11 Apr

The dude tells me that he’ll be talking with his peeps and they’ll let me know in a few days.

Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly like that but close.

In my continuing effort to find a job, I’ve sent out my resume to a few downtown international schools.  I may have already mentioned that I put a kind of caveat in the e-mail, saying that the hourly wage needs to be at least $xx/hour or I can’t survive.  In no other field would I ever ever ever do that but in the ESL industry, you have to.  Forgive me if I am repeating myself!  The length of time I’ve been teaching ESL – 13! years, is meaningless to most schools, absolutely meaningless.  The hours are never full time, although I would be there full time, prepping, marking and etc.  So it’s most likely say 25 hours a week that I’m paid for but I’m there 8 hours a day, so no chance to have another job even though it is paid like a part-time job.  I realize, of course, that I’ll never again make the $43/hour I was making for awhile at the corporation before the bottom fell out or the $50/hour I was making working part time at UBC.  I’m realistic and not going to be super picky.  Now is the time that ESL schools start hiring for summer staff.  Around September, student numbers drop off again and bye bye to the job.

So I head into, well, downtown, this morning to a different corporation.  I’d checked out their website and while they are very much like every other school, what they teach seemed maybe a bit more interesting and they have students from many different countries, so a nice mix there.  The building itself is really nice so that’s nice.

I’m early so one of the 3 teenaged looking receptionists asks me to have a seat.  It seems to be breaktime as students mill in and out, speaking many different languages, even to the receptionists (obviously no English only policy but whatever).  Everyone is young and hip.  I spy what I think are a few teachers and they are young and hip too, with the exception of one or two who look to be in their 50s.  They look tired but I’m probably just projecting.  I’m trying to get a feel for the place and I’m trying not to panic too much about the prospect of having to work in such a place.  Then, I hear a voice to my left, next to someone named Nadia’s desk.  Nadia, according to a note, will be in after 2 pm to help students.

“Karen,” says a voice.

I turn to my left, a bit dazed.  I see a young guy, wearing jeans I think, his hair kinda hip, kinda now.

“I’ll be with you in a minute,” he says “Students are on break still.”

I say okay and continue my soaking up of the atmosphere. “Speak English!” the young male Spanish receptionist says to some students lurking in a corner.  Interesting, he was just speaking Spanish to some other students minutes earlier.

The floors are sparkling clean, the elevators are fast and they have a widescreen TV that shows announcements.  This beats the former corporation’s old building, dirty floors and mice.  Still, my anxiety is building.  This is not what I want to do again.  (Those of you of my wee wee fan base inclined to think, ‘suck it up, sister’ may not want to read further.)

“Karen,” says dude, “Let’s have a chat in my office.”

Dude and I head in, along with a Korean student who needs a printout of something for some reason.  That takes a few minutes.

Then, dude asks me about two questions.  We discuss UBC’s ELI.

“I’m thinking of taking the Cambridge Delta,” he tells me and I’m wondering why he said Cambridge and not just Delta.  I suspect, but will never know for sure of course, the he was trying to be impressive.  “I was thinking about going to ELI to check out their library.”

“Oh,”  I say wondering what the heck library he is talking about.

“Or, uh, is it all at Scarfe (education building)?  Do they just have like a student library at ELI?”

“Yeah,” I say, wondering if he thought he could get his DELTA through UBC’s institute for ESL students.

A few minutes later he asks me if I haven’t taught since being laid off from the corporation.

“Uh, UBC,” I say, “Remember?  From January to March.”

“Oh yeah,” says the dude.

He doesn’t ask me any specifics about anything and it takes him a few minutes to find my resume in the pile.

“Here are my references,”   I say, handing him a piece of paper.

“Oh, yeah, cool.”

So our starting wage is xx/hour, he says.

Oh, I say, but remember we discussed on the phone my need for $xx/hour?

Right, he says and takes out a sample contract.  The font is too small for me to read quickly(yup, need progressive lenses very very soon) but he says well, you’d get $2 more an hour cause you have this and $1 for this and if you get 96% on your monthly evaluations from the students, then you”d get another 50 cents an hour.

Ninety six percent on monthly evaluations, he says again.

Some schools put so so so much emphasis on whether or not their ESL students like their teachers.  If you don’t get enough  smiley faces, then you are out.  And it can literally be smiley faces – or the dreaded frowny faces.  My former corporation didn’t put too much emphasis on them and UBC didn’t at all – they understood that students’ perceptions, while valuable, can be affected by so many things.  Imagine if, at your job, you were evaluated every four weeks by 12-16 people barely out of their teens whose greatest concern is generally that you are ‘kind’ but also maybe ‘strict’ but not too strict.  It’s insane and insane making in a way I can’t quite describe.  Don’t get me wrong, if all of the students hated you all of the time, any school, even my pedestalized UBC, would be concerned.

