Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Korean English teachers annoyed by having to take care of their foreign teachers

On September 4, the Incheon Ilbo published the following article:
Are English teachers helpers* for native speaking teachers?

Speak out on difficulties: "From finding a room to eating... for the first half year we're responsible for their lives"

Provincial Office of Education: "From this year we're considering measures such as designating mentors"

"The native speaking teacher called me once at home in the middle of the night because their dog was sick and there was no one who could aid them, and, compelled to help, I couldn't help becoming indebted to a parent who runs an animal hospital."

Gyeonggi-do teachers are revealing their complaints about being in charge of native speaking teachers, which has nothing to do with their jobs.

According to the Gyeonggi-do Office of Education on the 3rd, there are 1,200 native speaking teachers in the province, with support from the provincial budget for 483 native speaking teachers this year. At the end of last year there were also 720 teachers supported from the budgets of 31 cities or counties.

Native speaking teachers are currently working in elementary. middle and high schools in the province in order to do things like expand the ability of students to speak English and help them adapt to the culture of English speaking countries, but most [Korean] English teachers have to take care of these teachers' lives, including their classes, for their first six months.

However, as native speaking teachers' knowledge of the local area in which they work and their ability to adapt to Korean society is nonexistent, they rely on the [Korean] English teachers for almost every little thing, putting the teachers in an awkward situation.

'K', a 32 year-old female teacher from the Gapyeong area, revealed that, "When native speaking teachers come, [Korean] English teachers not only have to take care of every little thing from finding them a room to eating, but also have to do all of their original work as a teacher, so they are very put upon." "I wish there weren't any native speaking teachers."

'L,' a 35 year-old Suwon-area teacher, pointed out that, "When native speaking teachers come, there actually are cases in which they sense that teachers are doing these things involuntarily." "It's not always, but there are many cases in which some native speaking teachers are aware that the [Korean] English teachers have to do everything for them."

Regarding this, a provincial office of education official said, "In the case of new native speaking teachers there is an orientation, and local offices of education are also running programs to welcome them." "From this year we are making efforts to designate mentor teachers from among native speaking teachers to provide help to the new teachers during their first half year."

He also added, "I think it would be a good measure to hire as native speaking teachers people for whom it is possible to speak Korean, such as gyopos."
There have been articles like this before, such as the 2010 New Daily article about "the discontent of Korean instructors who kowtow to native speaking teachers in schools," and the 2011 NoCut News article about the "explosion of complaints from some support specialist instructors" about native speaking teachers (an article which begins by saying there is "a 90% satisfaction level [in regard to having foreign teachers]. However...").

I like the bit about how NSETs' "ability to adapt to Korean society is nonexistent." As well, there were probably more possible mentors out there back before GEPIK cut 900 teachers (see here and here) to make room in the budget for free lunch programs.

I also don't really get the part about how being in charge of the NSET "has nothing to do with their jobs." There are lots of extra duties teachers have to do which have nothing to do with teaching (running the AV cub, maintaining the website, running girl scout activities, etc), some of which encroach upon their weekends. I can certainly sympathize with those teachers who feel put upon after work by demanding foreign teachers who they're responsible for, but the article opens with a worst-case scenario and puts nothing forward which would allow readers to empathize with people who have moved to a foreign country with little knowledge of the language, the school system, or where the recycling goes or how to pay bills.

* doumi - 도우미


brent said...

Hire all gyopos and people will begin to ask why they have Korean English teachers at all.

George Deftereos 조지 said...

But it's near impossible to fire a Korean teacher anyway.

That quote at the beginning sums up succinctly why Koreans may hesitate to help a foreigner out. The cost-benefit analysis is usually "If I am indebted to Parent Kim who runs an animal hospital, Friend Lee will owe me a favour so it balances out. But this foreigner could literally leave tomorrow, or at best in a year, and even if I am indebted to Parent Kim, I will not recoup my loss. Why bother?"

Anonymous said...

But wait, wait -- I thought Korea was the most specialest of cultural snowflakes, an amazing, wonderful place with four seasons, the best food in the world, amazing pop music, and a language that is demonstrably better than any other language in existence.

Now you're telling me that moving to South Korea for a year is a walk in the park? No big deal? And that a foreigners don't need guidance through such an awesomely fantastic place?

John from Daejeon said...

It took a while, but it looks like South Korea's wonderful glossy sheen has even started to dull for wetcasements.

Anyway, if anyone (that's ANYONE!) woke me up in the middle of the night over a sick dog, there would definitely be some feelings of ill will and some harsh, loud language exchanged before I hang up on them. Children are starving and dying all over the world every day and night (plenty just north of South Korea), and someone is more concerned over a sick dog. Sadly, that does help explain so much about our planet's human caused problems.

Yule said...

If a person is in a foreign country without a support network, what is he or she supposed to do? Just ignore or mini-crises (like dying dogs)?

Keith MH said...

It works the other way as well. I am a teacher with 17 years ESL experience, 12 of which are in Korea.

I am a teacher, not you proofreader, your kid's speech writer, or club supervisor. If it were really volunteer position, I would be able to say no. I assumed schools hire proficient English users. Apparently not or else I would have had to teach more English grammar to Korean teachers than students. It should not be my job to change just enough words from existing textbooks so you can put your company logo on it without being arrested for theft.

Unknown said...

My handler is on a teacher contract like us, but doesn't get vacation and is paid less so feels ill will about having to help not just one, but two FET's in a large elementary school. Luckily I came in 6 months ago with 3 years experience so I was able to do everything on my own except visit immigration for my ID card, set up a phone and bank accounts. When I figured out I wanted a debit card instead of ATM card, I easily managed that on my own since it's a debit card in Korean. I use Google translate to find what stuff is called or how to ask. I already knew the numbers, money, and buying as well an increasing vocabularly which gave me increased independence an adult needs to live and work confidently. Even though I as littel as possible, she likes to carry vendettas over any small mistake like forgetting to lock the door or if whe is having some personal problem she can't talk about. The histrionic office drama queen is almost a deal breaker. And for someone more professional by knowing it all having more qualifications that a executive business person might have, they probably won't work in an unprossional environment for very long.