6.27.2012

On bogarting.

One of the most common complaints amongst foreign English teachers when it comes time for open classes is... well, there are a lot of them. Being forced to make the students "rehearse" the class ahead of time, or beefing up ordinary lessons to ridiculous proportions. Or co-teachers who are barely ever even present in the classroom suddenly wanting in on the spotlight, once the superiors' heads are turned in that direction.

I've never had any of the above issues with my school or co-teachers. Every single open class of all varieties has been left completely up to me. The first year, someone suggested a practice run -- I said no, and it was never mentioned again. Last year, Old HT sure did make sure she was up at the front of the room and butting in a hell of a lot more than usual, but I didn't expect anything less. But other than that, I've been left alone. No hassle. No directions. No harping or bossing or reorganizing or harassing. Just me, teaching my normal classes as normal, perhaps wearing a slightly nicer dress.  I don't stress about open classes. I just do them.

But not this year. Oh, no. Not with my nervous wreck of a co-teacher. The woman had a holy fucking cow. And because she is as fragile as a female love interest in a 19th century Russian novel (or any other kind of 19th century novel, for that matter), I'm going to forget everything that happened in the past few weeks has happened. Because I like her. But holy shit.

The first news I had of this open class, was how "we" needed to make a plan for "co-teaching". Well. As far as I know, we already have a plan for co-teaching, which is that I teach, and you sometimes poke your head in or sit in the back grading papers. Which is fine. I think it's a brilliant plan. It's my favorite kind of co-teaching. But I see no reason why it should be altered now.

You know why it should be altered now? Because we are on contract as assistant teachers. Technically -- and the MOE officials love to harp on this -- we are not teachers. We are not in charge of classes, or discipline, or even really lesson planning. We work side by side with our Korean co-workers to help them create and teach some of their lessons. Right? Right?

No? Not you either?


I've heard of it happening to other foreign teachers -- being expected to plan and execute all of their lessons alone, until the principal comes in to evaluate, and then suddenly their co-teacher shows up in a suit to stand in front of the room and give directions to them during their own lesson.

It's bullshit. Plain and simple. It's taking credit for other people's work, and lying about what you do.

When that suggestion didn't go over as planned, because I explained to her that there was no reason for her to worry about it -- I had already planned the lesson, made all the materials, and planned out exactly what to do, and I always teach my open classes alone, so she could just relax -- there was another plan.

The script. She came in yesterday and started in about how "we" needed to make a script. For the class.

Well, I don't know about any of you, but I'm not in the habit of following scripts during my classes. So I said, it's okay -- I've taught this lesson a lot of times. I know what to say.

So, she said, well what about me?

Of  course, what she meant, was that I should somehow sit down and create a literal fucking script writing down for her word for word what to say during my class, because, after all, we are now "co-teaching". Well, a. I'm not writing a script and b. I'm still not okay with you suddenly being an equal participant in this equation. This is not your evaluation -- it's mine. Why would you try to make it look like I do less work duing my evaluation?

So I handed her a detailed outline of the lesson, and turned to her and said, "Okay. So what would you like to say?"

Well. She had no idea what to say, really. So I gave her a few suggestions -- I said that if the students were struggling with the idea that "used to" means that they don't anymore, it would be a good moment for her to step in. I told her that she could help me give examples of the dialogue. I said, is there anything else you'd like to say?  Well, think about it and let me know.

We left it there yesterday. In the meantime, my lesson was changed from Wednesday to Thursday back to Wednesday (which would have meant to entirely different lessons). For no reason. She thought the other lesson would be better than the one I wanted, and then suddenly decided the one I originally wanted would be better after all.

I came in this morning and she abruptly leaned over her computer. Excuse me, but as I remember it back in school, when we make a negative sentence with "used to", we are supposed to say, "I used to not to".

Excuse me? Are you going to do this now? Are you going to argue with me about the grammar in my lesson now, because as you remember it back in school?

I told her she was mistaken. We do not say "used to not to". Ever. And yes, I'm sure. But she wasn't convinced. She asked me to find an article that explained that "used to not to" was no right. You find me an article that explains that the sky isn't yellow, okay? Are you kidding me?

After that, she started filling me in about the things she had thought of to say during my lesson. For example, she was going to ask me for examples of negative sentences. What she failed to think about was how awkward it is for me to be explaining the negative grammar point to the students and for her to randomly pipe in asking me for examples. Obviously, I would be giving them whether she asked or not. But that's fine. If she wanted to do that.

I could have been more helpful. I could have given her half the floor. I could have. But I didn't. Because it makes me angry that the appearance of the Korean teachers consistently takes precedence over the actual job that the foreign teachers do. Even if it is our evaluation, and even if it is our positions that are in jeopardy of disappearing in the next few years, why do you get to bulldoze over us because you want to look more important in front of your coworkers? At the cost of everything that I do on a daily basis, and honesty in general. I've never once been to an open class where the foreign teacher taught completely alone. Yet I know that most of us do. So why do Korean teachers get to take the credit for our work in front of everyone else? And if they want the credit, then why don't they consistently do the work?

Today, there we were. Standing up and ready to go. I started class. By the time I had the students' books opened to the correct page, she had scurried to the back of the room. I glanced around for a second, not sure if I should proceed. When we got to the places I had suggested she could say something, I looked up and asked her if she would like to explain in more detail to the students. She quickly scurried to the front of the room. She asked the students if they understood what I had said, as her face turned bright red. The students laughed and said "yes". She scurried back to the back of the room.

And I taught as normal. And that was it.

4 comments:

Katherine Koba said...

Open lessons: one of the reasons I prefer the hagwon gig to a public school one.

What I don't understand is: isn't the whole "let's practice the lesson and the game a whole bunch for the open lesson" thing a big open secret? Doesn't everyone involved realize it's painfully artificial and in no way reflects the actual state of the classroom?

Lauren said...

First, I want to make it clear that I'm not wanting to attack you.

I am curious what would happen if you got a new CT who wanted an active role? Would you be open to this (if it could be close to the ideal co-teaching model?)- because you seem to definitely prefer to teach alone..

I'm no Picasso said...

Katherine -- It is. Everyone knows it's a pony show, but the idea is to put on the best damn pony show you can. It's to the point where the Korean teachers are terrified not to put on the pony show, because not making it obvious that the class has been rehearsed and over-planned shows a lack of caring and effort.

Lauren -- I would be open to it, if I had a co-teacher who was reliable and who knew how to co-teach and collaborate. As it is, I've never one time had a single co-teacher offer to sit down and make a lesson plan with me. And I've been through literally dozens of co-teachers.

They just don't have the time, or would prefer not to make it. And that's fine by me -- I do actually prefer to teach alone. But if they don't have the time to be my co-teacher for the entire rest of the year, they don't get to claim credit for half of my work on the one day when I get to show what I do.

I'm no Picasso said...

Lauren -- Oh. There was the one time a temporary teacher came in and sat me down and told me what he wanted me to do during my own class time. Like, gave me step by step instructions on how he thought it would be best for me to teach. He was a hagwon owner whose hagwon was going under, and so he was used to bossing the foreign teachers around. My main co-teacher at the time waited for him to leave the office and then told me to disregard everything he had said and teach my classes as normal. But that's it -- the only sit down meeting I've ever had with a co-teacher about my lessons.