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15 December 2004
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KLB - Passive-Aggressive

Because I can't strangle Cathy, I've become passive-aggressive. I realized this the day when I purposely showed up 2 minutes late, the very day after she complained that I should be there 10 minutes early (for what reason, I still don't know since she is there so early).

Then, when she told me not to read the paper, I started walking into work with the newspaper in my hand which I set on the desk instead of keeping in my bag as I used to. Not very mature, but I don't want her to think she's the boss when she certainly isn't. If I want to keep the newspaper on the desk and glance at it when the students are busy, that's my choice. At least I don't read it cover to cover like I used to at the miserable hagwons I've worked at. Here I actually do teach the kids, and I do a good job. I don't have any real problems and it's obvious they like me and enjoy the classes (which is probably why I don't have any problems.) This is because I established myself early on and am generally in a good mood and make them laugh a lot, while maintaining that needed aura of authority. I can't tell you how much a good environment and some organization can do for you as a teacher. Until now I thought I simply disliked the profession.

Today, Cathy annoyed me yet again. Perhaps she also is becoming passive-aggressive in her own right. I've been early all this week, and now I know why I don't want to be early. At 12:55 she started making the kids sit down. "Time to study!" she crooned.

"Cathy, they have 5 minutes, let them play. They aren't bothering me."

"Oh, no. We have to start study on time, Shawn." Then she proceeded to write their names on the board and asked me to call attendance. As usual, only 5 students were even there yet. The other kids always come a little late from their previous class, which doesn't bother me, but this, of course, drives Cathy mad. "Minus one point!"

So, I did it yet again, the passive-aggressive approach. Instead of calling attendance, I took my time with the things I bought: sharpening the new pencils, unwrapping the erasers and opening the tantalizing bag of sugar-ball candy. I waited until every last kid showed up to start class - at 1:05. Cathy just sat there, fidgeting, looking at the clock and staring at me like I'm out of my mind.

While mostly I wanted to remind her she's not the teacher, I'm also tired of starting class then getting interrupted when the other students barge in. (Cathy always makes them apologize - every single day for being late - and does the obligatory "minus one-point" routine. These poor kids must be traumatized as they race down the hall to avoid this embarrassment). Since I jump right into things, I find myself having to stop and repeat everything again for the late kids. Why not just start class at 1:05 and let the early-birds play with the mounds of educational toys we have until then? Seems logical to me.

The next thing on the long list that irks me, is that she keeps them late too. I used to end class right at the 50 minute mark, on time, as it's their last class of the day and often parents are waiting outside or they have to get to another private school. There's no doubt I also like the break to get ready for the next class or play with the kids that arrive early. But then Cathy would make them form a line and stand there, while they're noisily chattering and raising hell, to get them to repeat things they've learned or scold them for being noisy or this and that and the other thing when all I want, and all they want, is to say goodbye and get going. So, to compensate, I started ending class 5 minutes early, knowing full well they wouldn't be out of the room for at least 5 minutes, probably 10. You can imagine the unease this caused Cathy.

"Shawn! It's too early! We have more time for study. How about play a game?"

How about you go with the kids, I felt like saying. Make sure they get home safely and do their homework while you're at it! "Cathy, I sighed. You always keep them for 5-10 extra minutes anyway."

"But all teachers do that. This is Korea."

"Right, this is Korea. The kids must hurry to wherever it is they study next."

"What? I don't understand."

"Clean up time, kids, make a line." And, so, they took 5 minutes to clean up and make a line and ended up leaving punctually at the 50 minute mark.

I sometimes think if I didn't have an assistant, everything would be perfect. But I do like that she does the detailed paperwork and cleans the classroom (in Korea the teachers or the students have to clean the classroom and even the school). I know I don't want to do all that. But that's the thing - that's her job. Yet she wants to be Ms. Classroom-Management too. I guess what I want is an assistant who does her assistant-duties and doesn't interfere with the way I want to run the class, or at least doesn't annoy me. Maybe I should just sit down with her and explain myself, as difficult as that would be, but I know she is very sensitive. She's also older than me, which makes it all the more awkward, especially in Korea.

Don't get the wrong idea. I know it sounds bad, but you wouldn't see it by watching us interact. We are cordial to one another, for the most part. It's just her constant worrying and frantic desire to be perfect that takes away from the otherwise rewarding job that I have. In other words, "Minus one point."


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