Friday, 6 August 2010

My Co-Teachers

Over my past year here in Korea, I’ve had seven Korean co-teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of working with both males and females, at the levels of middle and high school.

In the month of March, the beginning of the new school year, there was a turnover of two of my favourite co-teachers.

One of them was my high school co-teacher of my secondary school. She was always eager to help in class, but only ever pitched in when she needed to do so. Luckily enough, she was replaced by a temporary teacher, who had just spent four months in the New Zealand and the Philippines studying English. My new co-teacher treated me like a sister, and we would socialize in English during our lunch break, laughing at jokes that the other Korean teachers couldn’t understand.

The other teacher leaving was my main co-teacher. She had to rotate schools because her five-year teaching period was up at my main school. She was always on top of everything, knew exactly what events were coming up that concerned me, and took care of tasks that dealt with the Regional Offices of Education (all of those fiddly documents that had to be co-signed by varying levels of authority throughout the school). I was the oblivious English teacher, with an awesome co-teacher who took care of me like an adoptive mother.

One of the most drastic changes I encountered this year was the switch-up between my main co-teacher and a new Korean English teacher from Yeongyang. For the first couple of months, I felt as though he didn’t really care an ounce about me. He’d always say, “I’m sorry, but I’m busy with documents,” interrupt me during my classes with his own personal questions, and forget about key documents and events pertaining to EPIK teachers. At first I thought he was negligent, but as I observed him towards the latter of his second month, I saw that he was truly overloaded with paperwork and was seeking the help of other teachers round the clock, trying to familiarize himself with a different school system. Acting as a volunteer Korean co-teacher for the first time would have to wait, coming in second to working long hours to prepare for a new year at a new school.

I keep forgetting that my Korean co-teachers are acting as “volunteers”. They devote their time and effort towards wholly taking care of me, a foreign teacher they know only slightly. Their work is priceless, and it’s easy for me to forget that fact. Unfortunately, with Korean teachers who are new at the role of “co-teacher”, it can be easy to forget tasks-at-hand, misplace documents, or accidentally neglect the foreign English teacher with whom he or she has been partnered. (*Note: If this is happening to you, it will be extremely helpful to know another teacher in the region, just so you can stay on top of deadlines, required documents and EPIK teacher conferences.)

I have to remember that co-teachers are completing duties for two, and that at many times, their work will extend beyond their calling, from hospital visits to all of the ordeals that foreign teachers have to deal with everyday (workplace relationships, arguing with the school administration, issues with cultural differences, broken boilers, etc.). A foreign teacher’s crap becomes his or her co-teacher’s crap.

So, cheers to our co-teachers. Cheers to the ones who are overworked, but still find the time to talk with us, walk with us, work with us, and deal with all of the good and bad experiences that we have, every single day.

- Jess

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I didn't realize how much was on their plates. That sounds highly stressful. I'm glad that they didn't take it out on you guys (not overtly anyway). That would be you - Jess, to see all the good in these co-teachers. I'm sure that you'll be dearly missed in these schools and all these kids will always remember you! Now - enjoy your time off and put your feet up and eat popcorn for breakfast and take a nap in the middle of the day and have fun!!!