NOTE: This was started approximately a month ago but had been saved as a draft since then. I tried to proofread it and edit as needed, but… I don’t want to dwell on the tougher moments of life. The following may or may not include everything I was feeling at the time, but consider it a rant and an insight to some things foreign teachers may go through.
It’s about time to make the ultimate decision of whether or not I stay or go.
This is also because the relationship between my Co’s and I have become more strained than friendly for the most part. It’s more like we’re used to each other and tolerate one another but we don’t truly care about each other rather than the superficial things that displays that we’re on speaking terms. I don’t know what’s going on in their lives and vice versa. In short, I just want to get it all over with. I still like my kids a lot but because of my Co’s attitudes, nothing’s as exciting anymore. It’s coming to the point where I just don’t care, though I’m under the impression a lot of fellow GETs are in the same fix as me.
It came to something of a climax on Friday during lunch when the one Co still eating started off a conversation where she told me that she didn’t want to tell me something and it’s hard to do, but she has to (this always means it’s something that may not very pleasing to hear – it’s a Korean thing that gets on my nerves most of the time but never fails to amuse me). Honestly, if it’s hard to do and you’d rather not do it, why tell me? It’s like they just make it harder for themselves. Just spit it out.
Anyway, she said that she sometimes feel I’m the same as I was when I first started, teaching-wise. This is in direct conflict from how she had previously said I had improved a lot. She also elaborated with how if I can’t fully control a class, I can’t really teach (the “ever” tacked on the end is implied from the feeling I got). I then told her that it’s impossible to let the native teacher have full control of the class. We don’t have the same effect. I also got the same response from more experienced native teachers and even a Korean teacher. If we were meant to be the main teacher, we wouldn’t need Co’s with us all the time. In fact, we’re always supposed to be teaching with a Coteacher. The contract also states that the native teacher is meant to assist. In short, here are some main points to why my Co’s are acting more… annoying – and theories as well as some events:
- I’m the 3rd native teacher to be at that school. The 1st one was an older woman from New Zealand who’s had a ton of experience and, I’ve been told, is very good at what she does. The 2nd one has this affinity for teaching. Then they get me, someone whose dream job has to do with either medicine or the dead. I think because they’ve had decent teachers before me, they have this expectation of how EPIK teachers are usually experienced (and if not, they’re made for teaching) which was transposed upon myself. Whether or not it was subconsciously or not, it happened.
- Foreign teachers come in with the label of “teacher” put upon them, which is a big deal in Asia, where teachers are respected and they take it seriously. Even though your school knows the experience you have (or lack thereof), this label makes the difference. You’re expected to behave a certain way and they even have this impression that you want to be a teacher and that it’s our sole reason for coming here. I hope they know that the only requirement we need is a four-year degree and the ability to speak English at the native speaker level. It’s sort of like professors: just because they know their stuff doesn’t mean they can teach. Professors get the job for research, not to teach uni students. That’s not saying that all professors don’t care about teaching as I’ve had some awesome professors, but there are some who are there because that institution is funding their research.
- It turns out that my Co’s looked at the first semester as a sort of training session where I had the opportunity to learn from three different teachers. The second semester was where I could pretty much take over, in a sense. They were still there, but they were essentially only to step in when they really had to (fights) or for translating needs. I call them wallflowers, though a bit more animated. During our lesson planning sessions, it’s got to the point where I’m expected to plan it and then I’m under the impression that we’ll fix everything. I need comments, I need suggestions, I need advice. Sometimes, it doesn’t really come other than comments that go something like: I thought you would have more. Well, I have to make new lessons every day for the 4 different grades I teach as well as my kids’ class. I’m pooped. Not to mention I have taekwondo for 2 hours every night and I’m forced to wake up early. Anyway, I had this game based on Heads Up Seven Up and I told my Co everything I knew about it. She said it sounded pretty interesting and she wanted to try it. Well, she forgot to tell me the short comings (like how if someone was never picked, they might get very upset and she even looked at me and said “told you so” — yah! Tell me beforehand and not after the third class; I can’t hear and understand ALL the Korean). Anyway, this method I see from them is reminiscent of first giving me a book to learn from and then giving me a class all by myself. I say this because in the first semester, we only taught 50-50 or, depending on the lesson, I could have less of a role but I sure as heck wasn’t The Teacher. It’s like showing someone how to swim and then throwing them into the water. No. It’s not going to happen. Either you run (or swim) with it or you drown. I’m sort of in the middle.
