Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Twice in one day? Phwoar!

.. you can tell I'm stuck at school deskwarming^^ Anyway the first was just pictures of random fat animals so I figure you can deal with it. And this might actually have some content - it's a reblog of a post by Burndog giving some credit to GEPIK (Gyeonggi-do EPIK) co-ordinators and telling everyone to give them some much deserved slack instead of getting their panties in a twist over mini-crises they don't have the common sense or mental wherewithal to deal with themselves. Now fair enough, there are some real problems that many teachers, both Korean and NESTs, run into in these jobs that require not only teaching skills but interpersonal skills and not a bit of cross-cultural understanding, but let's face it, a lot of the "horror stories" you hear from people teaching overseas are either greatly exaggerated, extremely biased and likely selectively told, or come about mostly because people are selfish idiots incapable of seeing things from someone else's point of view or because they have never lived away from home or by themselves before (and often certainly not together) and are just not at the stage where they can deal with problems on their own. And fair enough - we all run into problems like this in our daily lives, but it's a whole 'nother thing to take it beyond whinging to your friends (or the uncaring cyber world, hehe) and create such a fuss that it makes further problems for yourself and everyone else you drag into it, as well as making a bad reputation for other people in your situation who have managed to do ok.

And this is where my problem is - our EPIK co-ordinators and the staff at our Office of Education here in Cheongju for the whole of the Chungbuk province work really hard to help us and try and give us a good start to our lives here, probably more than they might feel obligated to were we not in Korea. And yes, that isn't always the case - you might be really unlucky and have a crappy co-teacher who has no interest in helping you and in fact hates and resents you (which is quite common) but there are most certainly also a good number of lazy bums working as NESTs with a huge sense of self-entitlement who are only here for the money because they couldn't get a job at home. And frankly, that's the major reason I came here when I did too, as did a lot of my friends, but the major difference there is that we all also had at least some vestige of a positive attitude and tried to make some adjustments to living here in another country and enjoy the things that worked for us, beyond soju and samgyopsal. Even those who never managed to learn more than "kamsahamnida" or get beyond trying soondae that one time they didn't really know what it was, the people I've actually stayed friends with have all done at least a year and stuck it out with varying degrees of success, and problems and crying and drunken rants aside, we've all had a generally positive view of some aspect or another of the experience in common. So there is a lot less thankfulness out there than is deserved, and people always seem much quicker to bitch rather than laud, so maybe if you haven't done it yet and are still teaching, you should take the time to write a quick thankyou email to your co-ordinator.

Not to gloat but personally, I think I've actually been really lucky and had a good school with supportive teachers. Sure there have been minor problems (14 hour teaching day anyone?), but nothing to blow out of proportion that I had to run crying to my mummy (the Office of Education/POE) about. I know this has been helped by the fact that I do speak some Korean, and the teachers here like that I can at least understand them a bit, which I think has also made them more forgiving of my quieter personality (i.e. why not all foreigners are as loud as most North American teachers), peanut allergy (a surefire topic for conversation at any meal featuring the dreaded nut) and inability to drink soju in large quantities. I've also had a great EPIK co-ordinator (by this I mean the head of the NEST liason office-y person), Mary Hahn, who I'm pretty certain is asked to do everything and anything involving English or English speakers at the POE rather than just what her job description says, and who has always done her best to help us resolve our issues and questions here, no matter how trivial. Case in point at our Orientation - someone asking why they didn't have an oven in their place and when the POE would be buying one for us (yes, I'm serious). Even though Korean apartments generally don't have ovens, we have more than enough money to spare to spring for a small one on our own and no-one has the room for a real one anyway. Mary calmly explained that our school sets up our apartments for us (which we had just been talking about) and recommended a few places we could go to buy one. Or the person who asked the same thing but about an air conditioner who seemed to think it was a life necessity rather than a luxury.

Well anyway, organising going home has made me think about all of this, as there is a new teacher coming in to replace me that I'm going to write a letter to (ala Lara-style! which I know Edithe was very grateful for) who I hope at least appreciates the teachers at the school and the things she has easy, as I know she's probably not going to be able to appreciate the students.
Anyway, this is the reblog - sorry for the rant :) I actually went off ole Burndog a bit and actually unsubscribed from his now main Tumblr blog as he apparently got a new smartphone or discovered Instagram or something because he started filling his blog with slightly wanky Instagrammed photos of pretty much nothing anyone else but him would have any interest in seeing (and even then I can't imagine him being thrilled to look at those pictures more than once), rather than the bile-filled but well written rants I quite enjoy reading, but hey, it's his blog. I'm sure there are people out there who rolled their eyes and instantly closed my blog page after finding more pictures of fat animals eating this morning too :)

Thank-you GEPIK co-ordinators!

Hello Burnchums...the below is a re-post of something I posted over on Tumblr...BUT...I decided that it's worth posting here too. For your reading joy.

Howdy Burnfans!

