Friday, July 9, 2010


Today came the news about whether or not my school would renew my coworkers contract. This is the other foreigner at my school. Let me just first state that we have become good friends and since we both have experienced our work place understand the deep problems. Throughout the year she has been saying over and over how she wants to stay at the school and hoped they would keep her. However after we got back from orientation the mood amongst our co teachers was cold and exclusive.

My coworker got the vibe that they weren't going to keep her, and since her contract ends in early October she became anxious to know the verdict.

Today they told her they would not renew her contract. The first reason she was told was because the Principal wants a male teacher. She seemed a bit upset at first but then buckled down and probably realized this school isn't the best anyways. She has a new boyfriend in Suwon and so now has the opportunity to live closer to him.

But we both recognized the changed feeling in the office and this decision of theirs validated our suspicions.

Yet then came the walk home after work where I learned there were deeper reasons to her non-renewal. She talked with Mrs. W (the middle coteacher.... not the oldest or the youngest) and what she was told doesn't really make sense. She was told that part of the reason they weren't renewing her was because how at the beginning (back in February) the office was uncomfortable and the environment not pleasant. What is strange is that the office wasn't like that because of my coworker it was because of me.

If you have been reading long enough you would know that I struggled with crap at the beginning of this job (in December) and then again when we got the new coteachers in February. Since the last great incident somewhere around March nothing bad has gone down. I became less sensitive to the things that bothered me and even found myself caring about Mrs. K (the older coteacher who I teach the most with). In my opinion, I felt like I was showing how I had changed and cared about the "group." That is why it comes as a surprise to hear they still hold this in their minds. But also more strange is that they attribute it to my coworker. Who actually has always been talkative and quite more friendly than me. Something tells me the Principal truly wants a male teacher and that also the coteachers just don't want us either.

The question is will they let me renew? From this evidence I believe their answer will be no. Renewing would mean that I can get extra vacation and not move or go through the hassle of finding a new job. For the most part I would only want to stay at this job because I love the house. However, I can feel myself saying that is a bad reason to stay at a school. To be honest I would rather work somewhere with a dedicated English department that has an English classroom. And I think I need to go back to just having one coteacher.

As I walked home today and around town I realized that I need to personally make my own decision on this job, whether they renew me or not. I came to the affirmation that I personally will not renew with this school. I will plan my mind and life on the reality that come December I need to move out and make my next move.

There are actually some positive things to this prospective future. Here they are:
  • Finishing the contract rewards me with a free flight home. 
  • I could use the flight home to go home. ;)
  • I would go home (California) and stay from December - January. Resting and being with family.
  • I would come back to Korea at the end of January and either live in Goshiwon or stay at a friends. Meanwhile looking for a new job. 
  • While I am in America resting, JH could come out and visit me. So it would make things very flexible.
That is what I see in my mind, and I think I need to stick with this plan and just say goodbye to this school and house. It's been two years in Korea and something tells me it is time for a break. Sure I am going to America for my summer vacation but I know the 14 days won't be enough. 

All in all, inside I am fuming from all this secretive nonsense going on underneath the surface. Sure it doesn't surprise me that they don't tell us anything. But I end up feeling like a cheap thing. Yea I know I pissed them off several months ago but I have done my darnedest to accept the cultural differences and even let many things slip away.

So right now I am dealing with that anger, and I know I can't show it at work. I want to leave on good neutral terms so that the next school will accept me. It feels like a really hard thing to bury your inner nature, but that is what I am doing.

Yes I want to confront them and talk to them about my job position and future. Yet I fear they will dig up the past and I don't want to go there.

My final thoughts are that I still can't believe how I (the foreigner) try my best to understand and accept Korean culture. But that my Korean colleagues show little to no effort in accepting or understanding my culture or who I am. And instead use the differences as punishments towards my character and person. My coworker shares the same sentiments.

There is some faith in me, however, that there is a right place for me here in Korea. From now on that is what I am going to look for.


