[Originally published February 28, 2015, 9:25PM.]
In most Korean-university jobs, it's generally a given that—as Murphy's Law would have it—there will be fuckups of the schedule right before the semester is about to begin. There are exceptions to this cosmic law, as I'll note below, but with my luck, I normally end up in universities where snafus happen. This was true at Sookmyung; it was true at Daegu Catholic; now it's proving true at Dongguk as well.
I had originally been given a 14-hour teaching schedule: it went from Monday to Thursday, with Fridays off. I thought that was lovely. The schedule also had me teaching only two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which was also lovely.
Well, no longer.
This past Thursday, the Seoul office called and said there had been a change: all my morning classes had been cancelled due to low registration at the Ilsan campus—this despite the fact that registration was supposed to go on one more day, i.e., until Friday. I had assumed that the Powers That Be would wait until the very last moment before counting their registration numbers and deciding to pull the plug, but apparently Korean impatience won out and the plug was pulled preemptively. Upshot: no more morning classes for Uncle Kevin. That's also not entirely bad news because this now means I no longer have to wake up godawful early to teach 9AM classes.
My new schedule—and the office asked me several times whether this would be acceptable (I sighed and resignedly answered "yes" each time)—has dropped from fourteen hours to twelve, which is our contracted minimum. Above twelve, and we receive a pittance of overtime pay. Below that, and we're obliged to do extra work to make up for sub-minimal hours. So I'm right at twelve hours, which is, to be honest, where I knew I was going to end up, because a schedule fuckup* this late in the game is no longer surprising to me.
My schedule now also includes a completely free Tuesday, along with a free Friday, because my Thursday has been packed with six hours' worth of classes running from noon to 6PM. So Thursday becomes my marathon day, right before the weekend—one last kick in the ass before I taste freedom. As things stand, I've got three hours on Monday, nothing on Tuesday, three hours on Wednesday, and six hours on Thursday. All of these 3-hour classes meet only once per week, so it's as if I were back at Daegu Catholic again.
I've decided to move my Golden Goose day to my free Tuesday; my GG boss is very flexible, so he OK'ed this without hesitation. Essentially, I'm working four days a week with Fridays off—that's my hoped-for three-day weekend, which I'll enjoy all semester long. So why am I unhappy about this change in schedule?
First, it messes up my lesson planning. I must now toss half my plans out the window and start over. Second, because I'm down to twelve hours, I'm not getting any overtime pay. An extra $150 a month would have been nice. Every penny counts, right? Third, the cancelled classes were all advanced level, which I would have loved to teach. Now, I've got nothing but goddamn freshmen, and that didn't go so well last semester.
But I'll survive. I'm finalizing my planning tonight, hitting the Seoul campus tomorrow so I can print out my attendance sheets (there's no easier way to do this, and it's mainly because I have a Macintosh laptop and not a Windows machine), then plunging into Week One of the new semester this coming Monday.
So I griped about my situation to Tom this evening, and I asked him how things were done at Sungkyunkwan University. He said that, at SKKU, students must register for both semesters(!) months in advance of the beginning of the academic year. I growled that Dongguk needed to get its head out of its ass and adopt a similar system. That would certainly minimize snafus. This isn't the same problem as the add/drop period, which usually covers the first two or so weeks of school: students might appear and disappear during that time, but the classes, at least, are locked in, and the teacher's schedule has been fixed.
I'll be curious to see how big, or how small, my classes will be. And I'm definitely not looking forward to teaching six hours straight on Thursdays.
*You might argue that, technically, cancellations because of a lack of student registrants don't constitute a scheduling fuckup: it's just the numbers, after all. You might have a point, but my point is that it still feels like a fuckup because I had been told my schedule would be one way, but then it ended up being something very different. When you don't go straight from A to B, as you ideally should, that's a fuckup. I'm put in mind of Samuel Jackson in "Pulp Fiction," right after he's first shot Flock of Seagulls and says menacingly to Brett: "Please continue. You were saying something about 'best intentions'?"