If you’ve ever taught English in Korea, you know of the joys of desk warming. I did a Google search for “desk warming” and the whole first page was about Korea, so it seems to be a largely Korean phenomenon (maybe Japan as well). Basically, it means going into work when there is no work to do and killing time however you want. It is what I am doing right now.
There are two main strains of desk warming. The first is during the school year. Normally, English teachers in a Korean public school teach 22 classes a week, which equals about 15 hours of class time for me. However, we are expected to be in school about 40 hours a week, preparing for classes or whatever.
Now, if you are in one school, that is not unexpected. You probably have a desk or maybe even an office and can sit and do what you want until it’s time to go home. I, however, teach at four schools a week. I have known teachers who have taught at up to 7 schools in a week. When you are at multiple schools, you don’t get a desk. You either go directly to the classroom or sit in the teacher’s room, awkwardly out of place. So, a bizarre situation arises where you are supposed to stay at school all day but the school doesn’t necessarily want you there. You can go to the Education Office to kill time but they don’t necessarily have a place for you either, although they can stick you in a corner somewhere or in an empty meeting room.
The other type of desk warming is during vacations. The average English teacher gets a week or two of vacation each break but the school vacation is always longer than this, which means any day we don’t have a vacation day and there are no classes, we have to go into the Education Office for 8 hours. Some people read, watch TV shows, play computer games. I knew a teacher that curled up in a blanket and slept on the floor every day. The bosses don’t care what you do, as long as you’re physically present.
Summers aren’t too bad. The summer vacation is only about 4 weeks long now and after doing some English camps, I ended up only having to desk warm for two days this year. In the winter, though, the school vacation is over 2 months long, which means you generally end up sitting in a cold meeting room for about a month.
I’m the only one here today. I took the picture above this a few minutes ago. Either the other teachers have classes today or they just didn’t come in. I’m not really complaining since it’s not a bad gig to get paid for doing nothing.
Still, I could do nothing at home.