Anonymous said...

is there a way you can sit down with someone from MOE and have this discussion face to face? your letter from a korean or any other perspective is completely justified. actually, it makes too much sense. but when you're dealing with bureaucrats, all i can tell you is, "good luck!" i hope it works out for you. goddamn this really sucks.

Chris in South Korea said...

The letter is great - heartfelt, sincere, and a very good explanation. With that said, it's a bit long, and would probably try the patience of the person who's charged with reading it. May I suggest ending your letter with a clearer resolution - what you want them to do, or what you're going to do if it's not done?

Sorry to hear about this sad situation.

Burndog said...

Hey Liz,

By MOE do you mean GEPIK? I mean...you are a GEPIK teacher aren't you? Being out in Incheon and all.

Now...I thought that you had Orientation soon...why don't you talk to Dain Bae or someone from GEPIK? I'm not sure who your District Co-Ordinator is...but calling them would be a REALLY good first step to resolving this.

The letter is too long and wordy...most likely the point would be missed. If the person who made the decision is Korean...they will see all of that English and just ignore you. So...if you're hell bent on going the letter route...shorten and contract...and have a friend (or teacher) translate the whole thing into Korean. That's what I did with a letter for my Principal.

Speak to your GPIK District Co-Ordinator. You can find them here - http://cge.ken.go.kr/contents/tbl_e_01_02/main_pds_content.asp?pds_no=20091026141604621035408&PageNo=1&category

They are really helpful.

I'm a GEPIK Rep here in Suwon...which is one step below a co-ordinator. What it means is that I don't get told anything by GEPIK, but if a teacher needs help...I can offer advice and support. If you contacted me in Suwon...I would recommend contacting the District Co-Ordinator.

I have to do a talk for GEPIK next week at their Orientation....I can chat to Dain about all of this if you want me to. I'll need more details. Feel free to message me using my Facebook alias...just message Matt Burndog.

I'm happy to help as much as you need...and I'm sure that your district co-ordinator will be too.

Diana E.S. said...

This is why it's good if your school has political clout in your MOE... I've had MOE people say "that is not possible," and after a phone call from one of my co-workers to a former employee now in an MOE power position, they say "ok but don't tell anyone else about it."

Sometimes you can force the paperwork on your own if you talk to someone. I'm so sorry, darling. The same thing almost happened to me two years ago when I requested to skip the orientation since it was the only week between my hagwan contract and my new contract. They said no at first, but I talked to several different people on the phone and finally found someone who had enough power to make it happen. Anon's suggestions so seconded.

I'm no Picasso said...

So good to hear from the people here who have spoken -- you were exactly the ones I was hoping would respond.

I know the letter is too long, and would frankly prefer to hash this out in person. The problem that I'm having at the moment is that I'm just simply too emotional. Every time I went to say something today to my co-teacher, I could just feel tears coming on. And crying at work is not exactly the image of professionalism I'm after, especially when I'm trying to make a point. I feel like if I try to talk about it without putting it down on paper, I won't be able to clearly make my points at the moment. I might let my old co-teacher, who I'm really close with, read over the letter so she gets my idea and can help me to explain my case to whoever I may need to speak to, in case I'm not able to adequately do so.

My co-teachers are no enemies, and have always been on my side about things, so I feel like the first step is to speak with them. My new co, however, is a bit younger and a bit more easily intimidated by authority. Which is understandable. She has a lot less clout and a lot more to lose by pushing too hard.

I don't think I want to contact anyone without letting them know what I'm up to, but I have some fear that my young co might try to cut me off at the pass a bit. So I think the best thing to do is run this all by my old co teacher and take it from there.

Burndog -- What do you think? Pull the co teachers in or just go around them? Which do you think would be more beneficial to the situation, and which would be least offensive to my co's? It might be easier on them if they don't have to get involved, but I don't want them to feel as though I've somehow betrayed them by going above their heads either....

