1.3 Winter 2020

Last Week of Winter Desk Warming, Day 4


At 4:29PM yesterday, there was a flurry of activity in the makeshift office. Suddenly the staff was disconnecting computers and taking apart desks. A running truck waited outside.

I unplugged my computer and put all my things into my ever present moving box but didn’t understand if I needed to actually take the box back to my classroom. The office manager told me something and all I wanted in this confusion was a yes or no answer. Luckily, the young woman who speaks English (but hates to) intervened and said “You don’t have to.”

I still wasn’t sure what was happening and was frustrated by the typical last minute, no information Asia Time scenario so I simply nodded at her and left.

This morning I stopped by the makeshift office, thinking that my things had been moved to the classroom and wanted to check in before heading there, only to find that my things had not in fact been moved at all. All the office desks had returned to their homeland and were swapped out with random desks or tables. My station, of course, became a small folding table next to a school desk. My desk chair is now a folding chair.

Thank goodness I only have two more days of desk warming or I might really lose it.

The reluctant English speaker saw my confusion at the setup and said “I’m sorry we didn’t tell you yesterday. The moving company and internet company were supposed to both come this weekend. But the schedules didn’t match so they took the desks but we must stay here for internet.”

I asked her when the teachers will come back.

“Um, can I tell you in Korean?”

“If it’s baby Korean.”

She continued in English.

The teachers will come back for the first three days next week “so you can go back to your classroom then”. I wanted to point out that I actually have vacation next week because of all this bungling but didn’t.

I’m trying really hard to hold on to empathy– they were saddled with this random foreign contract worker. The teaching staff doesn’t tell the office staff of my schedule (why would the office staff need to know anyway). And the new military helper for the disabled school has also been desk warming the small computer in the corner so at least I’m not the only one doing punitive office time. Other Korean teachers also suffer the ill effects of Asia Time. See: S having to work double English camp because the grade 5 homeroom volunteer decided to do a workshop at the last minute (moot now because also due to Asia Time and coronavirus winter camp was canceled five days before starting).

I’m just. A little frustrated.

This is also compounded by the fact that I am concerned about C, the new S. Next week I have to take vacation, the week before school starts, the week I could be meeting with C and E to start new semester prep work. But instead I’ll roll up on the first day with no plan. If C or E say, “you will lead all the classes and you can start… now” I am going to be upset.

As a foreign teacher that doesn’t speak Korean well, as a contract worker who doesn’t have access to the attendance roster or student grades, as a teacher who works 7 weeks more than the native teachers, as someone currently at a folding table for a desk, that would be incredibly unfair. In my mind I’m constantly trying to strike a balance between cultural acceptance and self-preservation.

My hope is that the first week we work together to do introductions and get to know the students. After all, since E only taught grade 6 and C is new, I actually know more of the students than they do.

I’m in an entry level position so this is bound to happen. And again, compared to Atlanta, these are very minor upsets. I’m happy that I can voice minor complaints about my employment as they are minor.

And I know that once I have a teaching license, I won’t have to do this type of nonsense again.


I heard one of the daycare teachers chastising the students before I entered. One boy asked me in Korean, “why aren’t you going in?”

“Ah, the teacher is talking now.”

I spent a portion of class playing musical chairs. It was less about student output and more to release their energy and reaffirm that they must listen carefully. Any student who touched the “chair”, in this case a phonics card, before the song was over they were marked as out! I taught them G’s phrase “Listen carefully”: I say “listen” and students respond “carefully”.

They had a great time! In the last half we played bingo to help calm them down and also improve letter recognition.

I’ve started ending, instead of starting class, with our “How Are You” song (thanks VIPKID!) and asking students to volunteer their answers. At the end of class they are much more comfortable and warmed up for speaking.

They gave me a juice box and peanut cream bread from Tous Les Jours as I was leaving.

Free food always has a way of turning my mood around by 180.

Peep my sweet folding desk.

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