Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mythical Dream Job and Moving On

I need to find an English school for tomorrow. I need a new dream.
Everyone that I started with is gone. They've drifted away, gone home, moved on. One guy is managing an AmeriCorps team in Florida. Another left to teach for a youth camp in France. The American woman returned to the US to study psychology and Russian, and began dating a new man. The Ukrainian testing director politely resigned to take care of her newborn baby. Two friends got fired. Another colleague just dropped off the face of the planet without a word to anyone. I guess these are the usual happy endings at your average ESL school.

It's weird to be the old-timer at work. Me? How did this happen? There were so many times that I almost quit of out frustration. Now I look around and I'm still here while everyone has scattered. Still here, still teaching the same classes, still flipping through the same battered school workbooks. The students seem content and the administration always  It's so easy to stay, to look back at old lesson plans and recycle ideas. The other day I asked D- "have I ever been happy teaching?" "Oh yes!" he said, "back in Alaska you were happy." Back in Alaska I found my own students, started my own classes, prepared something new every week. Now that seems like a lot of work compared to the steady predictability of teaching over and over for this Ukrainian school, but maybe change is good. Maybe new demands and new faces are good. All year I've told myself- this will be the last semester at this school, then I'll find something more challenging, but it hasn't happened. A little discontent never seemed like a good enough reason for leaving.

Not that I haven't looked, though. When D was interviewing this summer I was also approached to interview. To me it was just a random offer to interview. Little did I know that it would be for the Mythical Dream Job of all teachers at my school... not so mythical after all, haha.

Some brief background: there was one teacher at my school (now gone, of course) who had an additional job. No one really knew what he did but jealous rumors always circulated- he works at home! he gets paid to answer phone calls! He never volunteered many details but of course, he didn't teach as often as the rest of us. And maybe he was afraid that others would eagerly try to steal his job.

Then, though D, I was approached and asked to come interview for a job. In fact, it turned out to be the job. But it just didn't appeal that much to me. I wish it had, for it truly was a work-at-home job, using Skype to answer phone calls from customers in English-speaking countries. You sat at the computer for your shift, from early evening to the wee hours of the morning, and got paid a very decent wage to do so. I wonder how my life would be now if I had pursued the job. This would be my fourth month in that position. (Normally I never think about that possibility but today- out of the blue- the teacher who vanished called me up and started fishing around for info about the job. I need work, he said. I want to stay home and earn some cash.)

And a new semester starts tomorrow. When I think about this, a dull panic rises inside me. Again? Have I really signed up for another round? I like the students, the material, the routine.... but then again, it's the same students, the same material, the same routine. And me, the same teacher.

How dangerous is discontent?


  1. Yeaaaaaa but then when you finally move on you start to think about how much more you could've done and just how far you've gone. Kharkiv is a tough city to love, I was there for four months in 2011 and I remember the only time anybody other than my students or coworkers smiled to me was on my last day in the city at the supermarket. A university-aged girl was working the til and, when I finished paying, said "Thank you and have a nice day." It was SHOCKING. I almost ran. Good luck with another semester! Why don't you go to Lviv?!?!?!

    1. Hi Steve! I'm sorry (but not surprised!) to hear that Kharkov was so hostile to you. A lot of expats get that vibe from the city. And yeah, it would be rather shocking to hear a stranger wish you well, haha! I expected that kind of thing but for some odd reason have had almost the opposite experience- people have been really nice, sometimes even going out of their way to do so. There's been a couple of haters, like this cranky guy who runs the local xerox stand, but overall the local residents have been great. And Kharkov too... usually I'm like "okay, next (city)!" but Kharkov has really captured my heart. The city is this weird mix of comfortable and unfathomable, ancient and modern, and it seems like there's always some new alley or corner to explore.

      The other night I was talking with my coworker. He's been here almost as long as me and he's so over this city. He feels like he's been everywhere, seen everything, done everything, met everyone, and he was left unimpressed and ready to move on to a more glamourous locale. At that moment I realized that it's a real gift to fall in love with a city. Most people just stay for a while and then move on, never really getting in sync with the place. That's certainly what I've done my whole life. In America alone I lived in 8 cities and 4 states and never really liked any of them that much! Anyways, that's why I haven't gone on to Lviv. I've read a lot of great things about it (including your blog post) but it always comes down to a choice of

      -more time in Kharkov?
      -chance to finally visit Lviv?

      and I always pick Kharkov :p even though I'm probably the only person on this planet to do so!! It just feels like Kharkov and I have unfinished business and honestly I'd rather walk down some street here for the first time than some street even in beautiful Lviv. Absolutely insane, I know!

      But work, that's where I've been feeling stuck, like there's no chance for growth. And I'm pretty sure you and I have worked for the same school, esp when you mentioned your boss talking you into staying. She hasn't changed a bit, still the master of convincing people "what's truly best for them"! It's a shame that our schedules didn't overlap! It would have been really nice to meet you. :) If you ever come back this way...

  2. I hear ya. There was an upside to staying in Kharkiv: I got to sample a whole range of Ukrainian horilky. Y'know, live the "Soviet" life. It just wasn't a good place for me and I chose to move on. That begin the case, I still want to go back to Ukraine and spend some more time there. From what I can see, your blog is pretty thorough about all the things there are to do in Kharkiv (and it's not a small city so there's lots going on.) But it is a tough city. Plus, I went there with some romantic vision of what Ukraine was going to be like and never gave a moment's thought to actually how to work and live in the country. It's a changing country, but I'm proud to have Ukrainian ancestry and, what's more, to have visited Ukraine when I did. As for the school, the students were the best part and I understood the situation my boss was in, it wasn't like I had anything lined up in any other city. I guess any meeting in Kharkiv would depend on how long you're gonna stay there!