Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I don't know if all of my readers know this or remember but last year I quit / got fired from my hagwon.

At that time a lot was happening. I was leaving behind a school that gave me my first experience in Korea, which was haunting. I had to move farther from Seoul, causing rifts in my relationship with my ex. And I had to immediately face a new job. While at the same time being sick as a dog.

Since then I have spent time reflecting on it and trying to find the value from that experience.

But somethings don't change no matter how much your surroundings transform.

And I don't mean to get all mushy here but I am going to be talking about myself.

You see when I worked at the hagwon not only was I having a hard time pleasing the student's parents but I didn't get along too well with my Korean coteachers.

We even had a fight.

I left that situation hoping I would end up teaching with better coteachers. What I didn't realize was that it was really myself that needed to get better.

Because of that experience I ended up not really knowing how to act or treat my new coteachers at my current public school.

Instead of being an open person willing to work on lesson planning and ask questions. I became shut in and independent. Figuring if I don't mess with the system then it won't mess with me.

Intertwined with this was also my nature to allow my mood to affect the way I do my job.

So when you combine all these things at some point life isn't going to be heading in the way you want.

Recently I have been feeling burned out and wondering what my purpose is here in Korea. But unfortunately I was feeling bitter too. Starting to blame Korea and Koreans for my lousy house. I started to feel like I needed some retribution from my Korean coworkers and coteacheres. In other words I was becoming resentful.

I tend to show my heart on my sleeve, and so my coteacher started to sense all this. Her reaction to cope with this was to give up on me.

But the other day we had a falling out and today she approached me saying she was angry at me. I knew the reason and I knew my responsibility, so later I on I told her we should spend some time to talk about.

And we did.

From 4:00 - 6:35 today we talked and talked.

She was angry and said some things. But I knew it was coming.

However, she is a patient woman and forgiving. She also believes in other people.

I shared a lot with her. More than I have with any person I have met in Korea. Although I know it was helpful to our relationship, it frightens me a little. But I have to trust other people that I mean Korean people.

She shared a lot too with me, and told me how she believes that we should not blame things on the outside for our problems and attitude. That we have to look inside and makes changes from within.

All this time I have been waiting to hear about my contract. While at the same time I have been forgetting about the job.

My sight has been returned to the task at hand. And now I know that I need to focus on the job and not the conclusion of my contract, for that will come.

Sorry to share such intimate information. I don't even know if you guys read this far.

So I want to add one more thing. I feel that I came to Korea for a purpose. I think that the isolation and being engulfed in an alien culture helps one examine who they are and 'why' they are. I know this isn't true for every expat here. But for me living here sometimes feels like I am stumbling around in the dark while at the same time surrounded by a room full of mirrors.

Because of that uncanny situation I end up at times learning more about myself.

Well these are all just words. Only actions can tell us the results. Thanks for reading this sentimental blah blah stuff.


  1. This isn't really what I'd call "sentimental" rather' "reflection"!

    In my opinion, based on years of teaching experience, etc...
    "co-teaching" means "cooperative-teaching" or better still
    "COLLABORATIVE teaching"...all implying that good, honest COMMUNICATION about the job at hand is critical for success.
    How open, how personal is another matter! Profesisonalism requires some personal boundaries.

    The bottom line in all teaching is, "WHAT IS BEST FOR THE STUDENT"!
    And that is something the Korean "co-teacher" can answer best, as she's obviously more familiar w/the cultural factors that influence WHAT IS BEST for the Korean students. That is something she can definitley teach you about, that you should be open to & allow her to the lead the way for you.
    You need to know what is BEST for your students in order to facilitate their learning!
    Allow her, the one w/more teaching experience to mentor you! What a gift!
    Can you imagine not having a co-teacher in this situation?! That sounds like what you were trying to do & I can see why she would be angry to say the least.

    In my opinion I believe what is BEST for your students is that you speak in English to them as much as possible, so they get to understand not only the correct pronunciation of the language, but the nuiances & colloquial factors and help them get over their shyness about speaking a foreign language with foreigners!

    As your Mom there have been many things we've discussed & shared over the years re: Joy getting to know Joy!
    This is a subject I'd rather devote to our personal emails.

    All in all Joy, just remember that resentment is actually a poison we drink thinking that it will hurt the other person who we're resentful about. Wrong!! We're just poisoning ourselves.

    Forgive yourself, learn & move on in the right direction, always asking yourself before you act, "what is the next right thing to do in this situation?"
    Your heart & gut w/will tell you I'm sure!

  2. I understand.

    I try to keep it out of my public blog, but I have wicked mood swings, or cycles, here. Korea tugs me in a million directions at once. I don't think your co-teachers realize/realized just how hard it can be to be an expat here. We don't know what it's going to be like before we arrive, and when we get here and some things suck... what do you do?

  3. As another newbie teacher I can definitely understand your frustrations. If it helps I think your mom (?) has given you (and the rest of us) good advice! Days when I have to force myself to smile despite the antics of my co-teacher I remember that it really isn't about me but about the students I am here to teach. So she wants to throw out the lesson she asked me to plan for this new one she is springing on me 2 minutes before the class starts-annoying but how can we get the lesson to be interesting and clear for the students-etc. Anywho now that you two have had a heart to heart hopefully your relationship will improve and make for a better work environment for everyone-fighting!

  4. No Pain...No Gain!
    Yah... Yah... !!
    Thanx Sunny!
    Yup Momz here....


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