 But again, it is very very common in this industry to let the students whims do the firing.

“I see,” I say.

“So, we’re trying out teachers as subs first, to see if they fit in and then,  you know, there’d be work for 3 months in the summer.”

“I see,” I say to the dude.

“So you have a think about it and we’ll let you know in a few days.”  The dude stands up.  The interview, from start to finish, was 10 minutes.

“Bye,” I say, “Thanks.”

“Cool.  Bye,” he says.

I ride the elevator down to the main floor and out into the rain.  I head over to the main library and read a few newspapers – from London, but of course.  There is some amazing Air Transat deal right now and next week I could fly to London for $800, return. I’m sure I could stay with Dale and Luke for a week.  I won’t, of course, because I simply can’t afford to.  I somehow find eight books to take out and head home on the bus a couple of hours later.  I pop in to see Rev. Beth and try to explain what has happened.  She tries to understand but really, unless you’ve taught in the ESL indusstry, it is almost impossible to (just as I don’t get United Church minister stuff).  She doesn’t get what it would be like to be sucked back in and to have your whole job on the line all the time based on the whims and moods of young international students.  But then again, she sees me a lot, sitting in her office, banging my head against the wall about being unemployed.  Today I got her on to the ‘Modern Mormon Men’ website that my regular wee fan base know that I’m obsessed with.  “Here,’ I show her, “Read this disparaging comment I made as anonymous.”

I’m trying to get out, of the whole ESL thing (except UBC or ELSA!) I really am but it ain’t easy.  If you’ve read this blog at all, you know it ain’t easy.  Again, the temptation to write, “Geez, Karen, in this economy if the dude offers you a job, take the job from the dude,” may be strong. Resist! I say.

My phone actually did ring today, from a place (anonymous for now) that needs ELSA substitutes.  She’d called when I was at UBC and told me to arrange an interview for when I was done.  So tomorrow, an interview for subbing (and she was very clear, only subbing). It is quite far away (two zones on the bus!) but it would be good to get some experience in ELSA,  which is teaching immigrants.  So tomorrow I’ll make a half day trip of it – go out for lunch before the interview and visit with my friend after.

I have a feeling the dude is going to call me and say thanks but no thanks and really, that would be the easiest thing at this point.

6 Responses to “Dude”

  1. Carrie April 11, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    The internet just ate my witty, insightful, and deeply empathetic comment. So, let me sum up:
    You have done an excellent job of describing the ridiculousness of the ESL working environment. I had no idea, and now you have given me some idea, and I thank you for that.

    This comment thing is being wonky so I’m just going to type and hope it makes sense. I hear you loud and clear on the “just take the job if he offers you a job”. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? Gah. Unfortunately for me and the other unemployed person I live with, we are definitely in the “I’ll do almost anything” stage — I have signed with a temp agency and they want to put me in a call centre. Not telemarketing, but seriously the wrong place for me: I do not like talking on the phone, I do not like front-line customer service, I do not want to get a 2 zone bus pass on that wage, I do not want to accept a position that will still be paying me 2 dollars under the limit I have meticulously calculated to be my absolute lowest survival wage, and at that rate I will DEFINITELY not be able to make any student loan payments.

    All that to say: I empathize. Deeply. And I also laughed when I read “Here,’ I show her, “Read this disparaging comment I made as anonymous.” I do that a lot. Not on Mormon sites yet, but o how I can identify. I’m trying to stay away from the internet but obviously that’s not working……

    • jobsearchinginvancouver April 12, 2012 at 1:07 am #

      Carrie – keep me posted on that call centre job and how it goes for you. Good for you though for being ‘accepted’ by a temp. agency! Yikes-o-rama.

  2. Thomas April 12, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    At this stage my advice is take what you can get. To say this job market is pathetic would certainly be an understatement. It is absolutely unbelievable. If someone told me eight months ago I would send out over 100 cover letters and resume’s for everything from working at a Call Centre to basically cleaning toilets and not even get so much as an email back , I wouldn’t of believed them.

    I have had one, count them one interview for a part-time, minimum wage call centre job. The women said she was excited about my resume and had to see me immediately. I packed up my things and went for the fairly brief interview. Everything seemingly went well. I said all the right things, I thought. I was pleasant, knowledgeable about the company etc etc etc. As I left the meeting she said “I am going to act fast on this position”.

