Here's a story that evidently has been making the rounds fairly well in Korea today, as even my boyfriend, who is in no way seeking out information on the subject, has seen it.
Carlos is a foreign teacher who has been here since 2004. The long and the short of it is, last year he decided he wanted to become a homeroom teacher, and, after some initial (and understandable) doubts, his principal allowed him the chance. He took one of the lowest performing classes and took them up well above the average.
I hear a lot of talk about how we are not taken seriously, we are not given the chance to be effective teachers, and we rank so lowly on the totem pole. There are no doubt a multitude of ways that the system could be improved, and also, I'm sure, a lot of schools and coworkers who do more to hinder than to help their foreign teachers. But I wonder if this story will get as much play in the foreigner blogosphere as the one a few months back about how Koreans find foreign teachers to be useless. Because it certainly seems to me to be getting a lot more attention from Koreans. And if you're left with any doubt, take the time to read the overwhelmingly positive comments below.
One teacher, who decided to push his own limitations, those of his students, and also to challenge the expectations his coworkers, superiors and students' parents had for him. He volunteered for Saturday classes, took the initiative to put out an English newspaper, organized out of school English activities and field trips for the students (anyone else get interviewed in Insadong last year?). He learned Korean. He gave himself more and more and more responsibility. And, although he is only doing what every Korean teacher does on a daily basis, he's being praised beyond belief for it, not necessarily because people didn't expect him to be able to do it, but because he took the initiative to do the hard work which wasn't ever expected of him.
Busan's upset tonight, because he knows I've seen it. He's afraid I'm going to get ideas, and he's already seen me completely deflated from my Korean studies this week. I feel like Korean is definitely schooling me, and he's not used to seeing me like this. Last night he just sat and stared at my face: "It's not like you...."
Now he's worried. "Just study first. You don't need to hurry." I'm not in a terrible hurry, and even if I was, I'm nowhere near ready. But I'd be lying if I said Carlos hasn't set an example for me.