Travel, Teach, Live in Korea
One of the most fascinating cultural differences in Korea is how the importance of saving face affects everyone. If you put your Korean co-teacher or co-worker is in a position where he or she gets embarrassed or looks stupid, this person will change their interaction with you. This goes for teaching in schools in Busan, Seoul or any other city on the peninsula, to read this article carefully.
If you embarrass your Korean English teaching co-teacher once or twice you're fine, but let's say you get sick and cancel classes on short notice non-stop for 2 weeks. You've got a problem you'll need to address to make things right again. Typically, co-teachers understand that you are living in a country where the language, people and customs are so new to you that even after you've been living in say Seoul for example, you're still new to many things like viruses.
Always make sure you protect the public images of your co-teachers in front of their students, especially in class and especially if you are teaching in a public school where the students are older than 12. Students from middle school and public school can think on their own and draw their own conclusions. What's more, they'll go home and tell their parents about what happened. They can make your co-teacher the laughing stock of the school, all because you might have said or did something you didn't know could cause problems.
Keep in mind also that your co-teachers see their students 2-3 more times each week and they understand what the students are saying if they gossip. Your Korean co-teachers are ten times more vulnerable than you are when it comes to "the talk going around the schools" in Seoul, Busan, Suwon, etc.
If you want to have fun teaching and avoid making encounters with your co-teachers (especially in class) awkward you should always put your co-teachers first. Say your co-teacher is late for class, so you decide to begin teaching without her, which is fine. In their absence you make an innocent and harmless comment to the students about your teacher not being there. When your teacher does arrive it's already very awkward for her to be late.
Now if in addition to arriving late a student shouts "Hey teacher! Mr. Daniel was saying all kinds of things about you!" and everyone laughs: you've just put your students first at the expense of your co-teacher.
Your co-teachers will resent you for the lack of trust in not keeping their personal affairs to yourself, regardless of what you said.
Always show more favor toward your co-teacher than you do toward your students, even if you're doing it in a joking way. You need to be very careful what you say to students about teachers because they're always looking for gossip to pass on to each other about their teachers.
It's like Danny Fischer in A Stone for Danny Fischer, even though his gym teacher is spending a lot of extra time training him to be a better boxer, he still cannot resist the temptation to meddle in the man's personal affairs so he can find out something bad about the gym teacher. No matter how many sacrifices your co-teachers make, students will always be looking for a way to laugh at them behind their backs and meddle in their personal affairs.
Some ways you can save the public image of your co-teacher is by laughing in the face of your students. NEVER make a joke or put your co-teacher in an awkward position in class, especially if you'll be siding with the students. This doesn't mean you should treat your co-teachers like $750 Chrystal goblets, but keep in mind that the way they are perceived to the students is very important to them, because image is important to all Koreans, especially those living in South Korea.
Dan teachers Native English Teachers how to survive in Korea by cooking, giving and being loving at their schools. Join his free newsletter: http://www.survivalinkorea.com.
[Edited by Administrator (admin) Wed, 06 Jul 2011, 07:17 PM]