Monday, August 14, 2006

Work work work

Despite a couple of strong possibilities, I still have no firm teaching job for the fall. To make a little money while filling my days with something better than video games, I've been taking small jobs here and there. I believe some of my Serbian friends know this situation well: the jobs that you have to take while you're waiting for the job that you want.

The main way I'm looking for small jobs is through a temporary employment agency. The first time I worked for them, I went into a central office where I took tests to prove that I'm skilled with Microsoft Office and can type fast. Since then, they've had my name on file, and I call and tell them when I'm available to work. Other companies will call in to ask them for short-term office help - my jobs have ranged from a day to a week, but some can go longer - and when their needs meet my skills and availability, I get a day's work.

I had one such job last Thursday at an office in Boston's Financial District. I spent the morning sorting old newspapers (getting black ink stains on my suit) and the afternoon typing names and telephone numbers into a computer spreadsheet. This sort of work, I realized, is an exercise in humility. When I go into the classroom, I carry a great deal of pride and confidence, and I expect to be given interesting, challenging work. My temp employers, on the other hand, were not looking for me in particular, but for some filing help for Thursday. They have to offer jobs that anyone could do. This makes them easy assignments that carry very little responsibility or interest; mostly I keep quiet and work fast.

Saturday's job was a little different: I went to work at the retirement community run by my father-in-law. I've worked for him in the past, so he knows me better and tends to assign me jobs that require thinking and writing, not just typing and knowing the alphabet. I spent the day writing letters to residents and their families addressing various social issues. I enjoy working on the best language to address these delicate situations: how to tell an 80-year-old to stop complaining about the neighbors? How to inform a child of their parent's progressing dementia?

This week, I have no temp assignments yet, so I may have to continue with my daily video games. In any case, this is the time of year when they hire teachers, so I expect to have a real job soon.


Brooke said...

Why don't you go to a language institute and teach English to non-native speakers. When I did that I found that I learned just about as much about the English language as they did. Just an idea...

Daniel said...

Thanks for the thought .. actually, English for non-native speakers is my profession. It's what I got my master's degree in, what I did in Serbia, and what I'm looking for now. I have worked in language institutes in the past, as well as nonprofit organizations and public schools, but now I really want to continue what I was doing in Serbia: teaching academic English to foreign university students. Those jobs are generally better-paying and more interesting than language institutes, if you can get them.