Where are my sweeping manners?


I’m busy at work on my computer. I have a textbook open in front of me, looking at the key words and sentences for the lesson. I have my internet browser open, looking for the ‘perfect picture’ to represent the word, phrase, or sentence. I also have PowerPoint open, filling in over 26 slides for the game. In the midst of all this, I scarcely pay attention to my co-teacher. In my mind–if my co-teacher needs help or wants to discuss something, they will just ask for it. When that happens, I can pause what I’m doing to help out or to discuss the next lesson(s).

The Discussion:

A little later, well after the fact, I get a ‘talking to’ by a different co-teacher (Song). Apparently I highly offended my other co-teacher (Kim).

Song: You should clean the classroom more.

Me: Don’t the students clean the classroom?

Song: Yes, but the teachers should clean, too.

Me: Okay. When?

Song: If the other teacher is cleaning, you should help. Kim said you never help clean.

Me: Well, she never asked me…

My Lesson in Korean Culture:

Apparently, in Korea, elementary school teachers are responsible for the cleaning of the classrooms and the students are their ‘helpers’. (By high school, students are responsible for the classroom cleaning.) It is also part of the Confucian system that if someone is doing something, you should automatically help.

My Confusion:

In America, teachers clean their classroom if they want to. They don’t ‘have’ to because there are janitors. If I am a guest in another teacher’s room, and I see the other teacher cleaning, my instant reaction isn’t to help. If it looks like they need help, I may offer, but that’s about it. Since this isn’t my classroom, and the students clean it on a daily basis, I never gave much thought to it. On top of that, I worked in two Korean high schools before this and I NEVER saw a teacher sweeping the floor. I never swept either, nor was it ever suggested that I do.

My Thoughts on Offering to Help/Jumping  in:

I think this is an ‘American’ or even ‘Western’ mentality…but correct me if I’m wrong. If ‘Person A’ is doing something very easy, and ‘Person B’ automatically jumps in, ‘Person A’ feels insulted. ‘Person B’ has invalidated the other by suggesting that ‘Person A’ is incapable of doing a simple task on their own. I feel that ‘Person B’ should at least ASK if their help is needed before they make an assumption and act on it.  (The only exception I can think is when someone’s things spill all over the floor–then help is typically appreciated without needing to ask–although some people do get grumpy/worry you’re just going to steal their things.)

My Personal Experiences

I have felt that ‘insulted’ when a student/teacher grabs something from me that’s super light. Seriously?? I can manage…I’m not weak. I have also felt ‘insulted/uncomfortable’ when another teacher jumps in when I start straightening the desks…especially if I don’t like the way they did it because I can’t exactly go after them and fix it. *sigh*  I tend to be one who usually declines help as well. Without fail, I’m the one to say ‘No thanks. I got it.’ I’ve even fought over holding bags/groceries.

I should mention that the brooms resemble the bigger one, but with the loose/uneven ends of the smaller one. I hate dealing with them. >.<

I should mention that the brooms resemble the bigger one, but with the loose/uneven ends of the smaller one. I hate touching them. >.<

Anyone of a different opinion? Am I completely rude?  I will note that I have learned my lesson. If I see a co-teacher with a broom in hand, I shoot right up and grab another one.



  1. I hate those brooms, too. But in Japan, there was an assigned cleaning time and everyone, even the teachers, have assigned spots and duties. I did occasionally help clean in classrooms if I saw my co-teacher cleaning or if my activity had caused a mess, but even in the elementary classes, the kids were usually responsible for any extra cleaning up during the day.

    I don’t feel offended by someone helping me, but I do tend to refuse help and insist on carrying things — even if it’s a bit beyond my ability. It does depend on the person, though. I mean, if I was cleaning up my classroom in the US and a teacher passing by came in to help, they may not really be that much of a help because they wouldn’t know where things go or how I like to organize.

    But, your best bet here is to try to notice what’s going on and help out, even though you are hard at work on something. That would be the biggest challenge for me — noticing. I tend to get tunnel vision when I’m creating or planning. At least the teacher said something to you, though.

    1. Well that’s the thing. It was another teacher that said something to me…the one that said something to me didn’t even notice on their own. Yeah, I definitely get tunnel vision. I don’t quite understand the logistics here. I know they clean during lunch (when my co-teacher(s) are always conspicuously absent). In the high school, there was a designated cleaning time (homeroom teachers monitored their classrooms and other teachers sat at their desks in the teacher workroom).

  2. Anonymous · · Reply

    Cutlure differences, i know they differ from the young to the old.. things are not what they use to be. I just learn to stay in my lane. Over here black history is coming up, they asked me if i had any clothing for that occasion. I asked what is wrong with the one i am wearing..lol.. they just laughed. The school also wants the english group to put on a show for the school. I told them, my only tallent is to say jokes..so i figure i come up with five … so far i only have the parrot joke..lol.. need to write about that one..

    1. Stay away from racist jokes. hahaha! Dig up the little Johnny jokes. Those are always good.

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