Evaluations, a new teacher, another bad schedule

One of my students recommended this brand of Mexcal--made from the agave plant and much like a hand crafted tequila. The flavor was very smokey. It reminded me of blended scotch, almost the flavor of peat. While I do love the taste of alcohol, it does not love me back, so I'm careful just to have a little at a time. I'd been having a single shot from this bottle for a couple weeks. When I got to the last shot, I realized there was a worm in it. I know this is often the case with good tequilas and mescals, but it kinda put me off my feed.
One of my students recommended this brand of Mezcal–made from the agave plant and much like a hand crafted tequila. The flavor was very smokey. It reminded me of blended scotch, almost the flavor of peat.
While I do love the taste of alcohol, it does not love me back, so I’m careful just to have a little at a time. I’d been having a single shot from this bottle for a couple weeks. When I got to the last shot, I realized there was a worm in it. I know this is often the case with good tequilas and mezcals, but it kinda put me off my feed.

9/20/16

It’s teacher evaluation day at school. I’m losing 10 more minutes of class in a session when we’ve already lost a day due to the Independence Day holiday. No one likes to be evaluated, though I think it’s important. It doesn’t help that I’m short on sleep most days because I have both early morning and late night classes. If I’m not able to get a nap in the middle of the day, I don’t function well. I didn’t get a nap yesterday and today isn’t looking so prosperous.

But that isn’t all. I’ve got two beginning level classes first thing in the morning (levels 2 and 7 out of 24 levels). I’m a good teacher, but not for these two groups. I simply don’t have the Spanish skills to teach them appropriately. They are not doing well. Their quizzes and oral exams have shown that. I’ve asked NOT to teach levels this low, but the director disagrees. I feel like I’m failing them. The only students doing well in the class are the ones with substantial English going in. For them, the classes are review. But the true beginners are not doing well. It always makes me feel I’ve failed when students don’t do well.

Statue in el Centro, San Luis Potosi. Holy Week (Santa Semana) should be interesting here.
Statue in El Centro, San Luis Potosi. Holy Week (Santa Semana) should be interesting here.

9/22/2016

Another new teacher started today and he sat through my class. Why do they all have to sit through MY class? We need a head teacher/coordinator to do the introductions and orientation–NOT ME—but since there was no one else, used my free hour to give him a brief orientation. His name is Marc, from Ontario. He’s 31years old. His Spanish isn’t any better than mine—which I realized when he took over the Spanish lesson. This isn’t going to help me learn this language. BUT I should be grateful since Marc will probably take over my morning classes. Or not. Who can say at this point? We don’t get our new schedule until Saturday after we finish all our final paperwork.

I HATE that we don’t get the schedule until the last minute. Trying not to stress. Failing. Michael promised that it was only for one session, but he’s pretty loose with the truth.

Today was finals day for three classes, plus a regular lesson in my two off-set classes.

Plaza Fundadores (Founders Square), El Centro, San Luis Potosi. They are building a stage, but I'm not sure what for.
Plaza Fundadores (Founders Square), El Centro, San Luis Potosi. They are building a stage, but I’m not sure what for.

9/23/16

Didn’t see new the teacher, Marc, today. I guess since everyone was giving finals, No one thought he should come in. It’s clear that Michael isn’t giving him any helpful information or an orientation for the job. Heaven help him. We have no “head teacher” or coordinator for the teachers, so it’s going to be difficult for him. I’ll give his what info I can, I don’t have that much experience either—just two sessions.

Graded weekday exams in 3 classes and gave oral exams to 2 offset classes today (these classes are a week behind). Even though I’d spent a lot of time preparing the paperwork, it still took me all evening (including my free hour!) to get the paperwork done. Phew! More tomorrow (Saturday).

