa was paying a surprise visit with her boyfriend! The call was not to notify me of a later visit; she and he were outside my door right now!

I wonder if the Chinese will ever learn that surprise visits are really rather rude?

We had a great visit, sadly cut short by my need to be back to teaching and by their need to catch their train back to Hangzhou. The downside is that I had no time for food. I offered my guests to share my lunch but they declined, and it would have been rude to eat in front of them.    

3:35PM – end of last class. The 7AM peanut butter sandwich long digested, I was dizzy and shaking from hunger. I jumped on my bike and steered towards home only to be accosted by Martina, the student I'd pledged to help that afternoon (before I knew the night class had been moved to Thursday).

I mumbled an excuse about not having had any lunch and rode home to wolf down a few bites of potato salad. The bratwurst was wasted: dried out and hard.

4:00PM – back at Teaching Building 3, room 106 to coach Martina with her speech.

5:00PM – wrapped up tutoring; rushed home for dinner. Fortunately there was gas to cook with. Grilled a couple of Brats and had more potato salad.

6:30PM – back in Teaching Building 3, this time on the 4th floor, for my night class. (Why all of the night classes seem to be held on the 4th floor is also a mystery but at least I am getting some after-dinner exercise by climbing all of those stairs.)

No one had told me where this group was, study-wise. The last night class I taught, the students were on unit 5 of the book I was provided; this group was on unit 4. I was completely unprepared. Still, we muddled through, even though I was visibly lagging during the last hour.

9:00PM – finally back home! Finally can take off my boots, change out of my jeans and remove supportive undergarments – although, after being in them for more than 14 hours straight, I can honestly tell you that they weren't all that supportive at that point; more like chafing.

Is fourteen hours in class a teaching record, or do I just feel like it should be?

Even when I was earning $1K a week, I didn't work this hard, in part because there are labor laws in other countries that prohibit working more than ten hours a day (with some exceptions, of course).

I find it ironic that, the first years I was here I begged the school to make more use of me. Now that I am fed up with being here, with my eye on what's next (What's Next is a good question...), I am now being made such hefty use of that I have no time to eat and I drag myself to bed at night.

I guess what Jonathan (Vanessa's boyfriend) said is true: the more adept you are, the more work you get saddled with. At the end of his tenure at the language training school he worked/met Vanessa at, he had been promoted to Teacher Supervisor and was putting in 14 and 16 hour days that included recruiting students and new teachers, as well as teaching as regular course load and covering for absent teachers. He finally quit, after being run completely into the ground.

That rule seems to be true everywhere. I too have witnessed better workers getting more assignments, simply because indolent workers can't be counted on. Which makes me wonder once again: what will this school do when they have no foreign teacher to overburden?    

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