Fried Brains

I wasn’t sure how to start this post, because I have 2 days to write about (I just didn’t feel like posting yesterday) and both were equally frustrating. I’ll just start from the beginning (Friday).

As you know, I was off Wednesday-Thursday (my “weekend”) and went back to work on a Friday. I thought it wouldn’t be so bad since it’s just a half day with the kids, but I’ve realized that working with the kids is the best part, because when you aren’t working with kids… it’s meeting, after meeting, after meeting. Also, going back to work on a Friday (the day the kids leave) means you haven’t seen them for 2 days, so when they write postcards to their favorite teachers, at that point, they don’t remember/know you well enough and then you don’t get postcards! That was a little disappointing. I did get 2, but compared to the huge stack I had last Friday, I was really bummed.

The Friday meetings weren’t so bad, it’s just that time passes by SO slowly during them. After the general teachers’ meeting, we had PowerPoint training. I can count on 2 hands the number of times I had to attend Microsoft Office trainings when I taught public school and at this point, I should be the one training others. So, that hour was a waste for me. Then, we had a meeting for the Weekend Program and I have some great news: due to the number of complaints admin received, they have put us back on the 2-month rotation! This means that instead of working weekends for 6 months straight (or for a year, like they originally wanted), we’ll work weekends for 2 months and then be off the rest of the year… unless they don’t have enough teachers, in which case we would just work the occasional weekend, but since they are hiring so many new teachers, that probably won’t be the case. We were all really happy about this!

What got to me about that meeting, though, was how the information was presented to us. We were told that we were “specially chosen” to work this new Weekend Program as the “development team” due to our “impressive” backgrounds/experience. Apparently, we “stood out” and while the other teachers are “quite good,” we are “experienced professionals.” While this was being said, those of us sitting at the same time exchanged glances that said, “this is hogwash!” because we knew it was all nonsense, they were just buttering us up for the next bomb they were about to drop on us: in addition to being the Weekend Program development team, we are to develop lessons and activities for their bi-annual month-long program, VIP (Vacation Intensive Program). It occurs once in the winter (December-January) and once in the summer (July-August) during school vacations. Students come and stay for an entire month, and it’s a time of year when ALL teachers MUST work weekends. So, actually, we’ll be working weekends a total of 4 months because of the 2-month rotation as well as VIP. I hope I’m explaining this well; so much information was presented to us (in a disorganized, unorderly way, mind you) and by the end of the day, my brain was fried. Yet, it didn’t end there.

We had 2 more meetings after that on Friday: one in our Content Areas (which I spent organizing food, spices, and supplies for cooking) and then a “Weekend Program training,” which was just them going over the Halloween activities (cookie decorating, mask making, face painting, etc.). And guess what? Saturday morning was more meetings….

We had our general teachers’ meeting, then the 6 of us newbies met with our Coordinator to discuss our role as the “development team.” We were all so confused as to what exactly we would be doing, and when, that the meeting lasted for 2 hours because of all the information we had to sort through. The conversation went in circles several times because our Coordinator isn’t the best at explaining things (and never answers questions directly), so it left me/us a little frustrated but at least a little clearer on what it is we were supposed to be doing. Since VIP is only a couple of months away, we were told to focus only on VIP for the time being. The way it works is that students go to regular OWP classes during the week, and on weekends they stay with their house teacher all day Saturday and again all day Sunday, which means there needs to be a variety of games and activities for teachers to choose from in order to keep the kids entertained for the whole day. It’s pretty intense. There will be 6 houses (pretty much a group of students staying in the same hotel) and they’ll compete for the “house cup,” and throughout the month there will be designated games/activities that are a competition to win points towards earning the house cup. It’s just like a summer camp. As the super-important-professional development team, our job is to spend the next few weekends working ideas for games and activities and a plan/schedule for the teachers to do them. We started working on it after lunch and were done by 5:00pm.

We’ll work on fine-tuning the details of our plan over the next couple of months, and put together PowerPoints and such for the teachers to use, but I really don’t think we need as much time as they’re giving us… and they certainly don’t need 6 people for this sort of thing. Are you familiar with the phrase, “Too many cooks spoil the broth”? There were really just a couple of them dominating the entire brainstorming and planning while the rest of us sat there and listened…which is just the way these things go when you have that many people. There didn’t need to be 6 of us on this development team. There are plenty of things to work on and they should give us tasks in smaller groups. These past 2 days have felt like 2 weeks have gone by. I ended the day on a very frustrated note, and it left me in a bit of a funk. Everyone else seemed to think the day went fine, and that makes me glad because I want them to be happy. I seemed to be the only one feeling disappointed/frustrated, and I hope I can convince myself to change my attitude. Ideally, I would like to end up in Special Programs where I can design my own curriculum, make my own games, and have actual language objectives to plan activities for instead of just coming up with silly games to pass the time. Until they move me to Special Programs, I am not going to find the intellectual stimulation that I’ve been seeking. However, the actual teaching part and spending time with the kids during VIP will be rather fun, I think.