As for having a clearer resolution, I realize that's probably necessary. But at this point, today, I'm not quite sure what I want or what I want to do if I don't get it. Mostly, I just feel a bit stung by the whole situation. It feels like someone just decided something would be a bit of a hassle without really thinking through the human impact and dismissed me. And I just feel the need to say something about it. Because this is going to create genuinely bad blood, and I'm not going to be able to make myself as willing to go along with things like Saturday business trips and unnecessary orientations as I have been in the past, because hell... if we're going by the contract, then fine. We're going by the contract. Which is not the attitude I would like to take, for the sake of my coworkers and school.

andrew said...

My condolences, but I'll make this short...

It's really really bad, and im sorry about this. But you're just one person. What should the MOE do everytime a foreign teacher wants to take time off. Yes you have a good reason, but not everyone will, although they will BELIEVE they have a good reason. How do they verify this. In short, no exceptions can or ever will be made. This is government, and any government will always make mistakes because it's a bureaucracy.

You also need to know that it's not easy for them or their fault either. So don't blame them. It was also YOUR decision to live in a foreign country, not theirs. Any health incidents, family emergencies...it's not their problem. It's not your fault either but they aren't gonna take responsibility...and why should they?

The bottom line is...they haven't done anything wrong, they haven't broke the contract, and they aren't being unfair.

And please don't convince your co-teachers to try to back you up. This isn't some democratic movement...if you wanna pull some Missing in action stunt then go ahead, but it's your decision. And if you DO try and they say no, or are scared, don't blame them for saying no. It doesn't mean they don't care, are bad people, or are racist against awesome white people...it just means they don't want to be involved...As you said, this is a personal matter that is important to you..so leave it as personal.

AND, if your principal backs you up, as you said, I highly doubt you will be dismissed. The only way that happens is if they explicitly tell you no and you go home anyway. In that case, that's your fault anyway.

I would recommend you finding someone who can substitute for you. I actually did that for a friend who left for 3 weeks. Was pretty easy. You work at a public school, so your job is super easy and, I'm sorry, requires no skill. You can find lots of people who can sub for you. You won't get paid, but I'm sure you dont mind.

Offer that to your principal, and I bet the MOE doesn't even have to be told...you can probably just keep it internal.

I'm no Picasso said...

Andrew -- I don't think you're quite understanding the situation.

I'm asking to go home during summer vacation, after I've finished camps and while I have absolutely NO classes, INSTEAD of going home for two weeks during the regular semester of the school year, when I would miss 44 classes. There's no need for a sub -- the time I want will consist entirely of me sitting at school by myself amusing myself for the entire day.

As for the my job being done by just anyone part, I don't even have the energy to address that at this point, but suffice it to say, if that were true, and the way that I handled my job, I would completely understand my MOE being unwilling to work with me. As it stands, I have reason to believe that my vp and principal will be more than a little disgruntled if this whole situation leads them to having to find and acclimate a completely new foreign teacher. I say that without arrogance, but with the reassurance that the easiest possible way to get by doing my job has never been my course of action, and the fact that I've had 20 months of experience, learning and growing into both the culture of my workplace and my job itself.

If my MOE didn't need to be told anything, then I wouldn't be in this situation. My vice principal and principal when asked about this last week were 100% on board, no further questions asked. This is coming entirely from the MOE. For literally no reason other than I need to sign my new contract before I can get my 2 weeks home leave, and my contract signing is set for the first week I've requested to be at home. All that needs to happen is the contract signing needs to move up a week.

Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your situation.

As I remember, Incheon has a liaison between foreign teachers and the machine. I think her name might be Sara? Or is this where you're encountering problems? If you contact her at least you would have someone on the inside who may have a sympathetic ear.

I hope things work out.

Burndog said...

What would I do? Well...I have a similar co position. My current co-ordinator is useless....well...not really...but she listens when people say no. My old co-ordinator would understand my P.O.V straight away and gently advocate for me. Discuss it with the one you trust and see if she understands. Get her advice. Make it clear that you're curious about what to do and that you really respect her opinion.

I am sure that she will be happy that you've asked her...but...you will need to follow her advice to a certain extent...as long as it's reasonable!

If her advice is not helpful...look through your old EPIK books and guides (if you have any) and get help from them!!!

Otherwise...if you have Orientation soon (didn't you mention that???) then you can talk to the MOE people then...or just hand them your letter...mumble and walk away!

