International schools are approaching the end of the year now, and for both teachers and students, it's among the peak stress periods of the year.
Just within the last week, for example, my school has had prom (which was more like a banquet, if you ask me), a huge school-wide spring concert (featuring West Side Story and several other bits), middle and high school finals (almost two weeks prior to the end of the school year), and senior graduation (which, for some reason, also at occurs two weeks before the end of the normal school year).
Simultaneously are end of the year student projects and portfolios, grading finalisation and comments, and school accreditation/department/event meetings.
Advance planning for a change
On top of these "typical" things, teachers have been generally told what courses they are to teach next year (wow, in advance!), and are thus having to organise book orders, syllabi, and "schemes of work" providing general year-long plans of what is to come next year. This is especially difficult for teachers that are getting many new "lines" next year (like me); although I still crack a grin every time someone asks me about my "lines" (lingo for courses, not cocaine),
I've thus far been set up with five different classes (three of which are new, thus unplanned, for me), and planning-wise, there's no grinning to be had. Unless I can convince the headmaster otherwise, I'm currently slated to prep and plan for grade 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12 courses, and because of the vertical nature of my assignments, there's nothing I can really duplicate between any of them. Cue the violin.
Mayhem. And how do I deal with it? Well, I write a blog posting, obviously.
When I used to teach in a Thai school English Programme (EP), the end of the term generally consisted with... well, writing and grading finals the last week of school (one of the few times when a Thai school makes more sense than an international school), and being forced to sign in for no apparent reason the month after. Sure, there was some amount of stress, but the feel was far more sabai sabai (chill).
I've noticed that the end of the year stress also brings on a stronger ‘office gossip' mill too, which has a nasty habit of getting in the way of doing all those finalising tasks that are far more pressing. One of the things I miss most about working in a Thai school is having no idea of what office politics were going on, nor having to care (not speaking Thai has its advantages), whereas working with a bunch of farangs (foreigners) means there's little way to avoid it all.
Still, even with these negatives and high end-of-the-year workload in a different style school in Bangkok, I do at least get to find some solace in seeing a more tangible level of progress with my students than I've measured in years past. Oh, and I can have a coffee maker in my room. Does this fully counter the exponentially higher workload?
Ask me if/when I survive the end of the year.
I hope you enjoyed my blog. If you would like to get in touch or perhaps e-mail me with a question, I would love to hear from you - All the best, Sam Thompson.