Deskwarming: The Love/Hate Relationship

by Sharon -- June 13, 2011

“Deskwarming”- that dreaded term known to every English teacher in South Korea. It is something that foreign English teachers here don’t really know how to handle at first, then become experts in the field by the end of the year. It is a work term that is well practiced here by Korean schools. It is something that every teacher here experiences. Some will deskwarm on a daily basis while others experience it once every week, month, school break, etc.

What is deskwarming?

Let me first brief you on the daily logistics of being a Native English Teacher (NET). Every NET has a daily schedule of teaching anywhere from 2-6 classes a day. Each period is usually either 40-55 minutes long, so the remaining time of the day is spent doing either one of four things:

  1. Lesson planning/preparing for class
  2. Chatting with your fellow coworkers
  3. Eating

Anything that has to do with killing time/wasting time/goofing around/trying to get to the end of the day is deskwarming. The reason why us English teachers deskwarm so often is because the Korean working culture here REQUIRES us to be at work from our working hours. In order to even leave campus during work hours, we have to get prior approval from our Vice Principal and Principal. Thus, deskwarming becomes that dreaded time of the work day where we spend hours watching youtube videos, when we would much rather be at home… watching youtube videos.

The interesting part about deskwarming is that sometimes you wish they would cancel your classes for the day just to have some free time to think, surf the web for 30 minutes, or take a nap. Sometimes you would rather sit at your desk and give your voice a sweet break from teaching back to back classes of screaming Korean kids.

However, deskwarming is worse when it occurs during summer and winter vacations. When we are not teaching English camps during the breaks, we are still required to come to work and spend 8 hours a day sitting at our desks doing nothing. Even if you have every lesson planned down to the second for the rest of the school year, you will be required to deskwarm. Even if you have zero classes for two straight weeks, you will be required to deskwarm.

Most English teachers have discovered useful remedies to this (silly) Korean work culture phenomenon. These remedies include watching movies, catching up on tv shows, taking naps in the napping room for hours on end, studying Korean, reading books, and chatting online. The good news is that taking naps at your desk is acceptable here in Korea. Thank goodness.

Luckily for me, deskwarming hasn’t been much of an issue so far. Because of the fact that I plan my lessons on my own from scratch, teach classes by myself, make my own materials, and have to figure out my own Korean translations to aid in my lessons, (basically because of the fact that I got screwed…) I take up almost every hour of the day planning lessons. I am not one of those teachers who can go into class unprepared, nor am I one of those teachers who can figure out a lesson plan 20 minutes before class. I am well prepared for every single class that I teach, which means that I am always busy prepping and planning for future lessons at least one week in advance.

I say all this now, but check back in with me during summer break as my opinions of desk warming may have changed by then!

I tried my best, but even I can’t explain the concept of Deskwarming as eloquently as this video can illustrate:

Be awesome and help us share:

4 Responses to “Deskwarming: The Love/Hate Relationship”

  1. hahaha.. Sharon, how about taking internet class, maybe towards your teaching credential.

  2. Searching teachers’ blogs for answers, but I haven’t quite figured it out… if no one is at the school, what’s keeping you from leaving? Do you have to check in and out?

  3. Turner: that’s a good question. I’m assuming it’s mostly an honor system, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they called the office every now and then just to make sure you’re there. They don’t seem to have too much trust in us foreign teachers, since previous NET’s have done shady things here.

    I’ve also heard of another teacher whose Vice Principal had to be there if anyone was working.

  4. [...] see my friend Sharon’s excellent post about what it is here. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. « Previous [...]

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