Saturday, February 4, 2012

Difficult Relationships (21 June)

By the time I meet M for dinner at Hoa Binh, I’m exhausted.  It’s been a long and frustrating day and, although I don’t like hearing myself complain constantly, I can’t seem to stop venting about things at school – particularly increasingly difficult relationships with NZ1 and NZ2.

We’re currently working on a writing textbook for the second graders to use next semester.  It was my suggestion so that we can create a textbook/workbook that the students can use fully rather than one that requires the omission of several pages and/or exercises.  Since I only teach second graders, I’m willing to compile the textbook – or at least most of it – myself.  However, in the interest of fairness, my co-teachers recommend that NZ1, NZ2 and myself all contribute equally to the book since we’ll all have to teach from it next semester.  We’ve already decided on the chapters and divided the work and now we’re currently writing the content.

Frustrated at all of the examples provided by the Kiwis being New Zealand culture, I ask if it’s possible to include non-New Zealand examples too.  This request seems to be met with some hostility and one of them actually tells me that “our contracts say that we have to teach culture.”  I’m shocked by such a closed approach.  Yes, our contracts do say that we have to teach culture but surely we should also try to include other cultures – particularly when two-thirds of the NETs at my school are from the same country.

Three's A Crowd

I’m beginning to dread work as it’s clear that three is a crowd.  I understand that NZ1 and NZ2 have much in common and that, for all intents and purposes, I’m the outsider.  However, the sometimes patronising and hostile comments from them are becoming unbearable, and I’m starting to wonder if it’s too late for me to request a transfer to another school when I renew my contract.  As much as I love my school and my students, I can’t bear the current working atmosphere among the foreign teachers.  In the interest of fairness, I’m sure that I’ve done much to annoy them too, but I make no apologies for having a different work ethic.  School can be an incredibly lonely place at times though because, to a certain extent, the foreign teachers are expected to get along.  After all, we all speak the same language and we should be able to communicate, professionally, with one another even if we don’t particularly like one another. 

The day comes to a perfect end when Sunny, the International Coordinator at the Gunsan Medical Centre, phones to tell me that I failed the drug test on the annual physical that I have to have done as part of my contract renewal.  Puzzled as to how I could have failed this test, I remember the endoscopy that I had done yesterday morning, for which I was sedated.  When I remember that I returned to school as high as a kite after the endoscopy, I’m not surprised that I failed the drug test and I re-schedule this component for that Friday afternoon.

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