Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Burning Meat, Burning Rubber & Burnout

I've come down with a textbook case of Teacher Burnout. It's stressful teaching within the parametres of contract obligations. Lesson planning, satisfying students, grammar presentations, rowdy teenagers, emergency coverage, makeup lessons, split shifts, inter-company politics, etc etc.

As contracted teachers for a large language company we have absolutely no say in our classes and students. When our administrators add new students to an already established class, and those students are at the wrong level, nothing is done about it when we tell them. I have a few classes where some students can carry on a conversation but others are still learning the alphabet. Because the parents are paying money, our administrators do nothing about the situation.

Split shifts are among the worst. Working from 10 until noon and then from 3 until 9 is grinding after a while. Add the need for lesson planning and preparation, test marking, makeup lessons for students who were ill and sometimes the need to cover an ill teacher's classes and our week seems like a chaotic grind.

Thankfully we are on the home stretch now. The school closes in June and although I will probably end up teaching at our central school in Moscow (which will involve an even greater soul-destroying grind), I am holding out for that wonderful trip to Turkey and then that big airplane home. We take it day by day here, because to think of doing this still in 4 months time is depressing.

The worst part of the job is that we receive very little time off. 5 days in December and 5 days in May is about all we get, so we are basically bitches. English bitches. Teaching privately, off-contract, is the way to go but Russia's visa laws make that nearly impossible.

One thing I personally look forward to is the weekend, such as the past two weekends which involved cooking shashleek (Georgian kabobs) outdoors and drinking at a theme park.

Katya, Ms. Australia and I spent an afternoon last Sunday drinking beer and then went on bumper cars drunk and a tilt-a-whirl ride. The Russians aren't sure how to use bumper cars; they just drove around in circles while Ms. Australia and I smashed into each other at full speed, time and again. The ride attendant kept glaring at us but didn't know how to yell at us in English. Big Russian flags fluttered from the back of each car and after one particularly spectacular head-on crash delivered by rowdy Ms. Australia, the flag wrapped around my face and, blinded, I drove into a father and his little kid. Katya got stuck in a corner and couldn't figure out how to reverse, so Ms. Australia and I smashed into her a few times. Katya's excuse afterwards was "I'm too drunk to drive a normal car. Why would I drive these things?"

In hindsight, perhaps we were taking out some of our pent-up aggression from our jobs on the bumper cars. Perhaps we were simply using them as they are meant to be used. Whatever the reasons for enjoying high-speed head-on collisions, it was fun!

Ms. Australia and I then hopped on the Tilt-A-Whirl (Katya refused) and had more fun than everyone else. While the Russians on the ride sat respectfully quiet as the cars spun around and g-forces pushed our stomachs up into our throats, Ms. Australia and I were screaming and laughing and making a scene. Ms. Australia accidentally kicked the front of the car and a bolt came out, but we survived.

Later we went for sushi and sobered up, and then returned to our energy-draining jobs on Monday. I can't wait for next weekend.

Katya & Wonderpants build a shashleek grill

Wonderpants prepares some shashleek

The fire is lit

Drunk on the tilt-a-whirl with Ms. Australia

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