Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New evaluations for Korean teachers and open demonstration classes for high school parents--oops, I mean moms . . .

Today at the boys high school it was open demonstration class during two periods of the afternoon where parents of the boys, oops, I mean moms of the boys came to observe Korean teachers for the new teacher evaluations the government has introduced. I found out about this day 2 weeks ago, and find the whole thing kind of bizarre. Let me explain.

When I found out that my class would be observed by parents, oops I mean moms, for the new government teacher evaluations the first question out of my mouth was "What is being evaluated? Can I see a copy of the evaluation?" My primary co-teacher thought this was an extremely bizarre question, I don't know why, and immediately went to the evaluation papers that are used for native teachers near the end of their contracts.

I already knew that native teachers are evaluated by their co-teachers, primary co-teacher, and students near the end of their contracts, but I had never seen a translated copy of the forms with the content. I took a moment to point out that my primary co-teacher should have told me that (don't worry, I was nice about it) when I first arrived at the school (NINE MONTHS AGO), and that she should have gone over translated copies of the forms that would be used to evaluate me . . . she didn't look very happy about that. I imagine the reason being that she knows I'm right, felt a bit embarrassed, and also didn't want to have to do the work of translating the forms (which, in fairness to her, should really be done by the education office and the forms should be given to new native teachers at orientation and save Korean English teachers the hassle).

Moving past that particular gem of native teachers working in public schools I returned to asking about the government's new evaluation process and how could my co-teacher find a copy of the evaluation paper the parents, oops I mean moms, would be using to evaluate myself and the Korean English co-teachers I'd be teaching with. My co-teacher then began trying to say I didn't have to worry about any of this because it was 'only for Korean teachers' . . . but earlier she had said it was 'for my classes' . . . uhm, which was it really?

I'd also read in the Korean English news online, somewhere sorry can't remember the article, that the evaluation results of schools and teachers would be published online--THAT little tidbit had me VERY curious to find out everything I could about this . . . and I was getting nowhere fast.

The nearly 25 minute conversation about one simple question, "What will I, and my co-teacher, be evaluated on?", never really got answered. My co-teacher ended digging up an email with an attached set of evaluation forms but after showing them to me and with me asking several questions about them we both realized, sigh, that they were the forms for the native teacher evaluations that happen near the end of each contract . . . so, I was no closer to finding out anything then when I started asking questions, and I had lost 25 minutes of my life that I'll never get back. Blah . . .

For the next couple of days after that futile inquiry with my co-teacher, I asked each of my the other co-teachers I work with if they had been shown any evaluation papers, or had received memos with the evaluation criteria listed--all of them said no, and their general attitudes were of 'why are you asking me these silly questions?' Okay, message received, and I gave up my search for answers.

Over the course of the two weeks leading up to the open demo class day I tried assessing how much my co-teachers were concerned about what we'd be doing, and again received disinterested and unconcerned responses, so I just let it go. This past Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I tried to make a small effort to meet with the co-teachers who would be doing the open demo class with me but they kept saying they were busy, and while we did finally meet on Friday for a few minutes to discuss the lesson plan and content for my class (I say "my" class because I'm the one who makes the lesson plans alone, and I'm the one who does the majority of teaching when we 'co-teach') but again ran into a lack of concern.

Today, however, was the day of the open demo class and in typical Korean cultural fashion my co-teachers suddenly found their motivation and concern about the demo classes--probably because several hundred parents, oops I mean moms, descended on the school in the early afternoon to observe the open classes, lol.

At lunch time my co-teachers finally got around to helping me clean and tidy the classroom for the visit. In general, however, my co-teachers don't see the classroom we teach all my English classes in as 'their' classroom because in spite of the class being 'co-taught' the reality is that Korean English teachers see it as "Jason's class"; this general attitude usually results in a hands-off approach which places all responsibility for the classroom, lesson planning, and general teaching conditions on me.

Considering the fact that 22 classes worth of high school boys walk through the classroom each week it goes without saying that it gets dirty fast, and frequently. Ordinarily I try to get some students to help me tidy up the classroom, empty the garbage, sweep, and mop the floors about every 2-3 weeks, but for the demo class I wanted my co-teachers to take SOME responsibility for the conditions of the class . . . so with the imminent arrival of the horde of ajumma I suddenly witnessed high motivation levels on the part of ONE of my co-teachers that I'd be doing the demo classes with. The other, an older male teacher, did what most older male teachers do: pointed out the younger female teacher and suggested that she 'knows how to do the preparation' and avoided all responsibilities having to do with getting the classroom clean and organized.

The devil inside me kept whispering that I should have told my co-teachers that for this week they needed to make the lesson plans, prepare all teaching materials and photocopies of worksheets, and in general organize the classroom conditions and teaching tasks that needed to be done . . . but I really didn't feel like having the open demo class turn into a textbook lesson 7, workbook lesson 7 exercises 1-4, and Jason as 'human CD' speaking robot boy with the rest of the time in the class having me standing around waiting for my co-teacher to remember I exist as a teacher that can do other things besides drill pronunciation with the class as a chorus. I also think if I'd suggested that my co-teachers make the lesson that there would have been some resentment--which pisses me off just a 'little' bit considering I make 100% of the lessons, prep everything needed for each class, and do 70% or more of the teaching in every class, so why not have ONE LESSON in which the Korean teacher does most of the work?!--so I kept the status quo in order to maintain the peace and my relationships with my co-teachers.

The first demo class of the afternoon went pretty well. Six parents, err moms, came into the classroom all wide-eyed and a little apprehensive to see the big chubby shaved head white Canadian teacher at the front of the room who was smiling at them and waving them towards the chairs I'd finally gotten my co-teachers to find and move to the classroom. I walked to the back while the boys were entering the room, greeted them in Korean, and handed them copies of the lesson handouts. They all smiled and took the handouts, and then laughed a little when I offered them pens in case they didn't have any in their purses; thinking about this now I understand their laughter because I think it must be 'standard ajumma kit' to have several pens in one's purse at all times (you never know when you'll hear about some magical hogwan that can raise your son's test scores by 0.1% and need to write down that info!).

I then began the class with some trepidation because in my head I kept asking myself this question: if the open demo class is for the moms to evaluate the Korean teacher's teaching how much should I do, and can I safely hand the reins over to my co-teacher for different parts of the lesson that they ordinarily don't do . . . ? To be honest, I began to sweat a little because I didn't want to embarrass or somehow harm my co-teacher's evaluation (though who the hell knows what might do that as we were never told what the moms were evaluating about the class) . . .

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.

New evaluations for Korean teachers and open demonstration classes for high school parents--oops, I mean moms . . .