For the first time in my life I (almost) lost an exam. It turned out that the student didn’t put his name on the exam! We use cover sheets on front of each exam. I thought that the blank front meant that it was a blank exam! I put it in the pile to be re-used. Paolo, at the front desk, saw it had writing on in and threw it in the trash. It was sheer luck that we found it. The kid had been angry at me when he turned in the exam, too. First he asked three times how to say something in English. The first two times I told him, but the third time it was a relatively easy verb, so I refused. “You are a level 17 student. You should know that.” He angrily said, “Forget.” Clearly had has trouble forming complete sentences, too. Then he was angry because I wouldn’t let him leave after the final exam because he hadn’t done his oral exam. At first he said no, he wouldn’t do it. When I said OK, but it’s a zero and the exam is 30% of the final grade, he reluctantly agreed. So I took him out into the hall and asked, “What did you do for Independence Day?” His response was, “Home. Sleep. Bed.”  <sigh> “You are a Level 17 student. Use complete sentences, please.” So, in fair English he explained that this wasn’t his country, so he didn’t celebrate Independence Day. When I asked where he was from, he said his father was Lebanese. Interesting, since he didn’t say he was Lebanese. A few more questions made it clear that he’s not been in Lebanon since he was a baby and he doesn’t speak Lebanese or Arabic. (Perhaps he feels homeless? I have some idea what that’s like. I’d be interested to know if he’s a practicing Muslim, but that really isn’t any of my business.) When I said that I loved Lebanese food, he smiled for the first time ever and gave me directions to a Lebanese restaurant, which Ana and I went to the next night. Pretty good food, too. In the end, I did find the exam and graded it, but this kid may never be one of my favorites. (He didn’t take the next level, BTW) The kid in question is surly and mostly nonverbal child in his late teens. He’ probably be sarcastic if he had the verbal skills. He doesn’t. He’s missed 6 out of 19 classes and has been late (more than 10 minutes) for 5 classes, including the final exam. Basically, he’s hard to love. At the bottom of his writing (the last section on the final exam) he wrote “You are bad teacher. go find The Happiness. [sic]” J Rude, right? The smiley face did help, but I still had three other teachers read it to be sure I wasn’t misinterpreting. I consider myself a moderately evolved person because I didn’t take off any points for that statement. I merely wrote a note saying that I “assumed” this was a joke, but it was inappropriate on an exam. I also wrote a note–in HUGE, RED CAPITAL LETTERS–on the front of the exam saying that he needed to put his name on exams.

Ana and I went to a Lebanese restaurant not far from the school. Tasty and I ate way too much. Ana is a fellow teacher at the school and she is also my Spanish teacher.
Ana and I went to a Lebanese restaurant not far from the school. Tasty and I ate way too much. Ana is a fellow teacher at the school and she is also my Spanish teacher.

Sessions at this school are just four weeks, so if you get a good schedule, it doesn’t last long. If you get a bad schedule, it still feels long, but will eventually end, though you may get an equally bad schedule following it. I’m a person who deals better with things known, rather than things unknown—even bad things. I’m trying not to stress, but I have building anxiety over the new schedule since it’s always last minute. It feels inconsiderate (at best) and rude (at worst) to have to wait until the last possible minute to deliver the schedule. It’s 2pm Saturday (or later) before you know what you’re teaching on Monday. Certainly, taking a lower cost apartment has helped with the stress, but it’s just not a good situation for me. I prefer to work with people who can plan ahead and communicate in a timely fashion. Now that I have a work visa, I’ll investigate other schools. I’m not saying I’ll leave. I’m saying that I want to see what else is available. In truth, I doubt other schools are better, but I’d really like to be wrong.

9/24/16

Finshed my second 4-week session and now have a new schedule for Monday. In short, I hate it and feel lied to. Trying to sort out how much of my anger is because the schedule is so last minute and how much is because I’m being forced to finish two off-set classes, one of which is at 7am. I was promised this was just 4 weeks. Now it’s 5. No one finished offset classes for me! When I asked at that time of I was told that it didn’t happen. Now I’m told they always try to have the same teacher finish the class. At least one of those statements was a lie. So I’m expected to get up at 5:30a for another week after working until 9pm the night before. AND I’ll spend more time commuting to/from the 7am class than teaching it. On top of that, I’ve still got a 3pm Spanish lesson, but no class from 4 to 5pm and no class for the 6pm hour—more wasted time where I can’t really leave the school, but I don’t get paid, either.

I love teaching, but the international schools range from bad to horrible. I try to remind myself that this one is only “bad.”

You gotta eat and you gotta study.
You gotta eat and you gotta study.