The contract worker.

A few silly things continue to go on at work, but I'm trying to make it a daily exercise to find it funny, at this point. Because there really is no point in getting angry or frustrated, if I can manage to not, and also because these are the last precious months I'll have with these boys... forever. And often when this shit comes down the chute, just as I'm heading off to class, I'm a grumpier teacher than I really need to be.

Last week was the open class, and it went really well and all of that. In the days leading up to it, everyone was behaving like absolute nuts rolling around arranging and rearranging and swapping and re-swapping and generally panicking. I did my best to just let my coworkers do what they needed to do, even if it included setting fires (metaphorical) just so that they could feel the relief of putting them out. I was stressed out, too -- we all were. I tried to keep my head down and just roll with whatever they wanted, knowing full well my course would be changing direction a good four to five times per day.

The kids, for their part, done me real proud. The superintendent of our district, who originally rescheduled the entire event on her whim, because the original date she set wasn't good for her, didn't roll in until fifteen minutes after the entire event had concluded, and we all had to sit and wait for her in the meantime. The principal, and the vice principal, who likes to hark on the fact that I'm not a 교사, didn't bother to attend the actual class either. But the principal did give a spirited speech afterwards about how I'm just like a Korean because I use chopsticks and eat Korean food, so they are very lucky to have me. I wish he had seen me teach so he might know a few more reasons why they are lucky to have me, but you know....

After it was all said and done, and all of our coworkers disappeared without so much as a pat on the back, the co-teacher I taught the class with announced that she was taking me out for a celebratory 회식 of beer and chicken, to congratulate me on my open class. Since no one else seemed keen. On the way out, the PE teacher I am forever in crush with stopped us to ask us why we were alone. He stopped by the beer hof thirty minutes later because 마음에 걸려서, since no one else had come to tell me congratulations. He doesn't even drink.

This week I came in to be told that my housing contract will be up two months prior to my actual contract ending. That information was just sort of dropped out there and allowed to linger, with no suggestion of any kind of resolution to that issue. There were some inappropriately suggestive questions about where my boyfriend lived, and if it was too far from our school.

Luckily, this afternoon I came back into the office to be told that New HT called "the official" (I don't know who this person is -- he's always just referred to as "the official") to discuss the issue and had been informed that they were obligated to provide housing for me until I finished my contract, so that's what they will be doing.

If I haven't said it before, I am at this moment teaching three weeks on a rotating schedule of four weeks with full class hours. On the fourth week, I've been teaching one overtime hour for free, which was a kind of negotiation I made when my coworkers once again tried to arrange so that, for the fourth semester in a row, I would be teaching one overtime hour per week for free, under the guise of having "joined" an English club. That's fine. I'm not going to rag on and on about one extra hour a month. But last week, with the open class, was this overtime hour week. And in the rush to make sure I taught as many practice classes before the open class as possible, my schedule got pretty badly hacked up -- I wound up having a lot of classes twice, and other classes cancelled entirely. But I still taught a full 23 hours.

Today, sitting in my office getting settled in to take care of some things during my off period, a contract teacher suddenly burst through the door and informed me that I was supposed to be teaching her class. I pulled out my schedule and showed her that I had an off period -- she had made a mistake. "Yes, but you cancelled our class last week, so you are making it up this week." Those of you around for last semester will find that sentiment familiar. It's what almost caused me to quit my job, when the other teachers took to rearranging my schedule of their own free will, and cancelling some of my classes to replace them with other classes, and the expecting me to make up the missed classes in the form of unpaid overtime. I made it clear at the time that it was not something I would be doing anymore, and so long as I am at my full contracted hours per week, whoever allows other teachers to cancel their classes will be shit out of luck, because I'm not doing overtime to make up for other people's whims.

So I looked at the contract teacher and said two things:

1. I understand we are almost ten minutes into class time, but given that I had no notification whatsoever that I would be teaching this class today, you will need to go back to the classroom and watch the students while I load my files and print out their worksheets and

2. I suppose I will speak to New HT about the fact that I am now entering unpaid overtime for the second week in a row when we get back from class.

To which she responded: "Oh. If you are tired, I guess you can take a rest."

Yes. That's what this is about. Me wanting to take a rest. I am obviously the lazy one in this situation, and also probably the irresponsible one.

I went and taught the class, and then came back to the office to have a little chat with New HT. I didn't even get to the overtime issue -- I was first and foremost concerned with the issue of not being told that I had classes rescheduled. I understand things sometimes slip the mind, but it doesn't hurt to point these things out. But it turns out, it hadn't slipped her mind at all. Her response was this: "It's difficult to tell you that thing, so I didn't tell you."

I resisted the urge to point out that it would be difficult to tell me that thing, because that thing is in direct violation of not only my contract, but also the ultimatum I laid down last year about how I would and would not tolerate being handled in the work environment. I also resisted the urge to point out that that is probably the single most unprofessional thing I have ever heard anyone say, which is saying something, considering the long list of options on that front she's given me to choose from. Instead, I said, simply: ".... And are there anymore classes scheduled for this week that you are finding it difficult to tell me about?"

She pulled out a piece of paper and frowned at it. "I'll.... I'll take care of it."

Whatever that may actually mean, I'm personally taking it to mean that I have no other "make up" classes scheduled for this week, and if anyone comes bursting into the office to say otherwise, I will stay at my desk and tell them they can speak to New HT about it when she gets a free moment. As far as I'm concerned, I've already put in my unpaid overtime for the week, and if they want to push, we can talk about payment for all of the rest of it as well.

I hate that this is the person I've turned into. For my first three and a half years in this country, I bent over backwards to not be a contract-pointer. I went out of my way to never say 'no' to anything, and to always try to participate in the shared workload as as much of an equal as was possible. But once you find yourself swimming in eat-or-be-eaten waters, it's time to pull out a fork (or chopsticks, if you are as Korean as I am). The difference between those years and this one is that there was give as well as take -- I didn't have it forced down my throat that I am not 교사 and therefore, do not contractually deserve to have one afternoon off a month with all of the other teachers. I didn't have coworkers taking any reluctance to say 'no' as a free pass to take whatever they wanted, and then look flabbergasted when the give portion of the relationship came around.

The fact of the matter is, I'm not 교사. And that's fine. But then, I'm not 교사. I don't have my dues coming down the line. I will never be the older teacher shoving my workload and class hours off onto younger teachers. I'm not paying into an obedience pension, which will eventually come due. I'm a contract worker. That's been pointed out to me again and again and again, by superiors and coworkers and the media in this country. And I adhere, and have always adhered, to my contract. So the contract worker lives and dies by their contract, and I made up my mind at the beginning of this year that that is what I will do, from now on.


Urashima Joe said...

Nice to hear how you are going.

Just out of interest, but how much Korean have you been reading lately? I just ask because your English writing feels... different? Maybe it's my imagination, but I know that when I was in periods of reading/writing pretty much nothing but Japanese all day I started to notice English writing style had changed somewhat.

I'm no Picasso said...

Haha no, for sure. I've been noticing the same thing. I am ramping up my Korean reading and also doing a lot more of my socializing at work, actually, as well as outside in Korean. The other thing is that I'm working on poems right now, as well, and my straight prose phrasing tends to go a bit weird and get a little muddled when I'm doing that as well. Plus, I think I'm just trying to figure out how I'm going to be blogging for the foreseeable future.

Combination of things, for sure, but definitely getting a bit weird in my English. Now if I could only start to unweird my Korean in exchange...

idoru said...

"It's difficult to tell you that thing, so I didn't tell you."

I'm pretty sure that approach was used by a company I used to work for...and yes, the result was chaos.