On my list.

The private school teacher is officially pissing me off.

1. Don't tell my students what to call me. If it doesn't bother me that they call me 샘, then it shouldn't bother you. We've all survived in this situation for a year and a half without you arbitrarily correcting them with "Elizabeth Teacher", which is not even what we actually say in English, so get the hell off that high horse while we're at it. The students can call me whatever the hell they want to, so long as it's not 'asshole'. They're talking to me -- that's the point. It's our business -- not yours.

2. Don't wander around explaining the assignment to the students in Korean one by one and distracting them while I'm trying to explain the assignment in English to the entire class. Don't tell me they can't understand -- they can understand perfectly well when I give them directions. That's my job. They can't understand when you're standing in front of them babbling in Korean while they're trying to concentrate on my English.

3. Don't sit there across the lunch table from me and try to get me to agree that there are some of our students who just can't be helped, that they should be given up on and ignored, and told just to go to sleep during class. I'm sorry that you're having issues with the fact that these are not private school cherubs, but that is not their fault. This is public education --they deserve the very best that we have to offer. Our students face all kinds of issues that you have never run across in your classes before. There are divorces, depressed mothers, parents who have completely disappeared leaving children with dying elderly grandparents, kids who can't read, kids who have jobs, kids who have to look after three little siblings completely on their own, kids who have the shit kicked out of them by their fathers every night. If you can't handle the fact that there are side-effects from these issues that show up all over their behavior, then stick to the hagwon world. Our job is not just to focus on the students who are bright and eager to learn -- it is to do our dead-level best to, yes control bad behavior and reign in distractions, and the best way to do that is to find a way to engage every single child in the classroom. We won't always succeed, of course. But chucking in the towel is not the adult solution. These boys have already had a whole slew of people give up on them, and they've only got more of that to face down in the future. If you want to sign your name to that list, you go right ahead -- I'm not on board.

You are on my fucking list, lady.

On that note, I feel like shit and am retiring to bed for the foreseeable future. It's been a rough-ish week, although my students continue to give 110% and make me a very, very happy teacher. I think the weather is just fucking up my immune system, and I'm running a bit of a fever and feeling generally out of it. Hence the carelessness with responding to tons of lovely messages, happy birthday related and otherwise, over the last few days. I apologize. I'm going to get some good sleep, some decent food in my belly, and I'll hopefully come up bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and swinging on Monday morning.


Burndog said...

Hey...sorry to read that things have gone to shit. It happens to me a fair bit too. The condescending, allegedly well intended bullshit that rains down from above...blurgh! Try and ignore it. Focus on teaching your students and don't get wound up. You won't change her, but you will change your students. I have plenty of teachers like her at my school...some who hate me, some who hate English...but I don't care...I treat them sweetly and teach my students the way that I want too. You can't do anything about how she is in your class (worse luck, because she's being a bit of fucktard), so I guess you just have to work around her as best you can. From the sound of things, you have your students trust and respect, and that's what we work for...she can't undo that unless you come undone. Don't come undone!

Please Picasso Teacher...take a rest...I am worry about your condition.

I'm no Picasso said...

Yeah she's a pain in the ass, but I've got this feeling (I don't know from where) that she'll only be with us for a semester. So I'm not too worried about it. When she was giving me the "right? right?" thing about letting the losers sleep it off, my co-teacher was gawking at her in pure horror. My *real* co-teachers are fantastic teachers, so I don't have to worry too much about this nonsense.

And thank you very gamsa for the you are worry. I'm taking it easy this weekend, and I should be back in top form by Monday.

You know. Because I usually exert myself from Sat-Sun.

Tuttle said...

Sanctimonious narcissism.

While it certainly sounds like the new co-teacher has her head up an impossible part of her anatomy, I wonder if anyone has explained to her her role in your classroom.

For example, I've made it clear that actually translating instructions--after I've finished talking, obviously--is a key role for the co-teacher. Not all your kids understand what you want them to do, no...matter...how...slowly...you...speak. You are mistaken if you do not recognise this fact.

While the co-teacher is wrong in suggesting that some students can't be helped, a more nuanced view might approach the issue as being about the best deployment of manpower.

It is clearly wrong to give up on students and let them sleep through your class (though I did see that back home with some teachers in my experience). Some would argue that the best use of an English specialist like yourself might be in working with those who have the finest or most developed linguistic skills. This is a difference of educational philosophy, not so much a matter of "on my listing".

