Friday, December 19, 2014

The Ultimate Korean Surprise

It's not a secret that the English Program in Korea (EPIK) is undergoing huge budget cuts.  Afterall, this is the reason that I had to switch to elementary school after teaching at a high school last year.  When it came time for people in the February intake to resign their contacts last year, there were tons of high school and middle school teachers who were shocked to find out only two months before they contract ended that they would have to make the switch to elementary schools...or leave the country and face unknown job prospects back home.  Needless to say, this caused quite a bit of chaos, and I was thankful that I had six months warning about the fact that I'd have to make the switch to elementary school if I wanted to stay in Korea.

After that happened last year, we all knew that this meant that the EPIK program would be coming to an end altogether, and sooner rather than later.  We heard other warning signs of this when we heard that Chungcheongbukdo (the province right next to our province) cut ALL the EPIK positions for next year.  This was especially alarming because it's typically the urban areas that cut jobs first.  In fact, Busan and Seoul have been cutting a large amount of jobs for years, but they typically stick around in the more rural provinces for a bit longer.  However, starting next year all of the native teachers in that province will be gone.

When my friends in the February intake were asked to sign their intent for renewal a few months ago, everyone thought it was a good sign, even though we knew that big surprises could still happen...after all, last year everyone signed their intent to renew at their high schools and middle schools only to have their actual contracts arrive with assignments to elementary schools.

My friends have been waiting for well over a month for their contracts to arrive, and finally, this week they did....but again with some big surprises, not just for people in that intake, but for us all.

This year, teachers were resigned in our province, but just about everyone got assigned additional schools.  Essentially the schools of those who are leaving Korea in February are being reassigned to those of us who are staying.

Yes, that's right.  Even though I already have THREE schools, I have now been assigned two more schools.  That means that beginning in March I will be teaching at FIVE different schools.

To say I'm less than pleased is a bit of an understatement.  Although technically EPIK can do this to us--when we sign our contracts we are told where we will be teaching, but it doesn't actually say in our contract where we are teaching.  EPIK can pretty much put us at as many schools as they want as long as we are under our 22 hours.

I know nothing is ever certain in Korea, but these changes have officially put me on Korea overload.  I think I'm just sick of constantly changing schools in general.  This is my fourth year teaching and every year has been at a different school.  This time, I didn't even make it a whole year without having to start over again.  Ok, I'm not starting over completely, but yet again I have to learn a new bus schedule, make new first impressions, adapt to a new set of textbooks (because naturally every school I teach at has to use different ones), and most importantly, learn a new groups of students.

Maybe it means I'm getting to the point where I'm finally feeling ready to settle down, but these days I find myself with a much stronger desire to get back to teaching back home.  I think teaching the robotic textbook lessons of elementary school is taking its toll on me, which will only be worse in the new semester because now that I will be spread out between so many schools I'm sure I won't have any after school classes--which are when I can do my own thing instead of using the mandated textbooks and cds like I do during regular classes.

All I have to say is I'm glad that I will only have six more months of this teaching situation.  I'm thankful for the time I've had in Korea, and I'm trying to stay optimistic about my new situation for next semester, but my mind is starting to think more and more about what will come next.  I'm not the type of person who enjoys a job just because it's easy.  If I'm spending this much time at work I want it to mean something, and I think I'm getting to the point where I'm sick of going around in circles.

In the meantime, I'm trying to look on the bright side....hey, at least this means I won't have to spend so much time with my aggravating coteacher.  Plus, I have tons of traveling coming up before these changes kick in, so I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself.

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