“Positions in Korean public schools are becoming increasingly competitive.”
This is something you hear a lot; I’ve written it myself on here a few times. Sometimes you will hear even more alarmist things. “GEPIK is finished.” “The recruiters all have waiting lists.” “There are ten applicants for every EPIK position.” “In five years, there won’t be any native teachers at public schools in Korea.”
But what is the truth of all this? Official figures are hard to find, and much of it seems to exist only on the ever-rampant, never-terribly-reliable foreigner community grapevine. Read more
I got a university job. Barring some sort of calamity – a possibility I am trying not to think about too much – I will be working at a small, private university in Jeollanam-do from the beginning of March. Listen carefully and you can probably hear my excited yell from way over here in Australia. Read more
A minority of people who come to teach English in Korea are, I suppose, just economic refugees: unable to get a job at home, and in Korea for the money. But I don’t think this is true for most people. For most people it is a chance to do something different with their lives; to live overseas for a year or more, to experience another culture and hopefully change and develop as a person.
And yet for many people who come to Korea, this idea seems to go awry at some point. At first, they drink and find it all exciting, then they drink and find it all frustrating and hostile and alien, and eventually they go home with not much to show for it but some stories of cheap alcohol, clubbing in Seoul, and Koreans always telling them things at the last minute.
Why is this? I don’t always have the highest opinion of many of my fellow waegukin. Often, the problem is with the people themselves. For some, particularly the less mature ones, this really is what they had in mind by “exploring another culture” – seeing some beaches and temples and getting drunk in them. Meeting people from other countries, and sleeping with them. A sort of post-university gap year. I’m not making a moral judgment, because I was young once, too, and almost everyone goes through a period of acting up when they first get here – more on that later – but the people who come here only seeking that sort of experience can give everyone here a bad name, and leave a lot of damage behind when they go home. So I’m not going to defend them, either. I can understand wanting to have those experiences, but expecting to be paid for them is a bit much. Read more
My university work is finished. Excluding something really dramatic, like nuclear war or the administration office losing their record of my fee payments, I’ll graduate in December with a Masters of Education (TESOL). Small – very small – applause, please.
I’ve done well, too. Since I’ve been back I’ve had nothing but high distinctions for everything I’ve had graded, and I think my final essays will also get very good grades. I’ve had the luxury of time to work on them, and I’ve been able to get engaged with researching and writing them. My professors seem to think I write well. Perhaps even smaller applause for that one; I once wanted to be a writer, you know.
In other ways, being back in Australia has been a sort of enveloping, unchallenging nothingness. Read more
Just a short note to say that in spite of how it looks, this blog isn’t dead; it’s just that I’ve been busy with university work, which will thankfully come to an end in six days. I won’t say that I’ve had no time – as readers may have noticed, writing a lot of words doesn’t slow me down too much, although carefully researching and referencing those words does slow me up. But I’m studying TESOL, so the thought of writing about teaching English in Korea in what little time I’ve had doesn’t appeal too much.
Which is not to say that it hasn’t been interesting. The most interesting discovery has been the extraordinary lack of evidence for the communicative approach to language teaching being superior to anything. I wrote up a pretty nice 3,000 word indictment of its lack of an empirical basis, and you can expect a blog version of that argument in the near future. However, as I can feel the cadences of academic prose starting to come through as I write this, I’ll leave it at that for now, with a promise to be back before too long.
We’re in the dog days now. I have three more days of summer camp to teach, and then I’m finished. Vacation, then home.
Summer camp is easy. The classes are small, the kids are all decent and they’re in that relaxed vacation mood. The classes are heavy on crafts and pretty light on English study, to be truthful. But that’s OK. It’s camp. Read more
My school is a little different. Depending on who you ask, my school is either the future of Korean education, or a hotbed of commie ideologues producing poorly educated children. My school is a “혁신학교” – a Korean innovation school.
The 혁신학교 program isn’t well documented in English on the internet. Read more
I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it on here, but the main reason I first came to Korea was to force myself to confront fear. Actually, this is not a particularly unusual reason; I’ve met a few people who’ve had similar epiphanies and ended up in Korea because of them.
At the time I had been working from home and living alone for nearly two years. For an introvert this can be an appealing way to arrange your life, but in the long term it’s pretty dangerous to your mental health. For me, I was fine with that for a long while, and then I wasn’t fine anymore, and things fell apart for a bit. When I pulled myself back together, I had as a key understanding that I needed to do something radical with my life; something that would shake me out of my slumber and re-introduce some risk, because I had made things perfectly safe for myself, and that had become a problem.
Shortly after that, I was looking through job advertisements in the hope of finding something different to do, and came across an ad for teaching English in Korea. It was far more “different” than what I had consciously been looking for, and I was immediately gripped by a realization; that the idea was terrifying to me, and that it was also absolutely what I needed to do, and that if I didn’t do it, my realization about what I needed to do with my life was phony, and I was just a coward. Read more
I shouldn’t read the threads on waygook.org, because they make me crazy. But sometimes the title of a thread will intrigue me, like “Korea’s blending of Developed and Developing values in ways that don’t mix…”, and I will dip into it, only to quickly find myself in the strange cesspool of bitterness that seems to characterize the internet postings of many foreign teachers in Korea. (That message thread, by the way, was mostly about Koreans not sticking to a single side when walking. This seems to be a theme with such postings; elaborate theories drawing on whatever the poster studied as an undergraduate, all to justify trivial irritations. A lot of pop-psych and amateur sociology. Another recent thread purported to be about cognitive dissonance in Korea, but was actually about a teacher who was unable to prevent his students from ddong chim-ing him.*) Read more
As much as I love Korea, it is undeniable that all Korean cities tend to look more or less the same. They may be small, medium, or large; they may have various mountains, rivers, beaches and temples of which the locals are proud; but apart from that, there is little to separate one from the next.
If you are the administrator of a Korean city, then, how can you distinguish your city from all the others? If you answered, “By appending a random English word to the city name and using it as a slogan,” then you are not new to Korea. Read more