Tuesday, 6 October 2009

I Have Been Here Before

‘Did you have a good time?’ people asked me yesterday on my first day at work after three weeks off, with ten days back in Greece. ‘Well, you look refreshed and relaxed! All set to go, then?’

Yes, I had a fairly good time. The refreshed and relaxed appearance is an optical illusion, however, due mostly to the fact that my outfit is entirely crisp and new, and owing nothing to the way I feel. Am I all set to go? No fucking choice, sunshine, is there? I have to be here, ‘I want, I don’t want’, as they put it in Greek.

First day with a new class today. Now remember, Steven, they are individual human beings, not generic types, right? There’s the joker, there’s the one who is convinced he is in the wrong class and wants promoting even before the lesson starts, and the veiled Saudi ladies too timid to speak, whose mood must be inferred from the configuration of their eyebrows and crows’ feet. There’s the amiably smiling sort, the know-all sort, the earnestly frowning sort, and the… Ok, now stop it, what did I just say about ‘individual human beings’?

I launch into my usual Day One / Get to Know You and Diagnose your Level spiels, and diagnose the same issues we always get. They cannot recognise spoken words that would be utterly familiar to them in print, we all know that. The sexes do not interact and when I push them to do so, the women resort to monosyllables, eyes downcast. We knew they would; they’ll come round eventually. However odd my approach may seem to them, for me nothing about the day’s proceedings is in the least bit novel. It’s like a recurring dream, one that will go on recurring every day for the coming eleven weeks, then after a twenty-one day hiatus, resume for another eleven weeks, and then… Fucking hell.

Now, you might point out that there are people out of work and broke, and that I pass the Job Centre on my way into work every day and clock the huge queue there, and that I am well paid for working in a warm, bright, clean, dry environment, but you are being reasonable when I am having a moan, so cut it out. I’m cheesed off, and I’m not alone, so there. One of my colleagues has decided she is going to sod off to Australia for a year come April, otherwise she might flip her beanie. Another sympathised with my gloom because she is just back from Thailand, but in body only, and the prospect of eleven weeks' unrelieved EFL likewise fills her with big grey lumps of boredom.

I might just have something to look forward to, though. A colleague in Athens has suggested I might go out there for a couple of weeks every so often to help her in my old job of conducting teacher training sessions and teaching practice observations in schools. I proposed a fortnight in January. January, as any fule kno, is the absolute pits in England; the dank, glaucous days after the annual let-down that is Christmas, when you go back to work feeling as if you are being yanked from your cocoon and tampered with. You feel you should be lounging in your dressing gown having a Martini, not creeping like a snail unwillingly to room 2.41, for another dose of your intermediate course-book. But January in Greece brings the alkyonídes méres, the Halcyon days, a period of mild, bright weather when the sky is the colour of a vinyl swimming-pool liner and everyone who has just been home to the UK for Christmas forgives Greece for being such a madhouse. So I am clinging to the hope that the plan materialises, and they will not need to send the men in white coats to get me quite yet.


Fionnchú said...

As an "earnestly frowning sort," I know too classroom tedium. I teach now 48 (up from 45 with no change in pay) weeks a year, although after a few years of this, the administration must give in to the previously theoretical eight-weeks off "added" a year; we of course have to now take heavier course loads other terms to earn this "non-teaching session" in which we are still required to come in to campus for meetings and functions. No Hellas for wage-slave helots.

You do get three week breaks; I assume you too must toil otherwise incessantly? We go year-round to serve our impatient students dying to rush out into a nation where now for every job there's six applicants. My own position of "full-time no tenure, at-will employment, no contract, no union" doubtless'd have even more, given the Ph.D. in English Lit's perpetually dismal lot. Hang in there, VS; I share your angst deeply. Even if the weather's supposedly better in L.A.-- endlessly the same, it seems...

vilges suola said...

The 'part time lecturers' at our place are all paid by the hour and so we are free to take any time we like off, on the understanding that we won't get a dime. I have accepted the maximum possible load of 20 contact hours per week, although most of the staff do 16 max by choice. I have toyed with making myself unavailable on Mon or Fri, but in a 5 week period that means I sacrifice over 500 pounds... Thus are treadmills created.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

hmm, sounds like its all doom and gloom (glad i'm here instead)

at the same time, i think it's the same everywhere eventually - it gets cold, dark and wet all over europe and we all look forward to the finer weather days...

I simply love the uk in late march/early april - your spring is more lively; you can almost see people coming out of hibernation there (whereas greeks are a box of fluffy ducks all year round - the saying comes from NZ)

(ps - cheddar cheese from the Uk: it was a present from a friend, while the jam was from the US - a present from another friend; M&S in hania never had a food store - it does do well in the clothes department, as it sells cheap enough to keep itself in business and the sizing range is good too)

vilges suola said...

I'll get back into the groove soon... (yawn) I do actually love the autumn and the shortening days here. The gathering darkness just cries out for candle light, garlicky food roasting in the oven, dark green vegetables, mushrooms, wild rice and red wine. And sweet sherry. And scotch. Carefully considered cosiness. No complaints! However, January is bloody miserable and I'm really hoping to get to Greece for ten days.

I really want to try that chilli jam and cheese. It sounds a perfect combination.


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