Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Work and Stuff

I started teaching adult classes in the middle of December. When I was asked if I would agree to teach these classes, I didn't come right out and say "no way!" but I did say I didn't think our space was very appropriate to offer adult lessons. I work in a private English school (hagwon) for children, and there's no mistaking that when you come in and have a look at the place. I mentioned before the dismal state of the walls, with six years worth of stains and dirt and child-sized fingerprints. I tried each day to tune it out, but frankly it was pretty depressing. I've suggested many times that we were in desperate need of a paint job. Also, the furniture - other that that in the Teacher's Room, is all kid sized. I just couldn't imagine conducting a class where these businessmen have their knees smushed up under tiny tables.

I also casually mentioned that we were headed toward adapting a shaky version of my contract. I agreed to teach students in Elementary, Middle, and High schools. Already I was teaching kindergarten students, and now we were going to add adults as well?

I've got to say, my boss is pretty fantastic. It's unusual for an employer to even ASK a teacher to do this or that. Frankly, he doesn't have to - he could just as easily say, "Look, you - do what I tell ya." He's not like that, though, and I consider myself lucky. I'm grateful.

It turned out that I got all of my wishes. The math school my boss acquired was completed just in time to start my adult class on the 15th of December. A week later the whole of the English school was wallpapered. (It looks like it was wallpapered by people out on a day pass from an asylumn, but I'm not complaining. Even though every wall seems to be papered with a different version of crazy, it really does make a world of difference. I imagine mothers of prospective students won't be so put-off, but they're bound to be doubly impressed when they're led to my boss's swank new office at the math school.

As for teaching adults, it turns out to be a pleasure. I hadn't taught grown-ups since I left Japan over four and a half years ago, and I'd forgotten the satisfaction it gives me. It reminds me that actually, as a teacher, I rock. It's such a difference to be dealing with people who want to learn and are there spending their own money to do so. They're eager and happy to participate when they're in class, and even though it tacks on an extra hour to my work day, I don't mind at all. Unfortunately they all have busy lives, so it was only on the first day that I had a full class of students. Every single class since then has had at least one student missing, and more often than not half the class or more doesn't show up. The only time they managed to co-ordinate their absenteeism was on New Years Eve, which was nice. So they lack consistency, but I never have to tell them to sit down and stop hitting each other. Truthfully, I'd rather teach three adult classes than even half a kindergarten class.

It looks like I may end up doing just that. Today I was asked if it would be okay if another adult class starts up in February. It means I won't be finished working until after 10pm (Oh, once upon a time I used to get off at 7pm. Picture Edith Bunker now wailing "thoooose were the daaayyyyys!") Still, I'm not going to say no. We've been in an upswing since the beginning of the year. We seem to be getting a new student every day and I'm pleased. I was my boss to prosper; he's a good guy.

Even good guys make mistakes, though, and something unfortunate happened last Friday. I headed out with the boss and one of my co-workers from an impromptu "hwe-shick" (after work gathering) where we enjoyed some food and some makkoli. We had a bit of soju as well (my boss's preferred dog-hair) and you know how things can get. I'm still not quite sure what transpired even though I was sitting at the table. My mind tends to wander with rice-wine and loads of Korean speaking. My boss misspoke and my co-worker misunderstood and I started paying attention when I heard tears in her voice. Their subsequent conversation went on for a long time and I ended up excusing myself to head out into the cold night and leave them to their arguing. Some time after I left she ended up QUITTING!

I got together with her Sunday night and tried to dissuade her, but she's not having it. She's completely stubborn, and there's also a face-saving aspect that will not be squashed. She re-iterated her intention to quit at the weekly Monday afternoon meeting and my boss was surprised. As it tends to go, his recollection of events on Friday are blurred. He does feel horrible about it and wishes they could work it out, but my co-worker won't be moved. So it seems now there are even more changes to come next month, as we're starting to look for a new teacher.

Speaking of changes, I just finished watching the Inauguration on CNN. Holy hat, Aretha! (I think this might be my new expression of surprise for 2009, as in "Holy hat, Aretha! It shore be cold today!") President Obama sure can talk. I thought his speech was inspiring, ambitious and outstanding. Congrats, Americans!

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