Thursday, November 11, 2010

Up Against the Competition

Job hunting this time is bringing in some surprises. For one public schools are looking to hire people with teaching credentials or a degree in English or education. How do I know this? Well I have already seen schools in my area hiring teachers with these backgrounds, and today a recruiter told me that the positions I applied for all want someone with "real" experience.

Now, don't get me wrong. I do feel it is a good turn in the right direction to start hiring people with actual backgrounds in teaching. This might help teachers adjust here more and also bring new develops to school's English programs. But of course it also means that I am now up against a certain kind of competition that I can't do anything about. In my opinion, my two years experience at public schools should be equivalent to someone's teaching credentials. Mostly because I have learned what works in Korean classrooms and have worked hard through trial and error to get the students excited and learning. But I can see why a school would want a person with actual teaching experience as opposed to the regular just-graduated person.

I did ask the recruiter, whether I had a chance of getting a job next year and she did say yes. I am still going on the hypothesis that it is still too early for most independently hiring public schools. However, if most of the schools out there desire a teacher with an education background I have to wonder if there is enough in supply. But given the current job market in America and other parts of the world, I would say that there are probably a lot of applicants in that category.

I suppose this all means that I have to stand up taller and fight for a job out there and work harder at it. In the past, I think, most people are use to just kicking back and waiting for the recruiter to ring in with a position. I am definitely noticing, this time, that you have to call them up or email and remind them you are still out there. Of course not in an obnoxious way.

**Update: I want to say that this post is my nervous response to being on the job hunt. Knowing that I am not as qualified (credential wise) does make me worry. But I wanted to make the point that schools are starting to want more than just your "native" voice, which I actually feel is a good thing. My only wish is that no matter who they hire more proper training would be provided for the cross-cultural workplace. **

Well it isn't all gloom out there, and there are plenty of other schools. Also I have been considering going back to hagwons. Just thought this recent development was an interesting aspect of the job hunt.

19 comments:

  1. Lord have mercy Joy!
    This response is going to be a bit harsh....so hold on! You're fair warned.

    Remember back when you were advised to take a few ED courses as electives or simply take the CBEST for the credential? Water under the I told you so bridge........

    Studying education and having at least a bachelor's degree in education provides one with knowledge & perspective to take into the job/classroom & interview... that is far greater in many ways...than anyone can get by "some" studying on their own & then 2 years experience on "the fly"!
    Don't be so niave! Your post sounded rather ignorant & self-righteous to me. There's more involved w/teaching than just figuring out the system (wherever you are)!

    At this point enrolling/registering w/a university & start taking online classes towards a Master's in Education might be a really good thing for you to do. To gain the pedagogy & theoretical knowledge that you're missing & impress employers that you're "on it"! You could combine that ed degree work w/art (Art Ed) or some such.

    Please....Don't discredit those of us who've studied our butts off to earn degrees (BS & MS degrees) in Ed., by thinking you can be as qualified by figuring it out as you go! That's just ridiculous.

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  2. You are right mom. I don't want to discredit those who have worked hard to get their degrees in education of the likes.

    I think my most criticism was the schools who are hiring these folks instead of those with teaching experience in Korea. But really schools can do whatever they want.

    All in all, it is an interesting development as the argument over what makes a "qualified" teacher has been happening a lot amongst us K-bloggers.

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  3. Glad you didn't shoot me! I was prepared for a beating at least....
    Please read my msg to you on fb!
    :)

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  4. Well, I was going to comment, but your mom beat me to it.

    The comparison you made is ludicrous. You might as well say, "I think I'm equally qualified as a doctor because I spent two years as a volunteer medic in Botswana." Or, "I'm equally qualified as a social worker because I volunteered for two years as a crisis counselor." Geez, louise. I mean, I do believe that you can be skilled at something you have not studied for, but if you lack the credentials, then you lack the creds. If that's what a hiring entity wants, you can't force them to count your experience as equivalent. Furthermore, you have yet to complete an assignment and be asked to return for a second year. A real teacher who had two years of unsatisfactory evaluations (for whatever reasons) would be let go and have a difficult time finding work even WITH the proper credentials.

    I want to second her idea that if you really do intend to make this your career, you need to get some training--some REAL training, not just the dog and pony shows run by Korean school boards. You need to study linguistics and grammar. You need to learn pedagogy (not just fly by the seat of your pants, oh gee the kids seem to respond to this so it must be good "activities"). You need to understand assessment and measuring progress before you can say you're effective. You need some training in co-teaching models if that is what you will primarily be doing. You need to study differentiation and classroom management.All of these things are things you've mentioned on the blog as struggling with and many of your readers who are educators by profession (not just by the grace of the Korean government's desperation for native teachers) have pointed out to you repeatedly.

    I'm sorry to be harsh here, but if you're having trouble finding work in this new environment, perhaps it is time to consider checking your ego and investing in your education. If nothing else, it will give you more paper credit that will make your experience seem more legit.

