On Friday, Sue told us that we were to attend a "foreigner meeting" at 10:30 on Monday (today). I had read on Facebook that it was apparently a "sex ed" class and that only hagwon teachers would be in attendance.
I expected a big meeting hall in city hall with a moderately formal atmosphere and a Korean official of some kind doing the talking.
When we got into the cab and handed the driver the note (in Korean) we were given, he had no idea where to take us. He asked us many questions that we didn't understand and eventually Ian called Julia and had her talk to the driver. He took us to a parking lot surrounded by three buildings. No one else was in the lot and we had no idea which building our meeting was in. There was a man walking into one of the buildings, so we gave him the note hoping he would help us, but he just smiled and bowed. That building turned out to be a gym. The next one was an empty Tae Kwon Do studio. So, we tried the last building and found the meeting and were handed pamphlets. They were already 30 minutes into it. Our hagwon had misinformed us. There were maybe 15 people there and Andrew (a foreign teacher who has been here for about six months) was in the middle of the room doing the speaking. Unfortunately, Ian and I arrived just seconds before Andrew spoke briefly on taking one's job seriously (as in, show up on time). Andrew's far too nice to call us out or even think to, but I apologized after the meeting.
The topic was not sexual education, at least, not really. The first half hour (which we missed, but I read in the pamphlet) seemed to be about cultural and workplace differences and how to deal with them. Basically, foreigners are to kowtow (a word which, by the way, literally means to bow and touch one's forehead to the ground- a bow practiced in Korea under special circumstances and on holidays) to everything their employers ask. Supervisors do not expect to be questioned, so it should not be done unless one's reasons are very strong. The second half of the meeting covered appropriate behavior between foreign teachers and students. Basically, they have parents at home to cuddle them and Korean teachers to discipline them, so do not touch them. It is too easy for children to embellish stories and too difficult for foreigners to defend themselves. No touch is good touch, completely contrary to what Julia has been demanding of us. She has told me on several occasions to touch and cuddle my students so that on the street they may run up to me and hug me. Ian actually told one of the Korean teachers at the meeting about our hagwon's request and she told us we were better off not touching students at all. At the end of the meeting they reminded us not to private tutor.
Andrew later told us that it wasn't until Friday that he was told he'd be speaking at this meeting. And even then, he was told he'd say a few words (in reality, he was handed a pamphlet and told to go for it). Apparently, these meetings will be held twice a year. Luckily, we'll be gone before the next one.
This meeting was just a further reminder of the bum deal we got with our hagwon. Granted, they pay us well and on time, but they treat us pretty terribly. As far as I could tell, all the other teachers came in groups, escorted by at least one Korean teacher. Many of the schools provided transportation and lunch or coffee afterward. Ian and I were left to catch taxis with no information as to where we'd be going (not too mention the start time miscommunication). We left feeling alone and abused, not a good start to a week.
Last I heard, we still have a mandatory meeting with Julia tomorrow, so the good times will keep coming.