Sunday, January 3, 2010

Freezing My Buns Off in 2010

Considering that Koreans are so very proud of their four distinct seasons which includes a harsh winter (due to Siberian winds and North Korean clear-cutting), you would think these guys would be on the up-and-up about insulation and heating for the winter months. But no. ALL the entrance doors to my school are wide open and several windows have been left open to let in "fresh air" for good measure. Or you might think that since they are so proud of their Ondol (floor heating) system, they would install it in their schools instead of installing crappy air heating systems in the CEILINGS (hot air rises people!). In Canada, we insulate then weather-strip then insulate our weather stripping and cover everything up with plastic sheeting just to be safe! THEN we turn on our turbo-awesome furnace which vent hot air up from the floor.

***If you haven't guessed the tone, this entry is going to be rant-y (Yes, I can make up words, I'm an English Teacher now :D)***

I'm currently sitting in the teachers room with my winter coat, wrist warmers and scarf still on, wishing to high heaven I could wear my warm and cozy boots inside but instead I have little toe-sicles due to the fact that I have to wear my slip-on "inside" shoes. Me thinks a trip to Shinae (shopping district) for fur-lined "inside" shoes has moved to the top of my priority list.

On top of freezing at my desk, I cannot even take refuge in the usually warm and cozy "teachers rest room" which is the only 40 square feet in this building equipped with Ondol and also blankets/pillows so you can "take a rest" in super warm and cozy slumber-party fashion. I really thought this whole desk-warming thing would be fine because I could spend 50% of my day sleeping on a hot floor. (The other 50% would be spent blogging to you, naturally :P)

What is desk-warming you ask? It is a gift from the National Education Office to all of the Native English Speaking Teachers (NEST's) this year. Alittle context for you -

The public education schedule in South Korea runs like this: School starts 1st semester at the beginning of March each year. 1st semester ends in Mid to Late July. School is on "summer break" until the end of August when the 2nd Semester begins. The 2nd semester runs from the End of August until the end of December. The schools then begin "winter beak" from January to Febuary. Middle Schools and High Schools return to their classes for one in Febuary, a so-called "Graduation Week" to officially close out the school year and send the graduates on their way to High School or University.

In the past, school principals had the jurisdiction (and rightfully so) to decide what to do with the NEST. Some schools runs extra camps and classes to benefit the students who are not participating in aggressively scheduled Hogwan (private academy) programs. Others only stay open for the Administrators and higher ups to continue their work. Some close completely. So, the case has been that some NEST's end up with a lot more time off than the 26 days written in their contract for winter break or the 7 days alotted to us for summer break. -

I was one of these lucky folks. My school said "see ya later" last year on Dec 31st and I didn't return until March 2nd. Similarly, I finished teaching in Mid July after exams and didn't return to work until the end of August. This year was going to be the same deal, but the National Office has been brooding and stewing over complaints made by Korean Teachers and other NEST's about the "unfair" treatment some of us have recieved. Tired of hearing complaints and attempting to put a tighter thumb down on NEST's (thanks to the efforts of groups like the Anti-English Spectrum who very publicly denounce NEST's as lazy/incompetent/sexual predators/drunks etc etc etc) the National School Board announced that they would no longer allow schools to give their teachers more time off than what is written in the contract. If your teacher is not at the school, you don't pay them.

For some teachers, this is not a big deal. Most elementary school teachers run extra camps for the their schools during the breaks. I was asked to run some extra classes at the end of Febuary (After I return from my trip to MALAYSIA!!!)and of course agreed. The problem is that there are also many schools which do not run programs for the NEST's to participate in. Some schools are not even open to the students. This is especially true in my province, Jeollanamdo, which is less populated and much more rural than the rest of the country. The new enforcements mean we now have to come and sit at our desks from 9-5 to earn our keep, regardless of whether there is work for us to do or students for us to teach.

Not the end of the world, to get paid to do nothing. But it would nice if I wasn't freezing my butt off. And it wouldn've been nice to have had this announcement earlier than December 21, 2009. You know, that it wouldn't have screwed up my plans to travel within SK with a friend visiting from the US. Sorry Mike.

I really am just blowing off steam here. There are atleast a few other teachers here at my school teaching morning classes in January. I'm not alone with janitors like some people. I've got books to read, blogs to write, journalling to catch up on, etc etc etc.

All the recent changes just wind up making me feel like the Education board sees me as a child that must be chaperoned or an hourly worker who must be carefully watched because I can't be trusted otherwise. I know my school loves me and my co-teachers and vice-principal were really apologetic about the abrupt change to my plans for January. It just sucks that my direct employers/supervisors no longer have the authority to adjust my work schedule in ways that make sense for our particular school. It sucks to be paying for the mistakes/poor behaviour of other NEST's and xenophobic socio-political groups.

It sucks freezing my buns off for the start of 2010.

(Tomorrow I promise to be in a better mood and write to you about the awesome Christmas & New Years I had here. I just wanted to vent alittle.)


  1. Yes, It’s freezing every wherein northern hemisphere in the world. To get rid of cold I bought suntouch com's under floor heating system.