But it is an egregious wrong on your part to play this game of "rich kids, poor kids". Apparently, or at least to hear your description, denizens of Incheon are poor compared to those of Seoul. I doubt it's that simple, but ...

If you think that kids whose parents are well-off enough to send them to hagwons are not just as capable of physical and emotional abuse as poor people, you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

If you think children from well-off families don't suffer in divorce, don't have clinically depressed parents and suffer as a result, don't have probelems that money doesn't fix, you're just wrong.

And you did say that.

I'm no Picasso said...

1. Don't tell me what my students do and do not understand. Are there times when what I'm having them do is too complex to make clear only in English to my very lowest level? Yes. But a lot of the times I'm able to work out an example to demonstrate what they are to be doing, so that even if they understand no one single word in English, they understand what they are meant to be doing. That is my job. Your students need Korean translation. That's fine. My students have been with me without any Korean translation whatsoever for a year now. Somehow we manage to get by. You can claim that's impossible all you want -- it doesn't change the fact that it's not.

2. If you want to take what I've said to extremes, that's, again, your prerogative. I'm not a fucking idiot -- I know what goes down in middle class households just as well as I know what goes down in working class households. However, if you want to deny that middle class children on the whole come up against a lot fewer daily obstacles than children from poor families, then you must just live in a different world than I do. Kids from poor families have to deal with everything the average kid from a middle class family may have to deal with, plus, plus, plus, plus. There's a reason why all of my A level students live in one apartment complex, and my C level students all come from another. You can have the most loving, caring parents in the world, but when those parents are put into dire financial straits, in utter desperation trying to keep a household afloat, you don't come out even to other kids with the same kind of parents. The fact of the matter is, I work at a school where a majority of the students fall in the working class and below. If you think that doesn't affect the overall behavior and condition of the students.... haha. Well, okay.

As for my 'skills' best being allocated to the high level students, that's ridiculous. My high level students are high level because they all attend hagwons where they're already working with native English speakers. The reason why I am in a public school is to attempt to give some of that advantage to students who come from families who cannot afford hagwon. Apparently we come at our jobs from different perspectives. I work at a public school, taking a lot less money that my hagwon counterparts, because I believe in public education and I believe in the right of every child to have every advantage offered to them, no matter where their family falls in the socio-economic spectrum. I have to work harder to teach my C level classes, to find ways to meet their needs and be clear and understood, but that's my job and my responsibility and not something the students should be punished for.

Tuttle said...


Well, we will have to disagree on certain things; for instance, I think there is a diffference between "understanding perfectly well" and "somehow getting by." You don't think some of your students translate for others?

No, I didn't deny anything about what happens in mddle class households; that was you, after all, claiming the private school teacher had never run across these kinds of issues before. I just called "bull".

We have many of the same population issues in our two schools--half of my student body lives in Deungchon, one of the poorer areas of the city, the others come from Mok-dong, one of the richest, which is loaded with good quality hagwons.

A big difference in our situations is that I am very *lucky*. My school's administration is very supportive, and every one of my co-teachers is involved in the class lessons, helping students, and translating instructions and the occassional vocab when necessary. Of course, I have had to get them on my side, and then train them to get to this point, and believe me, quality co-teaching improves the level of instruction.

I am a hard-working, dedicated teacher and I am quite good at what I do. I get the sense that you are the same. But this idea that those of us in Seoul have somehow taken the easy route because all our kids are well-off and don't have issues, is sanctimonious. And incorrect.

I'm no Picasso said...

Some of my students assist other students, yes. What does that have to do with the fact that for a year now I've had five co-teachers who refuse to say a word of Korean during class time, and it doesn't hinder our classes from moving forward at all? Students assisting other students doesn't negate the fact that Korean translation by the co-teacher is not necessary -- it supports it, in fact. If the students don't catch the meaning of the English instruction the first time, for whatever reason, I show them what to do, again, in English. What does any of this have to do with a co-teacher addressing individual groups of students in Korean while I'm giving the entire class instructions in English? By your reasoning, I suppose I should just keep my mouth shut and let the class be run in Korean.

