Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wise Advice

One of my relatives reads my blog. I usually get their comments via email, and their responses are typically very insightful. Since this person is an older figure in my life I respect what they say a lot.

Hopefully, even though I am not getting permission first (thinking it will be okay) I am going to publish pieces from their recent email.

I think it is important to share the conversations that I have with my relatives to show how living abroad touches one's family. Sometimes, even though, our family can be very supporting you get questions relating to what you are doing out in Korea and how long do you plan on doing it. With the world economy and especially America's unemployment rate the future of young folks (like myself) is unstable. So I can understand their concern.

Here for you reflects this kind of concern that travels across the digital waves.

Something you recently posted has been gnawing at me. It seems you have no idea why your contract was not renewed. Since graduation, you've had three jobs. You were, apparently, very successful at the insurance agency (but bored out of your gourd). Your teaching experiences have been far less successful, yet you're seeking another teaching position.
It is true. Why would I be continuing in this profession if it seems I keep on complaining about it and saying how difficult it is? The answer is that I view teaching in Korea like a layered cake.
  • One layer = Teaching the kids
  • Second layer = Working with Korean coteachers/coworkers.
  • Third layer = Life outside the classroom.
I enjoy all of those except the second layer, because it is the most difficult to understand and tolerate. But I haven't been booted out of the country so I guess I am still given a chance to get it right.

I majored in Art History and it has been thought that I should break off from teaching and get back into this profession. However, as much as I love art and its history I find it very difficult to start pursuing this career. This is because I would need a Master's or Doctorate degree plus years of experience behind me. From my perspective I am living my passion for the subject by residing in Asia. In fact another relative also speaks this concern via email...
I just wonder where your passion for Asian Art and painting (creating art) fits into your career outlook/plans.
Where does teaching English to foreigners rank in your passions or all of this?
As you didn't want to take Ed courses in college when I made that suggestion it appeared that you really didnt' want to teach for a lving
and so its seemed to me that teaching was just a means to an end so that you could experience living in Asia.
But to blame Korea for my inability to be rehired back at this school is really not proper. I should look at myself and the choices I have made. I am pursuing a 3rd job here in Korea and I will probably not be able to use the excuse of "I am new here" at the new job.

If your rejection by two schools still puzzles you, please try to understand now how to improve your future career, and act on what you learn. Don't reinforce by repetition, habits of behavior that undermine you. Try to adapt.
One of my favorite aspects of sharing my blog with my relatives is getting their tidbits of wisdom. I strongly want to walk into my next job and start it off on the right foot. My habits of being paranoid and keeping to myself will have to go away. Of course I believe it is a two-way street and I will have to learn what my new coteacher / coworkers will want from me or will give to me.

Joy, I want you to find a comfortable niche somewhere in this world... perhaps in Korea, perhaps in the USA. I don't know you well enough to suggest specific career (or other) objectives, but all of us need feedback when we're not functioning at the level we expect and hope for ourselves. Be courageous enough to open yourself to a little hurt by listening to such info.
Thank you! hehe The bottom line is that if I am to really figure what went wrong at my current school I will need to ask my coteacher. I want to do this but it is like walking into a room full of mirrors. Maybe I will have enough courage when my end date draws closer.

So what wise advice have you gotten throughout life? Especially for living abroad? I am also curious if there have been any novels or non-fiction you have read that were inspiring during your time abroad.


  1. Y'know,

    My fiancee went through a similar process - she was creamed at her first hagwon, let go in fact. Her second hagwon was more successful but they still did not want to keep her.

    At each of these of these jobs, when it was time to leave, she took a Korean speaking friend in with her and talked to the Director and the manager about their perception of her skills and weakenesses.

    She got a list, and that was VERY useful in figuring out what she had to do. By bringing a sympathetic Korean speaker she also assured that communication problems were minimized.

    To be honest, her problems were mainly in teaching style, and this might be easier to amend. But in the course of this she also learned some level-2 things and applied them. Hardest for her was you just don't talk back to Korean management because it can only do harm.

    Still, her current hagwon is quite happy with her and it is partly because she consciously explored what her co-workers were thinking.

    As to books...

    I loved Shawn Matthews "Korea Life Blog" even though his story ofterwards is sad (he killed himself in China). He tells the story of his absolutely gawdaful experiences, but he manages to make it rueful and funny.

  2. I like what charles said about getting the chance for some self-evaluation. I also got my butt kicked at one of my hogwans: got off on the wrong foot, but for me it was acutally my foreign coworkers who made it harder for me. However, by avoiding the hurt/defensive response that always wants to assert itself, I also learned some really valuable things that have helped me in other ways.

    If art history is your passion, have you investigated the possibility of studying it while you're here? Say, taking a job with a lighter schedule so you can take evening classes at a Korean school: first in language, then in your field of interest? Or exploring options to teach and work at/near a university that offers those courses in English?

  3. Thanks Rob and Charles.

    Charles = I found your comment very helpful.

    Rob.. That is a good idea and I guess I will look into that. I am wondering about tuition costs and visa requirements. I am still on an E2.

    But it is a good idea to add into the mix of my future.

  4. I'm always thankful that my family is a bit old fashioned and traditional and have always said, "you have a job to live your life, not a life to be your job." Meaning, your job is what supports your life, interests, passions, goals, and family.

    I have a job, that I try my very best at, that earns me an income and vacation time to pursue my passions on my own terms and I'm all around pretty happy with things. On the other hand, I once worked a job that was very much in line with a great passion and hobby of mine and I hated it. I never had money, could never pay my bills, and was miserable with the work hours.

    When people ask why I'm in Korea, I nearly always say that it's to earn an income to pursue my goals and passions. While I enjoy my job very much, it's not what defines me. I'm a teacher, yes, but I'm also A, B, C, D, etc.

  5. Joy! I love the way you are open and have allowed yourself to be vulnerable with the people who love you most- your relatives. Dang, girl, because I'm pretty sure I would have fired back a seriously and reflexively angry email!
    In addition to the wise words of Charles, Rob, and Kristen, I wanted to say that sometimes the hagwon is the problem! With a conscientious teacher like you, whom I'm sure is doing her best and respecting her coworkers and loving her students, sometimes it's okay to blame it on the school because sometimes, it really is the school.
    Also, I love what Kristen said. I NEVER wanted to be an elementary school teacher. Like EVER. But I'm considering doing this for a few more years because, well, it pays the bills and I do tend to enjoy it every once in a while.
    Anyway, I admire your ability to take criticism so well. And I second Rob's suggestion! Use teaching in order to get at what you really want!

  6. Thanks DB. Sometimes I get a little upset over what one of my relatives says to me but underneath I know it just wise words being passed down.

    I just think it is important that other people see how living abroad and making these kinds of choices affects the families associated with us.

    Anyways, sometimes it is the school to blame. Hehe I still try to see what I could of done more ...for the students.

  7. "That is a good idea and I guess I will look into that. I am wondering about tuition costs and visa requirements. I am still on an E2."

    Foreigners Allowed Into Night Schools

    06-11-2008 18:01
    By Kang Shin-who
    Staff Reporter

    Foreign students will be able to enroll at after-work graduate universities with the relaxation of rules, beginning next month, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Wednesday.

  8. Very interesting....all the way around! Thanx for such insightful input.

    Don't forget studio art Joy...making art!

    Your podcast interest can fit into all of this somehow too..........


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