Wednesday, May 6, 2009

12% of native speaker teachers in Ulsan not retained.

So says the Korea Times.
The office [of education] said that it has not renewed their contracts after judging their methods to be inappropriate for teaching students in English.

A written survey was conducted to determine how many acted decently, how faithful they were to their duty, how well they guided students and how well they taught English.
It's certainly the district's or the school's prerogative to retain or dismiss whomever it chooses, and no doubt some native speaker teachers do cause problems or otherwise don't get along with their schools. Some of these reasons are dubious, though:
Among the dismissed were those who often yelled at students, argued with Korean teachers assisting them and wore indecent clothes. Some had to visit hospital too often for weight problems and some refused to teach after school, according to the survey.

Well, teaching these after-school classes are not mandatory, although many schools will force or guilt-trip the teacher into teaching them. Those who refuse may, evidentally, find themselves without a second contract.

What has always bugged me about the evaluation process---and I'm not denying that Korean teachers are entitled to a much larger stake in the system and the schools even though they are swapped out every four years---is that native speaker teachers are getting evaluated by all their nominal coteachers, but are not afforded the chance to evaluate them in return. I don't like the idea of some "coteachers" evaluating my classes when they haven't shown up or participated all year, and I don't like that nobody hears about this behavior besides those who read my blog.

18 comments:

Chris in South Korea said...

It may be time for some of the foreign teachers to use the libel laws against their school(s) for 'damaging their reputation'... Especially if said reasons for not renewing contract prevent one from getting another job here in Korea.

livefrommasan said...

What does this mean?

"Some had to visit hospital too often for weight problems"

Normally "weight problems" don't send you to the hospital.

An Expat in Korea said...

...what's normal in Korea?

nb said...

Koreans are not mature enough to give you an objective evaluation if they dont like you. They will lie and twist things around to make you look bad.

extrakorea said...

"The office [of education] said that it has not renewed their contracts after judging their methods to be inappropriate for teaching students in English."Why were these methods deemed to "inappropriate"? Maybe because they wanted the students to talk and work together in pairs and groups, and other such nonsense from the West?

"A written survey was conducted to determine how many acted decently, how faithful they were to their duty, how well they guided students and how well they taught English."Who was surveyed? If it was the students, then it basically amounted to a popularity contest. For teachers to be fired because of teenage students, who are not mature enough to judge teachers, is inexcusable. And again, what are the criteria for teaching English "well"? Lecturing at the front of the class while students sleep at their desks?

The whole thing stinks.

livefrommasan said...

Expat in Korea: Oh right, I forgot.

3gyupsal said...

Could somebody find out how many people actually worked in Ulsan? I suspect that the figure of 12% is probably less stunning if you were to present the figure in real numbers.

Of that 12% I wonder how many were actually fired rather than just quit.

On the other hand, before everybody jumps on their high horses, of the ones that were fired, I wonder how many people actually deserved it. Because lets face it, there are always people who are irresponsible and can't do the job well. That being said, I have heard of many cases where Ko-teachers don't show up to class and don't exactly behave in something of a "professional" nature.

Brian said...

I have no doubt that 12% of native speaker teachers in any given area suck and shouldn't be extended.

Unfortunately, I'll bet those who are re-signed and those who aren't won't correspond too much to who sucks and who doesn't. There are teachers who deserve to get canned, sure. But sometimes they stick around because of intertia, or because they're popular, because they're handsome, or because the schools just figure it's easier to keep them around. Then again there are teachers who get canned because they're unpopular, ugly, or "make trouble" by bringing up their contract.

3gyupsal said...

I understand that superficial stuff like that happens, actually the crux of my last post was more suspicion of the 12% figure. Suppose 70 native speakers work in Ulsan for the public schools, that would mean that only eigh people didn't renew their contracts.

Suppose 3 or 4 people did some midnight runs, or just didn't renew their contracts for personal reasons. That is why I want to know how many NETs were in Ulsan in the first place, because if you say 12% of Ulsan's public school NETs were fired that is a lot more drastic than saying "Eight people in Ulsan wern't able to renew their public school teaching contracts."

The KT does tend to spin things. Suppose one of those NETs couldn't continue his or her contract because they had a heart attack and the National Insurance program that, we are on can't cover something like that. In the KT's parrallel universe that could turn into "Some were let go because they went to the hospital too much for weight problems."

kushibo said...

3gyupsal wrote many things I had planned to write.

After one year, 88% are still keeping their job. I think that says something about the perceived qualification of these teachers, no?

The KT is a shit-stirrer here. The other 12% were said to have been "expelled," when in fact their contracts were not renewed, far less dramatic.

Why weren't they renewed? Alleged poor teaching methods, demeanor. Oh, and "other reasons," which can mean anything, including loads of ideas that might have nothing to do with teaching.

To Bae Jong-hyun's credit, the poor teaching methods and demeanor are "alleged," but it looks like the Ulsan Education Office's attempt to play up the good qualities of the 88% who are sticking around was buried:

Most native English teachers manage conversation classes well with a high level of ability, creating friendly competition with other Korean teachers.

That should have been the lead. If I had time I would look for Korean-language stories like this to see if they were stirring the same shit.

Maybe I should write an op-ed.

An Expat in Korea said...

There is an enormous emphasis on good/bad teaching skills in this discussion, but Korea continually scores comically low on assessments of English and any visitor can confirm that their English abilities are more akin to a third world country than Germany or France (yes, even France--the French speak good English, when they can be bothered to speak it).

So maybe the Koreans aren't the best people to judge teaching ability, and their studies/judgments should be ignored, as, well, the rest of the world does.

Brian said...

