Friday, August 28, 2009

Reasons

Since I have been open about the stuff that has been going on at my school I want to share with you the answers or reasons I got for not being rehired at my current school.

It was bothering me today and I felt like I really needed to find out why and so I knew we had some open time in the afternoon. I asked my coteacher directly to give me a list of reasons why I wasn't rehired. To tell me what was said at the meeting to come to their conclusion.

With some hesitation she agreed to tell me.

First she pulled up the document on her computer that she wrote about my evaluation. She told me that she used this to show the other people at the meeting and that based on her evaluations they made their final decision.

She then went on to tell me the points she talked about in her evaluation. Here they are:
  • Words (this is exactly what she said)
  • Character
  • Attitude to improve self
  • Attitude with other teachers
  • Working behavior
  • Time
  • Positiveness
  • Making some materials
  • Teaching purpose / method
  • Enthusiasm
  • Understanding students
  • Free time (not class time)
  • Responsibility
  • Independence
After telling me these points she went on to tell me what it was she said in the document that needed the most attention from me. Here now for you are those points in all open honesty. And this will be what I need to work on before walking into my next job.
  • Control your mind (personal problems)
  • Anger (emotion)
  • Good thing = I like children
  • Self-control ("We have to be calm during teaching time...you can't control yourself.")
  • Relationship with Korean teachers (didn't look at their face, disregarded them)
  • Manners are very important when facing somebody
  • 80% Native teacher should do, be main character
  • More communicative with KT when holding class
  • Participate in prepare materials and putting them back
  • Students could detect my mood
I guess that is a slightly short list. Afterwards we discussed everything and what had happened while I was here. We came to the conclusion that everything was broken for us and it was really difficult to repair it. I made sure that I explained to her the situation she walked into when she replaced my other coteacher. And also tell her that I agreed with her ideals of how to teach. We also concluded that there were a lot of cultural misunderstandings but that it will be important for me to follow them when I move on to my next job. All in all, it was good to talk about it and I now have an understanding of precisely what a Korean coteacher desires in their Native Teacher.

Truthfully though this shows what I need to work on as a professional person in the workplace.

But I really hope this shows future English teachers what kind of values you will be facing when working here and that, of course, they take it seriously.

Sigh... feels better to get that over with, yet at the same time was a bit of a wake up call. However, this is probably the kind of wake up call one needs before entering another teaching job in Korea.

19 comments:

  1. I'm glad you posted this. I think it's great to encourage the Korean teachers to let us know what is going on and where we can improve. I've known too many people who were shocked when their contract came up for renewal and the schools said no and gave them reasons that could have been addressed had they been brought up sooner.

    As of now, I have one month left of my contract (although I'm staying at the school until December at least). At first, they begged me to renew but I was unsure and asked that we hold off on the talks until the summer. Now they have been shaky in whether they want me to stay or not. After following your story with your current school, I had a long sit down a few days ago with my co-teacher to ask if there were things I was doing well and things I could improve. Surprisingly she let me know and she said if I am able to change the things, they will give me the contract immediately.

    Thank you for sharing these personal things with the blogosphere. This type of stuff is so useful for native teachers in Korea.

    P.S. I noticed I've been tearing up your comment boards lately. Sorry I'm so long winded.

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  2. He Kristen. It's okay comment as much as you want. ;) I am so pleased to hear that my writings inspired you to jump on the boat and ask your coteacher about your performance. Of course I realize now that is something I should of done from the start. But it's too late as we all know.

    Anyways I hope they renew your contract. But if I were in your situation I would be stubborn to change...thinking that they are judging me all the time. But I need to shed that kind of attitude too.

    All right good luck to all of us out there!

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  3. I never thought of asking earlier because I'd always assumed if there was a problem, they just tell me about it. It literally wasn't until you were writing about it that I thought to ask.

    I had a friend who thought for sure he would renew. He'd been settling his life here with the intention of staying at least two years. He was devastated when the school said they would not renew because they didn't like his teaching method. It seemed so ridiculous that they'd let a year go by without so much as bringing it up and sort of just saving face by not letting him know. In my province, if you get a bad eval, you can't even transfer to another school. So it sucked for him.

    I didn't agree with everything my co-teacher said (like I do too many fun games) but I really enjoy teaching and I'm back in a place where I'm enjoying Korea and even my school again so I'd love to stay. My fingers are crossed and I'm optimistic.

