5.02.2010

You're not a teacher.

Sorry. I just have to get this one off my chest.

Look. We all came to Korea for different reasons. Most of my closest foreign friends here are not teachers -- they are "teachers". And that's fine. That's what Korea asks for, so that's what Korea gets. And I respect the fact that people work jobs to earn a living and provide opportunities for themselves, so long as they do what they can to successfully complete that job, even if they're not particularly fond of it.

But for those who.... oh. Look. I'm not one to run my mouth about certificates and qualifications, given that I don't have any. At all. None. I don't have any formal training, either. But I've been teaching since the age when it's realistically possible for someone to teach. Both my little brother and little cousin had learning disabilities, and the task of assisting them with not only their homework, but also additional materials to help them catch up and keep up with their classmates fell to me. And then I taught university students for nearly two years. It's something that I know I have not only an inclination toward, but also a great affinity for. I love teaching. Everybody fucking knows that. But I have no formal qualifications to speak of. That's not what I'm talking about.

Teaching is not like working the counter at the 7-11 -- it's not something just anyone can do. I believe it takes a certain natural-born constitution, as well as the ability to learn and adapt yourself, and rather quickly. It also requires a certain epic amount of patience and tolerance, not only with the students, and with yourself, but also with the fact that more times than not you're going to be dealing with an institution that wants things done a certain way, whether you think that's the best way for things to be done or not. You'll almost always have to find ways to accept things you don't think are helpful (in some cases, the opposite of), and work around what you can.

Maybe your job really is horrible. I don't know. But for some of you, the reason why you hate your job is not because your co-workers are awful, your students are stupid and your school is a disaster -- it's because you're not a teacher. You're not cut out for this. You don't care about this. And it's not a job I think anyone can do for any reasonable amount of time and stay sane if they don't have a true love for it. How is that anybody else's fault?

Where did you think you were going, and what did you think you were going to be doing once you got there? You're not amused by children. You find them disgusting and annoying. You don't know how to deal with the completely random utter nonsense that springs forth from their little mouths almost constantly. You hate being touched. You don't like repeating or explaining yourself.

What the fuck, exactly, were you thinking, then? That you'd show up here and have a fantastic year doing something you loathe, by your very nature, for 40 hours a week?

I just can't get my head around this. I really can't. And I understand that there are proper Teachers out there, with degrees and everything, who have just as many (if not more) complaints about the Korean education system, and their place within it. Those are a different set of complaints -- one I don't really have the right to tangle with, being that I don't fall into those ranks. But as for the other... I don't say this often. I go out of my way not to say this, unless in the private company of my very nearest and dearest. But please... just fuck off home, would you?

Because I'm tired of hearing out of my students how their other foreign teacher here or there is always scowling and screaming, ignoring them and refusing to talk to them, slamming doors in their faces and generally giving them the idea that they are something to be abhorred. It's not their fault -- they're just showing up to school everyday like they have to. Nobody's forcing you to be here, so get your shit together and go find something that has a shot at making you happy, instead of bringing everyone else down with you.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you would definitely make a wonderful teacher. How do I know? Because you love your job and students, and I believe those are the two absolute things a teacher should base her/his job on.

Marta said...

So true. And guess what you say doesn't only apply to teachers. In any job, if you're not cut up for it you're going to be plain miserable.
Judging by what you write, you must be an awesome teacher.

Burndog said...

It's like The Wire...some people have a badge and carry a gun...but they will be real poh-leese. It takes more than chalk stains and war stories to be a teacher!

Oh...and I am a 'real teacher' back home...and it doesn't make any difference. There are plenty of 'real teachers' in schools all over the world who couldn't teach a bottom how to fart.

Like Liam Gallagher said..."you've either got it or you ain't...and we've got it."

Whatever 'it' is.

Amanda said...

What the fuck, exactly, were you thinking, then? That you'd show up here and have a fantastic year doing something you loathe, by your very nature, for 40 hours a week?
::

They didn't realize they'd loathe it. What they thought was, "I've been in school for 12+ years, I've watched dozens of teachers teach. It looks easy. I can do that."

Diana E.S. said...

The smart ones realize that they don't actually like teaching that much. Although some of them think "I don't like kids" so they try an adult hagwon for another year.

I'm no Picasso said...

Anon -- I make my own fair share of mistakes. Every single day. I'm still figuring this teaching thing out. And I honestly don't think I could do it if I didn't love it, because it is hard sometimes.

Marta -- ... It should be common sense, right? For example, I know I could never be a waitress -- I'm terrible at multi-tasking, I can't carry things with any amount of grace, and with how snotty customers can be, I'd likely end up at the police station for giving a middle aged woman a black eye by the end of the first day.

So. I don't waitress. I'm not cut out for it. I know that.

Burndog -- I'm usually careful not to run my mouth too much, because I just sort of stumbled into this teaching thing. But you better believe I'd have jumped the hell right back out if I didn't love it. Because it would be miserable to deal with the occasional cuntiness of the students if something else wasn't making up for it.

Amanda -- That's true. And I have sympathy for those cases. But at the same time, you're an adult. No one is responsible for you being here other than you. I should think that before deciding to pick up and move your entire life to another country for a job, you would think long and hard about whether or not you could enjoy that job.