A lot of good comments here, so thank you to everyone for it. I'll weigh in a little later. Just wanted to say thanks for commenting enough on another post to let me write about something other than Mad Pig Disease for the Joongang Ilbo.

kushibo said...

nb wrote:
Koreans are not mature enough to give you an objective evaluation if they dont like you. They will lie and twist things around to make you look bad.

nb, is this the kind of stuff that goes through your head all the time? If it is, then I can easily imagine why you keep facing hardship and negative experiences in Korea.

First off, if you find yourself making such sweeping generalizations about an entire country or ethnicity in this way, then it is you who lacks mature judgment.

Am I saying that there are no Koreans who are as you suggest, too immature to give you an objective evaluation if they don't like you, lying and twisting things around to make you look bad? No, I'm sure there are some. But it seems you are the one taking past negative experiences with one or more Koreans to your future encounters with completely unrelated Koreans, and then clouding that interaction. In other words, you're creating your own negative experiences.

That point aside, you also described some very petty people I worked with back in the United States, including a weekend supervisor who did not like me insisting that I be allowed to begin work at 2 p.m., as I had been promised by the general supervisor, for a shift that normally began at 1 p.m. (I was not expecting to be paid for the hour, of course) so that I could attend church (a promise I'd made to my mother so that I could have this evening and weekend job at the regional office of a credit card firm).

When the general supervisor came down on my side, she retaliated on my next evaluation by lying about how many times I'd been late for work (which was actually one, by ten minutes, owing to traffic, when she put eight or something) and stating that I had reported as double the actual number of calls I had taken from customers (which was the main task). This supervisor had it in for me and several of the other high schoolers who were working the same shift as I was, and she pulled some crap on them as well.

The bad evaluation prevented me from doing a planned lateral transfer to New Accounts, which would have been a win-win for everyone, and led to my eventual dismissal. Later on, of course, she was fired (or quit before being fired) for doing the very thing that she had done to me and others, and a few months later I was asked to return.

kushibo said...

Brian wrote:
Then again there are teachers who get canned because they're unpopular, ugly, or "make trouble" by bringing up their contract.

This is the type of thing ATEK should be focusing on. Make a large organization with corresponding clout so that these individual schools will be pressured into following the terms of their contract and not treating their teachers in an unfair or extralegal manner.

An Expat in Korea wrote:
Korea continually scores comically low on assessments of English and any visitor can confirm that their English abilities are more akin to a third world country than Germany or France (yes, even France--the French speak good English, when they can be bothered to speak it).

I've only been to France once, but I found the stereotype of the French as being surly to visitors or apoplectic to Anglophones to be completely the opposite of reality. Whether I tried to speak French or not, I got courteous replies and friendly encounters. My French is four years of middle and high school French that I mostly forgot, so I probably sounded like an idiot when I tried to parle Fran├žais, but in such cases I got loads of courteous people responding to me politely in friendly English.

As for Koreans and English, I can tell you it has improved a lot, and it will continue to improve as those who had English education from third grade or sooner go through the school system. Right now virtually all college graduates in Korea did not have English education until 7th grade, with almost no exposure to native English speakers. The first "early English" cohort started college in 2006, I believe.

Anyway, about your third world comment, I'd say Korea is much more similar to Italy.

EFL Geek said...

I have no problems with teachers being dismissed for wearing indecent clothing. Too many NS teachers in Korea do not dress appropriately for the classroom or any sort of business.

All of the other reasons are just wrong. You're too fat we don't want you. it may be true that you're too fat, but it shouldn't affect your ability to retain a job.

ROK Hound said...

My big beef with the aritcle is the whole "they were expelled" thing. No, they weren't. They completed their contracts (I assume) and were not renewed for another year. And who says all of those who were not renewed were not because it was the school's choice? How many of them did not wish to be renewed because of one reason of another? Betcha they were lumped in with the 12% who were "expelled".


I've only been to France once, but I found the stereotype of the French as being surly to visitors or apoplectic to Anglophones to be completely the opposite of reality. Whether I tried to speak French or not, I got courteous replies and friendly encounters. My French is four years of middle and high school French that I mostly forgot, so I probably sounded like an idiot when I tried to parle Fran├žaisWith one glaring exception**, I received pretty much the same treatment as you. Despite having a French last name and forgetting the French I hadn't studied for 15 years. I was pretty much fluent back then, so I was able to drudge up enough of la langue not to look like a total knob. Regadless of ym language memory, my last name, and my Quebecois accent, almost everyone were quite nice and accommodating.


**the exception being the FIRST guy I ended up talking to after landing at CDG. A dickhead French nationaliste of the first order.

baekgom84 said...

From what I can tell, it takes a lot for a native teacher to get fired or even not to retain a job here. If anything, I think a lot of schools are pretty lax about the behaviour and attitudes of the native teachers. I know a case where a group of us were basically harrasing the board of education to be stricter on one of the teachers because we were convinced he had pedophillic tendencies. Thankfully, they realised after they surveyed the students and swiftly deported him.

It's true that the reasons provided are dubious, but I suspect that not all of the relevant information was passed through the survey. Koreans (and I really hate to generalise, but I have a point to make) tend to avoid the tough, honest answer when it comes to this sort of thing, instead preferring a euphemised excuse. As in the example I mentioned above, I'll bet that the reason they gave for his dismissal wasn't actually for the reason they fired him.

If someone relatively innocent has been screwed here, then that's terrible. But I have a hunch that this might have been a bad 12%. As Brian said, 12% of native teachers anywhere tend to suck, and I actually think that's a conservative estimate.

kushibo said...

Brian, I'm disappointed that you didn't quote me in your Joongang Daily article as saying, "The KT is a shit-stirrer here."