As for Andrew...I agree with what he is saying to a certain extent...but it's not true...at least not with GEPIK. Often times rules are broken or relaxed to help people with problems. GEPIK might be part of the government...but it's staffed by humans!!!!

I'm no Picasso said...

Burndog -- That's the thing. This makes too little rational sense. After all, essentially what I'm asking for is for them to trade two paid weeks of nothing in exchange for two full weeks of classes. I'm ultimately adding 44 free classes to my schedule.

So, the more my rational mind is kicking in, the more I'm getting the impression things went a little something like this:

Co teacher: "Our foreign teacher wants to know if she can take her home leave during summer vacation."

Faceless OE desk person [shuffling through mountains of paperwork and half paying attention]: "The new contract won't be signed by then though, so I don't think we can do that."

Co teacher: "Oh.... okay."

I walked in while the phone call was in progress, and heard Co explaining another mixup with this damn orientation, not an orientation thing in Korean, walked out to get a glass of water, walked back in and the phone call was over. So whatever the exchange was, it didn't take long. I'm thinking Co may have chickened out a bit and stopped at the first sign of a no without pursuing things.

My old co is bound to give genius advice. She's one of a kind, a real gold star in my Korea experience. Whatever she suggests, that's what I'll do. I have a feeling once things get explained to *someone* in a bit more detail, or even just rationalized a bit, they'll be cleared up pretty quickly. It just seems to be a Korean thing to go with the first thought that occurs without trying to work through things in too much detail. I've run into situations before where it's like, do this. And then someone finally musters the balls to say, but that doesn't make as much sense as this. And everyone's just like, oh yeah okay.

Crisis averted.

Hopefully that's what this is and nothing more.

Ms said...

First of all, I'm so so sorry that you are going through all of this with your family and then having to deal with unhelpful bureaucrats on top of everything else. I DO think that you will be allowed to go. It is entirely about getting a powerful enough person to talk to a powerful enough person. I also think that because you are being 'rational' about this situation that things are not moving forward in the way you need them to be. Korea is a very emotional place, and especially when you have something important that people need to understand, emotion matters. I don't mean having a freak out - I mean culturally appropriate emotion. But talking up the emotional side of the problem and especially focusing on the fact that he is your grandfather will probably get you further than explaining that you are actually doing them a favour by leaving now rather than in the fall. The thing is...even people who have high level English skills do not always get the subtleties of a carefully worded letter...but everyone understands an anguished face...and some well placed tears...

My personal experience with this matter is a little different from your situation as I got the phone call that my father had died suddenly without any warning when I was on my break, and I was working for a hagwon not a public school, but when someone 'gets' the severity of the situation, things can happen...fast. I was on a plane by that night with no questions asked and my job to come back to 3 weeks later.

all the best...

Anonymous said...

totally agree with what Ms said. your side of the story makes too much sense. it's just a matter of talking to the right person with the right tone. talk to both of your co's - new and old - first. show them the letter you wrote but do make it much shorter. and then, talk to anyone and everyone who has any links to MOE. eventually you'll find the right person who will accommodate your needs because in korea, this type of rules and regulations is ALWAYS arbitrary and can be bent...without telling anyone.

good luck!

John from Daejeon said...

I don't know if this fits your situation, but I was able to get my brother (who was in Iraq) into a video call with my father before he died a couple of years ago. The V.A. hospital didn't have wi-fi service in that part of the hospital, but I was able to use my laptop's camera/microphone and a Sprint mobile broadband card to complete the call via MSN Messenger.

I don't think I even asked anybody in the hospital about doing it. I just put the computer next to my dad and let my brother say what he needed to say.

babsie said...

from my experience in life.. not with any issue in regards to this unfortunately, sorry, but i feel there are always ways to press your issue further. just because one person says " oh ok, the end" doesnt mean you have to settle for that answer. i would make the letter more concise, take it to someone higher up and plead your case, if need be, to multiple people. from reading your blog you're an asset to this school and there's no reason why your paper work can't be signed quicker. i would keep trying!! eh i know this isn't very specific, but i don't want you to give up :(

Sabrina said...

