Sunday, March 05, 2006

gearing up for the grind

It's been a good vacation, and I'd like for it to continue, but all things end. As I mentioned earlier, I wish I'd done more with personal projects this past week, but it was fun to be able to hang with friends. This term, I'll have plenty to keep me busy as my department moves back to a five-day week, but my Tuesdays and Thursdays will be fairly light (notwithstanding occasional test rating to make up for an insufficiently full schedule).

Lesson planning should be somewhat easier this time around: I teach nothing but Level 1 conversation on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I've got another Level 1 class, plus an intro-level reading course. We'll be doing a watered-down, break-it-to-'em-easy survey of Aesop's fables. Ought to be interesting. I did this with a Level 3 class two terms ago. Wasn't bad. I doubt I can expect the same high level of discussion from my intros, many of whom will be timid little freshmen.

Because we're back to regular classes, which feature no real grades and no strict attendance requirements, we can expect huge student attrition over the course of twelve weeks (you'll recall that our "Intensive English" terms are only eight weeks long). Most of us hate the attrition: in the final few weeks of the twelve-week term, some classes might have only one to three students, which makes life hard on the teacher. Teaching for a small audience is difficult business.

In the larger scheme of things, however, this sort of schedule is far less taxing than that of a typical hagwon (I still shudder at EC's 44 hr/week timetable), so I'll keep my moaning to a minimum.

I joined Smoo during the second half of the spring term-- late April 2005. I've come almost full circle, and, strange as it may sound, this will mark the first time I will have completed a one-year contract while working in Korea.* I plan to renew. The pay isn't great, but becoming rich has never been my goal. At this rate, I'm able to make headway on certain debts, and that's the important thing. No fancy TVs or MP3 players for this big boy, but it's not as though I want or need such comforts. I'm fine with my old, creaky Mac and my books.

So now it's off to bed, but before I go, I'll be slapping up the next day's comic strip (postdated to Monday). Hope you had a good weekend. Enjoy the brisk beginning of March; spring is right around the corner.

*My checkered work history in Korea has gone something like this:

Early summer 1994-late spring 95: Was not allowed to teach 12th month of classes when I told the hagwon admin I had no plans to renew. Sued their ass and wrote about my story in the newspaper. Visit the Korea Herald archives (the building, not online), look up the June 15, 1995 issue and track down the article titled "Labor Pains." That was me. I was sued for libel. I eventually won both suits: mine against the hagwon, and the libel suit against me. Assholes.

January-April 1996: Worked at a hagwon in Kangnam. By the fourth month, I'd started to see that the place was turning into the same sort of shit factory as the previous place. Tendered my resignation. Got screamed at by the boss and threatened with a lawsuit. Big talk, empty threats. I shrugged and walked. No repercussions.

Late summer 2004-late winter 2005: Seven months at EC. Loved the coworkers, loved the students, but couldn't stand the dysfunctional vibe trickling down from the administration to our immediate management. Decided to seek new work after seven months of hell. With the help of friends (yes, Virginia, it does pay to have contacts), applied for and got the Smoo gig.

Summer 2005-present: Have been a happy camper ever since. This job hasn't been problem-free, but the problems are minor compared to all that I'd been through before.

When I look back on my employment record, it's not exactly something to be proud of-- skipping from one job to another. But my sanity has been of utmost importance to me, and no amount of money is worth the whole "just deal with it... it'll soon be over" bullshit. No: if "dealing with" a situation means allowing oneself to be treated inhumanely for long periods of time and little remuneration, then fuck that. While it's taken me longer than some blokes to learn that hagwons represent a dead end (and an increasing number of universities offer deals no different from hagwon contracts), I've finally learned my lesson. I think, all in all, that things have worked out for the best.

Some of you might be wondering what sort of employment filled my "missing years." Feel free to speculate. The only thing I'll say is that I was in America from late 1996 to late 2002. During that time, I temped in DC and got a Master's degree, which was instrumental in giving my life purpose again. Much of what appears in this blog is a mangled regurgitation of what I'd learned while at Catholic U. As for the other missing months... well, my life as a gigolo catering to hungry, 40-something mom-jjang adjummas will be the subject of another post, perhaps ten years from now.


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