Monday, February 01, 2010

Why Do Expats Complain About Korea? How About This

(ht brian's twitter account)

Hey Korea! If you want your qualified, well-trained, excellent native English teachers to stay in Korea, instead of having them all leave...

Hey Brand Korea! If you want English teachers to go back to their home countries singing all the wonderful virtues of Korea...

Why don't you brief the principals and administrators of your schools that this, to people from most English speaking countries, is absolutely, totally unacceptable treatment of an employee.

For myself as well, I can definitely say that the one thing I hate most, as a teacher, is surprises - preparation is a key to a teacher's success, and springing this kind of last-minute "Why are you late for the class you didn't know you had?" garbage is the kind of stuff that prevents me from delivering a good product to my students. You want qualified teachers doing good work in your classrooms? You want the good ones to like the situation enough to stay on longer and longer? Give them the tools to do so, which means, above anything else, the materials they need, and the time to prepare them.

Some quotes from the ESL Cafe page:

So I was practically on vacation for the past month. I still had to come into work from 9am-5pm every day and I had camps for two hours a day...

Most of the people I asked either didn't know or they told me there definitely weren't classes until the end of February. Or they just told me not to worry.

I got a phone call from my boss, who I asked on Friday, who told me that there were no classes this week, that I need to come in immediately.

I've been here for nearly three years... I've been trying to get them to tell me for the entire time that I want to know when I have class because I like to PREPARE. Why is it so hard to tell me what everyone else already knows?

If I was back home and people acted like this I'd know they were just screwing with me. Since this happens to a lot of people here, I know its not that. Just why? WHY?!

I'm really not going to miss this job when I leave Korea this month.

Another person, same comment thread:
I am leaving. Twenty-seven days. Thank god.

Now, we've all heard before the Dave's ESL Cafe is a little black-hole of Anti-Korean Haterade... but when stuff like this happens, there's nothing to do but deny that it takes two to tango, and if Korea wants to improve the way foreigners talk about Korea, the first thing they need to do is look at the people who deal with foreigners in Korea directly.


This Is Me Posting said...

This doesn't even come close to the "Fuck You" I heard from one of my students the other day.

So, I have this student - Korean - who's dating this girl - also Korean - who recently completed her training/test/whatever have you to be a prosecutor. She's been studying all year for this final test and she finally does it, right?

She asks when the result will be posted. They say March. PERFECT! She has an old friend who moved to San Francisco years ago that she's been dying to see her again. She's been saving up for this trip for a year or two and was hoping that she could get at least a week's time between the end of her test and the start of her job (if she gets it).

Results being posted in March means that she can extend her visit from 1 week to 3. The two friends plan a Vegas trip, a huge road trip, buy tickets to shows ahead of time, all that jazz.

The day after she arrives in SF, she gets a frantic call from her mother: The DA office or whatever it was just called. She's been accepted as a prosecutor. She has to report to a certain building by Wednesday or she loses the job.

She calls frantically telling them that she's in the US, that she'll be there for three weeks, can they postpone this? Can they work something out?


Next Wednesday. Be at the building or else.

So... she cancels fucking EVERYTHING and buys a return flight for the NEXT DAY. Imagine the amount of money all that costs her.

Her flight lands Wednesday morning, she rolls up to the building at around 3PM. They have her sign two or three documents and take her picture. Okay. Thank you. See you in next week when you start your job.

If that isn't the biggest "Fuck You" in the history of the world, I don't know what is.

Gomushin Girl said...

The Korean teachers also have the benefit of having their lessons essentially planned out as part of state mandates. They know what they're going to have to teach and how much time they have to teach it. They also benefit from much more detailed planning guides and manuals to go with many of their textbooks. Plus, they're largely not bullied into these camps and whatnot, and don't have to step outside their pre-planned (and well worn, if they've been teaching for a few years) lessons.
Lots of Korean teachers, though, are still annoyed by last minute changes. Of course, lots of changes are announced ahead of time, but you can only take advantage of this is a) you're fluent in Korean and b) they bother to keep you in the loop by giving you all the materials and information. Even if you fufill a, b isn't likely to follow.

Anonymous said...

