Monday, June 4, 2012

I Spy - Week 14 (Final Reflection)

Compared to most ELT teachers I started my career late.  I arrived in Korea four years ago at the age of 31 with no language teaching experience to speak of.  While most of my friends from high school and university were 5 or 6 years into a career, getting married and having children I decided to reset my whole life.  As Johnston mentions, living and working in foreign countries is an inconvenient by product of a career in ELT.  Even though I like my new career and am enjoying the rare opportunity of learning a foreign language and culture I sometimes worry that by taking this lifestyle on I have sacrificed a potential wife and family.  I know many people who have married Koreans and started a life here but I'm not sure if I want to spend the rest of my life in Korea.  There are many opportunities for ELT teachers in other countries also; especially if you have a master's degree.  Also, if I were to have a family in Korea and move them back to Canada, I worry about the financial loss and lack of job opportunities.  I've decided that since I started this career later in life than most, I should focus on it for now so that I can elevate myself to a state of professionalism without the added stress of a family.  Hopefully by the time I'm ready I haven't missed the boat.

As a foreign teacher in a foreign land I definitely feel marginalized.  In my school I am the only teacher with his own classroom (the newest and best equipped in the school) and private office.  All of the other teachers, including the vice-principal, share offices but I have a quiet personal space with everything I need. Also, every week there is a teacher's meeting wherein a variety of issues are discussed.  I am not required to attend because it is assumed that I will not understand and that most things have nothing to do with me.  I have been told that if there is anything I need to know, I will be informed privately. 
With regard to these, I enjoy my marginalization.  I am not a lazy person but I can see that the Korean teachers have more on their plate than I do in terms of administrative duties.  I don't have such responsibilities so I have more free time to lesson plan and study.   In general I regard my marginalization as a good thing because it decreases my workload.  When it comes to teacher socializing like dinners and trips I am always included and made to feel as regular a member of the faculty.  Most native English teachers (professors excepted), if they decide to pursue a career in ELT move on or up after a year or two.  I have stayed at the same school as long as I have in part because of the level of comfort that my situation affords while I am busy pursuing graduate studies.