Wednesday, April 08, 2009


We're losing another teacher at the end of the week. So that's three teachers who have quit in two months. Unfortunately, the latest one to leave has grown to be one of my favourite co-workers ever. I pretty much knew I was going to like her once I found out her family has five dogs and a cat. Out at a hweshick a few weeks ago we got to talking about our cats and I actually convinced her to take her young girl-cat "Nabi" (Butterfly) in to get spayed. Her cat was driving her nuts with all the yowling and rubbing, but she hadn't realized it was because the cat was in heat. I totally sold her on the surgery when I warned her that if her cat did manage to escape the house she was going to come back pregnant. So score one for decreasing the unwanted pet population.

I'm bummed shes leaving to open up a "kalguksu" restaurant. My boss isn't pleased that she only stayed with us a couple months, and I think there's some worry about what the parents are going to think about us burning through so many teachers in such a short time.

My newest co-worker remains unimpressive. She doesn't speak often, but when she does it's in "baby ga-ga coos" in both English and Korean and she still does the jiggly dance thing all the time, which I had hoped was just a nervous habit she'd get over after a while. Apparently it's not. I asked her, when we were picking out an English nickname for her, if she'd ever been given an English name before. She replied that she had and then struggled to remember what it had been. I almost choked when she finally recalled it was "Morticia." I asked if it had been a guy who'd given her that name, and sure enough it was. "What a jerk," I thought, but now I sort of understand.

At her welcome party she sat hunched over looking downright miserable and saying nothing until she finally excused herself at 11:15, saying her mother was going to worry why she was out so late. Shes a wild one, that Morticia.

Speaking of wild, I've got this student who has been a constant thorn in my otherwise fairly lovely garden of good little students. I've been teaching him for about a year now and I inwardly groan when I've got to deal with him. I know I should love all the little children, but I actually sort of hate this child. I've got five other students in that class who are eager, enthusiastic, and well behaved. I resent that I have to spend so much time micro-managing this one boy and the two other boys he riles up every class. The kid has absolutely zero impulse control, and no, I'm not a clinician - but I'd venture to say he displays obvious signs of ADHD. I stressed him out yesterday by first confiscating his toys, and then denying him a sticker because he made several mistakes while whizzing through his work because he needs to be "!FIRST FIRST TEACHER I'M FINISHED I'M FIRST I'M DONE FIRRRRSSSTTT!" He sulked back to his chair and proceeded to, while he thought no one was watching, yank hair out of his head AND EAT IT! Ohhhh. ADHD/OCD. Great.

Tomorrow I'm going to change his name to Damien.

One of my adult students is a private tutor who helps kids with developmental and learning disabilities. She was telling me in class tonight how she'd had a bad day because one of her students threw a desk at her and then bit her shoulder. The kid drew blood. So I guess there's always someone who's having a worse day than you.


nosaj100 said...

I had to laugh at your experience with turnover at your school. For the past few weeks my school has been trying to hire another Korean teacher. The first made it 3 days before she decided that she couldn't speak English well enough to work with us. The second made it one week. The latest new teacher made it 3 hours. I almost don't want to waste the energy in introducing myself when we get someone new. I usually try to introduce myself in Korean and make them feel more comfortable by speaking a little Korean. Due to the number of new teachers we have had, I have perfected my little Korean introduction/ice breaker.

Kevin said...

Is this sort of high turnover common at children's schools? Can't the expat teachers help with the interview process by screening candidates for their English skills?

I realize that that might be a hopeless prospect: I've noticed a real hierarchy among Korean teachers when it comes to language proficiency: the general assumption is that the linguistic badasses teach at the university level, and people of lower skill levels teach correspondingly younger age groups.

There is, of course, no real correlation between a kid's age and his English proficiency; the Cheongdam Institute (a top-rank hagwon chain in Seoul and elsewhere) is evidence of this: you've got kids who are mad-fluent in English despite little overseas experience, studying TOEFL-style problems as sixth-graders. (The insanity of making your sixth-grader study TOEFL is fodder for a separate comment. Don't get me started.)

In other words, it'd be nice if Korean bosses more frequently found and hired people who are both competent teachers and competent English speakers. It'd also be nice if prospective teachers didn't wander around with the thought that, "Oh, well, my English isn't so good, so I'll just have to apply for a kiddie hagwon job. No one'll care about the state of my English there!"

(The truth, of course, is that the foreign colleague probably has a blog and writes occasionally about his/her Korean coworkers' many linguistic faux pas-- cute, grating, or otherwise. Ahem.)