    Good luck and I'm confident you will find a school that is much better in the long run!

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  4. Oh wow that is scary to think a bad eval can affect your future when you didn't even know you were in the wrong.

    IT's true you have to check your status yourself by asking your coteacher.

    What province is he in?Was he able to work in a different province?

    My teacher is giving new employers a good recommendation for me despite this conclusion of hers. She believes I can do the job just it won't work anymore with her and the school.

    It sure can be harder at times than you think when you consider how much you don't know what the other people are thinking.

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  5. Hey chika . . . (you don't have to put this up if you don't want to . . .it just seemed like a fast way to reference what you said so my remarks are accurate and direct)
    Honestly, it seems to me that the number one thing that you should work on in your future position is the same thing that seems to have been an issue at both schools so far: Relationships with the teachers.
    I know people say that if the kids love you, the teachers and parents will love you and it will all work out. This, frankly, is BS. I mean, great if the kids like you. I'm sure yours do. But the main relationship in the workplace here that matters is the one you have with other teachers. It also seems like the one that's been hardest for you. Some of this isn't something you've been responsible for or in control ofm and it can be hard to socialize the same way other foreign teachers are able to, but you've really got to reach out and present yourself as a friendly, outgoing person.
    Wherever you teach right now, you're the most junior person, and the burden of being friendly and useful here falls mainly on you. A big part of Korean culture is giving insa, so even before you leave this placement for the next one, make a habit of saying hello and greeting people every single time you come in the teacher's room. Every time. With a big ridiculous grin plastered on your face - even if it's furthest away from your feelings. Pay special attention to your co-teacher, principal, and vice-p. Make sure you bow and say hello *every single time* you see them. Be randomly extra-friendly to other teachers ~ buy them coffee if you're both standing by the machine. Bring in a pack of donuts or cookies or something for the entire teachers room once in a while. If you're not in the main teacher's room, make a habit of visiting between your classes. Face time and smiling will make them understand your attitude in ways that they're not getting it now. And although it sucks sometimes, go to all the hweshik they set up, and stay at least until the second round (or when the other female teachers leave.) Should it matter for your job? No. Will it? Yeah. Volunteer to do something extra at school, like a special activity for kids, or try to help out another teacher even if it's not really something you can help with. Why? Because even if things don't pan out, they'll remember you offered. The social aspect of your interactions with teachers will make a huge impact on how you're percieved by your school.
    So much of actual teaching is determined by your co-teacher, and it seems like your current one hasn't been particularly helpful. Next time once or twice pre-emptively ask the co-teacher to get together and work on stuff as soon as you feel like there's a lack of coordination - if only because then it puts the onus on *them* to help work it out, rather than letting them make you the guilty party.
    The only real teaching thing I can suggest is that you really do have to be calm and happy in front of the kids. They will pick up on your mood, as you know . . . and the only solution, if you're not, is to fake it till you make it. Save being upset for outside their view, and maybe, maybe once one major show of disciplined anger if they've really pushed things too far. Once should be all, though.
    Mainly though, I think the biggest favor you and any teacher can do themselves is to make sure relations are good with other teachers. Say hi to them, be friendly, and hang out with them as if they were your friends - do it enough, and they will be. And if they're your friend, they'll want you to stay and make sure to help you be the best teacher you can be. They're your best allies.

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  6. We're in Jeollanamdo. He could have gone to a new province but I think he was just feeling sort of unnerved by the whole thing and so headed home for a while.

    I'm really glad she's not being spiteful and is working to help you get a new job, if by only offering a positive recommendation.

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  7. Good for yoy Joy to be able to face your weaknesses straight in the eye.

    YOU ROCK!!!!!!

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  8. Thanks Gomushin Girl. It's tough to swallow this kind of medicine. But I feel since I am choosing to stay in the profession than I am going to have to really make these adjustments. IT is true that my biggest weakness is making a friendly relationship with the coworkers around me. I feel that for the next 2 months I will try to practice this kind of openly friendliness so to get a feel for it. Which kind of sounds strange, I guess we should always be friendly. But I have hard time being "fake" however I understand that it is really about keeping up with this culture thing.

    I can't help but feel ashamed and embarrassed for having broken these Korean codes of conduct.

    I just hope I am not the only one who struggles with this.

    Anyways thanks for your good words of wisdom.

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  9. Luckily, I took a job at a great hagwon where co-workers are the least of my worries. I've been here three years, and I now have the most seniority out of all my co-workers outside of the bosses, but the last set have been some really good hires.

