Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Itenerate Teacher, a rant

During my vacation, I've been assigned the task of traveling the the northern and western edges of Geoje to work with students who don't have the benefit of my services during the school year. These English camps and half days for two days. I seriously doubt the long-term benefits of these students being exposed to a native speaker for such a short time. I have a total of five schools, which means five different handlers, five groups of students, five meeting places and times to arrange. I should have guessed there were going to be problems.

One problem cropped up weeks before the camps were set to begin. A "public document" was sent around to all the schools that would be hosting me. Unlike other memos on the subject, this one said that the camp would be from 9:30-12:30 and would be 4 hours. Obviously, it isn't possible to fit four hours of instruction into three hours. The only possible way would be if I taught four middle school "hours" of 45 minutes back to back with no break. Then, my co-teacher made a correction and a new document was sent out saying that the camps would last from 9:00-1:00. That's four clock hours, but by Korea standards, that's four and half hours of instruction.

The first and second camps went smoothly. My handlers spoke great English, were friendly, and had everything I needed prepared in advance. The students were excited to learn, were high level for the age. All around, I had a good experience. Both teachers understood the error and expected the camp to last from 9-12:00.

Then the third camp. The teacher never called me. Luckily, one of my other handlers knew her, called her, and then we set up a time to meet. I set it as the same time as the previous camp. However, this teacher and all the students at her school though that the camp didn't start until 9:30! So I arrived 45 minutes before the students. Then, the second day, I was waiting at my designate spot, but my handler never showed up. I didn't have her phone number. So, I had to call the other teacher and have him call her again. She had slept in! She called me thirty minutes after she was supposed to pick me up saying she just woke up. She was driving to get me, but then there was a traffic jam, so I had to get a cab and meet her half way. This was the third camp.

The fourth camp, I knew in advance that both English teachers would not be in town. I don't know why, but I wasn't happy about it. If I was expected to be there, then so should they! Anyway, I took the bus and showed up to find no one there to meet me. No one. I saw no adults, just about five students out on the patio. I asked them, "Are you here for English camp?" They just giggled. Great, I thought, this is going to be a long day.

I finally round up the students and get into the classroom. I turn on the computer--a crucial tool when I don't have a Korean teacher to translate. The computers are in the front of the room and are always hooked up to big screen TVs. It wouldn't come on. I asked a student to help me. Then, a large boy shouted, "NO!" He made an "x" in the air with his arm and kept saying, "NO, NOT, NO!" My first thought that this boy is retarded. He wouldn't stop saying no. I finally had to tell him to be quiet. I figured out that the power strip wasn't plugged in, but it was behind the TV. I had a student plug it in. Then, I found the computer protected with a password. I asked the students, but again, I get the annoying kid shouting, "NO."

I call the absent Korean teacher, but his phone is disconnected. Then, I call the other Korean English teacher on the list but should wasn't picking up. I felt like leaving right there. The students were acting as if they didn't know English at all. Half of them would giggle if I said anything. Eventually, a girl, who I later learned speaks very good English, sneaks out and comes back with the password.

I ask the students when the bus to Gohyeon was. No one volunteered. Finally, the big kid shouted, "1-2-1-5--pause--1-3-1-5." Okay, I understood he was saying 12:15 and then 1:15. I made the decision to cut class short so I could get that 12:15 bus and get the hell out of town. The camp went better and better after I had the computer to use, and the students loosened up. I broke class at 12:10 and bolted. I get down to the bus stop only to find a big schedule showing that the bus doesn't come until 12:40! So I had to sit at the stop in the cold for thirty minutes. It was my fault I trusted that big stupid kid!

The second day of the camp went better. However, I was confronted by a teacher who spoke bad broken English insisting that class last until 1:00 today. The big problem with that is that by 12:30, the students are really losing interest. They are hungry, and ready to go out and enjoy their vacation. Plus, again, it goes over the 4 hours of teaching. I pretended not to understand, wrote that class will end at 12:30. It did.

Now up, I have two weeks of a teacher's seminar where I will teach teachers for four hours a day! At least the seminar will be in the same place every day.


  1. sounds exactly like korea to me. sorry to hear that the last couple of days of camp didn't go so well, but really, it's to be expected... hope things get better with your seminar!

  2. wow, you should write a book. i found myself laughing out loud. i hope all is well guy.


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