Today, I'm gonna re-post a Facebook status update that I wrote...and I'm going to add some shit to what I wrote. Anyways...here's what I wrote -

"As we enter the final stretch of the current school year...how about all of my GEPIK teaching friends spare a moment of their time to think of the great work that our GEPIK co-ordinators do. They get served shit sandwiches all day, generally dealing with the worst kind of teachers (both domestic and imported) and their stupid demands...YET...they always do their best to help us, train us, and make sure that we still have jobs! So...let's all say something that we humble teachers never seem to say...thank-you GEPIK co-ordinators...you're a bunch of champions and we'd all be fucked without you!

Sorry...but sick of the sea of negativity toward everything lately...especially when most of it is based on rumours, innuendo, or ignorance!"

Now...I'm horribly biased...I've been in Korea for almost four years...and I've only ever worked for one GEPIK school. When I first arrived at my school…I was very worried. I wasn’t told a lot about what was going to happen or how I was going to do my job, and to make matters worse, I had no co-teacher. When I decided to come to Korea, one of the great perks of the job was that an experienced and dedicated Korean teacher would be available to help me plan and teach every lesson. So, when I realized that my school had gone a different road, I freaked out. I spent most of my first morning looking for flights home, and most of my first afternoon on the phone to GEPIK. I was frightened. I was freaking out. GEPIK couldn't do shit to help me. The bottom line is that they can talk to the school and suggest that the school follow the more conventional model...but at the end of the day, the Principal decides how shit works.

What I got out of this situation was an understanding of how shit actually works, and exactly where GEPIK's responsibilities start and finish.

So...near the end of my first year, Dain Bae asked for people to volunteer to become GEPIK Reps...which was basically a system where people who have been with GEPIK for a year or more, make themselves available to new starters who need help. I wasn't keen to do it...but my best mate John wanted to give it a go...so I jumped on board! Now...the GEPIK Reps have been replaced by GEPIK co-ordinators...but here's an example of the kind of emails that I would get when I was repping -

"I am a ESL teacher in Suwon. I have problems with my Korean co-teacher, and not a soul to talk to about how to deal with them. In the recent past I have spoken to my Principal and Vice-Principal, but as far as I can see they just want to sweep the problems under the nearest rug. I am angry and depressed over my situation here; and feel so alone that I wish I could sprout wings and fly across the ocean. I asked the Vice Principal of my school to please provide me with someone I can go to, but I have heard nothing from anyone. I know they just wish I would just stop "being a problem". Unbeknowest to them I am not the problem, but she is Korean and I am not so to me that pretty much says it all. My Korean co-teacher has many people to discuss what she sees as the problem. I have no one, and I fantasize about just packing up and leaving.
I don't know what to do. Any suggestions?"

Now...that's just one email. Most of the emails were a LOT less dramatic. The above email doesn't really contain any information...the person asks for suggestions...but doesn't explain what the problems are...aside from the fact that the co-teacher is Korean. I ended up giving up an entire Sunday to go and have coffee with this teacher...and the problem was that they had told their co-teacher to 'shut the fuck up' in front of an entire class...and then when the co-teacher spoke...they slapped her (not very hard!) across the face. Suggestions? Well...going home seems a good one...or at the very least moving to a different job. Once you slap your co...there's no coming back.

Now...that's an example of an email that I received as a GEPIK Rep...here's an email that was sent to the blog a year or so ago...when I mentioned that I was going to be giving a speech at GEPIK Orientation -

"I am currently having a very hard time with the replacement Korean English teacher. She replaced a Korean teacher that I was working with for six months. She told me to my face how the Korean language is more important than the English language. Well, that is fine, but not in the English classroom. In an English classroom, English should be the dominant language.

I actually had to raise my voice and shout. I have spoken to not only the Vice Principal but also the Principal of my school with her and without her. Along with a hard copy writing about what she did. She is more than mean and she said that I do not even know how to do word processing. That was more than a problem comment. My old job was in the computer industry and my fiance is a computer developer. He does not like how she has been treating me also. Along with, the computer that she made me have is in all Korean (since she has the computer with the English programming and words that I use to have). I can not read Korean. I have had to ask her for simple things regarding the computer and I feel as though it was not fair at all. Her bad flow is now starting to affect/effect my fiance's work. I do not want that to continue. That is not fair for either of our futures.

Lastly, she knows that I might be pregnant. The doctor told me to wait until August to come back in until then. Since having this new Korean teacher (she only has a year of teaching under her belt before here), I have been sick a lot more than usual. How much abuse do I have to put up with? Her actions make me sick. I am bi-polar and am being treated for it. She did cause it to act up after being stable with high fluctuations. That is not a joke. That means loss of money somewhere. Along with, she definitely loves to feed off my cousin who was a Vice Principal in Illinois and my other cousin who was born in South Africa. Oh, plus my family members who actually do have a lot more than she will ever make. Know what, that is fine if she wouldn't be such a for real bitch. She even used a ruler on the students right in front of me in class. Who is going to pay for all the backlashes from that? The school district?