Also, the students aren't responsible for the mess you're in, so there's no reason to take it out on them. They're children who have no choice in the matter.

Diana -- For some, I guess, that might work. But what they may not realize is that adult students can often be exactly like children, only with more power to argue and kick up a fuss. Especially paying adults.

Kel said...

OMG you would be a hilarious waitress.

I'm no Picasso said...

I wouldn't even be a waitress. I would literally get fired on the first day.

Unless we're talking podunk wafflehouse diner out in the middle of nowhere. That kind of waitress, I could be excellently in a heartbeat.

Brett said...

Hey nice post.

I couldn't agree more with the sentiment. I have been thinking the same thing myself recently. I'm kinda in your position where except for a quickie TEFL course that I did for the piece of paper I really don't have any teaching qualifications. My degree was in a totally different field but I found I love teaching and I have been doing it for almost 5 years now, both here in Korea and in Japan.

But in both places I found that there are so many people that have come over for a year or two off to earn some cash, or to have a holiday that do nothing but complain about . . . well everything. Not everyone is like that but there are so many that are that to be honest it does my head in.

Sure there is stuff that sucks at work, and yes you are in another country that does stuff that is different from home. And yes some of that stuff is crappy and causes you to pull your hair out. But hey! What job doesn't have its problems, and I know that there are things from my home country that gives me as much grief if not more at times. There is really nothing special about that.

But there is so much more here (and everywhere) if you just let yourself experience it. (Man that sounds new age but I have no better way to explain it.) Since I have been here many of the foreigners that I first met when I got here have gone home, and I haven’t made a huge effort to meet lots of the new people that have come. Simply because even though it is fun to go out with them in the end it normally just turn into one big bitch session at the end of the night. And I have heard it all before. Sure some of it is true, some of it is crap, but in the end just get over it and enjoy yourself or why did you come here in the first place.

In the end I love teaching and I really enjoy living here in Korea. If others don’t that’s fine with me. I know it isn’t for everyone. But you really don’t have to tell me about it every time I meet them do they?

Gah! Sorry this comment turned into a right wall of text. Next time I will be more concise I promise!

palladin said...

Makes me wonder why anyone would come halfway across the world to do something they hate .... then keep doing it year after year. Ohh well there is a reason I don't do the teacher thing.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I didn't really give much thought to whether I would like the job or not. I didn't have a whole lot of options. Still don't, though I'm currently cobbling together a parachute, or possibly a hang-glider it isn't very far along, to make my escape from teaching.

It doesn't make me happy, but I don't take that out on the students. I don't like being mediocre, but I don't feel like I have much of a choice. I'd rather be a crappy teacher than a crappy waitress.

Tiffani said...

I agree with you Liz, and to expand on that even further...I don't understand the people that come here and make literally NO effort to learn the culture or language. Personally I thought it was kind of lame that people came without being able to read 한글 but everyone has different language learning proficiencies so that's okay. But there are so many people who came in February and STILL don't know how to read it, or how to say 감사합니다, or (channeling Sarah Palin) why there are two Koreas.

Honestly I've kind of cut myself off from some of the people I came with because they're embarrassing to be with in public...they make no effort to fit into the culture at all and that's not who I want to associate myself with.

And none of that even begins to touch their teaching ability. O_O

PD said...

this post hit really close to home because i once met a girl in america who had a terrible experience in korea. when she was sober and objective, she was really cute and smart. but when she got drunk, she showed me how hurt she was by the experience and i didn't know what to do with myself.

unbearable amount of bullshit and stress come with every job whether you absolutely love what you're doing or not. that said, i do understand why some people come here without a clue because i, like them, was clueless until ... shit. i'm still clueless. my point is, life can be extremely confusing when you're young and i understand why some people make hasty decisions without doing all the necessary research, what with the lure of cash, exotic experience in a foreign land and all. even if one did research, it's hard to prepare for a life overseas. as for the bitching and turning into an ass part ..

korea is definitely not for everyone. in fact, korea isn't for many koreans as it's not difficult to find koreans who feel completely disenfranchised by their own culture and society or koreans who just hate the way we've set up our social/educational structures and conduct our business. to be blunt, i i've never met a fellow korean who was happy with our country. ever. we're always bitching about something and in many cases justifiably so. proud? yes and that's another story. but happy? mmmmmmm...

what concerns me about jaded foreigners though isn't their negative attitudes but rather, like you alluded, the negative impact of their negative attitudes because it cuts both ways and has a lasting impact in our hermit nation. sometimes i think this is all just part of our growing pains as a country but then i see what's going on in arizona and i think, man, i just hope we don't go down that hostile path because that's really fucking ugly.

Amandan said...

I totally agree. I wish they would require SOME teaching experience. Anything, really. I taught pre-school before I came over and I have a TEFL certification, but most of my friends couldn't even imagine being in front of a classroom. For some of them it is just torture. The funny thing is, they are usually happier with how things go in their classroom (public school, at least) because they don't know anything about teaching so they can't see how outdated some of the teaching methods are here. They are just happy if they get though the day! Teaching in Korea is definitely a full time, hard core job. Everyone should come here expecting that!