Saturday, 31 January 2004

My Fellow Teachers

There are a number of pros and cons to my school and the working conditions. On the plus side, the kids are mostly all very good natured, enthusiastic, well-intentioned and quite fun. Some kids are very bright, others entertaining, and even the worst kids really aren't all that bad when I consider how awful kids can be. Nothing I can't control. Also, the school is very near my apartment so I can pop back on free periods, and my apartment being on Daegu's one subway line is an absolute godsend. And my working hours, while not ideal, still has me finishing the day before 6pm. Many English teachers operate from about 3pm to 9pm, which I'd hate.

The negatives of the school are the erratic director who's management skills are highly questionable, the sometimes relentless succession of classes and the poor teaching materials I'm given and was thrown in with without any explanation. But you take the rough with the smooth, and my deal isn't so rough as to be unbearable. Far from it.

All these are just details that I suppose weren't beyond what I'd have expected about teaching in Korea. I wasn't expecting slick professionalism. But what I am a little surprised about is the main negative of the job - the other English teachers.

Outside of my school, most of the English teachers I've met seem fine. Well, in some bars I've seen a few that look like pricks (usually the ones who've been here too long actually) but by and large they're all pleasant people. It's a good ex-pat community. But none of them are at my school.

My two fellow teachers are David and David, but let's call the second David "John", not on a careless whim, but because that's his middle name and the name he's called at the school (the kids wouldn't be able to deal with two "teacher-Davids").

John first. I've mentioned him before, and I've been out with him a few times. Although he'd never be someone who I'd get on particularly well with back in Scotland (he's Scottish, by the way), on a personal level I find him ok. Sometimes. He has definite virtues, such as a strong sense of social justice. However, it's all very counter-balanced by the fact that he's deeply pessimistic, horribly cynical, always seeming to looking for another thing that's wrong with the world. Given a situation, he'll immediately hone in on the problems. I prefer to look at the positive aspects and I think that's why I'm a much happier person than he. He always brings me down in the staff room because since I've started he's never stopped going on and on about everything that's wrong with the place.

John hasn't just got a chip on his shoulder, he's got an entire goddam McCain's factory.

But he leaves in a few weeks anyway. I probably won't mind meeting up with him for the occasional drink, but I'd rather cut off my own leg than work with him again.

The other teacher, David, I've mentioned a few times before. He's the paedo-teacher. Probably an unfair monicker but hell, if he will insist on wearing gigantic and slightly shaded glasses, it's an obvious one.

I think he's probably a good teacher. He's had many years experience. But he seems unable to interact on an adult level. He has nothing to say for himself. I suppose he's the absolute personification of a "geek". And he's got a whiny nasal American accent, not to mention the fact he's one of the least physically blessed men I've seen in my entire life. Everything about him screams "unfortunate". And it makes me shudder to think how he'd have turned out if any of the other 100 million sperm had beaten that one winning sperm in the race.

Oh dear. It's too easy to be cruel about this man, but hey, honesty's the best policy - but truth hurts.

If he was a friendly man, a good laugh and had a few interesting stories, I wouldn't write about him so harshly. But so far his only redeeming feature is that I think he's a good teacher, and that he maybe just keeps hmself to himself.

Anyway, I thought I was getting rid of him in March. His contract expires then and the director told him it wasn't being renewed as they didn't need three teachers any more. A bit of a kick in the teeth considering he's the most experienced and has been there 2 years.

But then John decided that enough was enough and he gave his month's notice. The director did a U-turn and offered David a new contract - but at a lower salary. He didn't take it, but when another contract with the same salary was offered, he took it.

If that had happened to me, I'd have told the director where to shove it. I might have shoved it there myself, although it's not an attractive mental picture.

So, it looks like I'm stuck with paedo teacher for the rest of my contract. I'd have much preferred someone new, as few could be much worse.

But at least David buys pizza for everyone every Thursday.

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