Sunday, September 13, 2009

One More Year?

Here is a funny little story. On Friday after all the classes were finished and I was chilling in my office doing oh so important office stuff...(wink)... the Principal called me into his office. My coteacher told me to go down to the Principal's office. I immediately asked whether I was in some kind of trouble, but she didn't know.

It is rare I am called into his office. On the way there I contemplated what may be the reason, and the only thing I could think of was maybe to thank me for working there or something like that.

I walked into his office and found him sitting with the Nurse, so then my thoughts changed to maybe they were going to talk to me about the H1N1 scare.

I said hello, sat down and went through what was quite an extraordinary experience.

It turned out the Principal was asking me to continue my teaching at his school for one more year. But he doesn't speak very good English and so used the Nurse (an ahjumma who can speak English fairly well) to translate.

She asked me, "Ummm the Principal wants to know if you want to stay here for another year?"
Me: "You want me to teach here for another year?"
Nurse: "Yes, that's right. The Principal is having a hard time finding a good new teacher because of the time of year. He thinks you are very good and the children like you."

The wheels and gears in my head were needless to say spinning. I had accepted the fact that a group of people including the Principal and Vice Principal agreed to not keep me for another year. Because of what my coteacher wrote in her report. I was a little shocked but also not fooled.

Because my coteacher was not asked to join us and he had the Nurse being used as a translator I had the feeling that the Principal was asking me because it is the easiest solution to his problem of replacing me.

So my answer was something like this:

Me: "I don't know if I can. My relationship with my coteacher is very bad. We have had lots of arguments and I think our relationship is broken."
Nurse: "Broken? Really... I didn't know that."
Me: "Yea, it's been pretty bad. I just don't think she likes me. So it would be hard to stay at this school because we don't work well together."
Nurse: (Speaks Korean to the Principal explaining my answer.)
Principal: "You just say YES or NO. Don't worry about the coteacher that will be fine. You worry...just...YES or No."
Me: "I'm sorry it is just not that simple. I could stay till February since you will have more choices at that time."
Nurse talks to Principal.
Principal: "Just YES or NO." Then he gets up and makes a phone call. The next thing I know my ex-coteacher comes into the room to help translate. She explains to me that I would get a new house and that he just wants to know my decision today.

Me: "I am going to have to say No. I just don't believe it would work between my coteacher and me. I believe she doesn't want to work with me anyways and she wants to start over with a new teacher. I really enjoy this city and the children and it would be easy to stay at this school another year but working another year with my coteacher would be too much stress."

Ex-coteacher: "Oh, I didn't know it was that bad. Well okay."
Me: "And I want to add that I overall have had a hard time at the school. I can't stand living in my house one more day and it seemed no one cared about this."
Ex-coteacher: "Ah I know. You had a hard time here. I feel it is mostly my fault. I am so sorry."
Me: "It's okay. I understand at that time you were very busy.

And we all kind of nod our heads and say thank you. The Principal comes over and is given my decision. He takes a deep breath and sighs then shakes my hand and says thank you. And we all get up and leave.

I couldn't find my coteacher after that but I have to wonder if she knew he was going to ask me. Apparently, she is having a hard time finding a new teacher and I think it is because the Principal is being picky.

Now if the Principal had called us both into the room, and I was able to sit with my coteacher and talk to her about our work together then maybe I would have said yes. But he went about it in a sneaky way and was doing it like a business transaction. But this is how this guy ticks and I wasn't surprised.

I had a feeling this might happen after hearing about the problems they were having picking a new teacher. The thing is they should have made this decision back when they had their meeting. I am already jazzed up about leaving this school and starting fresh somewhere else.

All in all, it felt good to be able to say No.


  1. I'm glad you said no because that was not the easy answer to give them. I think you have learned a lot with all the experiences at this school and you NEED that change of a new environment and new dynamics so you can grow and just have a better experience!

  2. Good move. There was no effort to resolve the situation or at least attempt to do so. And its good to get a fresh start somewhere so things will be new and shiny again.

  3. Personally, I think you passed up a chance for tremendous bargaining power. Or at least the chance to have a job for a certain period of time. In this case, I may have stayed on until the end of the school year so that the kids aren't left with no teacher or an inexperienced one for a month or so. That would give you all of January and February, while schools are on vacation, to really look for something that fits with you.

  4. This wasn't really a bargaining situation. I asked to work till February and they wouldn't hear of it. Complicated with the housing contract.

    Oh well~

  5. AGHHHH!!!!
    You're probably not going to like my response, however,
    I agree w/Kristen, you passed up a really good opportunity.
    I knew this was coming after they rejected the pregnant lady, that's why I've questioned your intentions if it did happen.

