The drip drip

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Recently I was prompted to recall the Chinese water torture (a nice racist name) which was a staple playground talking point at my secondary school. How such torture caused pain was quite puzzling for an 11 year old, the pre-teen consensus was that the water eventually drilled a hole in the head.

Only later does life demonstrate not the physical result of a holey noggin but the psychological cost of small irritables on one’s state of mind. To wit, to work as an adjunct in tertiary education, or what is called a vacataire in France, one has to fill in paperwork each year to show that you either have a “main” employer or that you earn enough working freelance. Recently in addition to this yearly ritual I had to re-submit paperwork to one institution as my main employers (who are currently the third set of owners over 10 years) had filled in the actual hours I had worked and not the maximum hours I can do. If you do not have enough hours working for your main employer the number of hours you can work as an adjunct is affected proportionally (up to a maximum of approximately 300hours of work per year).

When I found out that I would have to ask my main employer to redo the paperwork the negative effect on my mood was quite strong. An immediate dark cloud loomed, I think I was as much surprised by my reaction as the prospect itself. Hence my recollection of the water torture puzzle from many years ago. The administrative dullness of sending off another email, waiting for a response, sending a reminder email, eventually getting the amended form, sending that amended form off and at the time of writing waiting to hear if this new form is acceptable, is crushing.

Plink. Other slowly building up watery ooze that fills the life of a vacataire include: payment for work which for most places can take several months; very variable professional development opportunities; unpaid marking workloads; unpaid preparation time; stagnant pay; long (over an hour) commutes; status and employment bias compared to nationally educated teachers.

The representation of vacataire rights in the workplace is non-existent, we have to depend on the relationships we manage to make with hiring colleagues.

Giving up adjunct work would mean a cut in gross pay which could be compensated by the dropping of the negatives mentioned earlier. Plonk. There goes another drip on my mental forehead. Well I guess, at the risk of straining my metaphor, it could be worse, it could be U.S. waterboarding.

Mura Nava lives the teaching English high life in Paris, France. He tries not to comment on too much of the disarray.


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