- The Co’s need to know and understand that, no, we are not already teachers nor do we have the mindset of one. As my friend said, the most discipline he ever had to do before Korea was teaching his dog tricks. He told her to roll over and gave her a treat – then she sat down. This is his second year teaching here and he says that the Coteacher is needed but they also tend to be stubborn.
- No one is ever going to be happy. They still have this expectation for me and it’s not going away or even adjusted or diluted. They want it, they want to get it, they’re not getting it. As for me, I tried, I got better, but it’s apparently not 100%. As a result, I’m apparently not trying, or so that’s the vibe I’m getting from them.
- Then, the Co I teach 3rd/4th grade with has evolved from speaking to me heatedly outside of class to interrupting me during class in front of the students to tell me how to fix something if something doesn’t go her way or as planned. Sometimes, she also does this too late when it doesn’t even matter but it take three minutes out of class time anyway. That is undermining my authority and putting questions in their (the students) minds as well as wasting time. If she really wants it done a certain way, then do it yourself. On top of that, her favorite thing to say is “you’re not listening” and “I know my English is really bad and you can’t understand but try” because apparently, there’s a lot of misunderstandings. Well, it doesn’t help that she tends to shorten her warning comments to within 4 words in a language that’s not her own and it’s during class while I’m talking or doing something. I’m distracted and tired. This is when she gives me the talk if I don’t get her code the first time.
- On top of all this, they want me to have my hand deep within class discipline/management/control. My kids are around my height or taller and my voice doesn’t get very loud. This means I can’t really pose as the intimidating sort and with first semester, I was the fun and entertaining “teacher” that they only get to see once a week. The students do listen to me somewhat but definitely nowhere the same reaction as when my Co says something. They get the idea that I don’t have the main say in the class and the Korean teacher does. They want me to be entertaining and even a clown and they expect my words to have the same clout as theirs? Then there’s how I only see each class once a week and they see my Co’s twice or thrice a week. I’m more like their weekly guest teacher than an actual teacher. All the things I’m expected to do doesn’t work out and they come in conflict.
- They tell me it’s “our” class. It’s really not. It’s more like it’s our class in that there are two teachers present during class, but I need to run everything by them and during class, I can feel them assessing me anyway because they want me to do the teaching. It’s not our class. It’s more like I’m the puppet because when I do have my own inexperienced ideas, the Co might look at me funny or (brew over it and) give me a talk. Either that or we run with it and they blame everything on me if something goes wrong. Nope, don’t see the “we” here.
- They need to understand on top of all this, kids are not my strong point and I hate to socialize. I get drained after just one class. I like working with dead bodies because they cannot talk to me and there’s no reading of minds needed. I’m not emotional (you can say I’m somewhat emotionally retarded) and I have trouble with anything other than the basic emotions because I’m not familiar with them and they make me uncomfortable. I’m trying hard enough as it is. Get over it. I don’t question you and your ways because you’re supposed to know more but all you’re doing is nagging now but doing it “nicely”. Teaching is all about trying and experimenting, hence how the first class is usually referred to as the guinea pig class even for experienced teachers. It also depends on the class; some react better to certain activities than others.
- If we really get down to classes, I essentially like my kids class the most. I have the most freedom. However, I also think the kids’ class is a horrible idea because my Co’s not in there. My kids don’t understand a thing. I’ve realised that they only understand something (30% of the time) when they look at me because I’m usually miming it at the same time. The only thing they get out of it is something different and English immersion. I get the feeling they only repeat because if they don’t, we won’t be moving on. Doing things reluctantly doesn’t result in learning; I know from experience. Granted, kids’ class is better once I implemented my reward system, but it still could be better (they should understand me more, for one). Really – the Co knows that the kids might not understand and yet they want me to get them to repeat FULL SENTENCES?? I tried to just get them to do activity-based lessons so they won’t get bored and they spoke in English then. But even though they loved the class, my Co told me to add in key expressions. Like they’d remember it later anyway.