She decided that she wanted my room painted and wanted me to move everything. Well, for real I don't feel like I should be moving everything. Should I be pregnant, it is considered high risk since I am over the age of 35. She does not seem to understand that since she already had a child at an age of 24. Some of us were not so lucky at that age. She continuously smirks and is not even close to being nice.

Please respond when you have a chance. Oh, I can not always remember here either since she definitely does not watch the flow like I have always had to.

Lastly, someone stole $1,800 out of my bank account. Magically, it disappeared and within one week - my Dad did have a heart attack. Oopsy, that money would of covered him to not have the heart attack.
Not exactly fair, administrators from South Korea even. Not even nailed down to Gyeonggi Province since the Principals wife had cancer. That cancer might spread somewhere not good if that Korean teacher doesn't start behaving. That I did learn from the doctors in my family and from the other doctors that I am required to assist. Don't really want to help her anymore at all. Not even a little bit. I did hold my tongue for four months also with her."
Now, if a humble blogger can receive an email as loopy as that, can you even begin to imagine the sort of shit that the GEPIK co-ordinators get every single day? See...the trouble is...when we think of GEPIK co-ordinators and the questions that they must be asked...we think of the perfectly reasonable shit that we think about. For example...I don't know whether or not I'm gonna need a TESL or TEFL or TESOL or whatever it is, next time I renew. I have NO IDEA! I don't even know who to ask. The question that I have...is perfectly reasonable...so I imagine that everyone else is reasonable...BUT...they're not. There are a lot of nutjobs out there...and the GEPIK co-ordinators get calls from foreign teachers, Korean teachers, and recruiters and administrators...all with questions, queries and complaints. What a fucking life hey?

Well...why not add into the mix the constant shit pouring downstream from the government reducing funding, demanding more training hours, changing paygrades, and altering hiring requirements (all of which GEPIK gets criticised for by NETs who somehow think that GEPIK hates NETs)? Why not throw in teachers who do selfish and stupid shit like midnight runs, that have a huge negative impact on the students and teachers at the schools that are left behind? Well...it's a lot of shit to deal with isn't it?

Now...I'm not entirely sure why I decided to write this. I mean...I'm out of here in the not too distant future...so there's no real reason for me to care about this stuff...but...I guess that I feel like there's a lot of shit that gets said about GEPIK, and there's not much that gets said on GEPIK's behalf...so this rant is my way of trying to get people to understand why it might be difficult to get their GEPIK co-ordinator on the phone whenever they want to, and why the co-ordinator might sound a little wary when you do get hold of them!

Let's all just be nice to one another hey?
I seriously could barely even understand what that bi-polar woman was talking about. It makes me annoyed that people who can't even write coherently are English teachersㅠㅠ


  1. So I read through the uber-long post and have a couple of things to say:

    2. People need to understand that living in another place is difficult. Things are not going to go your way, particularly when you are in a foreign country where getting your needs understood is difficult.
    3. The point of the year abroad may be to make money, but it is also to experience a new culture and HAVE FUN! Not complain about every little thing.


  2. "Anyway, this is the reblog - sorry for the rant :) I actually went off ole Burndog a bit and actually unsubscribed from his now main Tumblr blog as he apparently got a new smartphone or discovered Instagram or something because he started filling his blog with slightly wanky Instagrammed photos of pretty much nothing anyone else but him would have any interest in seeing (and even then I can't imagine him being thrilled to look at those pictures more than once), rather than the bile-filled but well written rants I quite enjoy reading, but hey, it's his blog."

    Well...you should steel yourself for a good old fashioned Burndog rant...aimed at YOU!!!!

    Just kidding! Thanks re-posting my shitty words...it's nice to see someone else who acutally gets the whole two-way street thing. I like that.

    The photo thing. I can explain that. Firstly...they aren't Instagrammed....they're real photos, taken with a real camera. I promise. The reason why I started posting the photos more and ranting less is a little bit complicated...but fuck it...I'm on someone elses blog for a chage so I might as well be verbose! I'm in the midst of taking legal action against someone because of an email that they sent to a journalist, where they said some rubbishy things about me. This pissed me off...as did the fact that this person kept writing shit about me on their blog. SO...in order to stop myself from writing horrible things that would be unhelpful...I started posting a photo each day. The other reason is because I'm busy...but I feel like a cunt if I don't do anything on the blog...so if I chuck a photo up it helps my obsessive compulsive side.

    So...here's the deal...if you promise me that you'll come back to the dark side and follow my piece of shit blog again...and if you call me Dragon Slayer and put me in your blogroll (as the glorious Roboseyo did before you!)...then I shall call you loyal Burnfan and I promise to never post more than two photos of anything in any given week.

    What do you say? Deal???

    Email me at burndoggy@hotmail.com and let me know...the Dragon Slayer part isn't the dealbreaker that you might think it is.

    Thanks again.