I thought I would share some of my experience while teaching in South-Korea.
Issues regarding quality and Early Childhood professionals that are being discussed in my area – From what I have noticed in South-Korea, the quality of what I taught wasn’t really of importance. If I get the students to participate, forming somewhat of a dialogue with others and my appearance is “great” – meaning, I’m full of energy, happy, engaging with students, looks pretty, etc., then my employer is happy. When applying for an ESL job in South-Korea it is all about how you look and what is on your CV, but when you arrive and start teaching, it’s all about how you are full of energy and letting the students grow in whatever direction they can.
The system in my area worked very strange. For example, I studied Foundation Phase Education, so in my home country, South-Africa, I am certified to teach kindergarten up to grade 3. It would be very unlikely for me to teach older students. In Korea, the teachers change every year. You put a request in for what grade you would like to teach, but the school board decides where you will go. MEaning, one year you are a grade 1 teacher and the next, you might be a grade 5 teacher. This showed me that the quality of what these teachers produce cannot be of a high standard. Every year will be their “first” year of teaching. Does it not matter where your passion lies or what you are great in?
The opportunities and requirements for professional development where next to nothing. When I arrived in Korea, I had a 3 to 4 day “introduction.” This has nothing really to do with teaching. More about the culture and how things work teaching in a foreign country. Every year, we what a seminar of a few days, and it always just turns out to be a big “complain” day of what we as teachers find wrong with the education system. There are no other opportunities for us to develop more in our practice. If you want to add more to your CV or update your knowledge, it will be on your own time and money.
For me however, to stay a certified teacher in South-Africa while being abroad, I have to do a certain amount of workshops in order for me to keep my teaching license. I do online work to prove that I am constantly developing professionally.
I do know that my Korean co-workers have training at least once every two months. It is mostly a Friday afternoon, or it will be a week during vacation. This is mandatory for all teachers. They have to do a certain amount of training in a year as well. The school keeps record of this and send their teachers off whenever it is time and/or needed. There are definitely opportunities for professional development, but for my co-teachers and not for me as an ESL foreign teacher.
Goals, Hopes, and Dreams
From time to time I still feel a little lost of what I want as an end result in my career. I am more focused on my journey right now. In our other classes, we’ve talked a lot about what are our hopes, dreams, and goals as teachers. I want to be and have everything!! I want to gain all the knowledge I possibly can. Maybe open a playschool, open a big motor skills development center, or even move to occupational therapy with children. I want to be the best teacher I can be, be a model for others or be a grade 1 homeroom teacher. I’m not sure what, but I want something of my own. With all this comes So much responsibility, so my mind is not entirely ready yet to think that far. Right now my situation ables me to experience different cultures, communities affected by every day things and working with students and families that have completely different backgrounds than my own.
I have quite a few challenges. Mostly I think my biggest challenge is my language. I’m not a native English speaker, and it counts against me quite a lot. If I were to be in my home country, it would not have been such a big problem. Unfortunately, I do not want to be like everyone else. I like a good challenge. I like to travel and my future would most likely be in ESL surroundings for the time being.
I know what my strenghts are and also where my weakness lie. I am an excellent teacher, and I will keep fighting for what I love until I find somewhere I belong and the love for my work can be seen without the judgement of what my native language is =)