For the last ten weeks, the university department where I teach has been heaving with 550 students and 20-odd teachers. We’ve been hammering listening skills, reading skills, note-taking skills and presentation skills, and assessing and marking like mad. The teachers’ room was a hot stew of people, chatter, banter, moaning, papers, overflowing tables, overflowing bins, overheated machinery, scattered stationery, scattered coffee mugs and slewed piles of photocopies and books. On Friday a Saudi lady, the tempestuous Muminah, who has long been convinced that her teachers were in league to bring about her downfall, received her report and threw a fit, and a book, and assorted odds and ends, because she had not been awarded the grades she wanted, but merely those she had actually earned. Now it’s all over. I went in this morning, unlocked the door and sat at my usual computer in cold and silence.
In the building there were two other teachers and four students, whose writing test I invigilated. After marking the scripts, we decided it was pointless for three of us to watch four students do a reading test. I therefore selflessly volunteered to go home, and here I am. I have no more lessons until Monday the 26th, and the way things are at the moment, only 54 hours between now and Christmas. I seem to be the only regular teacher there who has an inner conviction that things will pick up pretty soon. Everyone else is looking for work in other places.
Where does my inner conviction stem from? I suppose it’s really no conviction at all - merely a disinclination to apply to language schools or F.E. colleges that pay £18.00 an hour when I have been used to more than twice that amount for the last four years. F.E. colleges, under the yoke of Ofsted, further burden you with absurd amounts of paperwork, the message of which is, we do not trust you to teach without an overseer. I cannot muster a shred of enthusiasm for interviews in such places, or the acting ability necessary to pretend I want to teach in one. There is a very nasty rumour going round that our department will be taken over by a study chain, one of those educational Tesco Metros that so many university English Language centres have been forced to sell out to. I looked at their website. Predictably, it has photos of teachers with smiles like floodlights, teaching mostly oriental students who are revelling in the beams, soaking up learning in paroxysms of delight. As indeed they do! The teaching is dynamic, of course, the learning experience first class, the centre naturally dedicated to excellence, with a wide range of courses: that our copy-writer’s style is free of cliché is no idle boast! This is more wish-list than prospectus. The teachers will be netting around a tenner an hour for delivering their caring, smiling, dynamic, first-class learning experiences, so I wouldn’t place too much faith in that advertising copy if I were you. For that kind of money you are unlikely to find people with the qualifications and experience required to deliver on all those promises.
If this happens, I shall not stay around to have my hourly rate slashed and admin load doubled, so I am probably going to be available. I can teach students and train teachers. I’m not interested in administrational positions, I have scant patience with management speak, little time for meetings and a short way with time wasters. Snap me up…
'... I found myself in a routinely tedious faculty meeting, in which, as usual, I carried no presence whatsoever. As drivers insist that the blaring radio aids their concentration on the road, so I always found that a volume open on my lap enabled me to pay the small amount of attention needed to navigate these shallows. When asked with withering detection by the impassive secretary whether the book I was blatantly perusing was good, I nonchalantly replied, 'I only read good books.' I responded similarly to her policing my failure to send a note of apology for a meeting that I actually managed to miss, 'But I'm not sorry.'Rose, G., 1995. Love's Work. Chatto & Windus