It was a day to kick back a little. I had noticed that many of my students were getting weighed down with stress and fatigue, so I wanted to give us all a reprieve. Normally a long heavy day crowded with classes, I gave most of my students the option of attending, and just met them casually for small talk.
I met a few students at a campus cafe and treated them to breakfast. It was a success. There were eight of them, so I got them four large muffins and a couple of bananas to share. That was a nice time. The usual questions came up about life in Canada, studying and working abroad, and so on.
The writing class, which normally meets for two hours, only took place for one hour today. I wanted to complete a lesson with them before they do their take-home exam.
As for the afternoon class, I told them we could forego one of the quizzes, and that attendance today was optional. I proposed going for a walk and getting beverages at an outdoor restaurant up the road. Only two came. They reported that many students opted to use the time to study in the library. The two young women had not eaten lunch, so I treated them to noodles at a country outdoor restaurant across from the campus. They chit-chatted about everything.
At one point, one of these two students confided in me about some poison about staff that one of my colleagues is spreading. We know this person's bad habit of talking about others in a derogatory fashion behind their backs. I heard him talking to students in the hallway one time openly raking a teacher through the mud. The student I talked to today told me some shocking things this man has been saying about Korean and native English speaking teaching staff in the English Division. The problem seems to be getting out of hand.
This person has caused plenty of trouble before, and even had a hand in getting someone who used to be his friend fired. He is generally negative and likes to complain about the employer and teaching materials randomly. We have known him to try to befriend students and tell them dirt, presumably to build himself up by putting others down. Today, that is the picture that this student described. We have suspected that he then proceeds to try to use the support of his followers to back him up in making a case about somebody. That is what this student described.
She admonished him. She did not enjoy his class. In fact, she felt uncomfortable and he told her she should give English up. I am amazed because she is a star student in my class who works hard, speaks English a lot in class, and gets good scores. She said he complained about our standard textbook, one we have only recently adopted, and tossed it aside to have general conversation all the time. She was critical of this action because students miss out on a part of the program if the book is not followed. Also, she said he lacked direction in teaching and she felt she did not benefit. She is recommending that other students avoid him.
Oh, my! I told these two young women not to take this person's words seriously. I characteriszd his attitude and behaviour at school as poisonous, adding that it might be dangerous to confront him. He has worked for this employer for a long time, so it may be that he has an ally in the administration. After all, somebody commended him and bestowed the title of Associate Professor on his head. We have no idea why, and figure it must have been some kind of favour. except that he speaks Korean better than most of us foreign staff, and likes to schmooze with some of the management and senior staff. We know that he does not have advanced degrees, and is not assigned special duties. Though it is apparent that he is having an effect on students and is not harmless, it might be difficult to address this problem behavior.
I feel like I should say something, because the ragging on others is getting out of hand. He is saying despicable things about good people and he should be made to put a sock in it.
I have talked about this difficult situation at length, but it did not sour my whole day. In fact, I feel good. Things went well. The damage that this malevolent gossiper is wreaking registered with me, and made me contemplate raising the issue somehow. It is an important issue, that is all. I enjoyed my special time with students, and took the chance to relax a bit myself today, while I could.