- Wow, it has been a month since I posted last. I don’t know exactly where the time went but here we are.
- I am somehow aiming to write 4 posts in the next week (at around 1,000 words or so each).
This is not a 100% guarantee but it is a goal.
- I had a bad (few month!) streak of not responding to comments but I finally managed to catch up recently. I hereby swear to respond to comments on this post in a timely manner (within 10-14 days). This is as close a guarantee as we should make on such matters.
- There are discussion questions at the end of the post.
- Some of the stuff below I have written or talked about before but I hope it will be slightly new and slightly interesting in any case.
- Please expect even more meandering than usual and even less coherence (in the layperson and linguistic meanings of the word I suppose) in this series of posts.
- There are occasional footnotes where I added more detail or some
wittycommentary . These are marked by letters.
- I said above I will try to blog 4 times in the next week. They will all be on a similar theme, talking about teaching. Hopefully this series of blog posts will help me organize my thoughts a bit for an upcoming presentation.
- Now that these exciting notes are out of the way and suspense has been created here comes the post…
I first came to Korea in June of 2000. (a) (b) I was armed with white skin, a BA in history, an at-times affable personality, curiosity, and a desire to do a good job (c).I suppose I can say that I have (had?) a good work ethic. I don’t really taking money without doing a good job and my first job was no exception. This first job was working in a cram school, or hogwon, where I taught students of all ages and levels. I didn’t really get much training aside from shadowing a colleague (the man I’d soon be replacing, in fact) for a day or two. This was actually quite helpful and more training that other people in similar situations receive so I cannot and will not complain. (d)
I enjoyed this job from the start and I feel l learned a lot in those early days of teaching. There was so much to learn and so much to think about. So many critical incidents were crashing into my head at that time. I can remember learning a lot about teaching, the world and myself during those times.
In that first job I developed nice relationships with my co-workers, (e) some of whom taught Japanese and others who taught English or TOEIC. After the first little while (when the person I shadowed left) I was one of two “native speakers” at the school. I became very good friends with the other native teacher but it was much more of a social thing and was not really focused on our work or professional lives.
I don’t really remember too much about the teaching aspect from back then. Regarding discussions with my coworker I am not really sure because I don’t think we spent much time talking about teaching or beliefs or what was happening in our classes on anything less than a superficial level. We probably talked about funny utterances from students or management problems or just the themes of the day but I don’t think there was much time spent talking about teaching in what I’d now consider a productive manner. (f) We might have shared an activity from time to time or how we handled the occasional classroom management. We compared notes on students were challenging or hot.
The story I’d like to relay here actually has nothing to do with this coworker or my particular job at that time. (g) In those early days in the small city of Jinju (h) there were not a lot of foreigners foreign teachers around, or at least I didn’t see them. If I ever happened to see such a person I’d always say hello and often strike up a conversation.
I remember one such conversation very well. I literally almost bumped into Tina on the street of the trendy side of town and we ran through the standard chat on like place of work and hometown and reason for being in this far-away place. She struck me as a sincere, kind and intelligent person. I’ll never forget what she said just before we said our goodbyes. By way of an invitation she said, “You should come to the Mediterranean Sea bar (i) on Friday nights around 10. We all get together and bitch about our work.”
This struck younger me as bizarre and terrible and maybe even sad. I had an immediate and strong reaction to this invitation. It sounded like a soul killing and time wasting endeavor. I couldn’t see any need to get together with people who happen to have the first language as me just to bitch about our teaching situation in a country that we chose to come to. Why would we choose to engage in such negativity? What would bitching actually solve? Why not just get on the soju and have a nice time laughing and hanging out and talking about fun stuff? I figured there was No need to ruin my chill by engaging with complaints about students, other teachers, admin, curricula, or whatever. I decided I’d never allow myself to turn into a person who spent Friday nights bitching about my job.
I’d like to say that I never succumbed to the allure bitch fests in my time as a teacher, but that would be a lie. I will have to leave this for another post.
- Have you found bitching about teaching to be helpful or at least cathartic? Under what circumstances? What made it so?
- Do you think this sort of bitching in any way particular to Korea? Is it all particular teaching? Are accountants and plumbers doing the same thing?
- What do you consider “talking productively about teaching?”
- Have you had opportunities for productive talks about teaching? When and where? What needed to happen for these opportunities to exist?
Footnotes:a) Yes, I am that old.
b) No, I have not been in Korea the whole time.
c) That line is not completely fair to myself. I had taken a grad school class in TESOL and written my honor’s thesis on topics in the field. I’d also studied Spanish to some sort of level. I don’t know if these things mattered to my employer but they are things that I think helped me in my journey.
d) Actually I don’t know much about the typical training procedures in such situations or how clear the rules and roles are made to new teachers. I suppose it could be quite different from place to place.
(e) Oh, speaking of co-workers, here is something I wrote over on the iTDi blog about this topic.
(f) I suppose at some point I will have to define what I mean by this.
(g) It’s already been almost five years since I shared some “Reflections on Teaching, Learning and Lesson Planning” and this time period is mentioned a bit.
(h) Gyeongnam represent!
(i) That bar sucked! What a weird place. I am not sure I ever had a good time there. Well except that one time that lady propositioned me in front of here date. Actually that was more weird than fun. Anyway, it seems like I am digressing from my digression so I will stop here.