Today was an important day because all the teachers came to school for a very special meeting – to say goodbye to the teacher’s leaving the school and to welcome about ten new teachers to the school (this happened last year, see my post ‘The New Batch’).
I was interested to see the old Director from last year (Gyo Mu Bu Jang Nim) in the meeting (she left the school in March 2012). I am quietly hoping that she is returning to her old role as the current Director is a guy with a sergeant-major persona who rubs me up the wrong way sometimes!
Teachers in Korea work on a 4-year rotation system. I knew that Lynn wasn’t going to be teaching English anymore so I was eager to meet her replacement. I thought that a fresh new face to be working with might make the last six months here more interesting.
I looked around the room wondering which of the immaculately dressed and nervous-looking ladies was going to be my co-worker.
But I was told to leave the meeting early and go back to the library so I was left still wondering.
A regular posse of four grade 1 (soon to be grade 2) girls came into the library. I haven’t learned their names yet but they come to the library practically every day.
Their English is limited (they won’t start learning English until grade 3) but they enjoy using the library as their personal playground and they are always very friendly to me.
Today she asked me to rate herself and her three friends in order of most pretty to most ugly. I tried to explain that this was cruel and unfair to the loser, but she would not be deterred, so first I made them promise not to cry when I revealed my answers. They enthusiastically nodded their heads as if to say ‘Don’t worry Michael, we can take it’.
So I did it. I rated them. I pointed to each one in turn and said ‘Number 1, Number 1, Number 1, Number 1. You are all equally beautiful’, or to use the Konglish phrase, what I actually said was ‘Same same’.
They screamed and shook their heads in frustration. They really wanted me to choose. But I didn’t have the heart, although in my personal opinion (which I didn’t reveal to them) the one who is missing a few teeth would not have come first.
It means that I will have to teach grade 6 completely alone for the entire semester, 8 classes a week out of my 22-hour contracted remit.
Technically this is illegal. My contract states that a Korean teacher must be in the room at all times. But, in Korea the principal has total power and can run the school like a dictatorship if he so wishes. So although I have expressed my displeasure at this to Jennifer, I’m not sure if there is anything I can do, except rise to the challenge.
I haven’t really ever had to ‘work’ in this role yet (except for camps) and Jennifer promises that she will be available in the break after every class to deal with any issues.
I am anticipating many issues. The students who from March will be grade 6 are the worst in the entire school. They are the lowest level and have the most behavioural problems. I have students with learning difficulties and with ADD/Tourette’s in those classes, who spend most of each class yelling out random words in English at the most inopportune moments.
So, put simply, it’s going to be challenging! I am going to have to prepare simple materials with Korean translations so that they stand a chance of having the faintest clue what I am talking about!
The principal was grinning at me in the meeting and now I know why. Last year it was work until 6pm, now it’s teaching alone. Jennifer said that he told her that he believes in my ability to teach them alone. I’m thinking not hiring a replacement for Lynn is in reality a cost-cutting exercise. But we will never know for sure I guess.