Tuesday, January 18, 2011

work day

ETS work was cancelled for Martin Luther King Day today, so I've got other work to do: the sorting of my books into major categories is finished, so I've been spending my days sorting the categories into subcategories, shelving books as I go. The religion books are all shelved now, but I was distressed to discover that a good number of religion books are missing, almost as if I had left a box of them back at the old homestead. In particular, two versions of the Tao Te Ching (one translated by Victor Mair, a giant in the field of Asian Studies) are conspicuously absent. Another possibility is that the missing books are still in Korea, but I could have sworn that I saw them in Alexandria, before I packed everything up. Unfortunately, I've been known to misremember things, so I can't trust my recollection. A third possibility is that the missing books are here, but they're hiding in boxes that contain other household items. Here's hoping that's the case.

I've also got a slew of eBay ads to slap up-- items to sell, and classes to advertise. Although I've already put up some ads, and they've already received several dozen visits, no one seems to be biting. Maybe people are afraid of taking a semester-long course. Maybe they're turned off by the lump-sum price for 48 hours of teaching, and they haven't done the math to see how godawful cheap the courses actually are. Or maybe they've done the math, but can't afford such lump-sum payments because times are tight. What I may need to do is advertise shorter courses-- say, month-long courses like they do at many hagwons. That way, I've got rolling registration and a steadier income. Right now, what I've said in my ads is "Courses are 16 weeks long; they begin in February and go into June." In other words, if no one registers for them by the time February arrives, I'm screwed, unless I choose to teach compressed/truncated/accelerated versions of those courses.

Because of the above problems, the one-month paradigm is looking better and better. I may also start to add other programs, such as a "college tour" program in the spirit of bespoke tourism. (I learned the term only last year from an English friend, who used it in an email. It refers to tailor-made, specialized tours, generally using local people as guides.) I did this once, actually, back in the 1990s: I took a well-to-do Korean mother and daughter around to see various elite private high schools in the New England area. It was a fantastic trip for me, and the ladies were both very friendly. I had one of the best hamburgers I'd ever eaten while we were in Hartford, Connecticut to visit one private academy. In that same city, I also remember my charges goggling at the enormous portions they'd received at the local Korean restaurant. We had a great time.

Bespoke tourism seems like a worthwhile thing to do for prospective Korean students, especially ones looking into college. I'm close enough to DC that parents and students could sleep over at my place while I take them to some of the major DC schools, such as American University, George Washington University, and Georgetown University. George Mason University is also possible as a day trip, and it's in Fairfax, i.e., very close to Annandale's Koreatown. Longer drives, such as to James Madison University, William and Mary, or the University of Virginia, might require hotel stays (unless the guests were comfortable with long round trips), as would sojourns out to universities in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and New England.

But as I'm thinking this through, it occurs to me that bespoke tourism and tutoring don't exactly mix: there's the potential for scheduling conflicts if, for example, an English course is set to run through all of June, while a bespoke tour is set to happen during a single week in June. Would I have to keep a month or two free in order to be able to schedule tours? Should I scatter non-tutoring weeks throughout my calendar? Koreans tend to have long winter vacations and short summer vacations; what would be the ideal month(s) in which to have such tours? At a guess, February: the Korean academic year begins in March, and February generally marks the easing-down of winter in the mid-Atlantic region. Giving tours in July, by contrast, would prove expensive for everyone, since that's the height of the tourist season for most of the northern hemisphere.

I'm obviously assuming that, even if I move to a per-month paradigm for tutoring, I'll be following a fixed schedule (certain days, certain times of day for each "section" I teach) as opposed to allowing students to sign up and begin classes willy-nilly. I'd actually rather have that rigidity; too much flexibility invites all sorts of problems-- random cancellations, random reschedulings, etc. I plan to keep a strict refund/cancellation policy, and feel that an equally strict schedule (as well as an actual curriculum for the student to follow) can nip most potential problems in the bud.

Well! At this point, I've said a lot but haven't done much. I've enjoyed a nice, heart-clogging dunch/linner of fettuccine Alfredo and oi-kimchi, and now it's time to move on with the rest of the day.


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