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18 March 2005
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KLB - I Spoke too Soon Again


I hate my job. I've been trying to convince myself it's not so bad, but it's going straight downhill again. I'm a fool for not quitting when I had the chance. Fuck.

It started today at 2:00 when I asked Cathy, "Are we definitely getting books on Monday?"

"We can talk about this later. Right now it's 2:00 and you have to start class."

"Yeah, well, I'd be happy to start class on time if we had a book, Cathy."

"I see. Can you take attendance now?"

I looked at my cell phone. 1:59. "Cathy, it's not 2:00 o'clock. We don't have to start class exactly on time like robots, you know." As usual, more than half the kids hadn't arrived yet either.

Anyway, that's the same BS I deal with everyday. Now back to the topic: books. Get a load of this. After class, to my surprise, Cathy came to my desk with copies of the teachers' books for three of the four classes. Well, great, I thought. Finally! Before handing them to me, however, she struggled (and she should have just said nothing) to explain how she got them. "You have to know Bonnie is so busy these days. I'm suffer from the stress. The other teachers [she means the other teachers' assistants] yelled at me about my ask for books for you."

"What? Who yelled? What are you talking about? You said we're getting books on Monday. I didn't ask for them."

"Because I know you want using book. If you have a book you teaching better and easier. I think so. So I ask Bonnie many times and the other teachers scolded me."

"The other teachers don't have books?"

"These days, nobody use books. Except you now."

"What? Are you kidding? What do the other teachers do every day?"

"Phonics and activities and games. I think that's good. They spend the time making good plans. But you need book, I know."

Imagine me as I sat there listening to this frustrating, insulting spiel. I've spent the last 3 months basically with no real book, teaching phonics and games and activities - and doing a great job of it I might add seeing as we got 21 new kids to sign up - all the while looking forward to finally getting some real books. The nerve of me!

Then, get this. Cathy went on to suggest that I actually call Bonnie and thank her for the books. "She's kind, I think. She's so busy but she came here today to give these to me. You are lucky. I had to come here 11:00 because of you need books."

A few months ago I may have bit my lip and shrugged this off, but these days I find myself snapping quickly and half-yelling at her. "First of all," I started, "I don't understand what you're telling me. It sounds like I'm making some big problem around here because I want a book to teach with. What kind of English program doesn't supply kids with any books? That's ridiculous! And you're the one who told me we're getting new books on Monday. I didn't know that was a problem for you. I don't get it! Why did the other teachers yell at you?"

"I asked Bonnie about the books many times. They told me Bonnie's so busy and I shouldn't ask for books. I didn't know that before."

"You know what, Cathy. I don't care that Bonnie is busy. This is her program and her job. She has to supply me with books. That's common sense. I'm tired of teaching class with no materials. We couldn't even use the damn copy machine until this week. Why do I have to thank her for giving me books? She should call and thank me for teaching with no materials." [I realize I should be telling this to Bonnie - hell, I should have called her during class time and reamed her out and then stormed out of the building into a fiery sunset].

"You should to make the curriculum and materials, the other teachers said."

"I don't care what they say. I am a part-time teacher. They are full-time. They get a salary. They get paid to go in and make games and materials. We don't. I've been doing the best I can with no books and pulling it off. You think it's OK to work for free and that's fine. You do what you want. But I'm not going to make activities, games and materials in my free time. I might if I didn't waste 3 hours a day travelling back and forth, but that's the way it is. I don't think wanting a book is an outrageous request is it? Forget it, I don't want to talk about it anymore. All I know is I have new books finally and that's good."

Seriously, she should have just given me the books and said nothing about it. To make matters worse, the books are inane. I'm not making this up. It's as if Bonnie picked the worst possible ones just to spite me. I wish to hell I had my camera to show you. Just picture full size pages with one item on each page such as a classroom object. A full page. A picture of a pencil. 50 minutes.

I tried to shrug the frustration off again, but on the way home I felt very depressed. What am I doing with my life? I love living here, but I hate teaching here. What can I do? What are my options? If only money grew on soju bottles...sigh. I found myself getting annoyed easily on the train, too. People kept bumping into me and pushing me out of the way. A group of older women, whom at one time I may have considered charming and sociable, were chattering obnoxiously loud and I almost told them to shut up. Later, on the Songnae bus, I nearly fell as the driver slammed on the breaks and wailed the horn. Finally, I passed by the health-club and it looks like the untimely remodelling will never be finished by Monday.

Lately I've decided I'm going to stop recommending people try teaching in this country. Don't come here. Don't even think about it. Read my book, the three of you who bought it, but only focus on the worst parts of my experience. That's the way it really is. There's no Island of Fantasy - so keep dreaming. Don't let it take you four years to make the realization.

Even when you love teaching the kids, as I do at my school - they are the main reason I stayed - there's so much stupid BS that ruins the experience. It's good money, sure, but it's not worth it. Not at all. Though not for everybody, living in Korea is a lot of fun. no doubt about it - especially if you have a lots of friends or a girlfriend - but teaching in Korea is an utterly horrendous ordeal. Every job I've had here has been a nightmare, now that I think about it. Even the easiest of schedules/jobs bring about the worst of stress. I think I need a break - and soon. For now, time to crack open a beer. Phew.

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