Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Precarious Position as a Cover Teacher

            The door to my office, which I share with several other teachers, says 'no students allowed'. I always pause there and I'm like, oh yeah, I'm not in college anymore. It's a weird feeling to be teaching at a University when those years are not that far behind me. Or not teaching, as the case may be.

            My typical day goes like this:

            I get up at about 4:30 am because the bus leaves at about 6:15 and I'm paranoid about being late/missing something. I have to make sure I've got everything I need for the whole day (breakfast, lunch), because the bus arrives back at my 'hotel' at around 5pm. I spend about 11 hours at work. Soon I will have to get on the bus at 5:50 am because I'm supposed to be on the morning shift.

            We spend anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours on a cramped bus, basically waiting in traffic, to get to work.

            When we finally arrive, I sit at my desk. And wait.

            I don't do anything else. Because there are too many teachers, not everyone has classes. We are permanently on cover duty – or “substitute teaching” as we Americans say. This is fine except that people are not often absent. At least not to the point that they require me to teach.

            I've been working here a week and a half and I've only taught one class. I haven't even seen inside any of the course books. I am so very useless.

            There is a rumor circulating that they have over-hired (which is obvious to anyone with general skills of observation) and they are making up a list if people who they will fire (which is obvious to anyone with general skills of deduction). I am, unfortunately, not that secure in my job because, though I was told I only needed one year of teaching experience, since I have arrived, people have made it clear that I actually need two. I have about one and a half years English teaching experience, and two and a half general teaching experience. This may or may not be a problem for me. It’s too soon to tell.

            Either way, it's a great source of anxiety. I'm avoiding doing anything too permanent because I'm pretty much convinced I'll be deported at any second.

            And to think, I could have been at IH Moscow right now.

            Some people are jumping ship, some people (like me) are trying to be useful while just nervously fretting about their jobs. No one is entirely happy.

            So what do I fill my days up with? Well, I chat in the resource room with some of the other teachers, who are a lot of fun. I go for two hour coffee breaks and three hour lunches. We go for walks in the sunshine to get our daily dose of Vitamin D (contrary to popular belief, I am not getting a tan here, because I am always covered. Lack of sun is becoming a real problem). And we plan parties on the roof of our building or shopping trips to a nearby mall. But most of the time, I just sit at my desk and write.

            Even if I did have a class, that would be for about three hours a day. The other five hours would be devoted to sitting. But I would at least have something to work on instead of hoping no one is looking over my shoulder and reading my blog.

            At the end of the day, I get on the bus (4pm sharp or they will drive away without me) and take the one and a half hour drive home.

            When I get back to my apartment, I usually hook my computer up and watch something, or paint, or read, or cook dinner, etc. During the day I am all talked out so I don't really seek the company of my neighbors. But sometimes they come and get me and socializing is unavoidable. In fact, for most of the time I've been here, I've been over at someone's house or another to eat/talk/drink tea.

            My apartment, when I got there, was pretty bare. I had four tables in the living room but nowhere to sit. I thought this was a Kingdom thing and was prepared to accept it. But then the residence coordinator came in and shouted 'Where is all your furniture?!' after which, there was a sofa brought to my room.

            Yesterday, I got a microwave, and there are rumors of them building a gym in one of the empty rooms. Dare I believe we will one day have a washer?

            The other day, I was electrocuted by my own stove top. I had a pot on one of the burners and when I went to take it off, I got a shock. Thinking it was just rather strong static electricity, I touched it again and it was like those joke pens people make you use that give you an electric shock when you try and click it. I turned the stove off and called the doorman (his job has many descriptions) who suggested, quite seriously, that I invest in some rubber shoes.

            EDIT: Since I wrote this, I have been given a class and I definitely feel more secure in my job. This was written in a very dark period. Things are better now! Apparently, there is a list of people to be sent home, but I'm not on it. I am not, in fact, the most unqualified person here for a change. More positive posts to come.

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