In case you hadn’t been reading my previous blogs, you might not know that I am an Englishman that is currently living in Korea and married to a Korean woman. This has given me first hand experience of a fairly typical Korean family. This is an experience that has not always been plain sailing and is interesting because the nature of the family here in Korea is completely different to that in Western countries, and a million miles away from that of my own.
I am now 31 years of age, and although I think I look and feel a lot younger, I do wonder just how great it would have been if I had come to Korea much earlier. I contemplate just what a fantastic experience and opportunity it would have been for me when I had just left university. Don’t get me wrong, going to teach in Korea is a fantastic experience at any age and I would thoroughly recommend it, but my gosh would it have been useful to know about at 21. This is my guide for graduates and anyone thinking of coming to Korea to teach. I think that you can infer from what I have written, that I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to come.
As an interesting thought experiment, in my last blog, I introduced the idea of having a Far East Native teacher programme in our own Western countries. I have no illusions that it will actually happen and there would be some changes to make to the programme, for sure, but I think it could run in roughly the same way. I think this would be of great value to our students in the west and might just give our rather stagnant education system a little shot in the arm. It would be a refreshing, interesting, open-minded, and important change, but there would be some unique problems for Far East teachers, that westerners do not have when they go to Asia to teach.
Problems for Far East Teachers in the West (I will use England and Korea as an examples)
1. Discipline of Students
I guess you could briefly summarise my feeling of the worth of a Native English teacher in Korea, as someone that should be an inspiration to the students, and someone who is prepared to be inspired by the students themselves and the Korean people they meet everyday, during their stay. On making this statement I am aware that I maybe guilty on two charges; that of being overly dramatic, and that of being arrogant in thinking that I can be inspirational to them. I am not one to be dramatic, so I am going to defend myself on this charge by asking a question; if you are doing something (a job), which you go to almost everyday, and spend more time doing than possibly seeing your best friends, what’s the point unless you can enjoy it and in a way that enriches your life? Not everyone can be a doctor, or a marine biologist (my ideal profession), so why not find a way to enjoy and learn the most that you can from your work?
In my last post, I identified the reasons why Native English teachers essentially do not help in achieving higher test results for Korean students, but are valuable in other senses. When I first saw the figures from Seoul, for the lack of improvement in English since the introduction of the Native teacher programme, I thought deeply about the usefulness of my own position in my school. I think despite the fact that English teachers get paid well here in Korea, the schools themselves can make the foreign teacher feel fairly surplus to requirements sometimes. The figures from Seoul and this fact made me question the meaning of my existence in my position at the school. I could give many examples of the lack of importance I feel sometimes, but I shall just give one particularly irksome example from last year;
I am currently working in South Korea as an English teacher, and enjoying the culture change very much. I am employed to teach high school students English, and invariably about western culture. The governments in South Korea, Japan, and China, feel that it is very important for children to learn English, and although they have many English teachers of their own, teachers that are good at speaking are in short supply. On top of this there is a slight attitude of fear and distrust among far-eastern countries of people from English speaking nations, and the western world in general. With this in mind, they see the need to employ native English speakers, to improve English so that people from these countries are ready for business in a globalised economy.