Anyone here who feels bad for how hard their co-teachers work have just drank the kool-aid just a little too eagerly. Koreans are very, very, very good at giving the perception that they are working hard and terribly busy. But when you dig deeper you see the truth.

I currently teach 10 more classes a week than my co-teacher. I do almost all the prep, and have an insane amount of paperwork for afterschool classes. But you know, it’s not so bad. Yet my CT will tell me everyday how busy she is, on the verge of tears sometimes. She’ll come and interrupt my classes (while she’s on a 4 hour break) and complain that she’s so busy. When I go find her at 330 to talk about class she’s usually either fast asleep at her desk or off gossiping with the other teachers. But if we can’t discuss these pressing issues then it’s my fault because I don’t work hard enough, and she’s SO BUSY!

I’ve had many co-teachers over the years, and the story is always the same. They’ll tell me how busy Koreans are and that teachers in my home country have it so good. They’ve never let the fact that they actually have no idea what they’re talking about stop them. I don’t carry on like teachers do here, but I am without a doubt more busy than them (I have 8 more classes/week than the next ‘busy’ teacher). But when I did student teaching in my home country I was way more busy. I was at the school from 8am to 5pm, sometimes later for coaching or whatever. And I was actually doing things that entire time. Then if you’re a new teacher, like I was, and thus don’t have things prepared you have to spend the evenings and weekends prepping. Sure, my experienced partner teacher didn’t have to do that, but he was expected to always be updating his skills. Recess? Yard duty. Before and after school? Remedial and/or sports/clubs. Oh, and school was 2-4 hours longer than it is here. Elementary teachers taught everything in my area (besides French). You didn’t drop them off with the music teacher or gym teacher or science teacher. You were the music, gym and science teacher.

Don’t be fooled by the production they put on here. They learn the game early. If you’re not forever on the verge of a breakdown due to being SO BUSY, you will be thought of as less and get more work. Kids are overworked, yet they never have homework done either in PS or hogwans. And the various PC bangs around my place always have tons of bikes parked outside of them fit for 12 year olds. Yet they’re tired the next day because they work so hard. I mean it still sucks, because Koreans can’t just do their work and then have fun because it’s a 24 hour a day job trying to prove to everyone within earshot how busy you are. So you sit at a desk doing nothing for 14 hours straight instead of doing your work for 8 hours and then going to the beach the rest of the day. Eventually they start to believe they really are busy and it’s a miserable life. But even so, they are in no way ‘busier’ than anyone else. Productivity and efficiency stats prove it.

But nothing you say will ever change their minds. Busyness is part of the Korean identity. It’s why on my walk to work in the morning there are Koreans ‘running’ down the sidewalk next to me, flailing their arms, yet barely keeping pace with me. It’s why your co-teachers carry around overflowing baskets they sigh over, yet upon further inspection it’s mostly scrap paper and superfluous pencils. It’s why their desks are messy with assignments that amount to outdated books and empty folders. It’s just the way it is. And us foreigners will always be the lazy ones, because Koreans can’t be busy if we’re not lazy. —orangeman on