  1. In my 5 years in Korea, my experience has been that it's the person with this type of attitude who doesn't make it.

    "My final thoughts are that I still can't believe how I (the foreigner) try my best to understand and accept Korean culture. But that my Korean colleagues show little to no effort in accepting or understanding my culture or who I am."

    A few points:

    1. You chose to come to Korea and no one forces you to be here. If you don't like the culture and can't adapt, go home.

    2. Your coworkers didn't choose to have a foreign co-teacher and quite possibly don't want one (especially one who seems to question everything they do!) Why should they have to accept your culture when it's thrust upon them and they didn't ask for it.

    3. It's a Korean school, run by Koreans for Koreans. Even though you may disagree with their methods, you will NEVER change the system. So, it just causes conflict by trying to.

    4. Look at it the other way. You're teaching Spanish in an American public school and a Mexican comes to be your co-teacher. If they kept insisting that, "this is how we do it in Mexico," how would you feel? It's ridiculous. Or kept whining about, "please try to accept my culture." Also ridiculous. Or, insisted their teaching methods were better than yours. Ridiculous.

  2. I see your point. But my feeling is that I don't want to change them centered around my ethnic background.

    The feeling of a loss of cultural understanding of the foreigner. If the Mexican came to work with me I would at least try to meet them in the middle with our cultural misunderstandings.

    Sure nobody wants to work with someone who complains about how they get the job done. I no longer do that anymore.

    We weren't thrust onto them. This is the English department and they hire native teachers to teach English.

    There is a lack of training for the coteachers to understand foreigners and working with them. Likewise native teachers are left to our devices to solve cultural misunderstandings.

    I may not express it clearly enough but I feel my attitude is adequate and that I can make it here.

    I strive strongly to be a diplomat and let the cultural misunderstandings and discriminatory acts go on without a fuss. Instead I truly try to understand Korean culture and their way of doing things. I accept their faults and move on.

    I can't force them to accept my culture but I think it is acceptable to complain about my school not making an effort. I truly feel there is an opportunity amongst English departments for both cultures to share and understand each other. To learn and grow. When one party makes that impossible, what can the other party feel?

  3. Is the co-teacher you talked about who is not being renewed Korean? or a Westerner?

    What you've been describing all along as a "cultural" thing between you & the teachers in the schools you've taught in there in Korea, is only partially a "cultural" thing as far as I see it... This kind of stuff would happen to you anywhere, much of your difficulty with it all stems from your inexperience in the professional work place and your own basic personality/behavioral issues!
    However, distasteful the same sort of thing happens here in the U.S. in every school or education dept.that I've taught in. Remember my job with the museum ed dept., some of those ladies I worked with there were brutally nasty! There are cliques of teachers in all schools who ostracize or make things uncomfortable or difficult for other teachers, specialists, etc... They behave at the grade level of the school ironically!
    "They" feel threatened in some way & take it out on those they believe are "threatening" them! You wouldn't believe the major BS I went thru at the Middle School I worked at last. I find professional counseling is a great help in these situations, as I'm still learning how to handle the inter-personal relationships on the job.

    Re: the Korean teachers...It is so obvious to me that the Westerner, the "Native Speaker" in their midst is "threatening" to them...and that's how they deal with it!
    You're not going to like what I say next.... but, I think you've been way too sensitive about all this and let it bother you way too much! You're there for the kids & trying to learn how to manage in a foreign culture. Joining a group of other expat teachers as you've done and sharing this stuff w/them & getting their advice on how to handle these situations is a great help, have you been doing that w/your new friends?

    Once again for the thousandth time I really believe that if you were showing the Korean co-teachers that you're making an effort to communicate with them in their native language, by speaking Korean with them & asking them to help you learn & speak it better they would have a completely different take on you & more respect!

    Things aren't ever going to be better anywhere until you learn how to let things go and not get so wrapped up in this stuff!
    Stop trying to figure 'em out!

  4. Thanks Mom. I realize alot of that stuff too. And I think I have come a long way though. Anyways thanks for the positive vibes.

  5. Yes indeed you've come a long long way!
    Did you mean allusive rather than exclusive at the end of the 1st paragraph?


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