- There is no Jesus -

30th June '17

At the end of the last blog, I was praying that once the schedule came, I wouldn't have a split-shift.

Well there is no Jesus. And where as for the two terms prior to this one, I'd had the best schedules I could hope for, this term was about the worst.

From just the weekday portion of the schedule, which was all I knew at this point, I had two new levels to plan, and on Monday and Wednesday I was working a split-shift. My first class of the day was from 10am to 12:30pm, and my last from 6:45pm to 9:15pm.

It would have been worth me going home in the middle, until I was later offered the "walker" shift from 1pm to 3:30pm.

That means being the cover teacher if anyone phones in sick.

And I figured that seeing as my entire day's going to be dominated by work anyway, I may as well get paid a bit more for it.

But who knew what a difference a week-off could make?

And it was a little saddening, because for the final three weeks of last term, and then to a lesser extent through the holiday, my lifestyle was so perfect that it was a joy to live it.

I was running longer distances, I was meditating regularly, I was getting back into doing bodyweight workouts regularly. For the first time in a while I could see my abs in the mirror again. I was looking healthy, I was feeling healthy, and then bam. Split-shift.

Fucking Jesus.

And I'll add the caveat that it wasn't like I was getting screwed here. The majority of teachers had been given split shifts in some capacity.

For some reason, and I have absolutely no idea what that reason is, there was just a huge influx of students this term.

To quote my manager from the email that he sent around with the schedule, 'It was a bit of a runaway train as far as enrollment goes this term...'

I suppose that having too many students is better than too few but... where the Hell did they all come from? All I've heard since I started this job is how low enrollment is. Discounting the crazy woman who long ago left, I was still the second-newest teacher at my branch, not including ones that we inherited from other branches. Yet this term we'd hired two new teachers, and still most people were getting lumbered with split shifts.

Anticipating significantly less free time this term than I've become accustomed to, for the last day of the holiday, I didn't even leave my condo as I attempted to tie-up any loose ends.

And by loose ends, I mean complete Final Fantasy X, a timeless video game in the sense that despite the outdated graphics and gameplay considering its original 2001 release, the story is as beautiful as ever.

And the ending of that story late on Sunday evening, almost symbolically marked the ending of my life as I'd come to know it too, because in the first four days of this term, do you know how many times I exercised?

Zero.

Do you know how many times I played my PS4?

Zero.

Do you know how many times I meditated?

Two.

Last term those answers would have been four, four and four, but alas, last term now seemed a long way away.

On Mondays and Wednesdays I was now getting up at 7:30am to go to work, and not getting home again until after 10pm.

On the first of these, I tried to plan the new levels that I have to teach during my dead time, but for me it's not worth it. I just can't plan classes in the staff-room of my school. There are too many people talking, I don't have all my materials to hand. I find it so much easier at home.

So despite not working until 6:45pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, this became time for planning.

Then come the second week, the workload increased.

I was very thankful to have a weekend schedule with no new classes to plan. But my class sizes this term are huge.

The biggest room that we have at my school has a capacity of 20 students. Yet this term, I have classes of 22, 22, 21, 18 and 12 students.

That's ninety-five students in total, and for four of those classes, I'm in rooms at above capacity.

It's about three times as many students as I had last term, which means three times longer printing and preparing handouts. Worse though, I try to do at least two writings per class per term. And you collect these up and you make corrections, and each one takes about five minutes.

Ninety-five students times two writings times five minutes equals nine-hundred and fifty minutes.

Sixteen hours. That's roughly how long I'm going to spend just going over writings this term.

Unpaid, I'll add, although I've become numb to the fact that when you work as a teacher, half of the work that you do is unpaid. You don't get paid to plan, you don't get paid to mark writings. Just part of the job I guess, but it kind of sucks.

Your workload dramatically increases when you have big classes, but your pay remains the same.

Come week two, once I knew my full schedule including weekends, things got a bit more organised.