    Good Luck.

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  5. Bottom line: What makes a qualified teacher = QUALIFICATIONS!

    Thanx for your post Diana E.S., you eloquently laid the cards on the table for Joy, et al!

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  6. Qualifications alone don't make for a "qualified" teacher if they lack passion for their chosen profession or have become uncaring burn-outs.

    My best "professor" was far from qualified paper-wise (he only has a BA) compared to all the ego-driven, ill-mannered, unfriendly PhDs in my grad school's department, but he went above and beyond when it came to teaching and helping his students get actual jobs in the "real" world. Hell, it wasn't until I was up for a prestigious award before many of these "doctors" would even consider writing a letter of recommendation for me (which I would still have to write myself and they would just sign it, even though they had known me for 3 years as both a student and their TA).

    After seeing both sides of the coin, I do have to say that there is more truth to the saying, “those who can, do; those who can't, teach,” than many teachers would like to admit to.

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  7. John, but was your BA professor renewed year after year? Could he successfully teach?

    Diana makes a good point. Joy has worked at two public schools in Korea and one hogwon. Not a single one has asked her back.

    If Joy wants to count her experience as "real," then she needs to consider that in the States, at this point, she'd be fired from an entire school system. And her creds would not save her from that.

    All the passion in the world is useless if nobody wants to hire you or continue to work with you.

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  8. Why don't we just say that "passion" or "genuine love or caring for what one does" is one of those QUALIFICATIONS!

    Bottom line = along with specific knowledge we all gained in our formal educational experiences, we also learned certain "sensibilities" that we bring w/us to the job....whatever it is. Joy understands & has that sensibility about Asian Art & the media she's worked in w/her fine art from her formal studies of that genre that I never would never appreciate from just experiencing my tour of Asian art museums or traveling thru Asia & then trying to teach Asian Art from those experiences!
    Basically, Joy has been a traveler thru the educational system in Seoul, winging it as she goes in the classrooms! Her fledgling interpersonal skills with co-workers, is something that she would have to face dealing with & growing/improving no matter where she wound up working, in whatever field or country. What made her situation so unpleasant for her in my mind is that she entered these schools as "the foreign/er" who didn't speak Korean and her classically trained Korean teachers recognized that she didn't have that training & experience that they had, and to boot she wanted to change their ways or rebuked them. Nor did she understand the Korean culture enough to behave or try to mingle in their socially acceptable ways. She was the "misfit", the round peg in the square hole, a foreign thorn in their side!

    I think that she's learned a lot from those situations & has grown tremendously in that regard, ....well the learning Korean thing still needs work....but I believe that she now has a better grasp on the culture and her own psyche, as to how to control her emotions and dare I say "play the game" we all wind up playing to some extent out there on the job!

    Joy get some Ed courses under your belt, pedagogy/theory, ESOL, etc... etc...!!!
    Then we can compare apples w/apples!

    Thanx all for helping her on her way!

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  9. Thank you Mom and everyone else' thoughts. Certainly saying I am just as qualified as those who have been through specific training and academia is an in inflated expression.

    The point I want people to start considering is that at ordinary public schools, here in Korea, very often those who teacher Science, Math or other subjects don't have a background in this subject. From my observations they are Ahjumma's with training in how to teach at Elementary school and got their certificates. Sure this is similar to programs back home. The thing is that public schools want their English department to reflect a certain quality that is almost completely different from the other subjects being taught.

    I am fine with wanting to give your students the best overall education in English. Buy why just English? The differences are felt in the classroom.

    Typically Native English teachers want to teach in either the manner they have been taught or have it reflect their experience as a student. This most definitely is different from how Korean teachers teach the other subjects..

    i.e. rote memorization methods vs. student first - group work methods.

    I am really curious how these folks with their training and background in how to teach students in a positive and enriching way has been working in the Korean public school environment.

    If I went home got more credentials and education in "education" then came back and wanted to use these I would imagine getting questionable looks from my coteachers.

    Of course these days things are changing. But even when I came out of my TEFL online course with a new set of tools I was let down last year when I was told to basically "be quiet and do it our way."

    This is my concern that either the educated and "qualified" folks are going to bring great new tools to the Korean education system or they are going to find themselves in a stifling and antiquated environment.

    *I think I'll post this up for review.

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  10. Thank you Mom and everyone else' thoughts. Certainly saying I am just as qualified as those who have been through specific training and academia is an in inflated expression.

    The point I want people to start considering is that at ordinary public schools, here in Korea, very often those who teacher Science, Math or other subjects don't have a background in this subject. From my observations they are Ahjumma's with training in how to teach at Elementary school and got their certificates. Sure this is similar to programs back home. The thing is that public schools want their English department to reflect a certain quality that is almost completely different from the other subjects being taught.

    I am fine with wanting to give your students the best overall education in English. Buy why just English? The differences are felt in the classroom.

