Sunday, October 26, 2008

Your Correspondent's Latest Attempt at Being A Successful Wage Slave: The Story So Far

We moved here because the mother-in-law is frail and elderly, and needed us down-the-street rather than four hours away. I was very pleased to get five weeks pre-sessional teaching at a Major Scottish University (MSU). I got another week at the end of the pre-sessional as a nominal ESOL teacher to a group of Japanese students; in fact, I mostly supervised them around places like Glasgow School of Art and Stirling Castle. I enjoyed all of this, more or less.

And then I was really chuffed to find that there was a thing called (or any rate this is what I'm going to call it) the Strathclyde International Institute. This was not-quite part of the University. It's role was to put international students through a term or two's course which would put them onto being able to join either undergraduate or masters' courses at MSU. The University was responsible for recruiting and paying the part time teachers who formed the bulk of the teaching staff. This ensured SII had "people we know and not just numpties off the street", as the DoS at MSU's EFL department explained to me.

Twenty "contact" (teaching) hours a week - which is about normal for most full-time teaching jobs, because with preparation and marking you can usually about double your actual teaching hours to see how much you're going to be working a week. Brilliant. Sorted. The work would last for at least two terms.

I'd like to say that I fell out of the loop at such-and-such a stage, but I never actually go into it. I couldn't attend the induction meeting because of the Japanese thing I was doing. I got a load of stuff emailed to me, and made a big blunder in not studying it more closely.

My first day, no-one knew who I was, there was absolute chaos in the office, very grumpy staff. I eventually found out that I was teaching in a MSU building about 20 mins walk away. Arriving there late and stressed I was met by the Big Cheese of MSU's EFL department in a very bad and sarcastic mood indeed. Her humour didn't improve when I had to do some photocopying - she didn't see why MSU should pay for SII's photocopying. It was then, on my first day, before I'd even eyeballed my first class, that I got the impression that all wasn't well.

It took them weeks to sort out registers. And the building wasn't ready, so I was mostly in the MSU building. I didn't get a desk or even a share of one. I did get a big plastic box, (not unlike the thousands I handled during that recycling job). The first couple of weeks, there were no books.

But I've been teaching for years and I know how English works well enough that I can work my way through a book with a class without - I'd say - anybody knowing I haven't exactly done a lot of prep. So it was ok for a while.

The wheels started to come off around week four. I've got four different classes, and each one had a different "portfolio" - work they had to do for assessment. I started to miss portfolio deadlines and I was getting very muddled. It was all down to disorganisation. This I put down to not having a space - neither real nor virtual - to get myself organized. When I tried to explain this to Wee Cheese, who, I suppose, is my only point of contact, he said that it was the same for all "part timers", the cheeky little blighter.

So, I'm really bogged down and I'm going to have to put in a lot of hours next week to catch up. Which is not a cheery prospect because I don't like the staffroom. And there's no respite, because I've had to use my own email address for work communications, so it feels like I'm always there.

It's better than that recycling job, mind, and pays about three times as much.