    It did take me a few months to learn the ropes though:
    1. Be friendly and open with all the kids and don't hold grudges or let your favorites know that they are your favorites.
    2. Try to teach them the best you can, but don't go overboard and upset/overload them with too much information. We are pretty much a dual daycare provider/English institute.
    3. Don't sweat the small stuff—lots of annoying games, snack parties, speaking contests, last minute class changes, different schedules in winter and summer, kids' attitudes changing as they grow older, etc.
    4. Always be on time.
    5. Dress professionally.

    I truly work for a great set of bosses who understand when I can't make it to the last second evening meals because I already had plans. They've also lived and worked overseas, so they know a bit more about how the rest of the world does business as well. They understand that their teachers do have lives of their own, so I do try to make the few, and far between, meals when they do give us a bit of a heads up. They actually aren't really my bosses anymore, but have been some of my best friends for the last few years now.

    As for which grade you might find easier to teach, I suggest sticking with elementary. My high schoolers are only interested in what they need to know in order to pass their university entrance exams and can be quite moody and tight-lipped. My middle schoolers are hot and cold depending on which way the wind is blowing, but my youngest are pretty much always bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. In my small (6-10 student) classes, they are really a joy to teach once we get over the phonics hurdle and can start reading and singing. I always hated singing growing up, but now I look forward to my twice monthly singing contests in these classes. However, my latest group of fifth graders just graduated to the upper level texts and sang their last song, and it couldn't have come soon enough for them.

    It's been amazing to have been able to see the transformation of these kids as they've matured. Kids who would stick around and talk to me whenever they could, now don't give me much more than the actual time of day anymore as they head into the pressure cooker that is high school. I used to ride bikes with many of them on the weekends, but that has changed as they no longer have the time, but new (younger) kids are growing into these vacated positions, so not all is lost.

    I may not have all the vacation time that public schools get, but I've known exactly what I've been teaching by my second month here thanks to a few great sets of texts that are all age/grade level appropriate. The lesson plans have written themselves ever since without any more need for prep/busy work. I thought I might be getting a little long-in-the-tooth for teaching in age-obsessed South Korea, but I just found out the one of the previous native English teachers was fifty when my bosses hired him. It seems I might be sticking around a bit longer after all.

    Good luck in your search.

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  10. Thank you for posting that. I know it can't be easy to make yourself so vulnerable to readers but like others have said that information is a wake up call to all of us thinking of teaching in SK or currently teaching there.

    You can't fix something if you don't know what is broken. Now you have all the tools you need to make sure you are successful in your next job. One thing though is that each co-teacher/school is different so take these suggestions and be flexible with them depending on your next school.

    I think with Koreans it is really important to think more about the group than the individual so in your next job think of yourself as part of their team and not all on your own.

    Third times the charm!

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  11. I don't mean people should be fake and pretend to be all smiles when really plotting everyone's downfall and stewing in anger . . . but being "professional" by always putting a good spin on things, and not letting negative feelings affect you work and interact with people. Sometimes you're tired or sick or angry or sad or just not feeling cheerful . . . it's ok to feel these things, but not necessarily to show that we're feeling them at work. Sometimes students are a pain in the butt, or you get stuck co-teaching with the guy who has the worst breath in the history of mankind (yes, this happened to me at one of my schools - he couldn't speak English, either, which was the most entertaining part) BUT you have to teach every class as if it were your favorite ("Hurrah! It's the flesh-eating alien scabs of of class 1-4! I'm soooooooo excited!" "Excellent ~ let's see if I can guess what Mr. X ate for breakfast today!") and treat every coworker as if you were glad to see them. And, if you approach it that way, bit by bit you'll start to believe it yourself.
    Small trick ~ when a class is extra-good, or does something particularly well one day, tell their homeroom teacher. The kids will love you for praising them to their most important teacher, and the teacher will be happy that you liked their class. This turned a few mediocre classes of mine into what turned out to be some of my best.

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  12. Thanks for the advice.

    I know I screwed up in areas of personal relationships and having a "warm" presence. But I also feel a lot of this criticism is from my coteachers personal feelings towards me. I feel she took a lot of the offenses I made personally and beyond professionally. She would say things like she was hurt by my attitude.

    I guess I am trying to say that I don't want to put all the blame on myself. My coteachers had their parts to play. I never knew they valued all these things until she told me just last week. So I feel like I can't be blamed for things that I didn't know I had to be aware of.

