There is a prevailing notion in my school, one that is pretty inaccurate and a little funny. It is that I am a busy person.
Teaching in Canada, especially homeroom, is harried. You generally look like a headless chicken on your best day, and maybe a little like you are on fire and covered in bees the rest of the time because you are constantly sprinting from one thing to the next, all with a fleet of 20+ children or adolescents in your wake. You need to teach them science and get them to swim class, and also include music somehow in all of their lessons, make a call to child services, rewrite a dozen IEPs, begin logging their grades into the report cards, start setting up interviews with parents, eat lunch, do recess duty, and single-handedly write, produce, and direct the school play, and it has to all be done within twenty seconds ago. As a student teacher, I actually came to dread evenings and weekends. The time I wasn’t actively teaching I was planning on what I would be teaching next.
As an English teacher in Korea, I have free time. Oodles of it. Eons of it. I could do the work given to me twice-over every week and still clock out on time on a daily basis. Teaching the same lessons dozens of times certainly helps, and doing the same subject for this long now has left me a pretty deep well of activities to draw from. Thus I have a lot of downtime (and blogging time, clearly).
Other teachers seem to not be aware of this. When they approach me, they always ask a careful, plaintive, “Are you busy?” I wondered if this was politeness, dropping a phrase they know is a gentle conversation starter in English. But some will ask me in Korean, and genuinely check if I have free time. When I am summoned for some task that will take me far from my desk, they always look pained, as though I will respond with deep, great umbrage at their requests. “I am so sorry to disturb you. I know your work is of the greatest importance,” their eyes seem to say.
I can maybe understand the misinterpretation. Circumstance gives some of my fellow foreign compatriots much more work than I have. And Korean teachers are always busy. When they’re not teaching, the educational bureaucracy is so dense and robust that they basically drown in paper-work for untold hours of their days. But, being unable to adequately interpret most of the paperwork, I am exempt. I am exempt from the meetings. I am exempt from the discussions (including those discussions about English teaching and English planning, but that’s a whole separate kettle of fish).
Thus people approach me gently and ask if I’m busy. As they do, I’ll usually minimize the youtube video, stop typing up blogposts, and join them in whatever it is they want, as I’d already finished my actual work ages ago. I come off looking like I’m accommodating, when really I’m just feckless.