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14 January 2005
South Korean Flag

KLB - Inconsequential BS

I felt somewhat better after lunch. It helps to write down how you feel. I kept telling myself on the way back to the classroom that I only have to do this for three more weeks, then it's back to the normal schedule for less than a month and that's that. I'll never have to work with her again.

As I've mentioned numerous times now, it's really a shame. Even with the long classes, teaching the kids is a lot of fun. This must be the first job in my life I've actually liked. Certainly the first teaching job. All the kids are wonderful - really - and we have a great relationship. I have no discipline problems. I have at least 10 adorable little girls that are in love with me. That's a lot considering at my past jobs hardly any of the kids even liked me that much. That was because the miserable systems made me a miserable teacher and therefore nowhere near as motivated and energetic as I am now.

I really enjoy teaching these kids and they genuinely enjoy my class. They have learned and are learning a lot. It's too bad all the other people involved take away from that. It's not just Cathy either. She's deeply Korean and has been thoroughly brainwashed into kissing everyone's ass, and that ass-kissing is expected of her. This way of life is so embedded in her consciousness that she literally can't comprehend not working hard. That is why such things as me being a few minutes late (and not rushing through the door full of apologies) or reading the paper during break-time (instead of preparing something) shocks her.

That reminds me. Yesterday, Sahan, a little girl who can't leave me alone and asks me a zillion questions everyday, gave me a box of peppero sticks (chocolate crackers). While the kids were taking a test, I ate one. I really thought nothing of this, actually. Cathy was standing next to me, at the whiteboard, watching the kids (I told you she never sits down). Somebody walked by and looked in the window and kept walking. Cathy flipped. "Oh, my God! So many people walking by our room and looking in here."

"What? Really? Who?"

"The guy from the computer room, another teacher, sometimes parents."

"Oh," I said, chomping down the peppero stick. "That's OK."

"So, we have to worry about that."

I looked at her curiously. "I really don't get it, Cathy. Why are we worrying?" (chomp chomp)

"So, we (and I'm sure she's only referring to me) can't looking at cell phone, reading the newspaper or eating."

Now, she's the only one who uses the phone during class - to call the parents. We have cake and snack parties once a month where all the kids eat junk food during class. And I never read the newspaper except on breaks. I don't even keep it on the desk anymore, just to appease her.

"Cathy, you worry too much."

"But we have to worry about that."

I thought about it for a minute, still eating the peppero sticks - not smugly or arrogantly, just eating them like normal. They were very good, by the way. Thanks, Sahan! "OK, Cathy. I think I see what you mean. Whenever someone looks in the window, it looks like we're not doing anything, right?"

"It's make me worried."

"Well, Cathy. I'm sorry, but I'm just not worried about that at all. These kids speak English because of us and we're doing a good job."

"But we have to worry about others thinking. We can lose our jobs."

"What? We're going to get fired because I'm eating a peppero stick?"

"No, but if too many complaints about us."

"Wait a minute. Has somebody complained about us?"


"Then stop worrying about it."

So I realized that's part of why she's so diligent and busy. It's not because she genuinely cares about professionalism (if she did she might wear something besides jeans, a sweatshirt and those workboots she still wears). She's afraid of possibly looking bad to others and/or losing her job. That's awful, I think, for a teacher. Teachers should only have to worry about their students, not anyone/anything else.

As for me, I've never cared about getting fired (and amazingly I never have been) and I'm never going to worry about it either. If I lose my job, for me, that means I will have some time off to enjoy. When the time comes, if I run out of money, I will get another job. I have no fear of starving to death or living on the street. Let me quote Henry Miller:

"...it wasn't optimism, it was the deep realization that, even though the world was busy digging its grave, there was still time to enjoy life, to be merry, carefree, to work or not to work." (Quiet Days in Clichy)

I'm not about to teach for people who might be looking in the window, either. If a parent walks by at a less than idealistic time, that's just too bad. Go and complain to the principal. Well, guess what, I've been doing a terrific job teaching your kid how to speak English and it's a damn pity that you think otherwise because at some random time you popped your face in the window and there I was eating a cracker, God forbid.

Today I casually mentioned to Cathy that I need a new black marker. She scuttled out of the room and was back in 2 minutes huffing and panting, waving the marker in the air. After handing it to me, she leaned against the board to catch her breath.

"Why did you run?" I asked her.

(out of breath) "Because you need marker."

"Don't do that, Cathy. It makes me feel bad."

These are the kind of cultural differences that make these American-Korean team teaching programs usually end up a disaster. Take a closer look. Cathy thought that by hurrying, she was doing a good job and that she is expected to hurry. On the other hand, I felt uncomfortable and awkward that she hurried so fast. What am I supposed to say while she's gasping for air and handing me the marker? - "Wow, thanks for hurrying. You're so helpful." That just encourages the madness. But my reaction wasn't appropriate either. I simply confused her and made her feel bad, I'm sure.

Well, enough about this. It's Friday and time to put work out of my mind for the weekend.


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