Sunday, November 3, 2013

Occupational Hazard

So i'm rather snarky on Facebook, I know, and some people have asked me whats going on at work to make me so snarky. I thought i'd relay one of the more recent anecdotes so that people can get a taste. As of 15 minutes ago we emailed the complaint letter which we all signed, to our boss, the principal and the chairman of the school. That letter (which I wrote...and my Chinese translation of it will also be made available below ^_^) The letter was signed by all 5 members of the staff ~ I don't want to put their signatures up on a random blog though... The sixth slot was signed "absent" ~ another nudge at... "hey... remember that bit where we're supposed to have a sixth teacher?" And the reason this blog is titled "Occupational Hazard" is that I realized just how dangerous I am to hire. I'm a decent teacher, but my more honed skills are language and social-organization skills. And this is what happens when those skills are put to use. Oh dear me... will I ever get another job?? (quite probably.) ----- The outgoing president of the PTA (parent teacher association) took the foreign office (and our associated Taiwanese/Chinese staff) out to an opulent dinner. It was one of those bribe-o-meals and he was "saying thanks" to us for doing a job and hoping that we would do an even better job. the PTA has one of those automatic espresso machines, and myself and the other teacher that works in the high-school side were going pretty regularly to chat and get coffee(2 teachers for about 900 students over the week) and he was giddy enough that he said he would be buying our office a coffee machine because we liked it so much. Nice gesture. As with any of these dinners as im sure you know, theres always nice meaningful(less) speeches of thanks and this and that. He didn't speak English really, so our boss was charged with translating... which we all thought was amusing because she did a painfully skimpy job with the meaning, and even the other staff noticed. We spent quite a while talking about it too... and I helped fill in gaps that she tried to duct-tape over with words like  "happy" and phrases like "thank you for your hard work" We'll he followed through not too long after with his 4,400RMB coffee machine Important detail, the teachers office is separate from the administrators/ chinese/taiwanese staff office (this is all under the one department in our school). So we were a bit naughty, and took the machine and installed it in our office. She wasn't there at the time. She comes back. She says that the whole dinner schebang was the PTA president giving her respect and asking her for a favor, and this coffee machine was a gift to her. "This machine is the property of the IEC (our department)" so it needs to be taken care of, and it should be in her office "so that everybody can use it."  I conveniently brought up that the other highschool teacher and I are required to start teaching on friday at 7:45am, before ANY other offices in the school open (to one of the lowest two level classes in the 11th grade... they don't even answer yes-no questions at that hour). She caved. Ok you can keep it in here. (point for me) Next day one of the other intermediary staff who helps us out and does this and that comes in with egg tarts for coffee time before classes start. A few minutes later, she comes in and says she wants to speak to me and my co-teacher when he comes in. Those of us in the office start speculating because gossip is fun, and we brush onto - is this about the machine schenanigans? no it cant be... why would she want to talk to us both at the same time if that was the case... and none of the other teachers.... dunno. we'll find out. Co-teacher shows up. We go in and... The PTA meal was there to give respect to me, and because of it, the president of the PTA is stressing me out and always asking for more more more. blah blah blah. This machine was given to me because he wants me to do more for the English program blah blah blah. And by taking this machine without asking me, you are disrespecting me. You're like two spoiled boys. You see something nice, and you just want to take it for yourself. And all this at 8:20... we have class at 8:40. The class I personally had was going to (and WAS) observed by she herself for professional development. Genius foresight.  We went and taught our full load (4 classes) doing our best to not think about how fast our hearts were beating that morning.  