All equal? Perhaps in the future

We had our regular weekly team meeting last Wednesday. There was a rumour that there was going to be a big announcement. So we all shuffled into the office, imagining what it could be. Most thought it would be the announcement of the new manager, taking over next year. It wasn’t. It was far more radical than that. We were told, essentially, our programme was being cut. This year there were 12 foreign teachers (now 11),  next year that will be reduced to three. Not only that, there will be no manager, and the teachers will have to teach different classes. They will still teach grades, but the whole school curriculum is changing. Students will have more options. Now, in Senior school they have the choice of doing either Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics), or Humanities (History, Geography, Social Science I think). From next year, as far as I can understand it, if a student wants to take Physics and History, they can. English, Chinese and Maths are compulsory for everyone and I think this will continue. However the type of classes we offer will change. We would have elective courses, but perhaps offer courses such as Public Speaking, Debate etc, and also at different levels too.

It will be completely different and could work well for some people – if they got the support they needed. However, the school has been typically vague about the specifics and only one colleague was definite about staying – and he is now looking for other jobs too. I suspect that come June, we will all be handing over our canteen cards and saying 再见 zài jiàn (goodbye) to the school….

On a different note, I’ve been a bit slow uploading photos etc from holidays, especially Seoul. Then, like buses, three posts come at once. That is because I have drafted them before and they are just waiting to be uploaded. But with the internet here, uploading photographs has been a slow, slow process. That has now finished, for a while, so I should be posting more normally from now on.

I also realised I hadn’t really commented on Seoul – I enjoyed it a lot. It was a nice, short break, and many good museums there. I don’t know much about Korean history, but it was nice to wander around and just be a tourist. Plus, my Korean student told me many places to visit so that helped too. Yes, it was cold. But actually, it was nice fresh air, and was a nice, relaxing break, and end to the holidays.

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate the achievements of women but also remember that the struggle for gender equality goes on. A couple of my male foreign teacher colleagues have expressed some attitudes today which were perhaps not in keeping with what the day represents. A common question was ‘What about International Men’s Day?’ at which point I told them it is on 19 November. Whilst I don’t want to get too much into politics here, needless to say it was disappointing to hear my colleagues speak like that. Yet equally, my students counter that and often surprise – and inspire – me.

One female student came into the office last week and told me she had selected her elective course this semester. She is taking football skills on Friday evenings after school, because why shouldn’t she learn to play? I don’t play football, and she offered to teach me. We got talking about the difference between men and women’s sports and how things are changing, albeit very, very slowly. It is people like her, who will be the force of change in the future.

And so, when I hear my male colleagues making disparaging comments about today and questioning why the day should even exist, it is equally comforting to think of the student who is playing football and breaking down barriers. It feels a bit weird wishing people Happy International Women’s Day, when the day, whilst celebrating the great achievements of women – and celebrating women themselves – is also a reminder that there is still a way to go before we have a truly inclusive, gender equal society. Nevertheless, in light of all the fantastic, amazing women in the world, Happy International Women’s Day. ♀️

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