Not easier, but they got organised.

For example, after working all day on Saturday, I come home and plan the class that I'll teach on Tuesday. Then I have the time to exercise before work on Tuesday.

On Thursday, before starting work at 6:45pm, I spend my entire day planning my class for that day, and both of my Monday classes. That means that I don't have to plan them on Sunday night, so I can exercise after work on Sunday too.

From 3:30pm to 6:45pm every Monday and Wednesday I have free time, so have started going to a remote coffee shop in the building that I work in, and using that time to mark the mass of writings that I've collected.

Just so I'm nourished enough to exercise after work on Sunday night, I need to take some lunch into work with me. So each Friday I go to the supermarket and buy celery. Then on Saturday morning I put on a loaf of bread on that's ready when I get home. Then Saturday evening, I make vegan tuna salad sandwiches, the leftovers of which I take to work on Sunday, so I can come home and exercise right away without needing to cook and then waiting for that food to digest.

I'm able to exercise three times per week still. I'm able to eat a fairly decent diet (although I've had to start getting take-away sandwiches on Monday and Wednesday just to get through the day). I'm able to just about stay on top of all of my work. It's all just...

Look at it this way:

I knew that I was going to write this blog today, two weeks ago. That's how far ahead I'm having to plan just to stay on top of everything.

I know more or less what I'm going to cook for every meal next week, I know what exercise I'm going to do, I know exactly when I'm going to plan, when I'm going to go over writings, when I'm going to meditate.

To a certain extent, I've been able to keep up with the great life that I had last term. It's just all become much harder.

I've managed to keep Fridays entirely work-free so far this term, although that doesn't mean that they're relaxing.

Last Friday I had to clean my apartment and then go running and then go to the supermarket. This Friday I jumped onto my laptop as soon as I woke-up to write this blog. I'm doing it in the time after drinking my breakfast smoothie but before I go running; you need an hour or so to let it digest.

Normally I'd use that time to just relax with a cup of green tea, but this term... if only.

Then after I get back from running, I've got to go to the hardware store because I broke my toilet seat.

Once I've fixed my toilet, I've got to sew together a fraying seam on one of my pairs of work trousers.

And it partly pains and me and partly surprises me to say that I'm now almost half-way through the term. In a sense, it feels like it's gone quite quickly, but there's another part of me thinking... fuck, we've still got all this way to go? Because the hardest thing about it, is I know that there's no respite until I get off the plane in London.

There's not a single day this term that I'll just spend relaxing.

The Monday after the term finishes is the day that I've been dreading all year; that's the day that I clean every nook and cranny in my condo.

I can think of nothing worse than arriving back to a dirty apartment after a month in London, so that Monday will perhaps be the hardest day of all of them as I clean every shelf, every cupboard, every surface, every inch of floor, even behind the fridge and behind the washing machine.

I think last year it took me about twelve hours.

Then on Tuesday morning I have to leave my apartment to fly home.

From the beginning of this term, I quickly realised that my next day to just relax, wouldn't be until I was in London.

Do you know how much it sucks to know that your next free day is six weeks and 10,000 kilometres away?

The biggest surprise this term though, wasn't all that I've said above. It wasn't the sudden workload that came my way. It wasn't the huge influx of students that came from nowhere.

What surprised even me, is that it all happened, but yet I'm still smiling.

I might not have come across as positive as I talked about it all above, but it's very hard to say 'and I've got loads more work to do, and half of it's unpaid' and sound happy. Yet, I haven't really stopped smiling this term. I haven't let it all get the best of me and... well that's kind of curious to me. Because it doesn't sound like me.

This term has more resembled my first Bangkok job than this one. And working there, I was stressed-out, I gained weight quickly despite eating well and exercising. This term... I'm fine. And I wonder why.

In fact I can even point to times in this job when I've had to deal with far less than I am doing this term, and it was stressing me out and making me angry. Yet this term, nothing.

