“From there, you submit the form in secret to your school. It’s none of their business what you said on this. That’s nice because it’s really the only time our opinion will be noted. From here it will be up to the school, co-teachers and metropolitan office of education.
So what are we doing? Absolutely staying (if we can). We worked for over a year on paperwork just to get here. to be Staying for only one year would be foolish. We only just got settled in, we have some great students, wonderful school, a great apartment. Things are comfortable.”
These are the comments I made the first year when I was handed the intent to renew form.
“It’s none of their business what you said on this.” Is an interesting thing for me to have said. I filled out the form, sealed it, wrote my signature over the seal and handed it in. What I didn’t include in the November 2014 blog is how my coteacher and principal ripped it open to read what I had wrote. Then had the audacity to bring the form to me and say I had filled it in wrong.
The part I did wrong on this private form asking for my opinion was about co-teaching. How often do you co-teach? I marked “never.” Co-teaching means working together on lesson plans, deciding what to do as a team, and working together in class.
There are hundreds of ways to co-teach. 50/50 split of the class (teach half the students one week or for half the time), 50/50 time split – I’ll teach for 20 minutes then you teach for 20 minutes. Really coordinated “back to you” newscaster type co-teaching “And now on to Yewon with the grammar. Back to you…”
So hundreds of ways. And I don’t do any of those ways. I don’t co-teach at all. I just (sometimes) have someone in the room. Having another person in the room is not actually co-teaching. It’s just being in the same room.
The first day I met Andrew and went to my school I was told outright “you lead the classes, the Korean teacher stands in the back and is in charge of discipline.”
So it was up to me to completely
- create my own curriculum
- create my own lessons based on the curriculum
- create games and activities to reinforce the lessons
- introduce all the lessons
- introduce all the games
- and act as proctor, referee, and scorekeeper on these games
While my co-teacher
- stands at the back and manages discipline.
Except they don’t do that. What the co-teachers actually do is
- “forget” to come to class. No joke I’ve had coteachers come running in with 5 minutes left, or two days later pop in to say “sorry about XX class. I just forgot.” That’s how little of a priority my class is to them
- Use my class time to work on personal issues. They take students out into the hall to lecture them about uniform violations, bullying, problems at home. This is great but it’s really not the time or place for this – the students have 30 minutes in the morning and 30 more minutes in the afternoon for this. Why during my class?
- Do their own work – they bring their whole laptop to play on/work on during my class. Sometimes thinking to look up and make sure the class is listening.
- Read a book – continuing education? Nope, fiction books for fun.
- Play on their phone.
- Talk to the students. Some coteachers now pull a chair up to the kids just talk and laugh with them.
This last goes one million percent against what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re supposed to keep the kids focused and listening, instead they are encouraging kids to keep their backs to me and just turn to talk to their friends.
Let’s say I have a good co-teacher who doesn’t bring extra work and has the good grace to stand through my lessons. Even this co-teacher doesn’t help with discipline. The class is getting loud and rowdy and some are even walking around the room to shove friends around. This co-teacher will just stand there. They still won’t even quiet the class or put the kids back in their seats.
So without sounding like I’m complaining I really need to drive it home that I’m doing everyone’s work for them. I had to create discipline systems to try to keep the students in their chairs/not fighting. I have to shout for quiet or send kids to stand in the back (next to the coteacher as a hint). I’m doing all this other work and the one job they have – discipline- they don’t even do.
So I marked “never” on the co-teaching form and they told me – after opening my private evaluation – I needed to change it to “always”. Being the good little girl I was, I did. If my beloved school asked me to jump I always asked how high.
Well it turns out they were doing this to avoid getting in trouble. To illegally collect payment for classes they didn’t attend. They have a minimum amount of classes to do a week (much lower than my 22 – they have to do 18). If they don’t do this 18 they should calculate their payment based on the work they actually did.
So by requiring me to mark “always” they prevented an investigation on the school that would have
- punished them for not attending classes
- stopped paying them for the classes they didn’t actually work
- caught the school having me illegally alone in the classroom
- punished them for not co-teaching.
The thing is – I’m an assistant. Everyone knows I don’t have a teaching license or degree. My contract says I’m supposed to help them in class.
The contract says:
“Assist Korean teachers with their English class(es) and/or jointly conduct English class(es) with Korean teachers, and/or lead extracurricular activities or English camps.”
So at best I was supposed to work together with the Korean teacher. The only time I should be leading classes (the only time I can legally be alone with students is during after-hours like summer/winter camp or “after school classes”).
So all this boils down to- my school has, for lack of a better word, been taking advantage of me. I was hired as an assistant to help them and instead have become a regular 9-5 teacher who grades everything, plans everything, leads everything. This class we’re supposed to do together has become their break-time. They know they’re not supposed to be doing this which is why they had me change it on the paper the first year.
