Friday, May 15, 2015
Teacher Appreciation Day is pretty big here in Korea. It’s a respected profession and the parents love to show their thanks by giving the teachers gifts, or having their kids write notes to the teachers. Some schools apparently don’t allow big gifts, and only handmade notes/flowers/etc., but our school is not one of those schools. I walked away with a few flowers, lots of vitamins, chocolates, cookies, fresh bread, body wash, L’Occitane en Provence body spray, a Starbucks gift card and 2 bottles of wine. The elementary kids really surprised me with their thoughtfulness. Kevin walked away with Calvin Klein socks, a beautiful flower arrangement, a Starbucks gift set (including gift card and tumbler), a diffuser, vitamins, fresh bread, Burt’s Bees bath set, chocolate, a 50,000 KRW/~$50 Outback Steakhouse gift card, lots of loving cards, and I don’t remember what else.
On the surface, I would say we scored!
However, I am left feeling more unappreciated than appreciated, and it’s been pretty hard on me this weekend. I received word on Friday that the parents of my 7 year old class (the highest level 7 year old’s, don’t forget that) are unhappy with one of the Korean teachers that teaches them. They are so unhappy, they have
requested demanded she no longer teach the class. This came as a surprise to our director and the head Korean teacher for the class, as she is very hard working and seems to do a great job. However, in the hagwon world, you do what the mom’s say or you lose students. Unfortunately, it’s business first here and the parents pay about $1,000/month/child. This teacher is currently on her honeymoon right now and will be coming back to this news which makes me so sad. The director told me there are no problems with me and the parents still like me (because you bet if they don’t, I will be rid of that class as well), so for that I felt relieved.
However, when Teacher Appreciation Day rolled around, I realized that the other foreign teachers who teach my 7 year old kids’ siblings, all got personalized notes and gift cards: “Thank you for teaching X!!” It’s not the actual gift I care about here; it’s the sentiment. These parents literally went out to buy gifts and write nice things for their other kids’ teachers, but purposely did not do so for me. I moved halfway across the world to have this experience and teach their children. I’m an extremely hard worker and I always try my best, even if this is not the career path I’m going to follow when I return to the US. I have never felt so unappreciated. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this when I’m still angry, but it’s just so unbelievable to me. I’m trying to chalk it up to the fact they are just mad at the whole situation because they feel like they didn’t get a good Korean teacher and I have to take the heat for it in this way. They have to show they are serious so nobody gets any recognition, I suppose.
I feel very thankful and appreciative for the parents who did go out of their way to show me their own appreciation. We work in an environment where there really is no praise, but you will sure hear about it if you do something wrong. Any little bit of positive reinforcement keeps us going and without it, it’s really easy to feel unimportant and just plain bad.