Since my first period class seems to be lost this morning (the students informed me that it's science now, and English is on Tuesday -- who knows?), I thought I'd respond to this post Brian in Jeollanam-do just put up very quickly.
While I usually agree with Brian's perspective on a lot of these issues, and can certainly see where his concerns with this are coming from, I'm going to have to side with the others on this one. I'm thrilled to see plans being made for NSETs to be evaluated on the same level that Korean teachers are, giving the education offices a chance to remove those who are not invested in their job or their students, and even reward (tangibly -- 100,000 KRW a month raise) those who are working hard.
Korean teachers can have up to five or six open classes or evaluations falling throughout the course of a single year, depending on what training programs they've taken part in recently, or whether or not the district has sent them abroad to study, or whatever numbered year in their career it may be, or which promotions or positions they may be applying for. Three evaluations a year (while definitely a pain in the ass) are not excessive compared, fairly, to how often the Korean teachers are evaluated. If anything, the maybe-once-a-year standard that's been held for NSETs so far has been a little lax, in my opinion. Am I happy about three evaluations a year? No. They're annoying. They're definitely horse-and-pony shows which interrupt the natural flow of your ability to keep your students on track. But. If fair is fair, then we can't complain too much. So long as we aren't being evaluated and held to the same standards as Korean teachers, we don't really get the right to complain that we aren't considered teachers, do we?
Yes. There is the possibility that you might get a crap evaluation based on the fact that the people evaluating you are idiots. It's possible for the Korean teachers as well, or any other situation where higher-ups use their power to meddle around in things they don't really understand. And it is possible that your Korean co-teachers might just have it in for you, for personal reasons, and will use it as an opportunity to throw you under the bus. This is, however, a possibility in any job with any boss and any coworkers in any country in the world. We still have to deal with it, and take those risks. Because the other option is to leave employees unevaluated, their skills and invested interest in their work completely unchecked. Which to me is too high of a price to pay for something as important as education. If we were grocery store check-out clerks, sure -- maybe they could let it slide. But when you're dealing with something like a child's future, it's really not reasonable to expect there not to be some valid system of performance evaluation in place.
Furthermore, not all Korean co-teachers are complete whackjobs. And they're not all idiots, either. In fact, close to none of the 30 or so I've been through since I arrived here have been. To say that Korean co-teachers are not equipped to properly evaluate a native English teacher's ability in the classroom is a bit of a stretch. I work with talented, invested teachers. They know when I have a shit lesson, and when I've hit one out of the park. They make excellent suggestions about how I can improve things, and willingly dole out compliments when I've done something well. They're a lot more experienced than me, and formally trained, after all. Them being Korean doesn't mean that I automatically know more about what I'm doing in the classroom than they might. Human nature is not quite so varied from culture to culture, especially when it comes to how students learn.
Maybe I'm the shining example, floating on a raft of supreme exceptions for co-teachers in a sea consisting otherwise of nothing but complete morons with axes to grind. But I don't think that's quite the case.
As for it not being an equal situation....
First of all, the suggestion that the equivalent would be three foreign teachers evaluating Korean English teachers three times a year is a bit of a joke, in my opinion. I don't mean to take a cliched route, and that's honestly not what I'm doing, but this is the Korean education system we're dealing with here. If Korean teachers were teaching in American schools, it would be a bit ludicrous for them to cry "racism!" because they were being evaluated by the American teachers who they worked with, just because the teachers were American, and not Korean. I won't really justify that argument any further.
And I'll repeat what I said last time this issue came up: I can't vouch for whatever is going on in other cities, districts and schools, but when I got evaluated last year, a board member from a completely different school sat down to speak with me in private about my school, my VP and principal, my co-teachers and my district. I was given a full 45 minutes of one-on-one time to express any concerns or difficulties I've had, with anyone or anything. I was asked very specific, very thoughtful questions about where everyone involved in my situation might be failing me, and how my situation could be improved or made more comfortable. The woman even pushed me quite hard to go on and say more negative things than what I was saying, fearing that I was holding back out of fear or discomfort. She reassured me that whatever I said would be confidential, and that the board genuinely wanted to know how things could be improved for foreign teachers in the district.
I'm not sure how much more of a fair chance they could've given me, really.
As far as the schools not knowing how to use the native teachers, that is a very, very valid point. And one that the districts need to take into very serious consideration. However. When you get into your school and take up your position, you are responsible for figuring out how to do your job. The Korean teachers are in the exact same situation, and I've seen the flounder more than a few times while they work it all out. This is the real world -- it's not summer camp. It's a job. If you can't do your job, it's a little ridiculous and childish to blame everyone else for that. There are some genuinely good people who just can't work out what they should be doing in the classroom, no matter how hard they try. And that doesn't make them bad people. But it doesn't mean that they should be allowed to stay in a situation where they aren't really useful, or performing satsifactorily. It's a job. It's work. If you can't figure out what you need to be doing, then you need to find a training course, ask for help, do some reading, and get advice from other people who are making it work. No one is responsible for holding your hand throughout the entire ordeal.
What it comes down to is this: my endless source of ire and complaints against my situation with my MOE always comes down to how condescending they are. They make comments and put out memos about things that should be completely unacceptable. They have absolutely no idea at times how to conduct themselves with any kind of tact in relation to foreigners, and they often turn around and blame a lot of things on "foreign teachers", when really what the situation comes down to is, they completely fail to invest any significant effort into hiring practices with regards to foreign teachers, and end up with some truly horrific specimens of humanity hanging around as a result. Then, they want to blame me, the foreign teacher, categorically, for the fact that they've got riff-raff hanging around blowing everything off all the time. That has nothing to do with me -- I didn't hire that person. You did.
In a way, this is an opportunity for the MOEs to start taking responsibility for a situation of their own creation. They are responsible for the quality of the NSETs in their schools, and it's good to see them finally start admitting that. And to be honest, I'm not worried at all at the prospect of having to pass three evaluations. I know I can do it. And when I do, I'll be happy to throw the fact in the face of anyone who condescends to me about being an English teacher at every opportunity. Frankly.