And the second year.
Enter this year- I thought I would press my luck by saying “seldom” on the form (that’s being generous). My minder forgot to look at my privately sealed envelope this year and it made it to the office of education who began to email me about its contents.
Will the school get into any trouble for me being illegally alone in class? Will anything good come of this? Unfortunately not. Without going into too many details, I’m essentially now a problem child who should’ve just marked “always” like everyone else does. We can wipe our hands of that little mistake. (My pen must have slipped, right?)
It’s disheartening. Especially when you look back at that quote at the top – “we have some great students, wonderful school, a great apartment. Things are comfortable.” That whole post from 2014 talked about how nice me coteachers were to me. And how happy I was to work at school.
Now I’m overwhelmed. I never had the training to be a lead teacher. I teach 850 students – I have loads of paperwork I have to do to keep 22 classes straight. Which classes are ahead or behind? Which ones have played which games? I’m managing 850 human beings who don’t speak the same language as me. When there are fights in my room or discipline problems or god forbid bullying – I’m still doing that work, too.
I’m not trying to sound like I’m complaining. As lazy as they are I truly believe these three years would have been completely miserable if I had tried to force them to help me. If we had had to coordinate times to meet. If we had had to work together to make all the lesson plans and games. I’m sure there would have been many arguments or conflicts of ideas.
So I’m not complaining. I’m just sad that it will end like this. Classes are done in less than 30 days and I’m sick to death of the “co” teachers. I feel stretched thin, overworked, and a little taken advantage of. What’s worse is they are starting to complain about the quality of the lessons “why can’t you do this extremely complicated lesson you did last year?” or even have the nerve to ask me “when you leave I need to get all your lessons”
All of my lessons? All the lessons I worked 5-10 hours on. I love making my lessons beautiful but I also work really hard to add complicated things to explain grammar points or keep the kid’s interest. My powerpoints are all huge labors of love.
And since no one helped me it reminds me of a story about a little red hen who asked her friends if they wanted to help her bake some bread. I’m not sure if these people who forced me to lie on their behalf and have used my classtime as a breaktime or funtime or cafe-time to chat with students – if these people should really have my lessons. Won’t it just encourage them to keep being lazy? Won’t it mean they just continue to be rewarded for the way they act with our classes?
I know life isn’t fair. But I might have to insure life isn’t fair for them – by keeping or deleting my lessons. Is it unfair the students? To not have access to fun or interesting lessons after I’m gone?
Wasn’t the class-time we’ve wasted all these 3 years unfair for them already. When the co-teacher could have made the class go more smoothly or reduced bullying – wasn’t that unfair for them? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen low level student’s heads whip back to see where the Korean teacher was. They don’t understand a concept or a word or what I’m saying and they look for help. They look to the person who is supposed to be helping me – and helping them – and that person is reading a book in the back.
It’s unfair for the students that they have these sad little people as teachers. If I choose not to give the teachers the lessons then hopefully they can be inspired to re-create them or to work harder to try to make them on their own. Plus it goes both ways- a fun powerpoint does not a good lesson make. My fun game or pretty powerpoint is not enough when there is an asshole delivering it.
For now, it’s almost over. I’m stretched as thin as I can be. I’m counting down not the days but the hours before I can come home. When I can stop worrying about the quality of classes all day and all night. When I can stop doubting myself. When I can feel like a human being rather than a “foreigner.”
What was the point of this post? I never post anything because I’m afraid it will be misunderstood or whiny. So here’s a post. Maybe it’s whiny. It will be almost certainly be misunderstood by people older than me who lived through a different work world and have never experienced Korean culture. Also it’s for the people thinking of doing this job. Who think it might be cushy or that you’ll have support and help. You might not. Or for others who are happy working alone and not getting help from your coteachers. I was fine with this, too, until only a few days ago when I realized it was illegal and I have been cheating myself and my students out of help.
Have we learned anything? Stand up for yourself – maybe? Speak up. Ask more questions- hey why do you want me to change it? Why did you open my private paper? Know your rights – I didn’t know it was illegal to be in the room alone. Maybe also don’t work so hard. Powerpoints shouldn’t take 5-10 hours to make. They’re probably too pretty and too well done.
My final note is this – I wrote a blog. Haven’t done that in a while. Hooray. Enjoy.
And: 86 days. 19 hours. 35 minutes until those wheels leave the tarmac and we’re off for new things. We’ll have brains in our heads (with all these new exciting life lessons) and feet in our shoes. We’ll point ourselves in any direction we choose and we’ll use our mouths to make words to say “I’m not doing all this work alone” if we ever do this again.