The last 24 hours of my life have been quite a ride. As you well know by now I struggle with the one thing Korean coteachers despise, and that is talking back and expressing a bold opinion. Last Friday I had one of these moments. It happened about an hour before work hours were finished and so I didn't really leave with a "sorry". What occurred was that I argued over being asked to write in 12 more topics for the extra class I am to teach. I made the point that since it doesn't really matter (we are going to do whatever and the topics are just for show) that they should write in anything and not ask me. I made a big deal about it and somehow embarrassed the youngest coteacher. (She is "beautiful" and has a princess complex.) I agree, though, that my big mouth should of been kept shut or that I should of just gone along with it. However, as you know I am still struggling with these areas.
Anyways they (my 3 coteachers) worked on Saturday and must of come up with some plan to deal with this. However, on Monday I didn't really know that it was such a big deal and when the youngest coteacher announced we were going to have a meeting later in the day I was surprised to find what it was about. She just said it was going to be about "school policy."
It turned out it was about me.
The youngest coteacher's English is poor and somehow (maybe with some help) she wrote down in her notebook a speech to give to everyone at the meeting. I was shocked at what I heard and how it was delivered. Her message was to me and how I embarrassed her and hurt her feelings. What she read clearly stated my name and what I did that she disliked. Keep in mind I have another foreign coworker, who was sitting at the meeting too.
I understand that they wanted to address my attitude and disobedience but honestly I would have never imagined that they would have solve this issue by confronting me at a meeting in front of everyone.
On top of being sick (headache & sore throat) I became so embarrassed and ashamed of myself that I couldn't come up with sincere answers to their questions.
After a while into the meeting one of the other coteachers spilled the beans on all the things I did that upset her. I asked her, "Why didn't you tell me then that it upset you?" And she was insulted that I asked her that.
I tried to keep my cool and also represent my side of the story, that I have a tendency to voice my opinion passionately but know Korean people find this rude. That I am trying my hardest to understand the Korean system and work well with everyone.
I felt like I was on trial. But in this case I didn't even know I was going to be prosecuted. I told them that confronting me like this made me feel frightened and that they should of considered coming to me personally, instead of so publicly. Yet, they turned it around and said they couldn't believe that I was surprised.
Needless to say Monday was a mess. I have to say that my other foreign coworker, although she tried at first, ended up throwing me under the bus in the end. Agreeing with my coteachers on things and not really showing any compassion for my being assaulted like the way I was.
The meeting finally ended when I couldn't take it anymore and burst out into loud tears. I went home Monday feeling betrayed by another foreigner and mentally annihilated by my coteachers.
As I walked home it was snowing heavily and there was not a person around me to hear me sob. After awhile I looked around and heard that sweet silence that accompanies snowfall. I couldn't help but think about my life. I wanted to pack my things and fly back to America. But I couldn't, because I need health insurance. "What would I do back home?" "How would I survive?" I thought. Then I considered my future. "What if they fire me?" "What if they don't renew my contract for another year and refuse to give me a good recommendation letter?"
My mind was spiraling down hill. It seriously felt like I couldn't go back to America and couldn't take another step back at work. I wanted to disappear.
I told JH what had happened and my feelings. Then later he showed up here at my home. He told me to no longer cry and gave me good advice on how to continue on. He said that no matter what happens he will be there for me.
With his expression of love and caring I was able to calm down and see what needed to be done.
On my way to work this morning I was scared and broken-hearted. What they did was really unfair and just messy in trying to get me to shape up. But I knew that they didn't see it that way and I would likely never get an apology from them or alternatively something in the ballpark of thinking they were wrong.
Yet as I walked the long path back to school I couldn't help but think of the children and that is why I was still carrying on this job. I like teaching them and seeing them laugh and have fun because I created a good lesson plan and executed it well. But I realized that the Korean public school system favors good relationships over the amount of work you do for the kids. Meaning I could probably be a lousy teacher but great at making everyone feel good and never argue, while at the same time never once be reprimanded for my poor teaching skills. It's a bitter medicine to swallow. But not impossible and I am not acting up all the time.
After careful thought I understood what I had done wrong but also realized that the young coteacher took it too personally. This is likely due to that I broke many Korean relationship taboos (saving face, don't talk back...etc) in front of everyone.
Despite all these feelings inside me I went through my day today pretty well. Of course there was no mention of what happened. However, when I had the chance I apologized to the coteacher I teach the most with and let her know how sincere I was. I will call her Mrs. K, and she has been good to me. I also have been good back to her by praising our coteaching and her ideas.
But still the other two coteachers remain in that grey area, where you never really know what they think of you. And you have to somehow redeem yourself and never make mistakes again. So today I talked politely and positively trying to show that I do care about my demeanor.
All in all, I want to obey the Korean way of things and also enjoy a fun and relaxed atmosphere with everyone. I guess the first step is letting go of how they handled that situation and getting a grip on my big loud mouth.