Friday 3 October 2014

USA - Here I come

Getting there.

My last working school day of the semester. I was very busy as I was trying to get things organised for second semester and ensuring that I could have a holiday and come back to school ready to go. I was pressed because when I booked my holiday in the USA, the school was unable to give me the dates for second semester and so I guessed the return date. As it happened the second semester started early and I did not actually return in time to start it.

Friday night there were some drinks with Expats but overall a quiet night. Cat, my girlfriend, joined me from Ayutthaya at about 10:30pm. We had a quiet night.

Saturday was my day for getting organised. Cat was both a help and a distraction. By mid afternoon bags were packed, clothes had been washed and dried and we both headed off to Ayutthaya. On a good day if the connections are working and traffic is light this trip takes about 4 hours door to door. This trip was a little longer, as we had to wait for a long time to get the minivan. It was late when we got to Ayutthaya.

Sunday was spent with Cat and is already a blur of temples, drinks, meals and a little relaxation.

Monday Cat went to work and I made my way to Bangkok. I had an early flight on Tuesday and a hotel booked near the airport. The hotel offered a shuttle bus service and I was booked for the 3am shuttle. Cat joined me in the evening after leaving work. Rather than do the sensible thing and have a quiet night we went out for a meal and stayed up till late watching "sing a song". We left about midnight, maybe we should have stayed longer and gone straight to the airport.

Tuesday was an early start, and a long day spent in aircraft. I departed Bangkok at 6am on a 10 hour flight to Tokyo, my connection was delayed an hour and then a further 7 hours to Seattle. With time zone changes it was only 9am Tuesday morning. "Three" hours after I left BKK.

At Seattle Airport I met Susan and we then headed to New Orleans with a change of aircraft in Salt Lake City. We arrived at our hotel in New Orleans about 10pm.
By this stage I had managed maybe 5 hours sleep and neither of us was certain how I would be feeling. As it was I was wide awake and feeling good. Well I was after a long hot shower. New Orleans time is exactly 12 hours different to BKK, so for my body clock it was 10am.
So naturally Susan and I headed off to Bourbon Street. We were in search of food and music. We put our head into a few places just to check things out. We eventually settled in a bar with a Jazz band, no food and an extensive drinks list. We stayed until 2am when the bar shut down. The music was good, but somehow not inspiring, 3 musicians on stage who left you with the impression that they had been doing the same routine for far too long and were bored to death with their gig. Only the drummer who was quite younger than the other two seemed to show any signs of animation.
Bourbon Street itself was pretty quiet that night, we walked back along it to our hotel, decided not to try any other venue, had a late night hot dog and went to bed.
That was the first and last time that the Bludger spent any time in Bourbon Street! We avoided "hand grenades" and "hurricanes".

Thursday 3 July 2014

A small(ish) winge

The last few weeks have been difficult for me.
An already busy job became even busier when one of the teachers fell sick, left work, and ultimately decided not to come back. I started picking up some of his classes from the first morning that he didn't show up.
After a couple of weeks I realised that this was going to be a long term option and put some effort into managing some of his classes on a permanent basis. I chose classes that I could fit into my schedule and that I had already been covering. A few days later the school administration came to the same conclusion and ultimately classes were re-arranged and distributed amongst all the teachers.
Unfortunately for me all my extra work was for nothing as I was assigned different classes. I was able to hand over some material, grades and assessments to other teachers, but no one was organised enough to return the favour. That rankled a little bit. These were teachers that claim to be highly experienced and on top of everything, but ultimately, to my eye did a poor job of covering the necessary work beyond turning up to a classroom prepared to keep the class engaged for the required time.
This extra workload came on top of an already busy schedule. I have not completed a full year at the school yet. In my first Semester I was working 70 or more hours per week, just to keep my head above water. This, my second semester, I am more on top of things. However I am still writing training and study guides for work that must be done in the following week. Most weeks I put in between 50 and 60 hours. That seems a bit of a joke when officially I have 18 teaching hours, 20 with the current overload.
For most lessons it takes the equivalent of 1 or 2 lessons to prepare the material and then further time afterwards to do marking, assessment and grading of the students work. Once again it galls me when I see my fellow teachers arriving at or just after the official start time, leaving the second that the clock reaches 4pm and never seem to do any marking or planning. In fact those around me seem to have plenty of time to sit and chat and take life easy.
It makes me wonder about the quality of their teaching and the experience that the students are getting.
To be fair, there are teachers that appear to be very diligent in their work. It is not just me doing long hours.
I just became a machine and just plowed through my work, socialising just about zero, not going away on weekends and trying to avoid any distractions. I thought that I was just keeping on top of things but as I now start to prepare for submitting mid semester grades I can see that I have failed to assess a number of classes adequately.
To top it off we then had 2 Teachers go off Sick at the same time. One was off for a week, the other for 2 days. I could see the grey hairs growing on the course Director's head. I wasn't feeling too good myself while this happened as I had caught a heavy cold and had root canal therapy on a tooth. No way could I take time off, so I just battled on and felt like crap for 3 days.
But I am almost at the end of it now. My cold has abated, the pain from my tooth has abated the two sick teachers are back at work and a replacement teacher starts next week. On top of that we are in mid term exams. I have to do assessments and grading and supervise exams but at least I do not have to prepare and deliver lessons for a week.
On the positive side, I am having some good times with my students. Recently I bumped into one at a counter of a coffee shop. She stepped in close to me and laid her head on my shoulder. That was heart warming.
The Bludger has just stopped whining.