Thursday, September 30, 2010

No more classes, no more books...

No more students' dirty looks.

This is the second time I've really slept in since arriving in Shanghai. No sooner had I straightened out the issue over which I've been waking up early than our 8-day stretch began. Yes, you read that correctly - 8 days. They are making us make up our holidays. After day 5 I was feeling pretty bitter over the whole thing; luckily that was the night I talked to my Dark Lord and Master, and HE reminded me that he regularly works 8-day stretches. I've never done more than 6, even in retail...the whole "Sabbath is a day of rest" thing is a wonderful part of my religion.

Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to be out of there at 2:45 yesterday. On the other hand, that was a bone of contention as well. The GOVERNMENT mandated that the schools should close early the last two days (traffic flow problems with people leaving for National Day). Mine ignored the issue on Wednesday. I'm not sure how they can get away with that, but obviously, they have.

I guess this is the first time that I've written much about the school. I'm so much more motivated this year, and the fact that I have most of the year groups and that we don't even teach the youngest three ages we had in RAK makes my life much more interesting. But on the other hand, I definitely have some issues. They've been renovating the gym and pool, and done a beautiful job, but it wasn't finished until a week ago, so I had to teach in a temporary classroom, with all the hassles that come with it (including getting out of it on fairly short notice). Not to even mention the fact that when I finally got into my art room it was in such a mess that I am STILL trying to get it into a reasonable semblance of order. Maddi Austin, I hope you rot in art teacher hell for what you left me with. You think I'm being harsh? When I got into that room, all the tables were pushed in the middle and stacked on top of each other, the other furniture was pushed up to the pile, all the supplies were thrown willy-nilly into tubs with very little rhyme or reason, and the waste - OH THE WASTE! On top of that, there were no new supplies ordered for me - I've had* to clean up her shit and make it work. So yes, I wish her classes of 30 students in which they do only papier mache for the rest. Of. Her. Life.

Then there's the ESL issue. In our first specialists meeting, our PYP coordinator dropped the bomb that we foreign specialists were to be the ESL team's backup - they are a teacher short, and we have the free periods in our timetables. Their leader told me that I would probably only be teaching one ESL lesson a week, and I was fine with it. A week later ESL and PYP came to me and told me I'd be taking the kindergarten four times a week for ESL, and I was still kinda okay with that. I actually started testing them to see who needed the help, and found it to be a calming experience. But testing requires a lot less time and energy than teaching, and when I heard that class was going to be split, I could have shat rainbows. See, the kindergarten gets art twice a week, so my timetable was going to be way too full for me to take them for ESL. And during this neverending bloody week, as I've been finishing up units and really hitting my stride in my art lessons, I was super glad that I wouldn't have to plan and write ESL lesson plans, and assess them, and write feckin' report cards. I would have SO much more time to concentrate on being a really GOOD art teacher.

Hold that thought for a minute.

Now, while you're on hold, let me tell you about the Chinese/art teacher. We have one, and he has been sharing year groups with the art coordinator. This year he has 2 of our year 3 classes, and I have the other, which means he should be doing the planning; however, since he began at the school he has been coddled and coached and never actually made to stand on his own two feet. When I asked him to collaborate with me on this grade at the beginning of the year, he told me Maddi had planned the lessons and he taught them...and since I would rather have someone teach my lessons than have to teach theirs, I went along. Until the day he came to me and told me he was going to do something different in his next week's classes. At that point, I went to the PYP coordinator and asked her exactly how she wanted things done; if I was going to bully him, I wanted to be sanctioned in doing so. Instead I was told that he needed to collaborate with me, but the planning and paperwork and ordering were his responsibility. Which was fine with me. But early last week, as I was starting to plan my next units, I said, "Gary, you need to start planning what you want to do with grade three." Late last week (ie, early in the 8-day stretch) I emailed him the unit overview we do for the year groups, with an email explaining what is was and when they needed it. Midstream in this ongoing hell, I went to him again, asking what he was going to do. He asked me if I had any ideas. Rather than telling him, "Yes, Gary but they are MINE!" I referred him to the year group leader, who spoke of wanting some art integration with their unit on mapping. An email from the group leader, another talk with PYP, a unit overview and lesson plan written IN CHINESE, working with me AND Music (who is our specialist coordinator), and PYP decides to upend the entire timetable. Here is what she did:
Give Gary the whole of grade 2.
Give me all of year 3 and the 2 new hours of kindergarten.

Shall we do the math? Story problems are GREAT for teaching English!
Ms. Becky teaches 18 hours. She loses 4 classes to her idiot coworker. Then she gains 2 classes from her idiot coworker. Finally, kindergarten is split and gives her 2 new classes. How many classes does she have now?

Think about it....did you come up with the same number you started with? So did I, and the fact that the email PYP sent out listed "accommodating more students in the ESL program" as the reason for the change makes me PRETTY sure that even though ESL isn't on my official timetable that I'm about to get screwed over, and NOW I'm pissed, because I have WAY more hours than the other specialists as it is, and after eight days of teaching in a row my tolerance has snapped.

In the words of my immortal Dark Lord and Master...."WOO-SAAAAAAAAAAAAA...." So the moral of the story is, this vacation is well-deserved and even if I were staying here for the holiday, I would be happy just not to have to do anything with the school. As it is, I'm blowing out to Korea, to party with my nearest and dearest and eat dalkgalbi and just have an overall kickass time.


*"had" is probably too strong a word, but because I am a conscientious person I would never just scrap things and start over. Also because I believe that art teachers who waste supplies and order things they don't need give administrators just cause to believe that cutting art would be a great way to fix the budget.

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