And I didn't say anything about you making judgments about middle class households -- that was a complete misread on your part. You attacked me in that realm. And I'm not quite sure why, other than the fact that you seem to just be feeling defensive about the fact that you work in Seoul. I'm sorry if my taking issue with other foreign teachers attacking my students as "stupid" and "lazy" and making off-the-cuff comments about how Incheon is poor, so the students are bad somehow hit a nerve with you. I don't understand how me addressing a teacher who looks me in the eye and says that some of our students are just bound to fail at life and should be ignored, because she has never worked with students as rough around the edges as ours before, has anything to do with you. But I'm not going to stop defending my students and their right to a fair go of things because you take arbitrary offense to it.

Tuttle said...

Liz, I read your blog regularly, and have followed your whole journey to Korea.

I know you have a lot to offer your students; but at times you get sanctimonious. This post was such a time, and I responded. Perhaps my wording was poor, or too strong, sorry, but I am still right.

A main thrust of this post was that middle class Koreans don't have the same issues, like divorce, abuse, etc that working class ones do. This is not true, even if poverty provides an *additional* level of issues.

To wit: you claimed the private school teacher has never run across these kinds of issues before--I called "bull" on that. Maybe she's never *dealt* with them, but the issues are there with students no matter what class.

I don't believe I attacked you, I pointed out your attack was sanctimonious. And I think that characterization is accurate.

Moving on, you say this to me: "By your reasoning, I suppose I should just keep my mouth shut and let the class be run in Korean" Shame on you for that. You know perfectly well that doesn't remotely represent anything I've ever said.

Since you have apparently never had good co-teaching, I don't think you can judge its value. How can you possibly know it hasn't hindered your classes from moving forward "at all"?

Having won over and "trained" my co-teachers in the last 1 1/2 yrs, I can assure you that quality co-teaching makes a positive difference in the level of instruction. I hope you will get to experience improved co-teaching.

Really, you have to take the proactive role in letting them know what you want and expect from them.

I'm sorry a couple of a-holes from Seoul have denigrated your students, but I fail to see how that makes it okay for you to denigrate those of us who work in Seoul.

I was not being defensive. I don't have anything to be defensive about, but I thought it was worth giving you another opinion, and if I may say, an experienced and respected one. Again, if my wording was infelicitous, I apologize for that, but not for the sentiment.

I'm no Picasso said...

There's seems to be some confusion over the fact that I didn't find it necessary to type out every single detail of the conversations I've had with this new co-teacher. You seem to have taken that to be an open address to all teachers of middle class + students everywhere. My co-teacher said she has never taught students like this before, that she has never come across problems like this before -- this week was a particularly brutal one, with one horrific story after another surfacing. The woman herself said she had not dealt with such things before. Again, I think you've taken something personally that was never intended to be personal. You don't have the whole story, and I don't feel that it's necessary to produce the whole story, when one should probably assume that they don't know one's situation better than one would know oneself.

Uh... re: the co-teacher thing. Look. We have a difference of opinions here. You like to utilize Korean translation -- I don't. I'm not saying one is better than the other, although you are. I've worked both ways and I prefer it when I am able to find a way to make myself understood in English. Again, you're making assumptions about my working life without having all the information. I don't have problems or confusion in my classroom when I give instruction in English and when my co-teachers work with the students in English as well. You can choose to believe that or you can choose to disregard it. Either way, you don't have the right to say that your method is more effective than mine, since you've never seen me teach.

I find the fact that you've managed to attack my teaching methods, the quality of my co-teachers, and judge a conversation you weren't a party to sanctimonious.

And, just for the record once more, I will state.... I don't need to "train" my co-teachers. I, on the whole, have fantastic, experienced and passionate co-teachers. They speak incredible English, are fully engaged with the students, and are committed to having at least the 45 minutes every week the students spend with me done in English. When I fall short, and cannot manage to communicate well enough with the students in English, or overstep the boundaries of what is reasonable to expect out of them in English alone, they will step in and straighten things out. However, I personally view those occasions as my own failures in planning and execution. That's just the way I've come to like doing things. I'm not saying it's better or worse than anyone else's way. Again, going back to my only original point, whatever your teaching methods are, talking over another teacher while they are giving a class instructions is rude and uncalled for. I'm not sure how you branched off so far from that being my point into claiming your methods as being "improved" and your co-teachers as being superior to mine.