    I waited a few days. Then I emailed her, no response. I waited a couple more days and then I called her, still no response. It will be two weeks tomorrow that I have heard anything from her. Not even the simply courteousy of a return call telling me, “sorry sucker we filled the position”.

    This tells me that employers in this area know full well the employment situation. They can play with you, tease you and in the end ignore you because they know there are soooo many people out there looking for even a simple, minimum wage job , they can afford to do it. It is disgusting and yes I am extremely frustrated and agry at this point.

    How bad has it gotten? A friend told me today that McDonalds was having a hiring fair at Metrotown and for a brief moment I was thinking about showing up with my resume.

    • jobsearchinginvancouver April 12, 2012 at 1:06 am #

      Yikes, Thomas. Yikes. Sounds like reader Carrie, who also commented on this post, is thinking of call centre work as well. And yikes about that woman not getting back to me . . . . you are much less reactionary than I am, I have a feeling I’d bug her till she called me back!
      I’ll wait and see what the dude says. I have a couple of other potential irons in the fire so I’ll see how those work out as well. But yes, yikes.

    • Carrie April 12, 2012 at 1:17 am #

      There was a job fair at the main branch of the Vancouver library a few weeks ago. Maybe a month ago now? Anyway. It was for a bunch of random places. I didn’t end up even going in as I thought it was for bilingual people only — but my job-searching, French/English bilingual husband went. He filled out some forms (why do they always want you to fill out their damn forms when you have your resume RIGHT THERE) and yeah….. no calls.

      One of the people working for this job fair — greeting people at the door, first point of contact — was wearing sweatpants. Big, bulky, baggy sweatpants. It was very confusing for me, and I imagine it was also confusing for the hundred or so people who were standing in line, all who looked like, you know, regular people not wearing SWEATPANTS. And here was someone with a nametag and sweatpants. Maybe she spilled something and had to change into her workout clothes but…. maybe I just need to wear some exercise gear to my next interview. If I ever get a next interview.

      I’d like to say “I can’t believe someone would be so rude to you, Thomas” but the dreadful thing is that I do believe it, because similar crap has happened to me. And to my husband. And my friends. And to every other unemployed person out there. It’s stupid, it’s ridiculous, it displays a complete lack of respect, and I have a much stronger understanding now of how revolutions happen. People can sit and take shit for only so long before they get mad, get organized, and unleash their own little shitstorm.

      I used to try and give these stupid employers the benefit of the doubt, but now I sincerely wish that each and every one of them gets to experience the terror that is unemployment. 6+ months. Longer. Let them watch their savings dwindle, their self-esteem corrode, and have their employed friends and family ask “well, what are you doing wrong? that’s just crazy, there must be some problem with your resume, have you thought of….”?

  3. Thomas April 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    OMG Carrie, your last two lines are classic and EXACTLY what I hear from friends and family.

    By the way, I dropped by the friendly neighbourhood “employment office” yesterday. Since the beginning of the month, as you know Karen, they have re-jigged everything. My old useless employment couselor is no longer at this location in New West. No big deal.

    Yesterday the place was absolutely packed with people from all walks of life. From those just off the boat wondering what a sin number is to a girl I talked to who was giving up her long standing career in the fast food industry. You talk about depressing.

    Everyone working in the place was all in a flutter. One of the women behind the counter who looked particularly flustered said “you know we just changed everything over and we are getting everything in order, we are working very hard and it’s just been crazy, you don’t know what it’s been like”. Frustrated and more than a little “pee od” at this point I told her “at least you have a job, you should try it on this side of the counter”. Anyway, they lost my file and now I have to go back in tomorrow so that I can start a new one.

    This will be the third time into the place this week. My main reason for going in yesterday was to find out about re-training support, as they had a brief info session and what exactly I have to do if I want to go back to school, which is what I am considering now.

    Bottom line they will pay up to $4,000 for you to go somewhere for re-training. So if your program costs $8,000 or $9,000 or more you have to come up with it. Plus your re-training must be “a need” this woman said and not “a want”. In other words you won’t get funding if you decide you would like to try another career. You must demonstrate that there are no jobs in your field and the number of steps you have taken to determine this.

    Then you must submit a dna sample, stand on your head and recite the Lords Prayer backwards while juggeling six eggs, four of which must remain uncracked, blah blah blah.
    You get the picture, basically jump through a million hoops before they decide whether to give you the four grand plus a modest living allowance to help pay rent , bills and maybe that bus ride down to the food bank. The entire process will take a couple months apparently.

    Anyway, enough ranting and raving for now. I must print off a few more resumes as I hand deliver them to various different businesses today. So far, this doesn’t seem to be working either. Good luck everyone.

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