I'm always interested in figuring-out how my mind works, and perhaps it's simply down to maturity. Perhaps I'm just getting old.

Perhaps it's because I was meditating a lot prior to this term.

The book that I read over the Songkran holiday talked about how practicing mindfulness can actually change the shape and make-up of your brain.

I highly doubt that I've done enough to do that, but maybe meditating's done something to make me happier.

I was actually thinking this week, about how happy I am that I stopped studying Thai.

I don't know that I've stopped forever, although I am now at a point where I can say that I spoke more Thai at this time last year than I do this year. I'm basically back to zero again.

But looking at the way I was studying it was... well it went against everything I believe in. It went against how I tell my students to study, and how I keep myself enjoying things like exercising.

I was studying in a way that was stressful, that was unenjoyable and...

Now I've replaced this stressful, unenjoyable thing with a PS4. It's no wonder I'm feeling happier and more relaxed. I'm not forcing myself to do something everyday that I'm not enjoying.

I think that I was starting to resent studying Thai, whereas I look forward to finding time for a game of Rocket League or Battlefield. And perhaps that's made a big difference, I don't know.

All I know is that this term should, in theory, be the worst and most stressful term since I've had this job. The workload and time I'm having to dedicate to it is more than at any other time and yet... meh, I'm perfectly happy.

Looking forward to a term off, I can say that much, but I'm surviving.

The big boss left his post, as per the email from a previous blog, almost without another word.

Had it not been for that email, I don't think I'd even know that he's gone.

I saw some people passing around a card to sign, although it never made it to me. But that was literally it. He left without a word, and then the very next day, my former boss was back, this time to fill the departing big boss' role, albeit in a temporary capacity.

Not being American, he's inelligble to fill that post permanently, despite being clearly the most qualified person to do so.

But what I now hope, is that in my absence next term, all of this gets hoopla gets sorted-out.

When I return, it'll be a very different job anyway. The girl who started at the same time as me is leaving to go back to the US to do a Master's degree. The teacher who's by far the loudest voice in the teacher's room, both literally and metaphorically, is also leaving. The dynamic in the teacher's room alone will surely change before my return.

And I'm hoping that everything else evens-out so that working split-shifts is just a one-off.

Hire more teachers? Get less students? I'm fine with either, just so long as I don't have to work very hard anymore.

I do have to question the logic though, of why when we suddenly have an influx of students, they decided to raise prices, off the usual three-year cycle.

It was only eighteen months ago that last happened, and for about three terms afterwards, student numbers plummeted. Does it make sense to do so again when we've just got a load of new people come through the door?

We're also mid-way though a transition to a new system of placing and grading students; something which the previous big boss seemed to champion, but the new/temporary one (who hated the previous boss) doesn't seem too fond of. So what happens there?

Too many students, not enough teachers, changing prices, a new boss, a new system, teachers leaving...

Who knows what it's going to be like to come back to?

That though, is a thought for another day. For now I'm halfway through an... interesting term, shall I say. One where teachers are dropping like flies in terms of how much they're getting sick.

That's not surprising, because if people have to work more and are stressed-out, then they're going to be more susceptible to illness. Especially when they eat and live like shit, although I won't get started on that, only to say that both new teachers that started this term, have already been late to work or taken sick-days.

One woman started this job less than three weeks ago. Already had two sick-days. Me? None ever. In my life. So good luck trying to convince me that I make bad lifestyle choices.

I still haven't figured everything out. I'm still trying to figure-out how my brain works. I'm interested to find-out if my brain is intelligent enough to understand itself. If I think about it long enough, can I understand things like why I'm happy and not stressed this term? But I mean... two sick-days in your first eighteen days in this job?

I guess it just bemuses me how people don't feel a responsibility to themselves and the people that care about them, to look after themselves better. How can you be so susceptible to illness and not feel obligated to improve yourself?

I guess that's one for another day. My tea is cold, which means it's time to go running.