    Of course I told her this and tried to explain to her my perspective. I think she got but still felt her way.

    Anyways, I have to start off right at the next job and this advice will be part of my guide. I know that it isn't really about being fake but providing my part in the work place that benefits everyone.

    Right now I am thinking it would be nice to have a month or two off before starting a job again.

    ~we will see

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  13. Joy: Kudos to you for looking those criticisms right in the beady eye, and taking them on. One of the hardest things in my professional career as a teacher (and for me it happened in my second year) was taking the (mostly negative, at the time) feedback I got from a bunch of coworkers, and trying to turn it into some positive things I could learn. Hearing everything point blank helped me turn a corner, and I'm a better teacher and a better person for it. Asking for feedback is one of the scariest things, but I'm glad you did.

    Good luck working through these.

    Rob

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  14. Kudos to everyone for a thoughtful and honest discussion!
    These things really apply to "any" job, "anywhere"! And it's progress...not perfection.
    Thank you!

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  15. Please don't take this negatively, but you should spend some time researching the culture of country in order to do better --might I suggest the K-dramas/movies? It might sound silly, but this is one of the ways you can get a gist of what is expected from you. I'm sure you're aware that in Confucian societies manners, positive attitude, hard work, and a sense of community is very important...well, this was evident from the remarks on your review. I am sure you will take this as a learning experience and do better the next time! And while I do not know the situation, if your co-teacher had personal ill-feelings toward you she would have given negative recommendations to your future jobs. Please see this as a hint that perhaps it was your responsibility to try harder. Here's a tip: for the next job, introduce yourself to your co-teacher/whoever in this way--bow, smile, say hello (preferably in korean), your name, and say "please take good care of me, sunbaenim". He/she will be happy that you obviously took the time to learn some Korean mannerisms, and that you are showing respect to him/her as your senior. ('sunbaenim' means 'senior' as in they've been at the job longer than you have and not age.

    Joy hwaiting! ^_^

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  16. Hi "M"
    I know about the culture of this country from watching Korean movies and dramas and also studying Korean Art History before I came here.

    I am aware of the Confucian culture here too.

    I think it is one thing to understand a culture from the perspective of seeing it in Media and in books to then be immersed in it at the workplace.

    Sure I need to try harder. Please remember I was going through crap times when I got this job. They put me in a house with no window. I had to politely without showing my true anger ask for a new house. Inside I was tormented that they would allow themselves to treat a foreign guest that way.

    I think you have to understand that my life wasn't always peachy and the people at my school kept things grim. They did this by constantly telling me all the bad things the PRincipal did and how much they hated him. How was I suppose to enjoy my work environment when most of the people who did talk to me made my work environment feel like a shit hole?

    But hey I will walk into my next job with your suggestions. But that doesn't there won't be communication problems as usual. I have to be proactive from now on and assert myself in this work environment. And any troubles I have about the school or home I know now to leave them at the school gate.

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  17. hmmm, well it seems your response shows your overall attitude towards friendly observations-- if you put this out there to get constructive criticism in order to do better as an individual, then it's a little off-putting to respond in a way that's defensive. Maybe you're not aware of it, but you've redirected the conditions that led to your situation almost entirely externally--meaning that you seem to see all the outside reasons for what happened except perhaps what you could have done to make the situation better. I'm sorry if I come across as being judgmental, and I realize I know little of your situation. I find your blog interesting and felt as if you were really upset about the whole review and in need of some objective input. But perhaps I misunderstood, so I won't butt in anymore. Enjoy your stay in Korea!

    "M"

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  18. Go ahead butt in... we all need reality checks now and then. I just wanted to make the point that I do know Korean culture but actually working in it feels like a different experience.

    Please give me the objective imput... I think it helps other readers to get different perspectives. If I seemed a little taken aback it is my silliness. You are not the first to write objectively in response to my blog and get such a response for me. I am trying... I promise! ;)

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  19. I don't think using the term "sonbaenim" in this case is going to help her get off to a good start . . . it's not appropriate in this kind of situation. The standard "seonsengnim" is much better. Also, let's not resort to films and dramas for our understandings of Korean culture ~ I certainly wouldn't want people basing their opinions of America from what they see in G.I. Joe or Entourage. Even where media is reflective of a culture, it's not the same as knowing a culture. Joy's already taking a much more informative step by actually living here.

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