Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What do Korean English co-teachers do when the native English teacher is sick and absent from the classroom?

For the past 10 days or so I've been battling the cough/fever/fatigue/body ache virus that's been making the rounds at my school (and probably all of Korea).

Last week I was supposed to begin the first round of speaking tests for my 2nd grade classes but Sunday night I felt so crappy, and had lost so much of my voice from coughing, that I decided there was no way I could force myself to do the speaking tests for the 2nd graders and teach my 1st grade classes too (that's a LOT of speaking!). I text messaged my co-teacher Sunday night saying that if I still felt the same way Monday morning at 6:45 I'd be taking a sick day.

Monday morning rolls around and I feel like death warmed over, and my voice was down to around 50% power . . . I text messaged my co-teacher and took a sick day.

Tuesday I forced myself to suck it up and soldier on into the school where I did two second grade classes (about 18 guys out of 38-40) worth of speaking tests, and taught my three 1st grade classes . . . it was a LONG day.

Wednesday, I pumped myself full of cough and cold meds and again soldiered on trying to ignore how crappy I felt, and did the tests and classes. On top of that I stayed at the school for my after school program gifted class that runs from 6:30 to 7:30pm. Oh my god was that a mistake. A twelve hour day when you're sick is NOT a good idea.

I text messaged my co-teacher Wednesday night, again saying that if I felt as crappy as I was and if my voice was as terrible as it was that I'd be taking another sick day. Thursday morning at 6:45am I texted her to say I wouldn't be coming in.

I have been very happy with how my school, and my co-teacher, doesn't harass me when I take a sick day. They generally accept and trust my judgement about whether or not I am able to work when I'm sick, and they accept that I'm not Korean (meaning that Korean teachers usually go into school no matter what their condition is). Also, I haven't heard a single "You should go to the hospital." from any of the co-teachers I work with--actually, I got a few text messages from the older ones after I sent them an apology text message saying I was sick and staying home where they suggested, and didn't demand/command me (wow, impressive), that I should go to the hospital. I now see this as a normal expression of concern in Korean culture but when I first got to Korea it used to bug me.

I ended up staying home on Friday too. It was a little amusing to me Friday morning when I texted my co-teacher at 6:45am to say I wouldn't be coming in again to see the first hints of alarm at my absence because there were now 3 days of speaking tests that would have to be made up, and the school schedule is already insanely full and figuring out when and how to make up the time was going to be difficult to figure out . . . but my throat felt like I'd sucked back a shaved-glass smoothie from hell, and my voice sounded like it too. My co-teacher texted me her concerns, and I decided to actually call her so she could hear what I sounded like--if there had been even a glimmer of doubt as to why I couldn't administer the speaking tests, and why I was staying home, it disappeared pretty fast! She told me to get better soon, and that on Monday we'd figure out how to reschedule the tests.

Anyways, to get to my post about what Korean English co-teachers do when the native teacher is sick and not in class . . .

I really don't understand why 99.9% of the co-teachers I've worked with, and 99.9% of the stories I've heard from other native teachers about their co-teachers, don't use the lesson plan and materials that the native teacher makes if the native teacher is sick.

Actually, I do know the reasons but it still frustrates me.

Here are some of the many reasons,

1) The KET's English language ability is "poor" (by "poor" I mean the literal performance ability, not the Korean cultural practice of being 'humble' about your abilities) and they cannot teach English in English.

2) The KET's degree of participation while co-teaching a class is little to none, so they don't know how to teach the lesson plan alone (even after having observed it several times).

3) The KET is shy and/or insecure about their English speaking ability and afraid/nervous about how students might react if they make a mistake, or say/do something wrong.

4) The KET often learns the language goals and content of the lesson DURING class along with the students, and has not mastered the content enough to teach it independently.

And the list goes on. Some of the reasons are very legitimate and understandable, and others are not.

The thing that motivated me to write this blog is that the native teacher/Korean teacher Thursday and Friday classes are at the end of the week, so in terms of my co-teachers not having learned and mastered the lesson goals and content of the week's lesson . . . that shouldn't have been an issue because they'd already co-taught/observed the lesson at least twice with me. The power point for the lesson was on the English classroom computer; there were copies of the lesson worksheets on the desk ready for the classes; the co-teachers had taught the lesson with me at least a couple times already, and had had a chance to listen to me teach and explain the lesson content, and go over the worksheet exercises; the co-teachers had heard the classroom English expressions and procedure language, and observed how I taught each stage of the lesson and how much time it took . . . simply put, the co-teachers had pretty much gotten their 'practice' co-teaching sessions done with me, had had time to observe me teaching the lesson and voluntarily choose what they want to do in terms of specific co-teaching tasks, and had had time to learn, practice, and master the lesson content . . . so you would think that if the native teacher had to take a sick day that the co-teachers might be able to teach the class alone using the lesson plan for that week--but that's not what happened.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to wordpress.com and will be blogging there from now on.

What do Korean English co-teachers do when the native English teacher is sick and absent from the classroom?

No comments: