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.


  1. What were you doing before you decided to change your career and come to Korea? You mentioned some interesting points here, but what's even more interesting are your concerns. I completely understand and feel the exact same way! And I'm 27! I don't think it matters how old you are sometimes or how early or late you get into a career. Just go with the flow and everything will work itself out in the end.

  2. I had a few different short-lived careers before I came here. But nothing I wanted to stay in until now. 'Go with the flow' is good advice Juanita. I'll just keep doing that. ;)