Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Friday creeps in its petty pace

This coming Friday, July 1st, I take my first GRE as part of my campaign to be hired by Manhattan GRE. This will be the only time I can take the GRE as it's presently formatted; come August, ETS is switching over to the new GRE, which drops analogies and increases the number of fill-in-the-blanks math questions. (I can't say the phrase "fill in the blanks" without hearing Alan Rickman's low nasal purr from the movie "Die Hard.")

I have no work today (we'll talk about this in a moment), so I'm going to be taking care of a few housekeeping issues, running an errand or two, and finishing up the review sections of my GRE manual. On Wednesday and Thursday, I'll be flogging myself by taking a series of GRE sample tests (all this was delayed thanks to the car issue, which has occupied my time and attention for the past two or so weeks). At about 10AM on Friday, I'll arrive at the test center; at 11AM, I'll be starting my exam. I'm fervently hoping to get all this right-- to score in the 99th percentile-- on my very first try (the computer-based test gives you an unofficial score at the end, so I'll know my results while I'm still at the test center); it'd be nice to start the Manhattan GRE application process right away.

The fact that I've got free time today is somewhat disturbing. At YB, we've moved to a summer schedule, which means that, instead of having work hours that go from 3PM to 9:30PM, we now have an 11AM to 7PM schedule. We're also teaching so-called "boot camp" intensive SAT prep courses that run from Monday through Thursday. Boot camp was supposed to be different: it was originally designed as a more standard type of course in which four to six students would all be learning together. Our boss made a command decision to throw out that format, however, which now plunges us into curricular chaos. I found myself, yesterday, teaching boot camp students in ones and twos, and none of the students had prepared their work for that day. I had hoped to be embarking on the boot camp curriculum today, since I had spent yesterday familiarizing the students with the material and assigning them the homework they hadn't done. One student liked the class enough to ask whether I'd be there on Tuesday, and I said yes-- which I now realize I shouldn't have said.

Because YB Near has so few students, the office has been performing a sort of "rolling blackout" by shorting teachers' work hours in rotation. Sometimes I bite the bullet; sometimes another colleague gets hit with either a day off or only two hours' work. Tuesday is, I guess, my day to take a hit. This sort of rolling blackout has been going on for at least a month, but right now I find it especially frustrating because I had thought I was going to be building relationships with the boot camp students I'd met yesterday. Instead, they're going to be given to another teacher today. This isn't to impugn my colleagues' competence, of course; if anything, I'd say that most of them are more competent at teaching SAT prep than I am. But my point is that students need pedagogical consistency, and since our curriculum has gone from standardized to non-standardized, tossing the kids from one teacher to another is no way to establish any sort of rhythm.

So all of this is on my mind, along with the crushing prospect of new car and insurance payments (I had to upgrade my insurance coverage in order to purchase the car). I'm just hoping that Friday will get here soon, and that I'll rock and roll on the damn GRE without needing to take it a second, third, or fourth time. Keep your fingers and tentacles crossed.


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