I decided yesterday to do a minute by minute log of what happens during the first day of the spring/summer semester in a Korean public school. From the looks of things on facebook it seems that most if not all schools treat the first week of the semester as their prep and admin week unlike back home where teachers come in and do a lot of their prep BEFORE the students arrive for the first day of classes.
Anyways, if you’re thinking about coming to Korea to teach you’ll find this interesting (I hope), and if you’re already here, well, you might find some things amusing.
6:45am – alarm goes off, I hit snooze. Regret the long weekend and terrible sleep schedule.
7am – wake up, grumpy, wishing it was still the weekend.
7:15am – head to school
7:35am – arrive at school, bleak gray skies
7:40am – begin tidying up desk, piles of papers leftover from winter camp classes, eat breakfast
7:50am – co-teacher arrives . . . decide to wait a few minutes before asking her what my class schedule is (IF it’s been made), but she comes to me right away and says another co-teacher will give me my schedule, and that I have no classes today–no problem!
7:55am – discussion about Kim Yuna’s gold performances, and I make sure to ask if my co-teacher knows Yuna’s coach is Brian Orser, a CANADIAN! (She didn’t know–not surprised.) Pile of crap, garbage, and books begins to get cleaned up by students . . .
7:59am – co-teacher tells me I have no first grade classes at all this whole week as they still have to finish creating the classes (okay, weird, but whatever), and that my second grade classes . . . oh god, last year the 1st grade students were divided by language ability into classes, for example false-beginner to advanced-beginner classes, low-intermediate classes, and intermediate classes . . . this semester that won’t be happening (at least so far, that is). This is BAD NEWS cause about 25% of these guys are false-beginners and won’t really have any interest in the materials I’m going to teach to the other 75% though I’ll try as best I can to teach in a differentiated manner the reality is they’ll be bored, most have already given up on ever being ‘good at English’ (translation, high test scores), etc. ARGH!
8:03 – all teachers disappear from office, nobody tells me where they’re going or if there’s a meeting (not that I’d want to go cause it’d be all in Korean). I call Julianne to find out how her day is going so far and she tells me her computer has been moved and she has no idea where it is–FUN! During the 3rd week of February, while Julianne was on vacation, her co-teacher had called her and said she ‘must come in to the school to move her desk contents to another office’–Julianne texted her back to say “I’M ON VACATION!” Anyways, she went in for an hour and moved her stuff, but her computer stayed. I warned Julianne that it was highly likely someone would move her computer, and that if she wanted to keep the same one with all the English programs . . . you get the idea. I hope she finds it safe!
8:10am – another Korean English co-teacher walks in late, chats me up about my winter vacation in a kind of hurried way, and then says “Where is everyone?” LOL! I say I have no idea, but that I guess they’re all in a meeting somewhere (Nice to see that Korean teachers don’t get told about meetings and where they are either). I wonder in my head if there’s an introduce the teachers to the students auditorium going on, and feel a possible glimmer of irritation (don’t really care that much, after all if I was asked to go it’d just be as the E.T. = extra-terrestrial teacher aka ALIEN!) that I may not have been invited (also possible that there’s nothing like that going on, and they’re all in a meeting with the principal).
8:14am – Fighting the urge to ask myself “Why am I here?” on several existential levels of reflection…
8:16am – decide to go see what the teachers are all up to, and the students too.
8:21am – a teacher who . .. let’s say we get along like America and Iran . . . walks in–we both ignore each other.
8:22am – chat with Julianne on Google Talk. Find out that even her co-teacher doesn’t have a class schedule yet–good, it’s not just native teachers that this happens to, lol. Oh, and her computer is safe and sound on her old desk–good!
8:23am – teachers begin returning to the office
8:24am – loud discussion amongst the teachers–I imagine trying to figure out stuff about organizing the schedule, and putting together classes. No one seems happy . . .
8:28am – catch myself wondering why class lists weren’t made last week, and why class schedules weren’t made too–then I hit myself in the head very hard for asking ‘why’ questions based on western cultural norms!
8:30am – open a MS Word document that has my spring/summer lesson plan schedule rough draft and ponder doing some work on it, but decide to wait until I’ve chatted with my co-teachers and have seen my class schedule.
8:35am – a Korean teacher starts yowling loudly in Korean, nice . . . NOT!
8:36am – a loud mob of students begin flooding the room to be given cleaning and organizing tasks by teachers (also loud) . . .
8:37am – see on facebook that pretty much everyone else is in the same boat today–no classes, anarchy reigns supreme.
8:45am – begin writing email to my parents…
8:46am – getting tired of damn office door being wide open as mobs of students come in and out cleaning and doing stuff because it’s COLD in the office
9:01am – a bigger horde of students line up against a wall in the office waiting for tasks, and I begin hearing my name whispered in the midst of Korean words . . . ah, Korea . . .
