about face

Yesterday I got to school and all of the teacher’s cars were there.  I figured it was one of the orientations for next year’s students or something, and I went up to the English Zone to happilly  continue catalogueing library books.  So I was really getting into the zen of this, when students barge in and ask me if I’m here for the day, and then a couple minutes later there’s an entire classroom of loud rowdy boys in what was once the sanctuary of my quiet library.  God, why didn’t I become a librarian???

My co-teacher comes in and tells me that I have class.  Oh really?  I didn’t even know school was in session.  We haven’t had school for over a week!  (the boys are all sitting there waiting)  She goes and prints out the day’s time-table, which is completely different.  Turns out I am a half hour late to school.   This not getting the memo thing is really REALLY getting old…

What can I come up with for a lesson in zero minutes?  The co-teachers tells me that none of the teachers teach this week – they just show movies.  Um, the last two weeks when school was in session the teachers just showed movies…What is the point in making them come to school at all?  Why do they even have school after final exams?  Three weeks or more of drivel. Then, on top of that, why do they give Native English Teachers a contract with three weeks of vacation when all the Korean teachers have six to weeks off, and the English teacher therefore has to come to school and warm a desk for two weeks BY THEMSELVES, teaching NOBODY and just pushing paper around?  All of the English teachers I know are banging their heads over this one.

Last Friday I went for yet one more meeting with the recruiters giving me the job with the major corporation.  And then they tell me, oh by the way…she cancels and reschedules a lot.  And she changes the times a lot.  Sometimes she’ll ask you to come early and then will be on the phone late and sometimes you might have to sit for a half hour, or the class will run late.  So please give her make-up classes if she needs to reschedule. I present different scenarios, and every one ends up with she’s not available for make-up classes except in the mornings at the same time.   I tell them this is like being on call, that I can’t just leave every day open for that possibility, and that that’s a little unreasonable. Turns out this is their last chance to secure this company through their vice president, and it means a lot of contracts in the future for corporate training seminars, please you are very important to us.  I am told they are sorry and they understand but it’s just a very picky client with special needs.  (I am, meanwhile, being paid $10 less than most of the jobs I see advertised)  Never mind the unaccounted-for travel time.

After stewing about this over the weekend, I just told them no thanks.  The class is a moving target, and I’m only being compensated for actual class time, with no consideration for all my valuable time that I can’t fill up with other lessons.

When are Koreans going to learn that contracts have to be forthright – you can’t go adding little oh-by-the-way’s whenever you feel like it!  (and if you tell them about bait and switch, they feign being all hurt!) little things like oh-by-the-way, we’re not going to pay for half your flight to Korea, even though we promised we’d pay you from your home to here…When are they going to learn that this attitude hurts themselves, and they have no one else to blame when foreigners bail on them, when they have a double standard for their contracts?  It’s okay for them to dishonor contracts, but if a foreigner (with no representation or way to communicate) dishonors a contract that’s been dishonored by a Korean, then the foreigner is always the bad guy.

I told them this extra information was not what I signed up for.   They were nice enough and I wasn’t angry with them, but that they really need to get their order of operations worked out and that I both needed to work for a company I was confident in and that it’s obvious juggling part time jobs isn’t a good idea if everyone works this way.  I offered to  meet as arranged with the client until I find other work to save them face, and that they should look for a replacement.  So that’s where it stands, which is great, because I was finding myself in the bizarre position of having to discount decent jobs because I’d signed up for this lousy job that doesn’t pay much, to break into a niche which doesn’t seem so great.  Now I can leave without breaking any contract.


I learn from one of my students that last year’s teacher ran away.  Last year’s teacher?  I was told they didn’t have a teacher last year, that they went a year without.  So now everything makes even more sense.  It’s so amazing none of my co-workers who even hate this school and its administration wouldn’t mention this to me.   So maybe the student is mistaken.  But it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.  Talk of such things might give the new teacher having difficulties ideas.  It would also make them look bad.  Must save face at all costs.

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