Monday, April 16, 2012

On the Business of Being a Team Leader

It's been almost two months into my second year at my school, and I figured it is time to talk about being a Team Leader. This title makes me in charge of three other foreign Native English teachers in my department (2nd grade). It also means that I am in the intermediary between the English crew and the Korean homeroom teachers. When I was first given this duty I was stricken with fear that I couldn't do it, and would find myself stressed out too much. Today I am going to expose how being a Team Leader has developed for me and give insights into what's been happening so far.

Things started off kind of rough when on the first day back I was bombarded with level testing. I wasn't aware this had to be done so I was found scrambling for the test and spending my prep time giving it to the new students. But I handled it quite well and did my best to keep up with the day. During that first week I thought it was very important to make a good impression with the Korean staff, and so tried to talk with them, and one day gave them some chocolate I acquired from recent travels. But it seemed they were too busy and into their own worries to really pay attention to me or my English staff in general. I mostly just tried to go with the flow and so stayed out of their way.

Since then I have gotten use to being the person the Korean staff goes to when delivering important messages. Information includes schedule changes or nuances about vocabulary and tests. There are four Korean homeroom teachers and the make up is interesting. One of them is an older woman and doubles as the school's Vice Principal. So she doesn't really talk to me much, but I try my best to be nice and mild around her. The other homeroom teacher is the one to go to for paperwork and schedule changes, and mostly for English messages. However, she is going to have her first baby at the end of this month, so we won't see her again till next semester. Then there is the next homeroom teacher, a guy, who pretty much keeps to himself. I only go to him if one of the kids from his class is having trouble. That leaves us with the Head Teacher, a guy who is nice and communicates well with me. All major things pass through him, so I try to be nice and just do whatever he requests.

For example, today we had a new student and this morning as I was just setting up in my room, he informed me of her. I was to give her the level test. If this were me about 4 years ago when I first came to Korea, these last minute things and random invites would have me in a twirl. But I've gotten use to a lot of the Korean workplace nuances and so I'm nice about these things.

Otherwise, being Team Leader seems to mostly be about keeping up with everyone's paper work. Monthly planner, vocabulary and lesson plans are the major forms of paperwork I have to check and make sure are all right throughout the month. I have to make sure folks are keeping up with these things and occasionally ask them to hurry along.

As leader itself I am letting things grow at a good pace. I have had bi-weekly meetings with my staff to catch them up on current topics and agenda. It seems to make my team happy, as we also end up talking about the kids and our classes.

I have to say I find being team leader not as stressful as I thought it would be, but at times I hope I'm not slacking off too much. My concerns would be that I don't really talk to the Korean staff or get to the know them. This is something I am notorious for doing. I just figure if I'm being nice and doing what is being told, than I am on their good side anyways. Hmm, maybe time to rethink my strategy, haha.

In the end, I feel that my position at this school and the unique teaching environment that I am is a fortunate win on my side. So being Team Leader, so far, is treating me very well.

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