teacher lock down


So we’re at GePIK orientation at the Hyundai Learning Center.  Three teachers to a dorm room, and we have to GET PERMISSION to leave the campus – and they want us to stay in – only there’s NOTHING TO DO if you stay.

One of my damned roommates had the temperature up to 30 degrees celsius.  That’s over 80 degrees.  Felt like I was at the damned jimjilbang…

The jimjilbang is the Korean sauna, btw.  Korean families love to hang out there on the weekend, where there are shared public baths, saunas, cold rooms, automatic massage beds, and the body scrubbing adjummas.  It’s also the place where drunk people who’ve missed the last subway and are too cheap to go to a motel sleep it off.  You go in, you put your shoes in a shoe locker, and then you go to a desk where they hand you shorts and a shirt and give you a locker key where you can store your belongings.  Then, you search for a free square of the floor in which to lie.  Hopefully a place far away from the video games or restaurant.  A most unpleasant experience, bodies lying all over the marble floors, people snoring, feet in your face, and the overall temperature being about 90 degrees.  Some day I will go and do the bath and scrub thing, if I ever get over my fear of being naked among strangers, and maybe I will appreciate it.  But sleeping there is one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever done.

Day one of the orientation included a traditional Korean stringed instrument performance, a list of rules we were supposed to follow, (it seems some of the last group of teachers were captured in an empty board room on closed circuit t.v. in compromising positions) a pretty good motivational speech by a guy claiming he wasn’t going to give a motivational speech, some Q&A with veteran Native English Teachers, and a once-over of our contracts with everyone’s favorite, (cough,cough) Dain Bae.    Followed by the attempted teacher lock down and subsequent break out.  All of us pretty offended by the indignity of having to be in dorm rooms and being told we can’t exercise any personal liberties.  Which isn’t such a big deal to me, if they had provided something for us to do for the four free hours afterward, but in the absence of that and given that half the people here are over thirty, a bit unreasonable.  Probably less than half got Ms. Bae’s permission to leave before signing out to leave the building and probably quite a few didn’t even bother to sign out.  Quite interesting to arrive at the first watering hole to find it standing room only with teachers forbidden to go anywhere!  I find it amusing that the Korean admins I’ve thus encountered don’t seem to grasp the concept that oppression CREATES dissent.  Or maybe it’s just this control game they play and how society works here.  I mean, you gotta have something to protest, right?

I did enjoy the Q&A w/ the veteran teachers.  And I also found it interesting that the one my region was grouped with bribed his students with candy and gave the children homework so they would take him more seriously.  Both of which seem like easy outs to me, but which obviously pay off for the short term.   It does seem my teaching experience has been a lot more challenging than most, but I am glad I came here, as I feel even more that I am doing a good job, all things considering…Even if Miss “It’s not my fault, I’m doing the best that I can.” Dain Bae says, “I don’t know why you’re here, but the rest of the people are here to teach English.”  I know that I’m here to TEACH.  My kids are learning so much more from me than just mouthing English.

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3 thoughts on “teacher lock down

  1. k… i was at the said orientation, I agree that aside from the native teachers’ lectures, the rest of all the speeches and (all) of the workshops were quite unhelpful and boring. But it’s honestly NOT even half as bad as you make it sound. For instance, a lot of people there thought the string performance was pretty darned cool, Darren/Simon & Martina’s presentations were funny, helpful and well-prepared. And really, the comment about teachers “bribing” kids with candy? Who hasn’t done that here? You’re talking about a bunches of kids who probably (99.99% likelihood) think you talk like this: “BLAHBLAHBLAH, BLAH BLAH, BLAH BLAH, BLAHBLAH BLAH English, BLAH BLAH.” and with an attention span of roughly less than 10 seconds lol. Candy is sometimes a good way to go, provided that the teacher doesn’t use it ALL the time.

    By the way, the “motivational guy” was Darren, who has been helping us NTs through emails for a good while, so far, people i know who have contacted him with questions got very extensive and helpful responses from this guy. Also, take some time to actually look through the info that they gave you, especially that eatyourkimchi.com website, instead of make them seem like it was just a good-for-nothing speech. Because a lot of stuff up there have actually helped many NTs, even the experienced ones found it to be a helpful site.

    Although the place we stayed at was really boring, but have you heard half of the tales about what happened last year, when GEPIK put the teachers where there WERE things to do? People got extremely drunk, trashed the place, bought eggs and started throwing them at the windows. That’s why this year they decided to put us in the middle of nowhere (and no eggs to buy). “Personal liberties”? Seriously, do you think they could’ve kept us from doing it if we really wanted to? lol. They presented a set of rules to follow, which is understandable. Which work training session have you personally gone to where they just say “okay guys, do whatever you want. Have sex, get drunk.”? It’s just formality, they weren’t even that strict on the rules after the 2nd day…

    GEPIK has a limited budget in doing things like this, there’s no need to complain about sharing rooms with people… you’re in KOREA, expect to be shoved into a room with bunches of people when you travel. I do sympathize with your situation regarding your roomate though, sounds like you had a bad one.

    In terms of asking permission to go out, i hope you didn’t say: “omg, we have to SIGN OUT??? yeah, i’m not gonna ask for permission, gonna sit here and sulk.” because a lot of us simply just took 3 minutes, signed a piece of paper and went out drinking til 2am. We didn’t even need to get permission by the second night, even the staff went out to drink with us and had a good time.

    Anyway, it’s a good thing that you’re here to TEACH, not just to have a good time. Now, one thing that everyone would agree upon is that the workshop IS quite useless, what’s the point of having a “motivational workshop” that teaches you about cultural difference now that most of us have been here for 4~6 months (some even a year)? GEPIK should make more efforts in helping us get through culture shock and teach us how to deal with kids WHEN we arrive, not after all the damage has been said and done.

    Aside from that, the session was an awesome break away from work. As much as i love my kids, I’d trade a week stuck in my classroom to get that “training” (vacation)again, anytime.

  2. Excuse me, but I did say that the motivational speech was a pretty good one. Darren Ng’s speech was the highlight of the week for me, I just thought it was a lame joke when he said he wasn’t going to give a motivational speech.

    And I have been promoting eatyourkimchi.com since very close to its inception to everyone I know. But at some point in one’s life, at least my life, being middle aged and being on top of teenie bopper music is ingenuous and ridiculous. Not to mention I’m here to move them forward towards their next stage in life…

    AND I don’t bribe kids with candy – never have and never will. And I have outstanding kids who are self motivated because of it. I’d rather tell the students something meaningful and see their heads nodding in agreement, which between the boy discipline nightmares does happen often. These kids happen to have incredible attention spans, and it is a mistake to underestimate or insult their natural intelligence.

    As for the behavior of a few of last year’s GEPIK teachers, they should be fired. Most of us don’t conduct ourselves like that, and to lose a couple of immature idiots would be no great loss to Korea.

    I personally disagree that the workshop was useless. The message I got was, “We understand what you go through. You’re important to us. Please don’t run away,” which was a fine message to receive. I think they need to give that message to our schools and co-teachers as well.

    It was only useless from a pedagogical standpoint. What we were offered was ways to entertain, with very little content. I would rather have spoken with a bunch of freshmen in college and asked them about their favorite teachers and how they broke through this education mill and inspire.

  3. I was there! It was quite a bore but I did met some decent people there. Although I’m completely out of contact with them all now. I remember every night drinking gross Korean beer out of a can which tastes worse than out of a bottle. I think they could have cut the orientation in half, too long, and tedious. And the food was terrible, but still had it moments where it bordered on fun.

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