My co-teacher talked to her "as a friend" as he puts it. She later apologized for the timing and that was big of her. But she definitely planted a seed of contempt, particularly as that was something she couldn't restrain herself on after I am doing 5-7 more hours a week above my contract because she pissed one of the other teachers off before we even started the semester. And thats why we have a formal letter of complaint that we've written and we've all signed. oh and the only guaranteed OT pay i get is like 57RMB/Hour... which i told them was laughable and if anyone asked me to tutor their child for that much... I would actually laugh in their face and walk away. I'm supposedly guaranteed my bonuses and additional ones... we'll see on tuesday if they follow through. If they dont' there'll be a reckoning. -Peter P.S. I really shouldn't be hired by these people... i'm more trouble than i'm worth. It turns out that social and language skills are an occupational hazard. ----- Dear Maria Lu, 吕慧芬主任 The following is written on behalf of all of the foreign teachers. We who have signed below agree to the following and believe that it is important to very clearly state a number of concerns that we have and have been dealing with since the beginning of term. From the beginning of the semester, we have been very understanding of the difficulties that yourself and the IEC have faced. It is a difficult issue to find a replacement teacher in the outside of the normal pre-semester hiring seasons of summer and winter. It is not however impossible. We the remaining foreign teachers have all accommodated the extra classes and additional students into our schedules. This has however created a number of issues. Extra classes of course means completely separate planning periods are necessary. Double students in turn means double marking, particularly for each of the Bilingual teachers. This additional burden wears heavily on us teachers, and limits our ability to provide well planned and creative lessons. The students also receive a negative impact from the situation. Doubled class sizes in a class with the aim of encouraging conversation means that each student is getting less than half of the one on one attention they would be getting otherwise. They are also required to be in classes that may be less stimulating because teachers’ preparation and grading time is diminished and their attitudes are deteriorating. We as the teaching staff took on this additional work before the first week of classes as a short term solution. We expected that another teacher would be found to fill the necessary gap in our staffing. That gap has not been filled. We have instead been required to carry on wearily without even the hope that our contracted work hours would be given to us. The question we have all asked ourselves is how the solution would be solved if one of us were to become seriously ill, or if someone were to resign. How would the staffing problem be solved then? We expected the problem to be addressed with the same seriousness as either of those situations. It has not been. We do not feel that this situation is being treated with the appropriate seriousness, and the lack of sufficient action has lead to a stressful working environment and is hindering our ability to do our jobs to the best of our ability. Name: Name: Name: Name: Name: Name: (繁體版) 這封信是代表全體外教的心聲和思想。下面簽名的諸位同意這封信的內容而且認為向我們的管理層負責解釋以下情況是很重要的。這些事情是從開學的時候直到現在有的。 開學時我們很理解立刻招聘一位外教對我們的部門帶來的麻煩和壓力是不小的,特別在學期中。不過, 招聘一位外教並不是不可能的。 我們剩下的這些外教都接受了那些額外的課和學生。這一切對我們的課程, 備課,安排等都有影響。多加上的幾節課代表老師也需要多幾小時安排。多加的學生也代表老師需要修改更多的功課。這種影響對資源班老師更大。這增加的負擔對老師很有影響而且也造成對我們備課,上課等質量的降低。 學生也是因這種情況受到不好的影響。兩倍大的口語課就意味每一位學生隻能接受一半的注意和培訓支持。同學也需要接受越來越簡單,沒趣的課因為老師的備課時間已經被用完。因此老師及全班都感覺難過。 最初我們接受加課是為了暫時滿足課程的需要。我們都在期待必要的那一位新老師的到來。可是這一位一直沒有出現。我們還是在渴望的期待,即使我們的工作量超過了, 而且還是沒有將來接受幫助的盼望。 我們都在想,如果任何一位外教生嚴重的病,或者有人辭職,怎麼辦?主任會怎麼樣解決問題?我們都認為主任會去想這個問題,並設法趕快找到一位老師。但是,在我們看來主任並沒有這麼處理問題。 我們都認為這件事情沒有得到令人滿意或認真或嚴肅的看待。這一切給我們很多壓力而且妨礙我們做最專業的老師。 简体(原版) 这封信是代表全体外教的心声和思想。下面签名的诸位同意这封信的内容而且认为向我们的管理层负责解释以下情况是很重要的。这些事情是从开学的时候直到现在有的。 开学时我们很理解立刻招聘一位外教对我们的部门带来的麻烦和压力是不小的,特别在学期中。不过, 招聘一位外教并不是不可能的。 我们剩下的这些外教都接受了那些额外的课和学生。这一切对我们的课程, 备课,安排等都有影响。多加上的几节课代表老师也需要多几小时安排。多加的学生也代表老师需要修改更多的功课。这种影响对资源班老师更大。这增加的负担对老师很有影响而且也造成对我们备课,上课等质量的降低。 学生也是因这种情况受到不好的影响。两倍大的口语课就意味每一位学生只能接受一半的注意和培训支持。同学也需要接受越来越简单,没趣的课因为老师的备课时间已经被用完。因此老师及全班都感觉难过。 最初我们接受加课是为了暂时满足课程的需要。我们都在期待必要的那一位新老师的到来。可是这一位一直没有出现。我们还是在渴望的期待,即使我们的工作量超过了, 而且还是没有将来接受帮助的盼望。 我们都在想,如果任何一位外教生严重的病,或者有人辞职,怎么办?主任会怎么样解决问题?我们都认为主任会去想这个问题,并设法赶快找到一位老师。但是,在我们看来主任并没有这么处理问题。 我们都认为这件事情没有得到令人满意或认真或严肃的看待。这一切给我们很多压力而且妨碍我们做最专业的老师。

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Of Thorns and Fences

