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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Swine flu sensationalism

Daily temperature checks are part of the swine flu prevention procedure for teachers around South Korea.

As swine flu cases are predicted to dramatically increase in the USA -- and around the world -- schools in Korea are taking extra precautions.

Some parents are keeping their children home from public school or after-school programs (hagwons). And in some cases, entire schools have stopped taking field trips to English villages, like the one I work at. After the largest English village in Korea was forced to temporarily close when several teachers contracted swine flu, the already-strict precautions at my school reached new levels.


Just yesterday, this email was sent out to all teachers:

Due to swine flu precautions, the students from Wolgye Elementary School (teams 11-18) canceled this week. Therefore, we will not have any students here this Friday. All teachers will be asked to use one of their mandatory vacation days and have Friday off.

Then just a few hours ago:

All Kindy classes have been canceled for tomorrow.

This news is good and bad. Good because I don't mind programming -- which has been assigned in place of teaching -- and actually prefer that most of the time.


Bad because if students continue to cancel, the school could temporarily shut down, resulting in a week or more of unpaid leave for teachers. An easy schedule and lesson planning is one thing; being forced to take unpaid vacation is another.


Add that to the request at Monday's staff meeting that we not take any international trips for risk of being quarantined upon arriving back in Korea. So even if I did get a week of vacation, I wouldn't be able to go anywhere exciting outside of the country.


Signs are all over school imploring students to wash their hands and covering sneezes and coughs. The message doesn't seem to be sinking in though -- it would take more than two hands to count the number of times a kid has coughed directly in my face. Maybe they should be less concerned about foreign teachers giving swine flu to the students and more worried that the students are going to infect us.

I know who my money's on.


Are you nervous about swine flu? I'm really not worried at all -- if it happens, it happens. The odds are pretty strongly in favor of surviving.