Monday, September 28, 2009

My life is a construction zone.

This summer during break my school decided that it needed a face lift. Honestly, it did. My school has been educating students in this little Korean town since 1965. The building we currently occupy had been standing since 1965 and had undergone very few renovations. The school had kept up with the times on some things, but overall the general impression was that the school had been haphazardly upgraded. Enter a 5 week summer break and the chance to do a thorough renovation on not just my building but the whole school.

There were several jobs that absolutely had to be completed. The first was every classroom needed a fresh coat of paint. When it had been painted last I'm not sure, but the fact is with children and their propensity for drawing on things this school needed some new looking walls. Enter men and women with paintbrushes and several different colors of paint. The result is a surprisingly more vibrant and honestly welcoming school. I actually don't feel like I'm walking the hallways of a mental institution any more. While I may still be patrolling said hallways, at least I don't feel like I'm surrounded by a world of drab white and screaming children. I'm only surrounded by screaming children.

Next, every window, and door needed to be replaced in the school. Why, I'm not entirely sure, but the school decided that it was time to upgrade the doors and windows. The last ones were working just fine but hey, I'm not the boss. Another thing that happened was they re-floored every classroom. This quite simply has been a godsend. The school had a mix of dirty linoleum, old creaky hardwood floors, and somewhat newer wood "tiled" floor. Enter the wonderful world of knock of Pergo style flooring. I am very happy that the new floors no longer squeak, creak, or make noise when I'm walking the aisles of my classrooms. Several of the auxiliary rooms have been given a complete face-lift and overall the repairs and renovations have been quite nice to experience.

However, these are all the things they have done to the interior of my school. What they did to the exterior is quite simply a tragedy. They took a classic old brick building and well, honestly I don't quite know how to explain what they did. The best way to explain what they did is that they resided the building, however there was no siding on the building before. They took my classic brick style school, and well made it metal. Yet, not only did they side it with sheet metal, they did it with multi-colored sheet metal. The colors they chose were yellow and light blue. It's not a true light blue, but it is a true yellow. We're talking like yellow Ferrari yellow. I get it, my school is old, but I didn't know that schools could have a mid-life crisis. If this wasn't enough, they decided to also have portions right in the middle of wood. They stained the wood to look like red pine. I honestly want to ask the designer what he was thinking.

This is what they have done to my building. The building across from my office has been turned from a standard school building, into something that could possibly have been dreamed by Dr. Seuss. Utilizing the same sheet metal colors, they decided to add Green accents to this building. Not only that, but they decided that the building needed to look a little more new age. Gone is the nice simple rectangular shape. Granted its not very imaginative, but this is an elementary school, not architecture school.

I was not asked about how the school should look, and honestly, while I think it looks bad, I'll deal with it. What I am not happy about however is the way that the work was done on my school. They are still not finished with my building. We are three weeks into the new semester and they are still working on my building. My office has no windows, just a plastic sheet. Luckily they are almost finished, but the time management by the company was poorly planned. They had five weeks where there were no major classes besides my English summer school. We were in a separate building and only had class for three weeks. What aggravates me the most is that they knew they were not going to have the building opposite my building done before school started. They brought in the Korean version of portable classrooms. They made classrooms out of cargo containers.

This is standard practice in Korea. They brought in enough container classrooms so that they didn't have to have the building done in time. What is problematic, is that they knew this, yet still chose to keep 1/3 of the work force working on the building that didn't have to hold classes until the start of the next school year in March. What this means is that until just recently, we have had to deal with men on scaffolding, drilling, cutting, and making all types of racket while we teach. This makes teaching English quite difficult because I already have to fight for my students attention. Needless to say I've had to remind them several times that class is not outside the window, but in front of them. They could have easily finished everything by the first week of school if they had just assigned that 1/3 of the workforce to my building. Yet, instead they chose to have nap time for 1 hour every day, and work on both buildings at the same time. If a company ran a contract like this back home there would have been major repercussions.

The worst part of all of this has been dealing with the noise pollution that construction creates. I have not had a class in three weeks where I have not had to pause and wait for someone to finish cutting, drilling, or yelling at another person. It makes the whole thing a challenge at times. Yes, its something that I have to deal with and there is nothing that I can do about it. Well I can complain to all of you and show you some pictures of what they have done to my school.

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