After working non-stop for eight days straight, never before have I been able to so passionately declare: “THANK GOODNESS IT’S FRIDAY!” I have only been teaching half my classes so far and I am already exhausted. We have only had one full day off since we got here and we jumped immediately into work. Amy and I learned upon arrival that since the few days before we got here was a holiday and the students had a few days off, they then had to make up the time they were out of school by working through the weekend. Since it was explained as a “one time thing” to us, we didn’t think much of it.
Later, however, we found out that students are in school through most weekends anyway. See, another thing that was left out of the plethora of information we weren’t given was the fact that the students here are in school for 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. They have two weekends off a month to go home and the rest of the time they are in school. It is just completely unfathomable to me that these students are expected to learn from 7 AM- 10 PM every day without any downtime. They have two hours off for meals during lunch and dinner and that is pretty much it. They are then back in class until 10 o’clock at night at which time, I presume they probably just go straight to bed, just to wake up in the morning to do it all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
And it isn’t just the students that have this schedule, but the teachers as well. It’s not like they break up the day between who gets to teach the day shift classes and who gets the night shift. No, every single teacher is expected to be at the school and work 12-15 hours a day. Our supervisor/ liaison and her husband are both teachers here and have a five-year old daughter who goes to the primary school down the road from 8 AM- 5 PM. When I asked her what she does with her daughter during those work hours when she is not in school, my supervisor said she brings her into the evening classes with her while she teaches. That completely baffles me. Where is the quality of life in that? How is there any family togetherness? I just don’t understand how there can be any productivity from the teachers or students if there is no way to get away from it all.
It was a total headache trying to figure out where they expected us to fit in with this whole system. I have never in my life had to say, “But that isn’t in my contract,” as many times as I did in that one meeting on our first day of work. As we were negotiating our schedule, they kept telling us we had to work evenings and we had to fight tooth and nail to ensure that we kept the hours promised us. We had originally agreed to regular 8-5 schedule with 18-20 of those being teaching hours and weekends off. However, since they needed to fill in those gaps, they tried to tell us that we needed to pick up some evening or early morning classes. Amy and I gave in a little bit and allowed them to schedule us for a few 7 AM classes a week. However, we told them that there is no way we will work past 5 if we are already coming in at 7. So far, those hours have been kept; but as I said earlier, I haven’t even started teaching my other 12 classes yet as those students are in “mandatory military training” and I have yet to get my full schedule (which is a whole other blog post.)
This whole system seems so so demoralizing. I have a student who I am teaching in my university prep course that is seriously struggling and as time gets on I see him becoming more and more withdrawn and checked out. It has only been a week and every day he comes in more and more disengaged, tired, irritable, and frustrated. Every day it becomes blatantly obvious that he does not want to be here and honestly, I don’t blame him. If I’m this exhausted by only teaching three classes and having a place to come back to at the end of the day to relax and decompress, I can only imagine how exhausted the students must be sitting through twelve classes every day and returning to their dorms just to get ready to do it all over again the next day.
The thing is, all these students are probably feeling so much pressure from their parents, their school, and their communities and if they don’t or can’t succeed, it’s game over for them. I understand that as an outsider, I couldn’t possibly understand all the layers and nuances at play here and there is no way I can even try to. But when even some of the teachers I have met talk about how frustrating and mind numbing this can be, something has to give. I just can’t help but wonder, at what point do they (students or teachers) finally decide that enough is enough?