The week leading up to my six month mark has been excruciatingly stressful. There are three Western teachers (myself included) at my school. Two of us were told that we would have to begin coming in an hour earlier every day to teach a new class (which currently only has one student enrolled). The other teacher is being forced to commute to another school nearly an hour away two days out of the week.
I don’t feel like I can divulge more details, but I’ll say that things are not good.
Everything that I have disliked about being here has culminated into complete and utter disdain.
I can hear the Korean teachers talk about us, though I can not understand what they’re saying. I don’t assume it’s anything positive.
Being in the classroom is so much fun and I genuinely love working with the kids. However, the work environment here is far from healthy. The hours are long, often with little time for breaks. The attitudes are passive aggressive, at best. Standing up for yourself puts you at risk for verbal abuse and belittlement from your superiors.
Furthermore, entire schedules are shifted around with no notice, leaving you with a headache and no time to plan lessons. I do not understand how anything gets done efficiently. When the head teacher gives out a new schedule, I sit with my co-workers and try to solve the cryptic paper before us. It almost always ends with a shrug and a guess, as we’re too nervous to ask anyone else.
Mostly, though, I just feel bad for the kids. The time that students spend taking tests is incredible. They aren’t official or mandated by the government. I believe they are simply given to promote “diligence” and “education.”
I don’t remember if I’ve written about this before, but most Korean students have at least a twelve hour school day. For high school students, bump that number up a bit. This makes me so sad because kids don’t actually have any time to be kids. Their lives are consumed by studying and taking tests. The contrast between my elementary and middle school students is shocking. While my younger students are full of energy and want to play games, my older students mostly sit at their desks, heads down, completely drained of any life or emotion.
For now, I’ll shut up and do as I’m told. But the lack of autonomy and constant fear of scrutiny is essentially crushing my soul.