Back to Reality

Apologies for the delayed service recently. I got back from my holiday in the evening on a Wednesday and went straight to work on Thursday. Today, Wednesday, is my first day off since my holiday almost two weeks ago. I’ve been working for 13 days straight.
Everyone gets the post holiday blues and needs a holiday to get over their holiday, but I crashed hard this time. My first weekend back, I was reminded that the air-conditioning in the school is rubbish, but is especially bad in my classroom which feels like a sauna. We’ve been told that it’s an old building and the air-conditioning struggles, but the building looks modern and is located in the newly developed north of the city so can’t be more than ten years old, the school has only been open for four years, and every other floor in the building is lovely and cool.

Having a slight tendency to indulge in conspiracy theories, I would blame it on the company spending only just enough on air-conditioning to keep us just happy enough to not complain too much. But, I’m reminded of the saying “never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence”. The three other branches of the school In Xi’an are so well cooled that apparently teachers complain it’s too cold, so I think someone from the company that owns the building needs to get a good kicking.

The annoyance at the air-conditioning was made worse by the water situation at my apartment. I’ve been having problems with the water going off several times a week, and perhaps once a week when I want to have a shower in the morning. After Saturday’s classes I was hot and sweaty, but I’m a morning shower person so I planned to have a shower on Sunday morning. Except I woke up to find the water was off again so couldn’t have a shower. I was in such a foul mood that I spent most of the day hiding in my classroom instead of being around colleagues in the staffroom. In the week and a half since then it’s happened a couple more times and I’m now at the point where I’m going to insist I move to a new apartment.

The old part time Director of Studies at my school moved to work full time at the other school he worked at, and since then he’s gone from being my boss to being a mate. I met him a week ago for brunch, and inevitably had a moan about all the things that annoy me about work. I pointed out that of the eight foreign teachers, only one is planning on signing up for another year contract, and several of us are counting down to end of our contracts (128 days!). He said at his school every teacher who’s contract is ending soon has signed for another year.

One of my complaints is the lack of Chinese lessons provided by the school. The job advert and interview, and even my contract, says that I’m entitled to one free Chinese lesson a week. In almost eight months I’ve managed to have three, and those were only after much badgering. I eventually lost the will to fight those kinds of battles so haven’t had any more. My DoS friend says at his branch of the school they have Chinese lessons timetabled on a Friday morning and they happen every week. At my school, the new DoS has made some progress, but it’s been around two months since he arrived and I still haven’t had another lesson.

In the weekly meeting when he told us about organising the lessons, he gave a stern warning of “three strikes and you’re out”: If we miss three lessons, then we don’t get any more. I wanted to say “what about the same policy for the school, if you miss providing us with three lessons you have to pay for them to be provided privately?” but managed to hold my tongue. I’d quite happily sign a “one strike and I’m out” letter stating that if I miss one lesson then I’ll waive my right entirely to Chinese lessons. I just want the Chinese lessons that I’m contractually entitled to.

One good thing the school has done after I complained is to run the Teacher Knowledge Test course over the summer. The TKT is offered in the job advert and interview, and it is one of the reasons I chose this job over the two other job offers I had at the time. But the school only ran it from September through to March, and if your year contract started and ended during that time then you couldn’t complete it. My contract starts and ends at the end of November, and I eventually persuaded the school to run a second course over the summer. It’s clearly wanted as 12 teachers over the four schools have signed up. We’re only doing modules two and three though, so I’m preparing for another battle at the end of August to do module one before the end of my contract.

Enough moaning about work, now for something good. I have a new class, to elementary level students aged 16 to 20. It makes a really nice change all of my classes with young students, and as it’s a condensed summer course over three weeks we do activities outside school on Friday afternoons. Last week we went to Pizza Hut, this week we’re going to Starbucks, and next week we’re going to Laser Quest.

A note to my bosses and colleagues who I know read this: everything I’ve complained about in this blog post are things that I’ve complained about openly at work. Note also that I haven’t ever said on my blog which English school I work at in Xi’an.

Since my holiday I haven’t really had any time for socialising, but I have had a couple of bike tourists staying with me. Lots of people know about CouchSurfing, which is a really cool project linking people backpacking with people who have spare rooms. There’s another website with a similar goal, but aimed at bike tourers, called WarmShowers. Mateu and Martina are cycling from Barcelona to Beijing, and they stayed with me for a few nights a week ago. They’re really nice and we had a great time talking about Barcelona, about bike touring, and about life in general. I hope we can meet up again when I’m next in Barcelona!

My work schedule over the past two weeks has also meant I haven’t finished my updates from my holiday. I’m spending the day writing in Starbucks to catch up, so I’ll be posting all the updates over the next few hours (I hope!).

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