Goodbye, Gyeongin Gyodae
After my last class as a TESOL trainer, my students took me to VIPS for lunch. If you aren’t in Korea, it’s a “Western-style” buffet– a table of salad fixings and a counter of chafing dishes and heating lamps with random mains. It was very nice– nicer than they had planned. First, they took me to Ashley’s, which has basically the exact same everything, but for half the price. Unfortunately, no one had considered that a reservation might be in order to get the one table large enough for our group at lunch time. After considerable hemming and hawing, we went across the street to VIPS for the longest lunch ever.
Although I’d been teaching them for 20 weeks, I didn’t actually really know them. Each class is 3 hours long, but the material could usually fill 4 hours, so there was never much time for chit chat. Since I don’t actually like talking to people I don’t know, my default is to treat the conversation like an interview. Which is what I did. For over two hours. W hile they went back for thirds and fourths before beginning their dessert rounds.
It was more fun than I expected, despite how it may sound here, and I kind of wish we had done it sooner in the semester. As happy as I am to be returning to YL education, I did enjoy teaching them, you know, once I had given notice and knew it wasn’t a life sentence.
The General Course definitely came to a happier ending than the YL course.
For six weeks or so leading up to the end of the semester, I had been trying to get one of the morning students to get a grip on her outstanding work. By the penultimate class, she hadn’t: passed a single quiz, written a 1,000 word report discussing the language development she had undertaken as part of the program, compiled a portfolio of her work, or earned all of the teaching competencies needed to pass. Despite all of that, she seemed confident that she could pull it all out of her butt the night before the end of the course. Stafford sent her a firmly worded email and she quietly withdrew from the course.
The evening problem child kept her form to the very end, as well. She submitted a clearly plagiarized lesson plan for her final lesson which focused on a language form I had told her repeatedly the previous week made no sense in English:
A: Do you like ___?
B: Yes, I do.
A: Here you are.
Apparently, in English, your wish is my command. Except that it’s not, because her wish was to pass and that was never going to happen.
To her credit, after 4-6 attempts at each quiz, she managed to score the required 80%. However, this was after Stafford and I separately walked her through each and every question on each quiz at least once. Not to mention that she bullied her classmates into giving her their answers, and told at least one student that she had an English professor helping her. All I can say is, I will give that professor some leeway and assume they teach conversational English and not YL education, but really, her answers were a pretty sad commentary if she was getting help. Not to mention that, in consideration of her poor language skills, I gave her credit for answers if I could see where she was going.
Anyway, on the last night of class, she turned up to teach, still needing 6 or so teaching competencies to pass (out of about 15). Stafford, Russel (my replacement), the office manager, and I all turned up to witness her lesson. It was the usual disaster and she earned none of the remaining competencies. When Stafford began giving her some politely-worded feedback (compared to mine), he told her several things she was “unable” to demonstrate. Finally, she looked at Haeseon, the office manager, and said, “Unable?” To me that sums it all up. If you are unable to understand “unable” or guess it’s meaning, either through context or knowledge of prefixes, then perhaps English education is not the career field for you.
After I told her that I didn’t believe she had written the lesson plan, she exploded and eventually Stafford and Haeseon took her to the office to “discuss” while I proctored the next lesson. She abused the two of them for an hour before leaving, only to turn up at the department head’s office the next day, full of accusations. On graduation day (Monday), she met with Stafford, Haeseon, the department head, and the dean. When the dean asked was Stafford had to say, he was presented with a stack of emails in English and Korean showing our communications with her over the entire course of the program regarding her poor performance. At that point, he looked at her and said, “You failed. What do you want me to do?”
I missed out on that drama, but I did get to attend two graduation ceremonies each followed by all-you-can-eat grilled meat.