I decided to stay home yesterday and today cause my cough was still pretty bad, and my voice was at maybe 40% of its natural power--when you lose your voice teaching English in Korea pretty much becomes mission impossible . . .
My co-teacher was amazingly understanding and sympathetic when I called her to say I was taking a sick day--and then again when I called to take another, wow! I think part of this was due to my coming to do the school promotional video on Saturday for no overtime pay and doing a good job when I was coughing and hacking and obviously not feeling well . . . the Brownie points, or should I say Scout points?, that I earned from this probably helped to a degree but I think it boils down to she's just an awesome co-teacher in general--and I'm freaking lucky to be paired up with her because not all the co-teachers I teach with would be as understanding. When I consider all the co-teachers I've taught with during the 3+ years of experience I've had, and am doing now, in the public system I am in awe of how lucky I am . . . seriously, it's like winning a lotto ticket.
On Saturday while my co-teacher and I were waiting for the camera crew to set up we chatted a bit about the cultural differences in work culture and staying home when you're sick; she sees the 'common sense' (according to western cultural logic and norms) in staying home, resting, and recovering faster when you're sick with the added bonus of not infecting co-workers and thereby reducing productivity even more . . . but she also understands and practices the Korean cultural norm of going to work when you're sick because that's 'common sense' from the Korean point of view.
Going to work when you're sick does make sense if you unpack some of the reasons behind it for school work culture in Korea. If you don't go to work in a school someone has to cover your classes. In a culure that doesn't seem to have a pool of substitute teachers to cover the sick teacher's classes the absence of the teacher is a major problem for the school and staff.
Add to the mix that test preparation and test points are more important than anything else (for the most part) and not coming in to teach and prep students for tests and to cover material is seen as shirking your duties--abandoning your post so to speak. And in a culture where the vast majority of men do military service I'm sure that this has to be embedded within the school work culture too.
Another thing is that the lesson plans foreign English teachers use generally require an understanding of communicative style language teaching that unfortunately the majority of Korean English teachers do not possess (though this is slowly changing). They might have a copy of the lesson plan, and may even have seen you teach it a few times already during the week's classes . . . but this doesn't mean they feel confident in knowing all of the classroom English commands/instructions/questions/expressions needed to teach the lesson IN ENGLISH, and when you add to this that many Korean Engish teachers lack the native teacher's innate awareness of how to run the lesson and each stage of it you can begin to see why they get upset. I think this is a big part of why Korean co-teachers generally get upset when the native teacher takes a sick day--native teachers think, "What's the problem? We've taught this lesson together 3 times already this week, and you have a copy of the lesson plan and materials...."--while the Korean teacher might be thinking, "Oh god! My English is poor and the students will be comparing my English speaking and teaching style to the native English teachers . . . and I don't understand why the native teacher does this and says that . .. " etc etc etc. There's a lot more going on with this particular situation and the multiple points of view but that's all I'm going to write about it for now.
I'm sure I could go on to unpack even more reasons but I'm going to let it rest with those. I'm still not feeling well and would like to take a 3rd sick day but I'm going to go in and see how it goes. If my voice disappears after teaching 2 or 3 classes then I'll reassess that decision, and because I showed up I think if I decide to go home due to losing my voice and still feeling crappy my co-teachers will 'understand my situation' (wow, how fun is it to use that expression and not be hearing it said to me, lol) and not be upset with me.
Being sick in Korea with no cable TV or Internet in my apartment (immigration is still processing my new alien registration card) has really sucked. I've been watching season 4 of "The Unit" to pass the time but miss being able to surf the Net, and blog if I have the energy. I'm hoping that I'll get my new alien card this week and soon after that Internet . . .
Anyways, as fun as being in a PC Bang (Internet Cafe) is it's time to head back to my apartment and rest . . . oh, and watch more episodes of The Unit--hoo-ah!
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