Pears, I tell you


Conversation starter right here

There are days when I cannot believe that my job is teaching English and it’s for good reasons, and then there are days like today. Days where I have dropped my son off at childcare despite him getting over bronchitis (again!) and believing he would be better off at home, but I shouldn’t take yet another day off for this company and cancel on these students yet again. Days where I spent 30 minutes trying to find my keys and had to do all sorts of mad dashing to get to work at all. Days where I’ve lugged my laptop in despite the fact it will be raining and I have a fair bit of walking outside to do, primarily so I can play the listening task. Days where I’ve prepared for their lessons the previous night and in the aftermath of the previous week’s lesson despite never being paid for that time. Days where I remember all the little details, like who doesn’t work well together, who sits where, who can’t see the whiteboard well.

It felt like it had taken me a good bit of effort to front up at all for class, and I started the lesson by reminding them brightly that we were practicing the past tense today, talking about what we did over the summer. They knew this in advance, because I also work out what we’re doing when and let them know, and they nodded agreeably as I said it. Then the student with the biggest ego in the group kicked things off and declared that during the summer, he eat pears. “I eat pears last summer.” He said it twice. His English is actually pretty good and I wondered, not for the first time, if he’s really just trolling me with these random exhibitions of shitty grammar.

And then the rest of them were off, talking about pears and slipping in as much Japanese as they possibly could. Because pears. There are a number of different types of Japanese pears and not only do they know what they are but what’s supposedly different about them and which region of Japan each is grown in. They still can’t remember that kuri is chestnut and marron isn’t English and we’ve had this conversation every autumn for the last five plus years. Apparently, even expecting them to remember that ate is the past tense of eat is a bit much. But hey. Those pears.

I know there are worse things I could be doing than teaching English to (elderly) adults who want to stay on the same language plateau forever after. It’s decent money and most of the time, I like these students as people. It’s just that after the effort it had taken just to successfully be there at all, to have the students want to spend the lesson discussing pear breeds in Japanese was a bit… dumbfounding, I guess.


The Work Situation

I started picking up dribs and drabs of work again as early as January, but I didn’t really get fully back into it until April. As it is, I am not working full-time, but part-time, with a corresponding wage and number of hours.

I consider myself something of a freelance English teacher currently in that I do work for several companies. While I would ideally like to be getting more money out of it than I am and there are downsides to the whole situation, there are a few upsides too and hence this is what I came back to when I decided I was done with maternity leave.

Here, briefly, is what I’m up to:

  1. Teaching conversational English to adults
    I had this job prior to having Mr. K, and I’ve been at it for five years now. It’s with an NPO and y boss is pretty great, more like a friend or even a business partner. While my students are not the most highly motivated learners, they are lovely people.
    When: three Wednesdays out of every month, 10am – 3pm (though my boss also has hopes of opening a 2 hour Saturday class as well)
  2. Teaching English at kindergartens
    I’ve done similar jobs to this in the past, but this time it’s through a large company with a very fixed curriculum. The pay is good and the kindergartens to which I’m getting sent are very conveniently located.
    When: varies some, but about half of my Monday mornings (albeit in a sporadic fashion) and some Thursdays, with the possibility of a few extra shifts occasionally coming up.
  3. Teaching English at childcare centres
    Despite targetting similarly-aged children, this job is somewhat different to job #2, with an emphasis on fun and teaching over strict language learning. This is with a moderately-sized company and a semi-fixed curriculum, and the childcare centres are also very conveniently located.
    When: every Tuesday and Thursday morning, except when I’m doing job #2, simply because they got me locked in first), in which case I go on Friday mornings instead, and except for August.
  4. Private 1-to-1 conversational lessons
    I used to do far more of these, but I’ve currently only got about three happening each week now. The lessons happen in a variety of places and at various levels.
    When: Varies – people book times on Monday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon.

It all results in a weird, varied sort of schedule. The way things are shaping up, I could end up doing at least some work every day. On the other hand, in the upcoming summer in particular, I may end up doing very little in any given week! Routine isn’t a bad thing at all, but I admit to liking the diversity.

I’m planning on sticking to something of a theme this week and posting more about returning to work post-baby this week. My focus will be less on the details of my specific job/s (stories unto themselves, believe me) but just the whole experience generally, complete with other people’s judgement, my own mixed feelings, and the difficulty and fun of just getting back into things.