Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Culture Shock: Cleaning Time

Built into every Korean school schedule is twenty minutes--usually in the afternoon--devoted to cleaning. The students get out brooms, dust pans, rags, and trashbags and clean their school. Now, remember these are teenagers. They don't do a great job. And of course there are those students that skirt responsiblity by hanging out in the back of the school, or walking over to the store next to the school. However, most of the students stay busy cleaning up.

This was a big shock on my first day of school. My co-teacher told me it was cleaning time. I looked really confused.
I said, "We don't have cleaning time in America."
She said, "Well, who cleans your school?"
I said, "Well, we have janitors that clean the buildings and fix things."
She said, "Oh, you must have a lot of money."

I thought about this for a bit. The school is not big--only about forty-five students in each grade--but they have a pretty good computer/TV system. Each classroom has a computer hooked up to a big screen TV. The teacher's workroom is also very nice--their computers are better than the high school I student taught and substituted at in Columbia. However, they don't have a custodial staff.

Now things fall through the cracks so to speak. There are corners that haven't been swept in a long time. I'm not quite sure who or when they clean the windows or the scuffed walls. However, these kids are at school about 9 hours a day--and many of them hang out before and after school. While I think there is always a need for a professional cleaning staff, having the students clean the place gives them a sense of ownership in their school.

Judgement: "Eh, its just different."

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