Anyone who knows me well knows that I like to be organized. My computer and paper filing systems complement each other, I carefully track and reconcile my finances monthly, and “Hard Drive Backup” is scheduled as a repeated event on Google Calendar. When working on projects, if I can, I prefer to spend extra time getting set up at the beginning because I believe that one minute of “prevention” saves 10 minutes of “reaction.”
Well during my first month at work, I have learned that systems in China do not operate in the same way. In fact, many things I have encountered would lead me to believe that the system goes out of its way to prevent such preventative management (that’s meta for those of you paying attention). In other words, China definitely favors the abstract random personality.
The good news is that after two weeks of teaching, things have generally fallen into a nice routine at work. My schedule is now solidified. I teach 20 hours in the classroom per week. I have two sections of Academic Writing and three sections of Academic Communication (listening and speaking). I meet with each section twice per week for a total of four hours each section per week. The nice thing is that I only have four lesson plan preps to do.
In addition to my teaching load, I have another 10 hours of “Office Hours” on campus. This is ostensibly to allow students time to come and meet with me. Really though, I have been told that it is a requirement mostly because the Chinese administration values “face time” and believes that work happens only when someone is physically present at the office. The bright side is that even if students do not come by, I can use the time to grade, answer emails (albeit on a slow computer), practice Chinese, or connect with other teachers also on office hours.
Getting the schedule in place was no easy process. In fact, we received the schedule from the administration on the Friday morning before we were to start classes the next Monday. When I looked it over the first time, I noticed I had only one Monday class and asked right away if it could be moved to Tuesday. I did all the proper homework – finding an available room, making sure it would work well for the students, etc… Nonetheless I encountered resistance from the administration and prepared myself to make my daily one-hour commute for just one class all semester. Luckily, after a nice conversation, my supervisor went to bat for me and worked everything out.
So after all was said and done, I have a pretty nice schedule. I get to work from home on Mondays, which is a great opportunity for me to do my planning for the week. I also get Friday afternoons “off”, which makes for what feels like an automatic 3.5 day weekend. Still though, I earn it back by working 7:30 – 5:30 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are killer because I’m in charge of a class for six hours each day. Any teacher can tell you how exhausting that can be.