BiggusBennus – What’s been going on since summer 2019

One of the main reasons I started streaming was because I lacked connection to others. Living in Barcelona, a city where the vast majority of people come and go was exhausting. Good friend after good friend would move on and it’d be down to me to do my best to find new friendships and relive the same experience over and over again.

Streaming provided a way out of this. No matter where anyone was in the world, I would be able to make friends and keep in touch with them. If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t think I’d have lasted 6 years out there. However, with family getting older and hoping to eventually settle down with a house (and maybe another fur baby or two if Atti allows it), we decided it was time to move back to the UK.

The Dave™ is also an ESL teacher so we both got on the hunt for jobs and we were both offered positions to start in summer of 2019. Luckily, we got jobs in different English academies so we could help each other if one of us ended up in an awful place. That was such a wise decision.

I was asked to start my new job at the end of June 2019 and as it was the end of May, I had to work tirelessly for the entire 4 weeks to make sure I could get back in time. 4 weeks isn’t a long time at all to pack 8 years of your life up, send most of it back to the UK, get dog injections & a pet passport, sort bills out, clean out the entire apartment, look for a new house in a city you haven’t been to in the best part of a decade, all while still working a full time job over an hour away.

However, I did it. Due to ferries not allowing walk-on passengers with pets (why??) and Atti’s health/passengers’ ear drums at risk on a plane, we hatched a plan where I’d travel on my own with Atti through France by train, meet my parents in Dijon with their car and they’d drive me up through France to Wales. The Dave™ couldn’t join me as he was at a Spice Girls concert. One day I’ll forgive him.

Just to add even more to this, my grandmother had been taken into hospital after a stroke & my grandfather was admitted to a residence just a week before this move happened. The timing couldn’t have been worse

But in the end, it all worked out. Carrying a suitcase, 3 bags and a dog on a train over 2 days from Barcelona to northern France is pure Hell and I’d never do it again, ever. Also, a huge thanks to the UK border agents for eating their way through the cardboard box containing all my wires and peripherals. Honestly, couldn’t you have used scissors?

I digress.

My parents then stayed in Cardiff for one night and the next day drove me to my new workplace as it was my ‘induction’. I went in and met the manager, who was different from the one I had an interview with, but she seemed lovely and showed me around the building. At the end of the tour, we sat down to look at the contract and that’s when I realised what a mistake I’d made. I was told that the contract was a zero-hours contract, so I’d be given hours if they had any and in addition to that, they dropped the bombshell that they didn’t have enough students to open a class for me the following week (as promised), but were hoping they would the following week. With no other choice, I agreed and sat on my ass for a week – a week I could have worked full time in Spain or had taken more time travelling back.

They eventually gave me hours and for a couple of months I was working a fair amount but occasionally I had a few hours given or taken away and I had no idea what my salary at the end of the month would be. Also, if I ever took any sick days or holidays, it’d be classed as ‘zero hours’ so I’d get nothing – apparently they paid an extra £2 per hour in ‘holiday pay’, which is nonsense as it was already less than what other language schools in the city paid their staff.

Another huge alarm bell/feeling of disgust came when the owner of the company, a Conservative Party councillor, told us all in a meeting that he wasn’t comfortable hearing so much Arabic being spoken in the hallways and that he was looking to put a limit on the number of students who came from Arabic-speaking countries. Any English teacher knows that apart from the illegality (& pure racism) of such a policy, any ESL school in the UK would close down in weeks if we stopped accepting students from the Middle East. After Brexit, students from Arabic-speaking students are likely to save many English schools around the country.

The number of students decreased after that meeting so the cap never came into force, but I knew it was time to leave.

In late November one of my two classes was suddenly given to the manager of the school (to save money I imagine as she was on a full time contract) and I literally found out when I went to look at the timetable on the Monday morning. I still had 3 hours a day teaching so I was just able to get by thanks to Twitch money – honestly, it’s saved me so much over the last 9 months! However, students were leaving and my class went down from 12 students to 9 to 7 and to 3. Once it went down to 3, the new manager (this was the 3rd in 4 months, not counting temporary ones) told me that they make a profit at 3 students so the class can stay open. Then the Friday of that week I was told that the big boss of the company wanted the class to merge with another one of a higher level and my hours would be reduced to zero.

I was also promised a new class would be opened and even at the Christmas meal the owner told the manager “find him a new class”….despite him being the one who closed my original, profit-making one that wasn’t making enough moolah for him. Merging the classes meant the manager would teach the class in her contracted hours and he’d save a bit by not having to pay me anything!

Still, nothing happened, and I was even removed from the staff WhatsApp group as the receptionist was apparently told to remove staff who didn’t have any classes at the school. I sent a rather cold email asking why this had happened after the manager had told me just one week prior that she was still looking for a class for me and she apologised for not informing me before it had happened.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was offered a job at The Dave™’s school – with a full-time contract, better pay, great training, amazing staff I already know & it’s a 5 minute walk from my house.

It’s been a pretty hectic 8 months. I enjoyed being a full-time streamer and I realise how incredibly privileged I am that my parents were able to help me out for a few months when I wasn’t working but there’s nothing like a full day’s work and a decent pay at the end of the month. My free time feels so much sweeter and streaming is a treat, not something I need to do.

Thank for reading this rambling essay. It’s gone midnight, I’m extremely tired and you’re probably wondering how I’m an English teacher after this incoherent mess but it felt good to let it all out.

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