Monday, August 3, 2009

Dating Co-Workers and Potential Risks

Here's the question:

I'm interested in my Korean co-teacher and I think she's into me. How should I handle this? Should I ask her out? What happens if the school finds out?

First of all, I'm not the guy to give dating advice (see Dear Abby). I would suggest talking to friends about that one. Remember, dating is dating and love is love. The rules that applied to romance and dating at home pretty much apply here. There is no turn-of-the-key pick-up line or gesture. Men and women are pretty much the same all over the world.

However, I think dating co-workers, regardless of where you are employed, always creates problems. In a school, it creates even more problems and dating a co-teacher in a Korean school has the potential to create the most problems. I wouldn't recommend it, but you might not be able to resist, so I'll try my best.

You should consider how this arrangment is going to effect your job and ability to teach well. I have a hard time believing that your attention would be on teaching and in the end, that's what you're here to do. The school is paying you, so it's your responsibility to do a decent job in the classroom.

Let's pretend for a minute that dating your co-teacher wouldn't interfer with your teaching ability. In most cases, you'd still need to keep it a secret from the school. Not only is the administration going to frown upon the relationship due to obvious problems that could arise, parents are not going to be thrilled about sending their kids into the love-nest either. Whether it be your co-workers, bosses or even students, someone is bound to find out and they are likely to spill the beans to someone who shouldn't know. If the school, principal or director thinks that the relationship is a big enough problem (regardless of what you think), someone could be fired or removed and I'm willing to bet that it wouldn't be the native teacher. Do you want that responsibilty?

And just think about it. What if you start dating and then break-up? This isn't a big corporate office where you can duck behind desks. This is a small shared classroom where communication is paramount. If you dated and broke up, what would happen? Would she have to quit? Would you? I think the whole thing is very risky and doesn't sound worth the potential stress.

Of course, love blinds logic and if you're really set on it, then you must be discreet. No long stares, unecessary touching or flirting in front of students, other teachers or your principal. That's just crazy.

I have a friend who has been dating his girlfriend for nearly 8 months. They don't work for a public school, but they still have problems. The powers that be have forbidden the relationship, moved them to separate institutes and now their relationship is heavily strained and destined to fail. I could come up with dozens of reasons why some schools dislike inner-school romance and some perhaps might have to do with the fact that many of them are between Korean women and foreign men, but I think the main reason is that once the relationship starts, work performance declines. Once that goes, students leave the school or complain about the classes. The rest is history.

I know that I'm painting a rather nasty picture here and there are probably tons of teachers who have managed the work/romantic relationship with relative ease, but I think a nice cold splash of reality never hurts anybody. I know that you're in Korea not only for work, but to live, learn and love. Still, your school cares about education and that should be important to all teachers as well.

Any personal stories out there?


Chris in South Korea said...

Your easiest bet is to ask your Korean friends / co-teachers for 'introductions' - craigslist also has a good service available for the computer-minded.

On the whole, however, relationships between a Korean and Westerner have language barriers and cultural barriers to deal with. To be fair, there are lots of ways to make it work - all it takes is patience and the willingness to make it work :)

The Expat said...

Introductions to blind dates maybe, I think people are people and flirting is the same in Korea as anywhere.

It takes patience, willingness AND understanding.

kushibo said...

Don't shit where you eat.

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