- I pay my bills at the bank by leaving around 20 to 30 minutes early about twice a month (it used to be once a month but my bills have started coming in separately with different due dates). Apparently, the other teachers are talking about it (I don’t know why they’re talking about it after I’ve been doing it ever since I started working there) so my Co has urged me to go during work like at lunch. First, it takes me 15 minutes to walk there and 15 minutes to walk back because my bank’s near my apartment. This does not include the wait time to actually pay. I will be late if I go during lunch. If I go after my classes, it’s a waste of my time to go there and back and then do the same thing again an hour later when it’s time for me to go home. It’s irrational. I don’t say anything when some of the teachers leave 5 or 10 minutes early. I even go to the vice principal to tell him where I’m going and he happily sends me off. In other words: mind your own business. Sometimes, I find that people here care too much about what others think (I think they expect I might be the same way… too bad I’m not) and they’re slightly nosy. Actually, my old Coworker told me they love to gossip so I guess it’s true – they really are nosy. Then again, they’re females. It sort of annoys me because they love to talk and they love to bring their other teacher friends there which means it gets loud. I want male coworkers sharing the same office space.
- The fact that I look Korean probably doesn’t help. I sometimes get the feeling that they expect more out of me because of this fact.
- These days, I’m getting so tired. The kids make me happy (most of the time) but it disappears fast. When I wake up, the first thing I think of is wanting to get school over with and I find myself looking forward to the weekends and my vacation.
- NEW: Foreign teachers are seen as special teachers so we can get away with things our coworkers can’t… BUT that also means that the Korean teachers may feel something’s not fair. Either way, I have the impression my Co’s think I have a lot of time on my hands. This may be because I’ve been informed that I’ll be writing half of the school English newspaper as well as making a 30-paged book on the U.S. to add to my school’s library. In addition to that, I know that Winter camp’s coming up AND my taekwondo black belt test is in a week from tomorrow. T__T No. I don’t have a lot of free time.
This all leads to whether or not I’ll be staying, so I thought to myself, What is my reason for staying here another year? This was what I came up with:
- I get good benefits with the job and the pay’s not bad, even though I travel somewhat regularly. The only downside is how I get only a maximum of 2 weeks off for my vacation whereas the Korean teachers get at least a month off. Just to note: my school did away with having school on Saturdays so they don’t have that excuse anymore.
- I love living here. I love the people, the students, my Co’s (sometimes), and my school. I love walking everywhere and taking public transportation (even with the nearest subway station being 15 to 20 minutes away by bus). I love my neighborhood because even though it’s 45 minutes away by bus from the city center, it’s still it’s own little hub of excitement. I love the friends I made in my area. I even love that PC bang I occasionally go to.
- Speaking of which, I love taekwondo. It’s challenging – very challenging, especially with my black belt test coming up – and it’s fun. I do something different every day and two ‘new’ students around my age have joined, though they’re black belts. It keeps me active and it acts as a good way of working out and stress relief… to take my mind off of other things. I even love my instructors and my fellow classmates (and students, haha) in class.
- I love the food. Who can hate food?? Even with how I live in a restaurant neighborhood and 76% of the restaurants are off limits to me, it’s convenient and it’s where people from surrounding neighborhoods go to to hang out.
So… I looked at that and realised that something important was missing. I didn’t mention anything much about my job itself. Teaching isn’t my calling and it’s the only thing tying myself to this country. Sure, I love my school, my students are cute, my Coteachers have their moments, and I like making up things and materials for class… but I don’t like implementing them. That’s a big aspect of teaching. I still don’t know the correct way of reaching out to the kids because I frankly don’t remember what I liked at that age. I remember keeping busy and the only things I remember was my trip to the hospital which I loved, playing Marco Polo, jumping rope, singing, the piano, and snack time. I was never fond of nap time.
This is a dilemma.
Sure, I can suck it up, but would it be wise to stay another year and transfer leaving my beloved neighborhood and taekwondo for something that I have little passion for? I really hate torturing myself but… we’ll see.