9:06am – another yelling-conversation in Korean takes place between several teachers in the office for a minute, and then things die down to a dull roar . . .
9:30am – a co-teacher is in hysterics for some reason, laughing and talking loudly . . . and it’s only 9:30am . . .
9:37am – close office door for 3rd time in 90 minutes on my way to bathroom because it’s cold; on my way back the door is open again–argh.
9:38am – principal walks in for a look-see, I stand, bow, and greet him. He leaves after a minute.
9:40-10:19am – one of my co-teachers comes to my desk. We chat, and after a bit he tells me I have two classes with him tomorrow. I ask him if he knows about my other classes, and he says we should go talk to another co-teacher. I ask him if he knows where her new office is as there’s a massive merry-go-round of teachers changing offices amongst the FIVE buildings (each with multiple teacher offices). He tells me he thinks he knows where; we go there and it’s the wrong office (of course, lol). We find out it’s in the building I originally suggested she might be in, and we go there. Her desk is a massive pile of boxes, textbooks, and her disassembled computer. I ask a few questions about my schedule but can see that there’s no point in asking–everything is up in the air.
The two teachers begin discussing things in Korean. I can see that one is missing whatever the most current class schedule (probably version #43) that’s floating around. He scrutinizes the newest one and they talk about it. I try asking a few things to make sure that the one co-teacher for 1st grade classes, and the other for 2nd grade classes, are aware of possible issues that may create schedule conflicts but give up after seeing that today is basically moving day at the school for Korean teachers.
After 10 minutes of discussion, which really in my mind could have taken 2 minutes, the one co-teacher and I leave and head to his new office. His desk is also a pile of books and a disconnected computer. He hands me a schedule in Korean with the six classes a week he and I will teacher together circled; he also mentions that this is a temporary schedule that is ‘fixed’ for this week. In my head I think to myself that if it doesn’t change at least 3 times before tomorrow morning I’ll be in shock–and the schedule I have in my hands is ONLY for the 6 classes of 22 that I teach per week with ONE of my five co-teachers . . . the others have yet to figure out what’s going on and let me know.
10:40am – start to reach for red pen on my desk to write co-teacher’s name on top of schedule and then remember that some older/traditional Koreans freak out if you write their name in red…change to pencil to avoid possible superstitious freaking out.
10:41-11:00 – write a few emails, and then look through lesson books for something to use in tomorrow’s 2nd grade classes. Decide on “Vacations & Travel” and take it to show a co-teacher. While walking around outside see pretty much entire student body, and it looks like they’re all going home. Several students mutter “waygook” (foreigner) when they see me, some say hi, and some say “Jason” or “Jason Ryan” but no real overtures to chat with me (not surprising with boys) . . . I head back to my office to do a bit of lesson prep.
11:08am – Back at my desk and all the teachers leave the office again and nobody says anything to me which is fine. It’s nice and quiet in here, and the freaking door is closed so there’s some warmth, yay.
12:01pm – teachers return to office, loud talking and rushing around ensues once more.
12:03 – begin contemplating lunch in the school cafeteria . . . maybe.
12:20pm – finish prepping lesson for 2nd grade classes this week . . . still debating lunch in cafeteria . . . decide to go check it out.
12:21pm – outside run into two co-teachers, ask them if cafeteria is open–it’s not. They invite me to come along for Chinese food. Cool. During lunch we chat about the Olympics, speed skating, Kim Yuna, speed skating, Avatar, speed skating and a few other topics. A suggestion is made about soju, and I decline. Food is ordered, and 3 shot glasses and a bottle of soju arrive a minute later–I decline again . . . lol. 12:30pm and soju? No thanks.
1:40pm – return to school with co-teachers, and more attempts at trying to sort out my class schedule. Discover that I am NOT teaching 2 classes tomorrow in spite of being told differently (someone forgot what day of the week it was, lol), and learn I am teaching only one class tomorrow. Then 30 minutes of waiting while my second co-teacher finds his schedule information for our classes, and he shares that with me. Then we all (my two lunch co-teachers) exchange emails, cell numbers, and confirm schedule details.
2:25pm – head back to desk and find a hand-written schedule with different class times on my desk from a 3rd co-teacher. I ask another co-teacher (4th) sitting nearby what it’s about . . . some confusion erupts but is quickly sorted out, and I finally begin making my own MS Word schedule on my computer. At this point I think the 3 schedule changes have taken place (as I predicted earlier), but I didn’t really pay much attention to how many times specifics changed as it just gets to be ludicrous after a while . . . lol, sigh.
2:40pm – print off copies of schedule and head to other buildings to give co-teachers copies and go over the info on them so that it’s in their consciousnesses . . . discover most if not all teachers have left the school . . . okay . . .
2:50pm – return to desk and ponder asking if I can leave early, after all “When in Korea do as the Koreans do,” right?
2:55pm – finish writing up this blog . . .
3:13pm – ask if I can leave . . . yes, my co-teacher rules!