Trip Start Dec 11, 2008
32Trip End Dec 13, 2009
Although I enjoy my job, it is still quite clear that it is poorly organised, and at times it is pure comedy. Judging by the number of similar stories on the message boards, I would suggest that it is a common trait of Korean bussiness practice, and I'll never get my head around some things, such as the way things are always left until the last minute. Communication is often poor as well, with the following examples all occurring in very quick succession:
1. Group Dinner
Each semester, we have at least one work gathering, which is usually good fun and enjoyable. This time we were going for lunch at VIPs, a nice restaurant featuring a wide variety of food. We were meeting at noon, the only problem being that the foreign teachers didn't know about it! I got a call from Jeunghee at 11.15am telling me about it, and luckily I wasn't busy so I was able to go with Phil (who had been fast asleep). Hew was at the gym so couldn't attend, much to the head teacher's dismay, but you can't blame him given that he only had 45 minutes notice!
2. Interview/Essay Class
After Phil left, we had a meeting in which they declared we wouldn't have to teach the Interview/Essay class on Mondays anymore, as the Korean teacher was combining the classes to give the students an important lecture. You can imagine our surprise then, when we were told 15 minutes before the subsequent class that we would actually be teaching afterall! Even worse, we only found out because Hew asked just to make sure - if he wouldn't have asked, the kids wouldn't have had a teacher. The Korean head teacher simply said "oh yeah, we kind of decided not to change the original schedule." Unbelievable!
3. Early Finish.
I could discuss these instances all day, but the final one I'll mention is the students telling me that class was going to finish 20 minutes early. This actually happened not once, but twice...and within the space of a week. Apparently the Korean teacher wanted to talk to the students, but she didn't tell Hew or me, so it meant that the students didn't have time to finish their in-class essays on both occasions. They moan when a student doesn't renew for another semester, but it's things like this that create a negative impression. All she had to do was say "Hew and Richard, would you mind finishing class a bit earlier today?" and we could have started the essay writing earlier as well.
The next big issue to rear its ugly head was their request for us to work on Saturdays. I might have considered it had it not been for the fact that we were working all day, then going home and marking essays and planning lessons - Hew and me both agreed that we needed our weekends free. They couldn't force us to do it, but I believe that they had already promised the parents "Saturday classes with the foreign teachers" before asking us. So we were in a strong position when we had another meeting with chief negotiator Seunghee, who always starts with five minutes of idle chit-chat - her tactics were too obvious, and straight from "How to make friends and influence people." She would chat about something for a while, and then randomly say "so...Saturday?" and each time I would rebuff her. She was getting more and more desperate, so I threw out an olive branch, suggesting we do every third Saturday...Hew one week, me the next week, and a Korean teacher the third week. This didn't really satisfy her at all, but this was my final offer and so this is exactly what we will do. I felt like I was on Dragons' Den, and I enjoyed every minute of it!
Although my social life was very limited during the intensive period, I did manage to meet up with So young a few times, including giving her a guided tour of Nowon where she lived up until 2003. The thing I'll miss most when I leave in December is my apartment which I am so comfortable in, and again we watched a movie in my little 'cinema.' We also met up near Hongdae during the last week of intensives as I was there to pick up my Chinese visa - I was going to mark the end of early morning starts in style, with a whistle-stop visit to Beijing to see my friend Ali and her boyfriend Keith...