I have to double plan this week (today) because we're headed to Beijing next week and we've got promotional teaching tomorrow and Thursday at a couple different public schools. This is different than the classes we had at the middle school and preschool. Our "classes" at this time are nothing more than demos intended to drum up business for the school. We're not teaching, we're selling fun and games for thirty minutes and then students fill out a form with their information, presumably so that ALWAYS can pester their parents about enrolling them.
What's worse? These demos are Christmas themed. So, while I'm already feeling incredibly down about the complete lack of holiday cheer in my life, I get to go sell a convoluted version of it to classrooms full of kids.
I think the right side of my sinuses (my right sinus?) is infected. I wore a mask 99% of the time I was outside during the really bad air (and I wear a mask generally). The only exception was when I walked about 30 feet to cross between buildings a couple of times. I have a killer sinus headache and I'll spare you the other details that have led me to the conclusion that it's infected.
Since I'm in a pretty foul mood these days, I thought I'd visit the Jecheon blog (from our time in Korea in 2009-2010) and compare. Granted, we were about to head off to Tokyo for vacation, so it's not exactly a fair comparison.
My impressions of my former self:
DEC 11 2009: "My day was a little chaotic because Julia, Gene and Terry were all there for most of the day. Gene told me that the principles want him fired because our classes haven't changed since he was hired. He is frustrated that they want things to be made perfect so quickly. I am frustrated because I feel like my classes have improved immensely in my three months of teaching; but, it doesn't seem to make any real difference. I told Gene that while Ian and I like Korea, we are frustrated by the business culture here and that we are tired of being treated like children."
I'm very happy that ALWAYS is such a well run school and that we don't have to deal with a poorly organized administration like we did at Yoon's. There's a lot to be thankful there. It's also nice to be confident in my skills now that I've been TEFLized.
DEC 8 2009: "My day was pretty average. A girl from my last class told me that she is going to the states in January to do something with NASA. She was apparently chosen because she is smart and good at science, but she couldn't tell me why or exactly where she was going. I Googled for any information and I even searched the NASA website, but I couldn't find anything. I'm incredibly curious; the girl is about thirteen."
I never found out any more from her. The only good thing about Yoon's was that the classes were mostly small enough for me to really get to know my students. Here, the majority of my classes are 20-25 students, so, with a few exceptions, I don't even know their names (Ian and I each have well over 450 students total). My Interchange (Cambridge) classes are my favorite for this reason. A couple of them have less than 10 students.
DEC 9 2009: "We're not exactly privy to even some of the most basic information regarding the day to day happenings of our job." This is still absolutely true here. I've learned to roll with a little, but it's not natural for me. Luckily, our relationship with ALWAYS allows me to say things like, "I really like to be able to plan," and they actually do their best to give me advance notice. "My last class was a little strange today. When I went to the classroom at 7:30 no one was there. So, I picked up my book and sat and read while I waited. Chun wha called parents. Just when I was starting to wonder how I'd pass the time until I met Ian at the grocery store, one of my students, Kyle, walked in. No early dismissal for me. Chun wha told me that one student would be absent and the other would show up in ten minutes." That would never fly at ALWAYS, it's the one benefit of large class size minimums. "Terry called Ian on not using worksheets like he is supposed to. He said that I always use them and wondered why Ian doesn't. Ian said that he is really unorganized and has a hard time planning things like that, while I find it pretty easy. Terry said that it was probably because I'm a woman. Oh, Korea." Oh man, how I miss worksheets. We don't even have access to printers at ALWAYS. I make worksheets for my small New Parade class by hand. I hate the Smartboard. It doesn't encourage conversation and instead encourages TTT (teacher talking time) to go through the roof. I'm sure it could be a great tool, but the way we use them at our school isn't incredibly productive and makes for lazy teaching. Sexism was rampant in Korea. It is here, too. But, they don't say those things to foreigners. China has dealt with the West long enough to understand that certain things upset foreigners. So, whatever thoughts they have, they don't really share them with us (aside from the notion that women shouldn't drink cold water, of course).
DEC 13 2009: "Ian and I didn't drink much, just some crappy, watery beer, but we were out singing and laughing heartily until 6am." 6 am? Like, in the morning? Who even is this person? That's a time to get up, not get in! Why are you looking at me like that? Did I get old?
If you want to check out our past adventures in Korea this link will take you to the December 2009 archives.
Well, that little blast from the past cheered me up a bit. The fact that I'm nostalgic for what was an absolutely terrible year is a red flag. I didn't write about my feelings much (though I wrote every day), but each day in Korea was a hardship.
I love my job at ALWAYS, but it's only two days a week. I really hate the way the extra stuff (like promotional teaching) gets scheduled at the last minute, but I also hate that I spend damn near every day sitting in my apartment. Our schedules (with Ian's Tuesday night classes) make even short trips difficult and since we've yet to find Reeves a forever home (and I can't send him back to the shelter in good conscience), we're not very mobile anyway. Jinan is not very fun to walk around due to it's size and traffic. But the air quality makes even local exploration unrealistic.
Basically, living in China has not lived up to expectations. It's not my employers' fault. It's not China's fault. It's my fault. When we were in Prague, I had a vague sense that I was headed the wrong direction and I should have trusted my gut. Even by that point though, I'm not sure it would have done any good. The decision had already been made and I never took the time to think through the whole of it. I've got a difficult couple of years ahead with finishing the contract here and then living without Ian while I study stateside. It's tough to see any light at the end of the tunnel and not think about how much time I've been wasting since I got out of school.
I'm envious of the Casey that wrote those posts in 2009. I wish I had a little of that naivete and optimism to carry me through until I reach what feels like my true starting point. When I was younger I always felt ahead of the curve, and damn it, how I want that feeling back.
And, no, I don't entertain the notion that I'm unique in any of this. This is the late twenties for "the millennials," a title I resent for our generation due to how we're abhorred in the media. We're over-educated and underemployed with too much time for all the introspection (which we were taught was so important) that leads us to wonder why we're just not living up to the generations before us. Why do we struggle so much with satisfaction?
Let's end on a lighter note, shall we? Here's a video of a student of mine playing a game that looks like a hand version of Dance Dance Revolution on her iPad.