I agree with Babsie, Burndog and Ms, too. I think you explained yourself very well in the letter, but they might not have the patience to read through all of it. Try to make a shorter version, translate it, appeal less to the fact that you´re taking time off the "deskwarming time" (they might not judge it "deskwarming time" even if it is). I don´t know about Korea, but I guess the bureaucracy is as bad as in Japan. You have to know the right people or either you have to INSIST. Sometimes they don´t even say no because they have good reasons, but because they don´t want to be responsible or because "it is always handled this way". Don´t give up, insist, look for more support. I wish you well and do hope you get your month off!

Anonymous said...

I don't know much of anything, but I suppose all people are essentially the same.

I'd send the letter attached to a request to meet at a set time with the recipient (and bring a good translator -- even if the recipient has excellent English -- just in case).

The letter is very good and it conveys your point very professionally. It would also introduce your emotional state so that any reactions you have in the recipient's office isn't a great surprise.

I don't know who the recipient would be, but your request is being blocked by bureaucrats, so you'd have to find someone a little more independently minded than the peon at the telephone. Her boss would be a good bet, or a regional director, perhaps.

Anyway, so much noise from me, the uninitiated. I just thought I'd recommend both the letter and a visit.

Good luck getting through to them...

-- .38

Draz said...

Your principal can't just excuse you from duty? Maybe I don't understand Korean culture. There is a set in stone contract signing date? Since the old contract won't end until November, you could just wait until you get back.

I'm sure it will all work out fine regardless, but I'd be home now if I were you, and if I didn't have a job when I got back, well, that's just the way it goes. There are plenty of boys middle schools in Korea for you to work in, full of charming goofy students and pleasant coworkers, but you only have one grandpa!! Putting an easily replaceable (yes it really really is) job over seeing your grandpa before he dies is insane.

Kel said...

Whoa, this is really fucked up. I think you are right about what happened with the phone call and her just saying "Oh, ok..." I mean, I asked to take my home leave 2 months before my next contract started and add it onto regular winter vacation, and it was no big deal. And I didn't even have a REASON, other than I wanted to, and it made sense to do it during the long winter vacation.

Your letter is great. I really, really, really hope this works out for you. And, I think it will. I will be sending positive vibes into the universe for you.

Roboseyo said...

this is a bad situation, a great letter, and I'm glad there are some good responses in the comments.

My advice would be to get your coteachers, and everybody else you can, backing you up: get as many people as you can to contact to the MOE bureaucrat who's throwing crap in your direction, until that person decides it's less trouble to give you a pass, than to deal with the steady stream of calls from one of your friends, and another, and another. Call it Andy Dufresne diplomacy (Shawshank Redemption - think prison library)

My two bits.

HYF said...

Trust me, I've had the MOE pay me 2 days early due to vacation schedules, I've had the MOE change my camps around, and I've had the MOE allow me to fly home a day early -- and none of these things were for reasons as valid as this one, plus my school did not particularly like me. As others have said, with all the bureaucracy, and this goes for anywhere, it's just a matter of who talked to who at what time. I would ask another co-teacher to try calling again. If that doesn't work out, if you're on good terms with the principal, is there any way you can sway him to letting you do this on the DL or something? There's always a way to get around these things, and you've gotten a ton of responses as to which channels are the best to pursue. I'm really hoping one of them works out for you, and I'm fairly sure that it will.

Asiana said...

I agree it is too long, and talking to them in person or having a translator (your old Co) talk to them. And, as a Korean i know...rules can be broken there if you know the right people. I always thought it was just myself and my mom (she's the Korean) that were a little "street" meaning that we try to find the best deal (even if it may be illegal) and a way around certain things. I am finding that it is just the Korean in us. Perfect example: Lotte World. The whole place is a copyright infringement...and they don't care.

SO, I agree you should get your old Co and have her help you. If you need the Princinple and VP involved go for it. I'm sure they want you there more than a newbie like you said. And, if not...you can work somewhere else. Your family isn't replaceable. And, I have a feeling you may be more upset with not going home in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Everyone here has already added a great deal, so my advice will be very short . . .
first, it may just be a matter of getting the right person on the phone at the right time. Keep asking, keep getting your school to advocate for you.
Second, as you revise the letter, add a very short part that references the tradition of compassionate leave, for precisely these circumstances (and double check your contract, there may be a clause for it.)