This blog needs a bit of a prologue, because it may not make complete sense with out a bit of context. The following is excerpts and adaptations of a letter I sent to my sister, but it explains a lot of why I haven’t been blogging for a rather long time, or at least leads to the areas of my life that have led to the non-bloggage. The original letter was a fair bit more transparent, but I don’t really want to share those details with community of readers, because it was a personal affair, and therefore ain’t none-yo dam buziness. There will be times (despite my efforts) that you’ll see the second person used in a very direct way. Its a letter, and there were times where changing the direction for a general audience would kill the meaning, so I left them. Otherwise, be aware that there are some gaps in this blog, but I hope that you can benefit from the roads that i’ve gone down in life. Here’s to growing, and becoming the person you want to be~ - - - - - - - - --- - - - - - - - - I’ve recently been reading the 5th Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix) in Mandarin (like 20% through woop woop!). Towards the end of the 4th book I started thinking Harry was kind of a whiney bitch and I wasn’t really appreciating his attitude. However, as I get into book five I realize that maybe the reason I think he’s a whiney bitch is because I have the same line of reasoning that he does in a lot of situations, like an embarrassing amount of his inner dialogue in book 5 is stuff i’ve felt/thought before and or am thinking now. Maybe thats everybody, and that might explain why J.K. Rowling is the wealthiest author, I believe in the history of the world...She’s a saint in my eyes at least. I keep on walking down this path of life and I find that I’m not following the lessons i’ve learned from the past. There are nuggets of wisdom that i’ve been blessed to discover, or have had shown to me, and some of those things are as follows: feeling is better than not ~ even if it sucks communication is better than ignorance ~ always I was taking a shower a minute ago and had one of those stereotypical shower-epiphanies. I’ve been envying Harry Potter because of his legitimate shitty mood and I was wishing that I had good reasons to have a shitty mood. HAH! wrap your mind around that one for me if you will. Then it became conscious to me that I was envying him. Then I took one step further and asked myself why i’ve not been “living” enough to have mountains and valleys of feeling. And thats when I put my foot in the pile of a shitty situation that it is and accepted within myself that i’ve been putting up fences left and right to keep myself safe. I’m an old man. I’m now at a stage of life where I subconsciously believe that routine, fences and boundaries of many types make your life better. They help avoid destruction, and slow growth is better than destruction right? (The little ghost that hides in my ribs is making a ruckus telling me I’m full of shit.) On his soap-box a man who thought he was “setting me straight” told me that the difference between children and adults is impulse and habits. Children act on their impulses and just do whatever, and when you start making habits and get into a routine is when you become an adult. Its one definition, one that I totally reviled at the time of course, but he definitely has a sort of point. What I’m trying to get at with all this babble is that i’m an old man, but not the type of old man that I always wanted to be as that kid running around in a speedo. I’ve put up fences and decided that communicating with you is not the best thing for me to do. But here I am on the cusp of a cliff realizing that I’m killing off part of who I am by not communicating to some of the people closest to me because of burns that i’ve taken in some of the exchanges that i’ve been a part of. Its all my choice, whether I do or dont reach out for that communication. I’m not innocent. I’ve done my share of throwing fire too, but one learns either way to give wide breadth to a hot stove when they see one. My logic has been that 80-90% of the time I don’t have anything nice to say, so I just shouldn’t. Adding to that with my two cents is doing these people no service, and in fact is much more of a disservice in many cases. ~~~ I also feel it prudent at this second to say that i’ve only had 1 beer tonight, and even that was 4 hours ago so this isn’t booze talking. ~~~ Honestly ~ when I need to get something done, I have to channel you with my Ouija Board and black candles. For instance, when I had to defraud my last company in order to get money that I was contractually owed (therefore its not actually fraud... btw...). I had to book a flight, send the receipt to the HR department, call Delta, get to the right people, explain in my most composed customer service persona that I no longer needed the ticket, and thus get my money refunded in full. I myself and only me couldn’t or perhaps at least wouldn’t have done that. But you left a mark. How dare you :p I really am a vindictive creature sometimes. My 2nd year in China helped me realize that a lot. That was when I was escaping my vicious boss, maybe you