    Typically Native English teachers want to teach in either the manner they have been taught or have it reflect their experience as a student. This most definitely is different from how Korean teachers teach the other subjects..

    i.e. rote memorization methods vs. student first - group work methods.

    I am really curious how these folks with their training and background in how to teach students in a positive and enriching way has been working in the Korean public school environment.

    If I went home got more credentials and education in "education" then came back and wanted to use these I would imagine getting questionable looks from my coteachers.

    Of course these days things are changing. But even when I came out of my TEFL online course with a new set of tools I was let down last year when I was told to basically "be quiet and do it our way."

    This is my concern that either the educated and "qualified" folks are going to bring great new tools to the Korean education system or they are going to find themselves in a stifling and antiquated environment.

    *I think I'll post this up for review.

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  11. Holy jeez.

    Joy wins the Golden Klog award for "commenters who are meanest to the blogger."

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  12. You still have a few of those to give out? I'd have given that one to Marmot's.

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  13. We're not being mean. She doesn't have qualifications. Even if she had qualifications, in the States, her past performance would leave her jobless. Those are true statements.

    Joy, elementary teachers in the US get certified across the board (not specific area certification) in most states. However, there is a lot of post-certification training that they go through.

    For example, in the time you've been in Korea, I've taken 8 graduate credits in gifted education and art education. I've also earned 3 graduate credits in middle school math (yes, in order to teach in elementary school), 2 credits in Responsive Classroom, and 1 credit in administering a DRA2 test for the upper grades.

    I've also become grade level chair and gone through training to become the sex ed lead teacher, worked on the pyramid initiative for Kagan structures, and become part of a team to implement Dufours' PLC/CLT methods in the school. There are also other one-shot trainings in goal setting, William and Mary LA units, M3 math, and TouchPebbles. I am also involved in the union and in professional organizations for educators of the gifted. And I have a teaching article published. If you looked at my certificate, you'd never know I had all of that other training. (And that's only the recent training.)

    I write all of that to say a few things. First, since you don't speak Korean well, how much understanding do you have of the ways your coworkers are trained? There is probably a lot of behind-the-scenes action you don't know about.

    Second, you'll notice that there is a lot of collaboration and working with coworkers there. You've made it pretty clear you don't enjoy being with your coworkers. Fake it!

    Third, expecting a native English teacher in the school to be trained in education is no different than expecting a Korean teacher to be trained in education.

    Fourth, if you want to be a successful teacher, education, training, and critical and honest self-reflection (combined with necessary change) is an on-going thing.

    Now, as for your specific questions about how qualified teachers from the West teach in Korea--we are flexible. Just like we are in the US.

    Teaching in the US isn't really all that different than teaching in Korea. We have to prepare them for state-mandated tests per NCLB. We have to teach the curriculum. Depending on the school or school system, we have to teach the curriculum in a specific way using particular materials we have no say over. We may have excellent administrators, or they may be completely incompetent. Just like in Korea.

    Specifically, I found that in the public school, my Korean coworkers noticed within days that I had management and teaching skills. Since I also had credentials, they trusted me to be alone with the students. Most of the time, for the regular classes, I had to use the curriculum as written. Yes, that was a bit boring, but since they trusted me, I was able to be flexible when they weren't around.

    Where I really got to be creative was in the after-school classes. Because I had an understanding of sound curriculum design, they let me teach whatever I wanted, however I wanted. It was awesome although honestly a bit difficult at the beginning because the students needed to learn a new way of learning. (Which is again not any different than my experience this year teaching gifted third graders.)

    Was it offensive to be asked to teach the curriculum as mandated, to make my teaching methods a bit drab? No, because it was my choice to come to Korea. That put the onus on me to change and adapt. And by following my co-teachers' mandated methods during the regular school day, I was granted freedom to teach using my preferred methods outside of the regular school day. I bent a little, so they bent a little. We both got what we wanted.

    I'm sure Diana will chime in with her experiences as well.

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  14. haha Rob ~ not sure I want it but...hehe

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  15. oh yeah, Chris. I've got a whole closet full of them.

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  16. Rob. A closet full of golden kimchi. Something tells me that closet has a special smell. ;)

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  17. Wow, Joy, people have not been kind in their comments. :( That's too bad. I am having a hard time getting an answer from my school about whether or not they want to re-sign me. It's causing a bit of stress, and so I'm looking for work elsewhere. I also don't have the credentials. I do have six years experience prior to this job, and they are in two different hagwons, where I spent three years in each. I really hope that that counts for something!

    It does worry me, though, the competitiono with those who have the credentials....

    Good luck with the job hunt! I hope it is kinder than what's been happening here! :)

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  18. Thanks Jennifer.

    Sounds like you can get a job. Those years of experience are good for something. ;) Wouldn't hurt to have a TEFL.

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  19. Ahh.... thankfully, I did get my TEFL certificate this year. :)

    http://www.thehansonsinkorea.com

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