I hate the work of marking students’ tests almost the least. It’s not even a work—it’s just more or less mindless checking or crossing out as appropriate. If I had a trained monkey, I’d assign it on the job. Alas, I only have an untrained cat. On the upside, I will never cease to be amused at what some English learners come up with. Here’s a random assortment of what I’ve come across so far.
I’m like Mara in wonderland in my new job. I graduated from and used to teach at a traditional old university, where all things and people are ancient, crumbling and unsmiling. At the modern college where I currently teach, everything is new, everyone is happy, and it’s terribly creepy.
I don’t object to the up-to-date facilities that are actually working. I can’t get enough of the view from my temp office, which shows functionalist buildings—none of which looks like it’s going to collapse under its own weight and age any moment. I was so excited when I checked out the workplace’s restroom that I had to tweet it:
The hyperfriendly staff is a concern though. I don’t believe it’s a natural disposition for staff to be so superexcited when dealing with fellow staff. A colleague who was handing in the classroom key to me looked like he would propose any time. A cleaning woman whom I was handing in the classroom key looked like she would adopt me. Maybe it’s a magic key.
Or maybe it’s the asbestos in the building that makes everyone act so saccharine. The building will be stripped of its asbestos in summer, so it might be interesting to see if the staff’s unhealthy upbeat attitude will be normalised. Before that, I fear I might be a victim to some twisted social experiment which examines the effects of the kindness of strangers upon (un)suspecting me. The fact that I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not after me.
I’m back to school and I hate to admit that I don’t hate it. My new temp job at a low-ranking business university brings me back to teaching—English as a foreign language. I consider English my first language in many ways, so it took me a while to realise that my English major students don’t actually speak English. Curiously, international visiting students are even worse, which leaves us with no language to communicate in. It’s all kinds of awkward.
To introduce myself as the sweet and understanding teacher that I am (not), my first task was to write with students a midterm test. The test has been prepared by the teacher whom I’m substituting. She provided me with a pile of materials, most of which I’m required to carry to each class. I’m no more surprised that she went mad, since she is taking things so seriously. I’m a serious person too but I only take seriously serious things that matter. Now, figure that one out.
I need a carrier for all the stuff for class that I’m carrying around. Carrier shouldn’t be confused with career, which was, almost dishearteningly, the most common mistake on the listening part of the test which I’ve already marked. I suspect that confusing career with carrier might have an adverse impact on the students’ future careers, which might turn out to be that of delivery guys and girls. Bringing smile on your face with our deliveries since we graduated from our business university course.
In retrospect, I suspect that the students underestimated me. As I dress youthful-ish and act funny—I deem it better for students to think that their teacher is embarrassing herself than to think that she’s dead boring—it might be that the poor young things held me for some old last-year student who just popped in to write the test with them. Of course I did tell them I’m their substitute teacher, but that was before I realised they mostly had no idea of what I was saying because English is a foreign language to them.
In one group, there was a clique of four boys at the back who were being disruptive throughout most of the test. As if they couldn’t cheat quietly so as not to disturb me while I was abusing the university equipment to do some proofreading. While I am well paid, I’m not paid well enough to sit tight and stare at the students sweating while they were trying to figure out their English tests. After considering what to do with those four disruptive elements, I decided for subtle terror, approached them before the class dispersed and took their names. You could tell it freaked them out.
My social visit to the government institution I frequent and hate the most, the employment agency, neither started nor ended well, as I, being a nihilist to the core, naturally anticipated. Appointments at impossibly early small hours of the morning, which is always the time allocated, are not my thing, so I made my appearance in the afternoon—three days in advance.
I know, right. I act like the rules and ways of ordinary humankind don’t apply to me only because I’m me. You might be pleased to hear though that for my presumptuousness, I was duly punished. On my defence, I wish to add that I couldn’t keep my scheduled appointment because it collided with my new job. In case you missed it, that was the post in which I revealed the employment agency’s statement that a job is not allowed to conflict with my attendance duties towards the agency.
While I expected that the agency would have a lunch break when I arrive, I thought that meanwhile I’d sit down and catch a good position in the queue. The building was however locked. I half-expected to see a NO UNEMPLOYED BEYOND THIS POINT sign, but there was nothing. That is, there was a landline phone with a USE THE PHONE OUTSIDE OF OFFICE HOURS sign, and some naive unemployed actually tried to use it, but there was no answer. Obviously.
As I was in front of the door fifty minutes before the opening hours, I chose the best spot in the small corridor, which soon became packed with nervous job seekers. Five minutes before opening, a guy in overalls approached the glass door from the inside and stuck a CLOSED sign on it. This rose some amount of confusion and anger among the crowd. However, trained in institutional dealings as we are, we went on waiting threateningly.
My following interactions with several clerks were uneventful. I didn’t even get down to pull the doctor card—that’s what I do when I run out of arguments and resort to yelling BUT I’M A DOCTOR!! I leave the sentence unfinished with an implied SO YOU CAN YOU KNOW WHAT, letting everyone’s fantasy to fill in as appropriate.
My clerk was deeply upset that I found myself a temp job. Neither was she happy to learn that I’m taking steps to become officially self-employed alongside. She refused to cross me out from the unemployment database for the time being. *shrug* I guess it doesn’t make any difference.
I left the agency with a list of todos and todelivers. They are huge fans of paper collecting, these institutions, and they always coach a person into bringing in more. I might need to start collecting old paper for them to satisfy their hoarding needs. But then, it would be a job, which the employment agency wouldn’t approve of. You know, logic.
The next stop was the office for the control and harassment of aspiring and current self-employed persons. I did my homework and arrived equipped with two forms filled in. I know, right. Only two. I was positive there must be more to it when one asks to have a licence granted for employing oneself. And guess what. Turns out you need to fill in zero forms. The clerk takes your dictation.
My clerk was not particularly chatty. I don’t even think she hated me, though I believe that everyone hates me by default. She was perfectly indifferent. Like in WE ARE THE BORG indifferent. I paid her for her five-minute service so much that a luxury gentleman’s companion would be in awe of the amount. Here are our brief dealings dramatised in an one-act play.
MARA (tentatively): Hi.
CLERK (without looking up): What do I get you?
MARA (questioningly): A licence?
CLERK: What kind?
MARA: Free profession.
CLERK: ID card. (Clerk typing.)
CLERK (looks up): Which professions?
MARA (dictates): Numbers 24, 36, 64, 65, 66 and 79.
CLERK: That’s CZK 1000,-. Sign this.
MARA signs and receives a stamped paper. CLERK stays quiet.
MARA (confused): Well?
MARA: What next?
CLERK: That’s it.
MARA: So how long until my licence is valid?
CLERK: It’s valid now.
MARA (eyes falling out of sockets): !”£$%^&*()_+ (Playing it cool.) Alright.
I think it’s mildly discomforting how much easier it is to become self-employed than to be unemployed. But again, there is surely a government logic to it that I’m missing. My bad. The point is, I’m officially announcing now that I’m officially self-employed. Don’t ask me what that means exactly. I wasn’t told. I guess I’ll just Google.
I enjoy hanging out at home with the cat. The cat loves it too, but much like me, she would never admit that she loves something. It’s clear though that we hate each other the least.
My cat and my fellow stick figure drawing practitioner Raili inspired me to another attempted art today. It shows the deep existentialist thoughts of my cat, who takes a looong time deciding whether to pee or not to pee, and when she goes for it, she does so with her tail hanging out from the litterbox.
That much to my and my cat’s respective hangouts.