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15 March 2005
South Korean Flag

KLB - The Roller Coaster of Work

OK, here you have it: yesterday, a Monday of all days, was officially the last day of our program's semester. In case you haven't been following, the school's new semester started a week and a half ago. The change in the students' school schedules seriously affected my classes. Everything has been in disarray - mixed levels, no books, students showing up 10, 20, 30 minutes late.

On Friday Cathy informed we would be having a party Monday (today) and not studying. Thank God, I thought.

So I skipped in today in high spirits, expecting a relaxing, playful day with the kids. Wrong. Cathy had prepared a small party for the end of each class and told me I had to teach until then. Great.

At exactly 2:00, when only 2 out of 6 kids had shown up, she began her, "Shawn, please take attendance," routine. [She's switched from taking it herself to telling me to do it since Connie told her it's my class and my job]. As you can imagine, this pissed me off. However, I kept my cool by telling myself things will be on track soon. I ended up reviewing for tomorrow's level test for 40 minutes.

Then again at 3:00 Cathy told me again to start the next class. This time, however, only 4 of 17 kids had arrived yet. I told Cathy we could wait a bit and to stop worrying. We have no books or materials anyway.

"No, Shawn. It's time for study," she said again. "Play a game or do something."

This time I just ignored her. I was so pissed off at her acting like she's my boss. Just to spite her, I opened the English Time book, stared at the pages and ignored her. She stood in the back, watching me like a police officer. I had all I could do to keep from blowing my top. A bit later, she took her phone and snuck out of the room. While she was gone, the students started arriving and so I started class by reviewing for the level test. Then Cathy came back and interrupted me, saying Bonnie was on the phone for me. Now picture all the kids watching me take the phone and staring as Bonnie tells me this:

"The vice principal just called me and said you are late starting class and reading a book. Actually a parent complained about it."

"Are you kidding?"

"No, are you reading a book? What's going on there?"

"Listen, I'm standing in front of the kids and trying to start class. Can this wait until after school?"

"Well, not really. This is an emergency."

"Is Cathy the vice principal? I know she just called you - I saw her!" I started getting loud and turning red. The kids were dead quiet watching me. Looking back I should have taken the phone into the hall but it was all such a shock at the time I was dumbfounded. As I got angry, Bonnie started to back down and told me not to worry and sorry to bother me, everything is fine, etc. Wtf? How ridiculous. I hung up with her and started yelling at Cathy. "What, am I stupid? What is your damn problem?"

"What? I didn't do anything wrong. She called me and said there was a problem and she wanted to talk to you."

"Whatever. If there's a problem, don't hand me the phone in front of the students. Tell her to call me after class next time."

I didn't talk to her for the rest of the day. In fact, I felt so pissed off I couldn't even teach. I just let the kids do whatever until Cathy finally started the party. Way to ruin a great day.

That was yesterday. Today things calmed down a bit because of "level testing." Can you believe this? Our program has just gotten a whopping 21 new students. Apparently I must be doing something right as a teacher, but you wouldn't know it the way everyone acts.

If you noticed, I enclosed "level testing" in quotes because all of the new students have already been assigned to a level. I got the new attendance list before the tests even began.

"Then why are we doing a level test today, Cathy?"

"We have to know what the students levels are."

"But you already planned the classes."

"Bonnie want us to do like this."

In other words, today was all a big waste of time as usual. I sat there all day doing level tests with kids who have already been placed in levels. There was a bright side though, if you can call this a bright side. Almost all of the new kids know absolutely nothing. Sounds bad, but it occurred to me that all my students had been like that at one time. I had forgotten what that was like. It was kind of funny when I was interviewing them. The new kids would stare at me blankly as I asked simple questions while my students whipped off phonics, read small passages, and answered a variety of questions with complete sentences. Yet the only feedback I get for my work is "are you reading a book and not starting class on time?"

To add insult to injury, at the end of class Cathy told me we won't be getting any books until next week. So I have 4 classes of 15 kids each to deal with and no books. I'm starting to wish I quit when I had the chance. Ugh. Teaching in Korea really sucks sometimes.


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