While talking with one of my brightest students about her high school and college and job plans, her hopes and dreams, I told her to just find the thing that makes her happy, and try to do that as a job. She looked a me for a moment, a look of confusion on her face before saying:
"I don't have that."
In our whole conversation about job goals, I never once heard any hint of what she would enjoy doing. I know what her dad wants her to do, what her teachers want her to do, and she certainly knows which jobs are most difficult to get and which pay the most. But apparently there's nothing she loves to do.
This makes me really sad.
I know it's rather old hat to complain about the harshness of the Korean school system, but I'm going to jump right in regardless. These are the things I witness on a daily basis. This is the stuff I talk with my students about. I don't know how to fix it, but I can at least give a view from the inside.
Thanks to midterms this week, the students get to leave school around 12:30, and yesterday, my school took advantage of that absence to go on a short trip out to the countryside. Attracted by the lure of hiking and a free meal, I signed up happily. Plus, I like seeing my coworkers outside of the work setting. It's easier to talk to people and actually get to know them, and while I don't like to admit it, the more I get people to like me, the safer my job is. In the game of NETs...
So, after lunch, we all piled onto the bus for the ride out to Inje, up in the northeast corner of Gangwondo. It's always pretty funny to see everyone in their hiking clothes. People who you always see in formal or at least business-casual clothes seem so different in baseball caps and athletic pants. I felt woefully underprepared, having just worn jeans and a t-shirt. Some of my coworkers looked reading to go mountain climbing up a sheer rock face!
During the last few years, the number of jobs available for foreign English teachers in Korean public schools has significantly decreased. According to an article on The Korean Observer, the number of foreign teachers has dropped from over 9,000 to 6,785 in three years. Meanwhile jobs at hagwons are becoming more competitive between foreigners. The question is whether these cuts are beneficial, or detrimental, for Korean students.
Last Friday was a very good day for me: it was the last day of Winter Camp at school, and the start of a 5 week holiday. So it’s not surprising that I was in a pretty good mood. But, distracting me from my happiness was the horrible feeling of an entirely achey body, eyes which would barely stay open, and a general ill-feeling. Why? Because after 10 days of Winter Camp, I was exhausted.
In light of my recent post onexam stress,I thought it was quite fitting toshare a video I saw on YouTube today. The video was made by a Korean middle-school student called Jason, and it shows his message to Korea: a depressing discussion of the Korean education system.
There’s been a pretty negative atmosphere at school during the last week, and there’s one reason why: exam week. It’s the students’ final exams before the end of semester, a time when stress levels peak for pupils and teachers alike. Luckily for us foreign teachers, we are only in charge of one written exam. Apart from that, we’re not too involved in the tests, even the English one. But that doesn’t mean we’re completely removed from the drama when it’s exam season. During our time at the school we’ve seen students crying, parents crying, arguments, breakdowns and complaints.
Sneak Peek Korea is a video series in which I made videos into all the extra footage I get that doesn’t make it into a proper video, and is largely unedited! I film a lot of my life and want to share as much as I can with you, because you seem to like it! Before I would just scrap extra footage I didn’t think was good enough for it’s own video, but I hope to instead provide little sneak peeks of my life in Korea, unscripted. Let me know in the comments if you enjoy these kinds of videos!
We came to Korea to be teachers, to help children to learn. Turns out that working as an English teacher in Korea has taught us a lot of things too: lessons in leading, discipline, understanding and eternal patience (ok, still working on that last one…). And, we’ve learnt that school in Korea is completely different than in England; would you ask about a teacher’s relationship status in the UK? Most probably not. In Korea? It’s one of the first questions you’re asked (and repeatedly asked again, and again, and again).