remember. The reason I realized how vindictive I could be is because I was able to anticipate all of the nasty things she would want to do after I left her company, and prepare for them or avoid them all-together. If I could anticipate those things and have incite into the way those thoughts work though, that shows you how much my brain can work that way though. Daniel (Lion’s den, that one....) had a phrase in one of this prayers that I really appreciated. When God revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and its meaning he said... (among other things) “... he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 2:22” I hope to be a person that “light dwells with,” but as of yet, there is still a lot of my heart that lies in darkness, and I can be a very bitter creature. Thats another of those fences that God is going to have to help me over, because otherwise part of me very much so wants to hold onto my bitterness. I find it validating. To grieve when you’re offended, to hate when you’ve been wronged, its what you’re entitled to right? those are the rules. The rules say I get to feel this way. Small consolation though, and in the end it doesn’t really bring you anything that you get to keep. You just get to stay at the same level, or go back, no moving forward. Its really the same problem that I had with Korea. I had my preconceived notions about what was going to happen. Those things didn’t happen, and instead, I got bitten like 50 times in the ass because of the way I was going about things. So instead of continuing to learn I subconsciously put up a granite wall, because why the @#(% would I want to persevere through that to better understand people I DONT like? Fuck that AND them. And that attitude RUINED a lot. It distracted me from the fact that I had a gazillion friends while I was in Korea, and had a large number of really unique experiences while I was there. But I burn’t my fingers on the stove, so fuck cooking! I went back to Korea last year for a friends wedding (after a year of being away from Korea) and I saw the country with a rather different set of eyes. I’d be lying if I said they were completely different, but its true that it was RATHER different. I met some amazing people, because of the friends that I was blessed with the first time around. And even tonight, as I sit here pulling this thorn out of my heart, I have to admit that I’m tangibly excited when I hear Korean, or see Korean people/ Korean things. Its like theres this awkward dichotomy between wanting to dislike them and at the same time having a sort of natural resonance with what they are. I think my personality and natural state is a little too close to Korean culture, but I wasn’t willing to adapt to some key issues in their way of viewing the world, and they (as a society) sure as hell weren’t willing to adapt to mine (hah~ what a farfetched notion eh? an entire society changing to fit my world-view...) All that is to say, Prejudice, Fences and lashing back at offenses that I TAKE are becoming more of a theme in my life, and its ruining whole swatches of my human experience. I can’t say that I’ll let down my guard, but I can say that I will keep looking for ways to get over and I don’t know how to finish that sentence. That was a really difficult and uncomfortable moment. I actually recoiled and my shoulders tightened as I tried to find the words to finish it. All this is like textbook explanation of the parable of the sower by the way. I never really understood it, but the more I wrestle with my decrepit values, the more I understand just how much I’m missing, and just how much I need what God is giving. So parable of the sower ~ scattering seed, some falls on the road to be eaten by birds, some falls on the rocky zone, grows up quickly and withers quickly b/c it has no root, some falls among the thorns ~ which also grow up, and choke the plants, and then there is the seed that grows in the good soil where it produces a massive crop. I am those thorns. Left to myself, without “the love I need to see me through” that Florence + the Machine sing about, i’d choke the life out of every last worthwhile thing. These thorns want to grow up too. As I go to write down in my little book the connection between the parable I was just writing about, I notice that not too long ago, there was another quote that caught my attention, and i’ll write it down here for you so that you can see some of the continuity that i’ve got going on in my life (at least on paper.). “Break up your unplowed ground, and do not sow among thorns... circumcise your hearts... or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done - burn with no one to quench it.” (Jeremiah 4:3) So here is me, trying to pull up some of the thorns that I tend.