    It would have been a good opportunity to make amends and learn to work together as a team w/someone that had presented challenges for you, as well as to have a 2 yr stint at one school on your resume. That would look good to other future employers, rather than switching around so much.
    AND...the kids know & like you, as well as knowing the procedures, etc... at this school.
    AND...they were willing to upgrade your living quarters.
    You recvd. praise from the principal and the co-teacher apologized...
    SO what the heck more did you expect from these people?
    YES...Joy, the principal handled this as a business transaction, because that is the role of an administrator in education along w/all the other tasks pertaining to the actual curriculums,etc...
    He wasn't being sneaky; obviously he had discussed this w/the co-teacher already.
    If he found your teaching deficient, he never would have asked you to remain.
    He wasn't "that" picky...he wanted to retain you after all!

    Coincidentally, the reading I've been doing all wkend for one of my courses is about Principal & Superintendant Leadership and your post reads like a "case study"!

    It seems to me that you reacted emotionally rather than intellectually and said NO before you gave yourself a chance to think this trough professionally.
    You could have politely asked the principal for a meeting w/the co-teacher to discuss the situation as a requirement for making a decision.

    Working through a professional situation such as this is no doubt a challenge; one I'm sad to hear you've not allowed yourself to experience.

  6. Mom,
    This was about my relationship with my coteacher. She wrote a huge report about all the things she didn't agree with on my behaivor and personality. It is not something that can be worked out.

    I did not react emotionally. At the meeting I simply knew that was the reason not to say yes. And told them why. I was very clear and had the answer clear in my head too.

    He did not care about my relationship with my coteacher or to help me amend it.

    To be honest it is a relief to leave this school and the way it is run here.

    I finally have the opportunity to chose which school I want and which location. Last year I was in a hurry and in a situation where I wasn't desirable. I feel like I can't let this pass me by.

  7. Also I would like to add that you need to understand that these situations do not go through the same as in the West.

    He wasn't about negotiating or giving me time to work it out with my coteacher. It was black and white for him. Not about my situation. I understand what your are trying to say but out here that kind of logic just doesn't mix well.

  8. Heh...

    Sometimes it is nearly impossible to explain the cutthroat "business" climate (and particularly with respect to hagwons) here in Korea.

    Moving on was the right thing to do.

  9. I agree with the previous statement from the old guy above (however, my hagwon is totally awesome).

    They haven't all of a sudden had a brain-fart moment in which they've realized that they acted much too rashly and hastily when they didn't renew your contract. They are scrambling to fill a hole, and you are the quickest stopgap measure that is readily available without their added expensive of paying another recruiter's fee on top of it all and being without a Native English teacher for what could be an extended period of time.

    You are here now, and that counts so much in getting the position you want, and is right for you, and not having to throw a dart blindly at a situation that could end up being really unpleasant if you were back home stateside and counting on just the glorious embellishments of a position from a money hungry recruiter.

    Good luck in the job search. I'm sure something much better will come along.

  10. OK...I get it & respect your decision & position!
    Hopefully you have learned what to do & not to do w/your next co-teacher right from the start!

    However, one is left wondering if the co-teacher's report about you was SO negative, why would the principal "even" consider re-hiring you?
    Obviously it influenced his decision not to in the first place.
    Perhaps he was going to let her go????
    WHATEVER....this situation is just about history!

    I really hope that your next situation is better in all regards & you have learned how to conduct yourself appropriately in this foreign situation!

    AND.....big HUGS.... LOVE U!

  11. Can I offer a recommendation? Something you should order and read ASAP, before you start your next course. I think it will help you understand a lot of the differences in handling Koreans.

    I think you'll understand a lot about what happened with the principal, and you'll understand more about why your co-teacher handled the situation in the way she did. They explain the way Koreans handle conflict.

    Normally I wouldn't recommend something to someone I don't know, but reading your blog over the last 3-4 months, I believe this book would be immensely helpful in starting you off on the right foot at your next school.

    (FYI, totally not related to the author or anything, but I have that book in my library and it helps a lot with dealing with my Korean mother and GF)

  12. Joy: I think you made the right choice. It's a tough one and it might have been easier to just simply stay but the fact of the matter is you would have been forced to be partnered with someone who didn't respect you and maybe even tried to undermine you at one point. You have options and hopefully the next one will work out better for you. Also, there are no guarantees that the principal would have really switched your house or WHEN he would have switched your house. As someone who has lived in an apt. without a working washing machine and with black mold, and noone seemed to care, I think housing is an important, vital part of the equation. Move on, secure a better position, and simply grow as a person and teacher. I hope the job hunt goes well and you find happiness and security in your next position.

  13. Hello Joy,

    I am from Singapore, and I read your blog all the time. I was so disappointed that the school didn't want to renew your contract, because of your co-teacher.

    Seriously, I thought your co-teacher is fired and you were staying, since you said the word EX. Hearing you saying no, is kind of unexpected, you might have lost some good chances of bargaining. You worked there before, so you know how everything works and so on, staying for another year might seemed stressful. And stress, is good for you.

    Well, all in all, you had rejected them, and I would say, it serves them right.

    Joy, FIGHTING! :D I support you.


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