Thursday, 1 July 2004


Every couple of months, a young waif-like Korean lady appears in the staff room for a couple of days. No, this is not the school ghost, but always the sign that a member of staff is leaving, and a new one about to join.

The waif-like one never stays. She floats about a bit, displaying a mixture of fear, shyness, confusion and sheer lack of innovation or ability. The next day she's gone. A few days later another waif appears, though usually a little less waifish than the original. Usually she disappears quickly too. Then a third appears, with less waifishness, more spark, and more confidence and she becomes the new member of staff.

This happens every couple of months because in hagwons, the staff turnover is high. I spent years working in kitchens and bars so know the meaning of a truly high turnover, but considering I'm working at a "school", the turnover is very high. Reasons are many, and you'll just have to use your imagination because I can't be bothered writing about it.

Anyway, this waif re-appeared on Monday and, naturally, was gone by Tuesday. A new girl was in yesterday, much less waifish and with a bit more spirit too her, and she's still here today making her a fairly good bet for staying. Anyway, all this signals the imminent departure of one of the six Korean teachers here, and this time it's Clara.

Which will be a shame, because in the last few months the staff-force have really began to get on well together. When I first started, this wasn't the case. With a couple of Korean teachers leaving, and miserable miserable John complaining about all conceivable possibilities, there wasn't much of a staff atmosphere. It took till the start of new term to settle down, and in the last couple of months it's begun to gel well. But, alas, change is inevitable, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad, when you have a good status quo.

Clara leaving isn't a big surprise, as she mentioned before that in about August she's going to Canada to study English. It will be a shame however as she's become quite fun in the last while. She was pretty quiet and a slight mix of shy and surly to begin with, but once the ice melted from the wintery days of when I first started she began to demonstrate a good sense of humour. I think too that she was a tough as hell teacher, though we never had any shared classes.

She's not even been here a year yet, mind you. The school is only three years old, and the only people to have been here (the director aside) since the begiinnig are David and Winnie.

Poor David got lambasted a little when I first met him. I hope to God that "lambasted" is the right word to use here, otherwise I'm saying something quite alarming. He makes a poor first impression though. Not the most physically desirable of characters with a scabby bald head and overhanging stomach, his quietly grumbling and reticent personailty was not much in compensation. However, like all good things, he has been an acquired taste and now I just can't get enough of him!

Well, let's not go overboard here. But he's definitely developed, and is now rather funny. And very rude, in a cheeky way, to the Korean teachers. He knows a lot about what he's doing, which is useful, and is often very helpful too. We get on well now - he's not a naturally social man at all and would be happy, I suspect, to spend his life watching TV in his apartment - and I think he actually quite enjoys talking to me.

The only other male around is Daniel, another Korean and another teacher that in the past I was critical of. But I've completely changed my mind about Daniel now. He's very lively and sometimes annoying, but is very open and refreshing. He takes a stick around to hit the kids with, wich I think is wonderful. I also think he's a very good teacher. He helps me out if I've any problems and is instrumental in the better staffroom atmosphere as he is invariably the one to organise a few drinks after work or a meal.

The glam-girl of the staff-force (me being the glam-boy now, with my "manbag") is Jesse, an attractive young piece of meat with a tremendous body. I've not quite sussed her personaility out fully though. I think she's pleasant and friendly, but not massively exciting. David calls her a "lush", often to her face. She's a bit like a painting that moves. Her English isn't great though, which stifles flowing conversation. As a teacher I think she's probably ok, although maybe not of lasting inspiration to the kids.

She's not as bad a Julia though, with regards to teaching. I like Julia a lot, she speaks good English, is very friendly, and comes across as a thoroughly nice woman. I wish only good things for her. But teaching is not her forte. Well, she might be fine at the actual teaching side, but class control and discipline leave a little to be desired. I can always hear which classes she teaches. Some she gets on fine with, but some just run riot. Especially the horrible T7, who I have mastered and they are excellent little citizens when controlled by me, but with her it often sounds like they're using industrial drills to kill each other.

A fairly new teacher - replacing Sharon (whom I liked but always slightly intimidated by) - is Cathy. Her English isn't great and when she first started she wasn't far off being a waif, as she wisped about in shadows daintily and shyly, not daring to voice an opinion or be noticed. But she's relaxed a lot in the last month and fits in well now.

The only other teacher, therefore, is Rachel. She's not an English teacher but rather a kindergartden teacher for the mornings, who teaches the kids Korean and maths and art and stuff, instead of just hammering a foreign language at them. Her English is therefore even worse than that of the English teachers, and she has a mildly drab angry aura to her, and I've not really said much to her before.

There's Winnie too, the recpetionist, who does a little bit of kindergarten teaching. Her English isn't great but she's very friendly.

Where do I fit in? Pretty well, I think. I'm always pretty relaxed and always go out when the staff are doing something (David prefers to watch TV at home, but when he does go out makes numerous complaints that it's costing him money and energy). I get on well with everyone and don't cause any big disruptions. As far as being a teacher is concerned, I've certainly got good crowd control (there is no misbehaving in my classes) and I think some education is also magically transferred from teacher to student.

But, as The Scorpions, memorably sang about the fall of the Iron Curtain, "there's a wind of change." Not so much as wind though, as a sudden breeze as Clara looks to be gusted away and a new teacher ushered into her seat. If it turns out to be the new semi-waif, it should be ok as she seems friendly

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