When Glenn and I had first made the decision to teach abroad and were looking into the different country options, we had read things and been told to beware of South Korea; that Korean employers will use the “bait and switch” tactic and tell/promise you one thing, but get something totally different. That’s why I did EXTENSIVE research on any jobs we applied for and read tons of blogs in order to learn about, and from, others’ experiences – both good and bad. I trusted GEV because I hadn’t read anything negative online about them, for one, and also because I know that there are Westerners in some of the higher up positions and know what Western employees would be expecting from a potential employer. In fact, the person who interviewed me and the person who hired me are both American, and when I spoke with either of them before coming to Korea, they gave me some very insightful advice into Korean employers – not just GEV, but at different types of schools and institutions throughout South Korea. I’m glad we went with GEV, because I believe there are more pros than cons in our case, but I think it’s amusing that I got a taste of the “typical” Korean employer and how they treat their foreign employees; there is a lot of dishonesty sugar-coated with flattery. I really hope they will move me (and Glenn) to Special Programs, but at this point, I’m not going to keep my hopes up. I just think that as one of the only teachers with actual teaching credentials and experience, they should want me for programs that could actually utilize my skills and abilities.

I was so glad when the work day was over. I had been sitting and thinking all day and needed to move around, but first: dinner. The cafeteria’s food didn’t look very appetizing, and the others didn’t want to eat there, so I joined Tim at Double Decker’s (it’s the pub right in front of my apartment – yes, Glenn will be in Heaven) and one of the teachers who was supposed to start with us newbies was there. I don’t know details, but there have been issues with his visa and he hasn’t been allowed to work yet – and it’s still being sorted out, which means he may or may not be teaching at GEV in a week or two. We had met him the first morning when we showed up for work, but left almost immediately and we hadn’t really seen him since then. Anyway, the 3 of us sat and had dinner and then Tim and I went for a walk to Heyri Art Village because he wanted to move around after sitting all day, too. Even though I had gone there with Rene and Zaaid on Wednesday, it was cool going at night and Tim and I went to a different part of it than I had gone to the other day. We found an outdoor mall type thing and Tim bought a little pecan pie at a bakery that he allowed me to help him eat. (Earlier, he gave me an extra phone he has and is even letting me use the pre-paid minutes on there since he knows I’m short on cash right now.) We walked back after a little while and I was home by about 8:30pm. GEV is so eerie at night, especially on a Saturday when most people have gone to Seoul or somewhere else for the night/weekend; it’s so quiet, I could literally hear crickets chirping.

Tomorrow, I don’t have any idea what I’ll be doing. I tried to ask about what we’ll do tomorrow, but no direct answer was given, of course, and all I can figure is that we’ll either continue working on activity development or we’ll just help the weekenders with the cookie decorating, mask making, and other activities. I would much rather do that than be stuck at a desk again all day.

I can’t describe how much I’m looking forward to getting paid so that I can do things after work and go into Seoul, Ilsan, and other places on “weekends” (Wednesday-Thursday, for now). I’m meeting up with a former ESL student of mine in Seoul this coming Wednesday, and unfortunately, I’ll have to put dinner on my credit card (I haven’t checked the balance on there yet because I’m scared to. I’ve never had this much credit card debt in my life.).

Before I go, I just want to give a shout-out to my friends Sabrina, Sara, Dhaval, and Angel, who I know read my blog regularly. But I want to thank ALL of my friends and family who follow me daily and leave uplifting comments. I never thought that anyone would find my blog as interesting as you all claim it is. I’m so pleased to know that you all enjoy reading my posts! (Sorry this one was a bit of a downer….)

I promise to be more cheerful in my next post. Please come back soon!

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10 Responses to Fried Brains

  1. Grandpa and Grandma Heim says:

    Our dear Rachel,
    After your first blogs, this one sounds as if you’re finding that people in every culture have their drawbacks. Since we’ve lived longer than you, that’s a lesson we’ve learned long ago. No perfect job/place. But we know you’ll make the best of it and come out on top.

    Your blogs ARE interesting (even the less than happy ones), and we are now up to date on the calendar. Thanks for spending the time to type nearly every day; even though you are a good writer, it still takes time.

    We talk about you and your situation with friends, some of whom now have your blog address. And we THINK about you lots more than that!

    BTW, is Halloween celebrated in S. Korea? Doubt it, but who knows?

    Much love,

    • Thanks for your support, Grandma and Grandpa! And yes, Halloween is celebrated here but more so as costume parties that adults go to (children don’t go trick-or-treating). However, since I live in an English Village, we have all kinds of Halloween events that started up this weekend. Thanks for reading, as always!

  2. jrgteach says:

    i can understand your gripes about korean employers! i dealt with that at the school in annandale… it was probably like being in korea… the whole, talking in circles, etc… and dropping bombs but trying to sugarcoat it and whatnot! GEV sounds like a pretty cool idea though!

  3. Alice La Russo says:

    Well, Rach, I love reading ALL of your blogs. I’m so glad that you are giving us a glimpse into your life – the good things and the challenging/annoying things, or else none of us would get the true picture of your life. I have several friends who are as addicted to your blog as Dad and I are! Hope tomorrow is more enjoyable! Love, Mom

  4. marian LaRusso says:

    We are sure that wherever you teach (or work) there will be those endless,boring and
    “dig the nails into your palms” meetings. Grandpa used to tell me about the meetings
    he had at school and I remember the (*^^&% meetings at Sears…..
    I guess you learn to just get through them. I used to do some of my best thinking
    at the company meetings….(thinking of other things)..
    Anyway, don’t worry about all of us. Even tho we know that you feel “down”
    at times, we really enjoy our “visit” with you. This is the only time that I have
    ever enjoyed the computer. Love you so much, G and G in Hurley

  5. Bri says:

    Thank u for writing your story, I’m looking forward to reading part of it every night 🙂

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