Desk warming. It's a term that may be exclusive to the ESL community. It means having to come to school and sit at your desk even when there's nothing else to do, often during school vacation time when everyone else—students and teachers alike—are on break. We as foreign teachers are contracted differently from the Korean teachers, with different vacation schedules, and so we come to a barren, abandoned school and mess around online all day while everyone else takes nice, long vacations.
This video, done as part of the "Downfall" series where people re-subtitle a section of the film about Hitler's last days, encapsulates the situation perfectly.
Right now I'm looking at 2 weeks of desk warming because the students are taking finals, but starting at the end of December there's something like 6 weeks of vacation and I expect a lot of that will be spent desk warming. The frustrating thing is I don't even know how much of it I'm expected to do.
Winter break starts December 30. I know I'll be getting a few days off for the Solar (Gregorian) New Year but then I imagine I'll be back at school on January 3rd to start desk warming. I have been told that for the last 2 weeks of January I have to take a bus everyday to Sangju, 20 kilometers away, to run what they call English camp. No, it's not camping out in the cold, thankfully, but it means teaching a class full of students I have never met English for 4 hours a day, by myself. This actually won't be that bad, with games and movies taking up most of the day.
That takes me up to the beginning of February, when I'll get another few days off for the Lunar New Year, which is February 3rd this year. Then there is inexplicably a week of school, from February 7-11, and then another 2 weeks off, during which I imagine I'll also be desk warming. Then the new semester starts on February 28.
According to my contract, I get 10 days paid vacation during the winter. I have asked when that is going to be because it would be nice to, you know, plan something but I have been told that the school cannot plan that far ahead. No, seriously. Basically, I have to sit around until someone tells me (likely the day before) that it's time to take my vacation.
I feel Hitler's pain, I really do.