Tomorrow is our first official club day at school and, as most PS teachers will know, there are also teachers' clubs.
Today on the way to school, I ran into a teacher who I've had a lot of trouble with in the past. Nothing overt -- she's always very polite. But she struggles with the concept that I'm not in Korea solely to teach English. I mean, I am in Korea to work as an English teacher. But teaching English is not why God put me on this earth. She has a lot of trouble understanding why I don't want to spend hours of my free time giving free English lessons, and doesn't seem to realize that requesting such things (and persisting to ask, even after having been politely declined) is pretty fucking rude.
There's a big stereotype about that characteristic in Koreans, but I can honestly say, other than brief encounters with randoms who basically just instantly suggested I should teach them English upon being introduced, and who I obviously avoided afterward, she's the only one I've really had this ongoing struggle with. Most people seem to realize that teaching English is my job, and I probably don't want to do it outside of work hours. Let alone for free. Unless it's volunteer work, obviously.
But there she was today. Now, club day is a day when the teachers are supposed to be able to finish work early and enjoy themselves, either by participating in various activities or by going home a bit early. I usually choose the latter, although do occasionally join the "coffee drinking" club to catch up with the teachers I don't get to see that often.
Well. I'm sure you can see where this is going.
Apparently, a lot of the teachers are very interested in learning English, and also are very interested in me, so she wondered if I wouldn't start an English club. In which I would not be a participant, but a.... well, a teacher. Making lesson plans and doing extra work. As far as I know, no other teachers are expected to spend their club day in this way. And the way I see it, being interested in me, and interested in English, are two different things. Are they not?
I went with the most polite response to this I could think of, which was that if they were interested in me, they should join the "coffee drinking" club, because I often attend, and they would have ample opportunity to get to know me then.
She frowned. Oh, I see...
You know what? It's not even the extra prep time or the idea of teaching a club that bothers me. I would, for example, be very excited to lead a baking club, where I could teach the other teachers how to make Western style baked goods. That sounds like a hell of a good time to me, despite the fact that it would probably take a lot more prep than just conducting an adult English lesson, which I have done thousands of times before, and for which I already have the materials prepared and on hand.
It's just that notion of me = English that annoys me. Or me = English lessons, rather.
If you're interested in me, talk to me in the cafeteria at lunch time. Approach me at hwaeshik. Stop by and drink coffee in my office. The same as you would for any other teacher. We don't need to be starting any clubs in order to get to know the foreign teacher.
Once Busan decided to run something past me -- a good friend of his (female, Korean) was dating a foreign guy. Everything seemed to be going fine, until she started asking him for help with her university English assignments. About the third or fourth time it happened, he bugged out and dumped her. Busan was puzzled -- his friend was a good person who would never have been dating him only for his English.
I sat across the table from him visibly cringing: "You just can't do that to foreigners...."
It's not that it happens all the time. It's just that, no matter how long you're here, it still really stings when it does. When you agree to that coffee date with your new friend, and you're so excited to have made a new friend, and within minutes of being seated at the table, they haul out their textbook. Or when you're invited to dinner, and you think, how nice to spend some time in a family home, and as soon as you've got your shoes off, the parents are barking at the children to go and get their English books so the native speaker can review their pronunciation. Or when you constantly have to find polite ways to explain that, you're not an asshole, but it's just if you agreed to help every single person who ever asked you to assist with something English related, you'd never have a chance to live any kind of a life.
The last thing you want is to mingle any kind of relationship with your English speaking capabilities, let alone your primary relationship.
So I just smiled and said, "You can tell the other teachers that any time they want to, they are completely welcome to come to my office and drink coffee with me."
I'm really not expecting that to happen.