Sunday, May 22, 2011

You deserve to be angry when...

It recently dawned on me that it has been more than nine years since I left my life as a 3D modeler in the games industry, moved to Asia and became a teacher. There was of course, time for teacher’s college back in Canada thrown in there as well, but I have been in Asia for a long time.

The entire time I have been here I’ve worked in education. I’ve worked in both South Korea and Japan and as a teacher in private language schools and private international schools. I have dealt with many types of employers, students, parents and colleagues. I have had wonderful experiences and some that have been anything but wonderful!

While out for a walk this evening (a beautiful spring going on summer evening here in Kobe, Japan) I was thinking of my own experiences, those of former coworkers and stories I have heard from the hundreds of teachers I have met over the years.

Often I have met “angry” teachers in Asia. At times I have been an “angry” teacher. Sometimes I think you have every right to be angry. Others times, not so much!

As a teacher in Asia…

You DESERVE to be angry if:

1. Your school doesn’t pay you on payday! I have met too many people (including my wife) who have worked for a school that only paid them part of their salary or none at all come payday. There are many fly-by-night organizations in both Korea and Japan.

2. Your school hires you to work a certain schedule or teach certain grades and when you arrive in the country, they change everything at the last minute!

3. The company that hired you seems to be (or just is) completely disorganized.

4. Your coworkers are more concerned with partying than teaching (therefore coming into work every morning, hung over or possibly, still drunk!).

5. Your boss (often in Korea) pressures you to drink on a regular basis and when you explain to him that you don’t like drinking very much, you are mocked!

6. You have to deal with pushy mothers (of students) who have no background as educators, but think they know everything and want to dictate your teaching style.

7. Your school doesn’t support you when pushy mothers are pressuring you.

8. You’re told not to teach too much because the students might become bored. Just play with them and make them happy.

9. Your school has no curriculum.

10. Your school has no training mechanism in place for teachers (it sucks to learn under fire!).

11. Your school tries to convince you that it is perfectly ok for you to work there on a tourist visa (very illegal).

12. Your school fires you in the 11th month of your contract so they don’t have to pay your severance pay or give you a return airplane ticket. This happens from time to time in Korea. Often the school gives some bogus reason to fire you like, “The children were scared of you.” Or “ You weren’t kind.”

You DON’T deserve to be angry if…

1. Your school expects you to actually work! Your school is a business and they have spent a lot of money for you to come to Korea/Japan to work for them and help them earn money. They didn’t hire you so you could “have an amazing adventure and travel experience”!

2. Your school expects you to show up 10 minutes before work! Welcome to a job. Teachers in Canada/America/Australia or wherever definitely show up long before classes begin in the morning and leave long after those classes are over.

3. You don’t get paid for prep (preparation) time. Welcome to reality! The entire time you were in school as a students, your teachers didn’t get paid for prep time either. Teaching is a salaried gig.

4. You come to work hung over on a regular basis and your manager/head teacher gets angry with you. You are being paid a salary to teach. That means you are now a professional teacher. Act professional.

5. Your manager/head teacher is angry cause you came to work drunk. If you did that in a Canadian/American/British school you’d be fired faster than you can imagine. Your license would be revoked as well!

6. Your school expects you to work hard and teach.

7. You have singed your contract, come to Korea/Japan and then realize other teachers you meet earn more than you. Hey, you should have done more research! If your school offered you a certain salary and you accepted, you don’t really have the right to complain about it. Finish your contract and then move on to something else.

8. Your school doesn’t ant you to speak Korean or Japanese in the classroom. They did hire you after all to teach English. They are not paying your salary to practice the language of the country you are in!

Sometimes, teachers in Korea and Japan can have a reputation of being complainers. Sometimes those complaints are completely justified. Other times, not at all.

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev


Anonymous said...

Amen on the "act professional" part.

Kathryn said...

I truly believe that this is an occupational hazard of working in professions that are child/teaching related. I have dealt with so many of the things you mention in the first list. Working with children is such a thankless job is not? It's completely unacceptable but for some reason the people who hire us "shmucks" think that we do not deserve the same things that they expect. And there is no escaping them. . . they are everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I'm very grateful to have a great Board of Education and the full support of my dispatch company. After reading so many horror stories about being an ALT back in the States, I almost talked myself out of it. Glad I gave it a go anyway. I definitely don't deserve to be angry, nor am I! :) But you're right! I'm amazed at how unprofessional young people are, coming over here, expecting to be living like celebrities while being paid to do nothing at all with any excellence. Sad to see. Great post honestly evaluating this business.