Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Work

While I was home for Christmas, I had several people tell me how wonderful it was to keep up with my blog while I was gone.  But everyone kept asking, "What about your job??"

Well, I don't necessarily like what I'm doing here, so I don't like to talk about it.  But it's still a part of my experience, so here it goes:

My contract says that I am to work in the circonscription de Morne-Rouge, at the school in Morne-Vert.  I am contracted to work a maximum of 12 hours per week.  I am supposed to be an English assistant, an aide to the teacher while they teach the students English.  I can help with pronunciation, work with small groups, work alongside the teacher, etc.

That's what I signed up for.  However, my experience hasn't necessarily gone exactly how I anticipated.

My third day in Martinique, my tutrice (and main contact person) asked me to accompany her at a conference in Morne-Rouge.  Little did I know, it was a district-wide conference with about 200 teachers, and it wasn't until after I got there that I was informed that I would be making a speech to present myself.  Excuse me?  Sure, let me just jump right up there to the microphone and babble about myself in French in front of a few hundred strangers.  No problem.  But that's what I had to do.

Before I even had an idea of what anything would be like in Martinique, my tutrice asked me if I would be willing to include another school in my schedule.  Not knowing what it entailed, I agreed.  After my wonderful speech at the conference, another teacher asked to have her school added to my schedule.  Having three schools wouldn't be an issue, but most of the time, these schools would be reasonably close to each other.  For me, not so.  The Morne-Rouge circonscription covers almost the entire northern half of the island.

I chose to live in Schoelcher, in the center of the island, understanding that I would have to drive myself to Morne-Vert.  To go to Ajoupa-Bouillon, a teacher actually picks me up in Bellefontaine, which is about a 25 minute drive.  Then she drives me up to Ajoupa (about another 45 minutes to an hour north).  I ended up asking to drop my third school, PrĂȘcheur, because I had to drive about 45 minutes north and then have a teacher pick me up and drive me the last 15 minutes.  It took too much gas, and it seemed like a waste of time.

So now, I only work three days a week: Tuesday and Friday mornings from 8-12 at Morne-Vert and all day Thursday at Ajoupa-Bouillon.  In the States, when you work from 8-12, that would normally count as a 4 hour day, but they don't count my hours that way.  You only calculate the actual time you're with students, so it only counts as 3 hours.  Then, even though I'm in Ajoupa from 8-4, it only counts as roughly 5 hours.  I usually leave my house at 6:20 am and don't get home until after 6pm... but again, that doesn't matter.  It makes for a very long day.

If traveling a long way was the only issue, I wouldn't complain much.  But I've had a lot of issues with my tutrice, the teachers, and the classes I teach.


  • My tutrice.  Although she can be very friendly and fun, my tutrice is a little crazy.  She can be a little flaky and demanding.  I cannot count the number of hours I've spent at home looking up things online for her, finding certain songs or pictures to help her with her lessons.  She asks me for favors often, which of course don't count in my hours.  At the beginning, she also asked me to go to several random meetings that never even concerned me.  She always seems to cause me so much stress.  However, my biggest issue now is that she has started to just not show up at school.  Which leads me to my next point:
  • The teachers.  Apparently, no one seems to think I need to know when teachers are going to be absent.  Technically, I am not supposed to be a substitute.  I should not have to take over the class if the teacher is not there.  My tutrice actually comes in to teach two of my classes in Morne-Vert, yet whenever she is absent, she makes me teach for her.  Since the beginning of January, she has already been absent 4 times... out of 7 days.  One day, she also "forgot" to tell me that one of the classes wasn't even going to be in school.  After a night of very little sleep, it would have been nice to know that I didn't need to be in school until 9 instead of 8...
  • The classes.  Again, I'm not supposed to take classes on my own.  Yet, my tutrice decided that I should.  So at Morne-Vert, twice a week, I take 12 students from CE1 (7 year olds) into an empty classroom by myself.  For the first few months, no other teacher was even in the classroom with me.  The kids are horribly misbehaved and almost every day I wanted to just walk out on them and cry.  I expressed my concerns with the teachers and directrice (principal), but the only thing that changed is that now once a week, the directrice comes in the classroom and observes.  She doesn't even speak English, so the only thing she can help with is discipline.  And I am still alone with the kids once a week, so I'm still struggling with the teachers to try to figure out a different solution.  

Overall, I've been extremely frustrated by my work situation.  It could be so much fun to teach little kids, but it just comes with so much stress.  Did I mention that there is no set curriculum that I'm supposed to follow?  And that everything is completely unorganized?  Oh, and that I am not qualified to teach these children, I am a teaching assistant.

And so, this is why I don't like to talk about my job.