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).
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.
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.
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.