“You Daily Shot of Soju” is my daily format for sharing random cultural thoughts, pictures and basically anything I want to in an easy to digest and read format. Expect to be updated Monday-Thursday, and probably once on the weekend.
Korean English Education has the Power to Piss Off Everybody:
Drunken arguments make me feel more human. They remind me what it’s like to be me.
I suppose this is what constitutes the ‘Disintegration’ phase of culture shock. I can’t be totally sure, because this phase is characterized by one questioning a culture, but questioning culture is something I did back in the States also. I guess there really is no better way to forget the mistakes of your own country than by looking at the mistakes of another country.
Regardless, I need a drink and I happen to know just the place to get one. Not my local ‘Buy the Way’ but a real bar. Tonight demands dim lighting and bar stools. So I head off, down the street to take my place at the end of a bar that has dim lighting and stools. It also has snacks and a few other randoms filling some of the other bar stools.
One man, a few seats down, looks at me and says “You Teacher.”
Well, I’m a foreigner and I’m too short to be a G.I. so that pretty much leaves teacher as the only other job I can get hired for here. This man is obviously quite refined in the art of guessing.
“What you think of Korean schools,” he asked.
Well, I was a few drinks deep and so I figured honesty was, of course, the best policy.
Honesty resulted in a few more drinks and a shouting match. So, like I said…the best policy.
It was tough to have an argument regarding education between us because I suck at Korean and he sucks at English. Try having a heated drunken argument while speaking very slowly so the person can understand you. It takes lots of the heat out. Except for those moments when you are so obviously patronizing the person with your slow speech that you would come to blows except it takes the other person 2 minutes to realize what you said.
A few of his arguments that I picked up (rewritten for your convenience):
1. Foreign teachers feel a sense of entitlement without actually earning any respect.
2. We are not trained/qualified teachers.
3. We do not understand how the schools here work and therefore have no right to complain.
4. If we don’t like the set up of the schools then we should have been more careful when signing the contract. If we weren’t careful then we should just shut up or quit.
5. Native teachers don’t spend any time on creating lessons for students.
A few of my arguments:
1. We do not understand things the school does because people rarely take the time to explain things to us.
2. The government hires teachers who are not trained and gives them pre-packaged lessons that suck, this drives away qualified teachers.
3. We don’t feel a sense of entitlement so much as we feel marginalized and simply wanted to be treated with equal respect.
4. We may have been careful when signing our contract but because it was written by a Korean there was language present that seemed right at the time that doesn’t translate over cultures i.e. “Schools Off.” Which in America means nobody comes to school, where in Korea it means teachers come to school.
5. Native English Teachers are underutilized in schools or utilized improperly.
I bet that if we were removed from the context of drunken arguments that him and I probably agreed with much of what the other was saying. Nothing that we said was really that unreasonable and, in reality, are all problems facing the Korean English education system.
But in the end I felt the need to defend my profession/friends while he felt the need to defend his country. Understandable on both counts.
In fact I think everybody in the system is pretty stupid. The government who hires us is stupid for writing a contract that leaves many foreigners feeling frustrated when it’s put into practice and for hiring teachers who are not qualified, and then wondering why students can’t speak English properly.
The schools are stupid for using its native teacher as nothing more than a walking tape recorder. For shooting down any lesson ideas that is different from the pre-packaged lessons, regardless of it’s benefit. For putting the native teachers on the fringe of English education when they should be the center of it.
The native teachers are stupid because we complain about our schools, yet we don’t take the opportunities many of us are given to become better teachers or prove our worth…we have four hours at the end of each day to kill…you’re telling me you can’t rework your pre-packaged lesson to be more beneficial, or read up on current teaching theories, or study the language? Youtube is that cool?
The only person who is totally right in this situation is me…only me.
I remember while growing up, hearing a sermon where the pastor described someone he called a ‘blockhead.’ A ‘blockhead’ is someone who, no matter how much you argue with them or what you say, won’t change their opinion because they are too rooted in their own beliefs.
Looking back, now, on that conversation that’s exactly what we were. A couple of blockheads, arguing about things neither one of us fully understood nor have any power over.