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16 November 2004
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KLB - Open House


You know the expression: Too many chefs spoil the soup. That's how it feels at my job sometimes. I work at a public school that sponsors my visa, but I actually work for a placement agency. That means I have to deal with my agency boss, an assistant, a woman at the school in charge of our program, and her boss, the vice principal and then the principal.

At first I had a few grievances with all of this. For example, I was required to fill out daily and monthly lesson plans for each class: first for the school, then again, the same damn thing on a slightly different form for the agency. Now schools are responsible for a colossal waste of trees in general, but this was ridiculous. For the first week, I didn't say anything. Then I told my agency boss. To my surprise, she said, "don't do it anymore, no problem." I was elated, until I realized my assistant now does all the daily/monthly plans herself, which takes away her time to help me teach the kids. All I have to do is jot down on this small form brief details of my lessons. Before you jump all over me, realize my assistant's job is to assist me. Since she's not even allowed to speak Korean in the classroom anymore (what a stupid new rule) and the kids don't need discipline usually, she really can't help me in many other ways besides doing paperwork.

Now my agency boss, let's call her Bonnie, comes in from time to time to see what's up. The second time she came she and my assistant stayed after and decorated the classroom. It looked great. Then the principal stopped in a few days later and decided to make the room bigger by knocking out the middle wall and combing our playroom and the classroom. I actually felt bad for my assistant, Cathy. She spent a lot of time making the room pretty. And in Korean schools there are no janitors (something I can't comprehend) and the teachers are required to clean the rooms. The construction workers who enlarged the room left a whopping mess (not to mention ate all our candy and drank all the pricey drink-packs the parents had given me) and poor Cathy had to go in two Saturdays on her days off to clean it. They also ripped everything off the walls, leaving them bare. Anyway, so now, instead of having a classroom and a playroom where the kids used to hang out in before class, I have a giant room and the kids raise hell in the hall before class and barge in the middle of classes to drop off their bags.

Still, I can't complain. At most other schools in this program, the teachers don't have their own room and have to shuffle around the school all day. Not to mention they teach 6 classes (full-time) for not much more pay than I get for 3 (technically part time). Still, why did they make this room so big and then not provide anything to fill it such as more desks, etc? There are 6 tables for the kids, and about 15 kids per class. These tables, even spread out, take up about 1/3 of the room. The room is huge and now Cathy spends her time making silly decorations to fill the barren spaces (I've helped by making the kids draw and color pretty pictures based on their story books) and cleaning.

OK, so this was a few weeks ago and now we are settled back in our new room after having to use the computer room as a makeshift classroom and the room is decorated somewhat - but it's still vastly unfilled. The kids are great and I am making progress with them more than I ever have at any other school in Korea.

Then comes the vice-principal. Apparently in a rotten mood one day, he had a fit over my daily lesson details and reamed out somebody or other. He went through and marked every place I made a smudge or cross-out or used the bottom of the form to write the details in. I was doing this because for some odd reason each page has spaces for 4 days of plans instead of 5 and 1/3 of the page at the bottom is blank, which I decided to use for Fridays. Anyway, as if anyone cares what my notes say since Cathy does all the plans herself nice and neatly on long forms for both the school and agency in English and Korean.

So, that put me in a bad mood that day, because of how pointless it was. I spent 15 minutes of each class erasing and rewriting things nobody reads anyway rather than teaching the kids, because he wanted it done immediately and I have to leave right after school for certain reasons.

Next, now that we have a big classroom, the principal decided last week without asking me, that we would have an "open house" this Friday. This means the principal, vice-principal, head teacher, agency boss, and all the parents will come in and stand in the back of the room (there sure is plenty of space!) and watch my classes all day. Hurray! Imagine having all these Korean people staring at you as you teach kids to sing "Do you want Pasta? Yes I do!" songs. So I had to come up with "perfect lessons" to impress everyone with. Since my classes are normally pretty good, lots of songs, games, books, etc, I decided this won't be so bad, I guess. Maybe I'll make some connections or something. So I spent half an hour before classes writing highly detailed lessons for the principal based on where we would be in the book that day. Great. No problem.

Then I was telling my Class C students (smart kids) about the open house and one kid shoots up and says, "but students not here that day!" It turns out a lot of the kids have a field trip in Friday. Good news, I thought - that many less parents to have to "impress." My wonderful assistant then goes down and talks this over with the principal and convinces her to change the open house to Tuesday next week so all the parents can come! Wow! Thanks, Cathy! So now my original plans are useless.

Anyway, I got to thinking about teaching. Not just here but anywhere, especially in America or for a regular public school teacher here. What a lot of wasted time and paper is involved. Imagine a school where all the time and energy writing lesson plans (how can you really plan a month ahead of time) and doing this and that for whoever is in a bad mood that day, was spent teaching the kids. Most of the useless crap they make you do (and I guess this is true at most jobs) has little real purpose other than to make you busy and hate your life more than they hate theirs, I guess. I am lucky because I have an assistant, but most teachers don't, of course. When I was teaching in New York State, I spent 2-3 hours a day just doing paperwork, reports, plans, making tests and getting pissed off when all I wanted to do was teach kids to enjoy reading and writing. I spent so much time worrying about such things as keeping my attendance records perfect, checking off assignments in my book, making lengthy tests, documenting when I shouted at little Bobby Hellboy to shut the hell up, filling out report card sheets, lesson plans, weekly plans, monthly plans (that you never stick to) volunteering for non-related extra-curricular duties to impress the principal, etc than teaching.

As far as my job goes, it's really not bad at all. But I just think there's too many people involved in the program, a lot of stupid ideas and rules. It seems the main goal is to ensure the principals, bosses and parents are happy. Unfortunately this distracts from the real objective, teaching kids English.

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