Sunday, May 15, 2011

paradigm shift on the horizon?

With my current job at YB, on my current schedule, I'm making less than $2000 per month-- and that's gross pay. It's enough for me to eke out a marginal existence, because my personal needs are relatively small: give me food, books, and Internet service, and I'm a happy camper. Everything else is window dressing.

But because I'm barely getting by, I'm not saving anything up for typical adult necessities, like health insurance, better car insurance, and so on. I also can't save up for non-necessities like a TV (you'll recall that I took back my beautiful LG several months ago, when I was working for ETS, leaving me with a Blu-ray player and no way to watch Blu-rays), trips abroad, the books and vids on my Amazon Wish List, etc. If I were to continue to live the way I live, life would be little more than stagnation. Something has to change.

This isn't merely a question of enjoying the aforementioned non-necessities. I've got a goddaughter whom I'd like to take on trips to Europe; I've got Korean relatives that I haven't seen since before Mom's cancer; I've got family in Texas whom I'd like to visit; and more immediately, I've got a trans-American walk to think about. All of this requires money-- substantially more money than I'm earning right now. While I'm thankful to YB for the kindness they've shown me, and while I've come to truly enjoy my job there, the current situation simply isn't sustainable. What to do, then?

Going for the Hail Mary pass and trying to land some sort of role in the entertainment business (I keep thinking I might be a decent voice actor), while tempting, is too much of a long shot for someone my age and in my financial state. Such a radical move would probably result in a chorus of Don't quitcher day job!s.

But lately, I've found myself increasingly attracted to a different alternative: Manhattan GRE, which would be a major step up from YB, pay-wise. The institute offers $100 per hour for individual and group instruction. The perfect scenario for me would be to teach at such a place three days a week, four hours per day. Gross salary: about $57,000 a year with that schedule. Were I to work 20 hours a week-- still an undemanding schedule-- I'd be earning $96,000 a year. How could I not consider that possibility?

But there are two major obstacles to getting this job. First, Manhattan GRE requires employees to sign on for at least one year. That's a bit bizarre-- not to mention clingy-- for a company that only offers part-time work, but I suppose the company wants to see firm commitment from its employees, given how much it pays them. The problem for me, though, is that signing up with the company will mean a further delay in when I start my walk. It's May now; if I were to jump ship from YB to Manhattan in the next couple of months, I wouldn't be starting my walk until next summer at the earliest.

Second, a potential employee has to score in the 99th percentile on the GRE; Manhattan interprets this to mean at least a 730 on the Verbal section (which I can easily do) and an 800 on the Quantitative section.

Quantitative. My bugbear. See the problem?

It's not that I'm bad at math; it's just that I'm not as sharp as the typical math nerd. When I took the SAT two months ago for my current job, I scored a 700 on the Math section, and was later told that the difference between a 700 and an 800 was a mere five questions. In other words, to get the 800, there's absolutely no margin for error, and the Quantitative section of the GRE isn't all that different from the Math section of the SAT I. Why the demanding standard for math? My surmise is that most of Manhattan's students are going into fields like business or some sort of hard science, where math skills are essential. This explains why the Verbal standard is slightly lower than the Quantitative standard.

Manhattan doesn't seem to care what one scores on the Analytical Writing section. What? You've never heard of the Analytical Writing section of the GRE? Well, take heart: I didn't know about it, either, until I recently took a look at the current version of the GRE. The old Analytical section was ripped out a few years ago, and got replaced by Analytical Writing, which is apparently about critical thinking in rhetoric-- very Classical, that. In other words, no more logic problems. No more "seat these seven office workers in the correct cubicles based on their preferences regarding smoking and noise." Instead, the new Analytical Writing section presents you with an argument that contains deliberate flaws, and you have to salvage the argument by isolating where the logic has gone wrong, and then rewriting the argument. I like that challenge a whole lot better than I liked those old logic problems.

Upshot: since Manhattan's employment requirements don't seem to focus on Analytical Writing but do seem to place enormous emphasis on the Quantitative section of the GRE, I need to focus my study efforts almost entirely on math.

Slight digression: the Manhattan GRE website has a cute little mascot called Math Beast, and Math Beast offers students a weekly challenge problem. Here is this week's problem, which bolstered my confidence because it was easy to solve:

Got the answer? It took me well under a minute. (See the comments to this post for my solution.)

But there's one other problem for the prospective Manhattan GRE employee: the GRE's about to change again. As of August 1, everyone will have to take a new form of the GRE. Among the changes:

1. Antonyms/analogies will be gone from the Verbal section. No more vocab out of context. Emphasis will be on reading comprehension and sentence-related problems.

2. The Quantitative section will include "select all that apply" multiple-choice answers.

3. Like the SAT I Math section, the Quantitative section will have a "fill in the blanks" portion.

It seems I'll need to take the GRE soon if I hope to obtain test results and jump ship quickly. You can't take the test more than once per month, and you're also not allowed to take it more than five times a year. That gives me only five tries, this year, at getting a new, better-paying job.

Manhattan's hiring process doesn't end there. There's also a phone interview, after which you're asked to come in to teach a mock lesson, assuming the phone interview goes well. I'm fairly confident I'd do well with the in-class stuff, but I wonder what the phone interview might be like. I think the company then offers paid training ($4000 or something along those lines), after which they set you loose to terrorize potential grad students.

I've been thinking about this gig ever since I saw their ads on Craigslist in March-- right around the time I applied to YB for work. As things stand, I'm earning less money now than I did as a first-year high school teacher in 1992. Teaching adults while earning more money to do so is much more my thing, even if I won't be teaching French or religious studies. While I've grown to like most of my current students, there's still a "babysitting" aspect to my current job, plus the fact that I often feel stupid whenever I'm unable to help students with history, chemistry, calculus, etc. I'd rather feel both competent and needed. Wouldn't you?

Stay tuned. There's a very good chance I won't make the grade, so all of this may be a pipe dream. But it's not an impossible dream, by any means, and even if I don't make the grade with my first crack at the GRE, I've got four more tries this year.



Kevin Kim said...

Solution to the Math Beast problem:

Imagine that points A, O, and D are the vertices of a triangle. We can immediately deduce that we're talking about an isosceles triangle because we know segments AO and DO are of equal length: they're the radii of Circle O.

Knowing that Triangle AOD is an isosceles triangle, we know that Angle ODA must equal angle OAD, which is 65 degrees. Since the interior angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees, the angle whose vertex lies at the center, Angle AOD, must equal 180-65-65, i.e., 180-130, or 50 degrees.

Angle AOD is 50 degrees, and Angle COB is 40 degrees. Since arc length is proportional to the angles in question (the bigger the angle, the longer the arc), we can see that Minor Arc AD is longer than Minor Arc BC, because of the respective size of the angles in question (AOD and COB).


Kevin Kim said...

So, yeah-- the answer is A. In case the previous comment didn't make that clear.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I figured it out, but I had to think for two or three minutes . . . which shows how rusty my math is since the question is really pretty basic.

Jeffery Hodges

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