Working with a terrible Korean co-teacher

If you just signed a public school contract, most likely you’ll have a Korean co-teacher in the classroom with you. And based on the stories I’ve heard on Facebook and from my friends, Koreans co-teachers can either be a hit or miss. They are either going to be fantastic teachers and help you in the classroom or be awful teachers and leave you to fend yourself in the classroom half the time.

My current situation is a little different. I don’t work in a public school. I work at a Chungdahm branch but my school is really small. It’s just me and two Korean teachers (both who are fluent in English). One teacher is also the manager of the English academy and with many years of experience, an overall great teacher. The other one, however, is… Well to put it bluntly, he’s the worst teacher I’ve ever had to work with. He’s THAT bad.

I’m trying to keep in mind that this is his first time teaching in a classroom setting. At his previous job, he told me he worked one on one with students and mostly focused on reading and writing. Okay, he lacks experience but I wasn’t a great teacher when I first started teaching in South Korea either. I almost ran away in my first month (that’s another story). But this teacher… Let’s call him Nick. I feel like his inexperience isn’t the biggest issue here: it’s his lack of common sense. I swear this guy has none at all.

On Friday, we had to give a book test to our April students. All of the test booklets were already printed out and stacked in the test drawer in the teacher’s room. Nick teaches a phonics class from 2:30 to 3:50 and he asked me to check the test material while he taught class. Unfortunately I was tasked with tedious advertising labor (you can read about that here) that I didn’t get around to it until 3:45 (the test starts at 4:00). At that time, I took all the tests out of the drawer, counted them, printed out more copies as needed, and stacked them neatly on the table. They were pretty hard to miss.

So it turned out that Nick has no patience whatsoever. I guess he was worried that the test materials wouldn’t be prepared in time and was panicking about it?? This made him leave in the middle of his class (around 3:10) and look for the test papers himself. He looked through the drawers, couldn’t find them, and instead of asking me where they were, HE PRINTED OUT NEW COPIES. We are talking about 30 new 10-paged booklets that we already have! He left his students in the classroom alone for 15 minutes instead of teaching them like he’s supposed to. What pissed me off the most was him TEXTING me to explain the situation. Really, the first thing he should’ve done was ask me.

Having extra test papers, whatever. We could live with that. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll get classes that are bigger than 8 students and we’ll have reason to use all 20 tests. It’s just annoying that he asked me to do something then decided to do it himself. What the actual fuck. Plus parents are paying good money for their kids to learn English at these academies and yet he has the audacity to leave his students alone in class while he goes off doing something completely unrelated to the lesson?

And this isn’t the first time he’s fucked up. He does it every. single. day.

Another example is when we teach Sprout 1 and Sprout 2. We alternate these classes so on Mondays, I teach Sprout 1 writing while he works with Sprout 2. On Wednesdays we switch and I do writing with Sprout 2 while he works with Sprout 1. Each class is 40 minutes long and somehow he never finishes the lesson in time. When I asked why, he said he spends a lot of time on discussion questions. By a lot of time, he means half the class period. Yes! 20 minutes on one or two questions.

A bit of background information: the ideal schedule of the class should be: 5 minutes chunk test, 5 minutes chunk writing, 5 minutes listening, 5 minutes speaking, and 20 minutes writing. From what he told me, his class schedule goes something like: 5 minutes chunk test, 5 minutes listening (and he skips an entire speaking page), speaking for 20 minutes, writing for 5 minutes, then he lets them out 5 minutes early. He usually only gets up to the idea map then tells the kids to write their paragraphs for homework.

The kids already have to do a writing notebook every week so it literally makes no sense for them to write down the same exact two paragraphs in their writing notebook AND their practice books. The practice book is like the first draft while the writing notebook is like the final draft. The kids know this so they usually only write in the notebook and as a result, their writing is terrible.

I talked to him about this several times and even showed him examples of the students’ writing when I teach them compared to when he teaches them. Oh boy, what a big difference there is in quality. Whichever class he teaches, their writing is significantly shorter and half the time they don’t make any sense. Sprout 1 and Sprout 2 are learning to write paragraphs for the first time so they need to consistently practice. Sure, speaking is important but not important enough to spend 20 minutes on a question or two.

There are so many other things this idiotic teacher does but I’m not gonna get into them. I am trying so hard to understand that this is his first time teaching in a classroom setting but it’s been 3 months and 3 months is enough time to know what the hell he needs to do. And to be fair, he wasn’t trained properly. The previous teacher that trained him didn’t really know how to teach the April lessons either. Adding his lack of common sense and experience to the mix doesn’t exactly make the best recipe.

I feel like at any other job, this incompetence would’ve led to him being fired already. But unfortunately, hagwons are more business than education and it’s the money that really counts. Heck, I didn’t even pass my training and I still got hired at my first school (story here).

Phew. As I was writing this, I came to the conclusion that the best way to handle this situation is to train Nick all over again. I’m going to make it my mission to help him improve his overall teaching skills. Let’s just hope he’s not as bad as a student as he is a teacher. And if he is… Well I just gotta survive 4 more months until the end of my contract and I’m outta here. I’ll never have to see him again!

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