Man. 11 years, and 4 different uni jobs, right? And I STILL don't get it. I'm teaching winter camps and morning institute this month and every.f** is just one major cluster f**k after another. This is my last semester of being asked to "please understand" about everything - from why I still can't get paid on time or get a schedule that actually matches the student schedules OR be told (just a little bit in advance) that I'll be teaching, say, "Biology in English" (WTF?) instead of "Academic Writing". Just for example.

I keep hearing different versions of: "if you don't like it you can leave" and "other countries are just as difficult" and I think I agree! BUT. I think the changes Korea needs (towards honesty, sexual equality, organisation and communication) just happen way too slowly for me. I'll give some other country a try and see what shakes.

I'm outte, as of August!! 11 years is all it took to drive me insane!! I don't know if I should be ridiculed for staying so long or given a cookie for sticking it out. Bah.

Word verification: "rester". I think I need to... :)

JIW said...

First of all last minute changes and vagueness in scheduling is the glue that binds things together here. But that doesn't mean you have to live through it without having some kind of control.

ALways...always check your contract. Yes sometimes they don't follow this too but it can be used when situations arise.

It IS mandatory for public school teachers to be present at schools during the kids vacation time. We are alloted 2 weeks (10 days) vacation during the period. The rest of that time will be scheduled for camp or desk warming.

As an English Teacher you basically have to give up on relying your Korean conterparts to tell you when those events will happen. It is your duty to inquire about this early. REquest your vacation time specifically and get it approved by the Principal. As for the desk warming days you too should ask about whether you can leave after 4 hours or whether you can have the days off but stay at home.

This problem was brought up in my last city's Education office on their Facebook page: Their response was:

"To clarify: You are given 20 days paid leave during your contract year. Although classes are not in session during the holidays, this does not mean you can stay home. School will have camps/ conversation classes during the holiday for you to teach. You are to teach up to 20hrs / week during the holidays. Leaving early ...after you have done your camp/classes is up to the school (getting permission by principal). Perhaps "studying" at home a day or two can be considerable when there are no teaching/students at school. This regulations has been emphasized as there has been many schools who let their teachers "study" at home for more than a week.... and they went off overseas and stuff. So emphasis went to the school. To prepare/organize/create classes for you to teach. Any other questions?"

For those who finding the last-minute treatment torture consider how easy your Teaching life really is. If you were to work at a real public school back in say the States you would be working 7 hours straight with lots of Prep work.

I think therefore it depends on the mindset of the teacher. Sure now and then there are scheduling surprises but what were you going to do with your time anyways? If you were going to sit at your desk and do nothing...then maybe your Korean counterparts have a right to be peeved. Sit there and plan dammit! go to and get access then go through and collect materials.

Make materials! Grow your career. Read a book! Learn Korean!

We all suffer the same injustice that is the Korean Office system but don't whine about it. Face it and figure out how to live through it.

ok ok im done

Anonymous said...

Hiya Joy,

You make some great points like:

"Make materials! Grow your career. Read a book! Learn Korean!"

That's awesome. But I think the point (or MY point, anyway) is that even when a person spends 11 years making materials, developing a career, getting certificates and graduate degrees, learning Korean and practising taekwondo, jjigae making, breathing deeply, going with the flow, 'cultural relativity' and 'noonchi', for example, they are still not going to get a schedule on time, will probably not *consistently* get paid on time and will be the last person to be told about changes that are *important*.

I don't think the answer is *only* learning how to "face it and live through it". I think the answer is to try to find a balance between expectations and reality, and to help make positive changes. Because, as I'm sure you know, changes do not (often) happen without help. Negativity sucks, yeah - but sometimes people need to have a space to vent or talk, right?

If the "system" is not helping and if it's causing stress and if there are practical ways to fix it then I see no reason why people shouldn't whine about it.

OK. I'm done! ^^

Brian said...

LOL, Joy's made quite the turnaround with all the positive energy lately. But I think you'll find that most people don't complain about the down time, people complain about the lack of thought given to how they're being used. People generally aren't whining about it.

Anyway, there's really been no indication Korea wants "qualified, well-trained, excellent native English teachers to stay in Korea," the emphasis on stay. There's nothing to show Korea actually intends ot use these "want your qualified, well-trained, excellent native English teachers."