Thursday, April 21, 2011

Confessions of a Lazy English Teacher

Before I came to Korea to teach English three years ago, I was a very hard worker. My parents always taught me that if I want something, I have to work for it, so I did. In college, I never worked less than two jobs and at one point I think I had about four so I could pay for all my bills and have money left over to eat and do fun stuff on the weekend (when I wasn't working). Also, some of the work was scholarship based. My parents cut me off at age 18 (though they did chip in for college by taking out a loan) so I had to pay for my car loan, gas, phone bill, etc. Fortunately, I lived on campus, so at least I didn't have to worry about rent or utilities for awhile. But even during the summer, I would work a part-time job and do internships so I could go out and do things plus save up. (Mom and Dad said I should always have a savings account.)

Right after I graduated, I worked as a daily newspaper reporter. Again, I worked hard and would often end up being the last reporter to leave the office. It was my first "real" job out of college and I wanted to do it right (meaning, I was terrified of screwing up and getting fired).

Then, I decided to come to Korea for a year to teach English.

I mostly did it so I would have the experience of living in a foreign country. And because I've always wanted to live abroad and learn about other cultures and languages. Just traveling there would never do it for me. I had to live there. But I didn't see many opportunities to do that as a reporter.

At first, I worked very hard. I taught adults, so there was no BS-ing my way through a lesson. But, my institute provided us with teaching manuals that outlined every lesson for us. So, after a few months of teaching, I no longer needed to prep before my classes. I could basically walk into the office about five minutes before my first class started in the morning and be able to successfully teach a two to three unit class. (1 unit = 45 minutes)

And then I would teach one on one classes, and all they would want to do is talk to me. Not to mention, for the first time in my short life, one job was enough. There were a couple months when I would work long hours (teaching about 13 hours a day) but to me, the work was easy and didn't require a whole lot of effort on my part. So I quit putting in tons of effort. And then I got bored. Because it wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, just for a short period. It was the first time I had a job that I didn't really care about and could get away with not trying my hardest. That said, I was professional. I showed up on time, dress professionally. I wasn't one of those teachers that would go out every night until 3 am (couldn't when I started work at 6:45 am) or come in drunk or hungover. But I didn't try as hard as I could have. I basically just coasted by.

Needless to say, I switched. I left English teaching after about a year and moved on to what I thought would be the challenging world of Korean PR. It was and wasn't. Trying to fit into the office culture was challenging. But the work they gave me was easy, further encouraging my lackluster motivation. And no one seemed to care about actually using me for the things they hired me to do. I spent more time on Facebook than I did actually working. Which for some, getting paid 3 million won a month to spend most of your time on Facebook would seem like heaven. But for me, it was horrible because I wasn't getting any valuable work experience. And the company eventually laid me off because they couldn't justify paying me that much when there wasn't a lot of work for me to do.

After that, I looked at who I was as a worker and I felt ashamed. I knew I should have applied myself more. But I didn't and I couldn't go back and change things with my magic time machine. So, in my next job, the one I currently still have, I forced myself to go back to being that thorough, hard-worker. I'm not 100% there yet, but each day is progress.

And I'm not going to lie, there are days when I'm bored with my work. But then, there are days when I am really focused and getting things done. And there are days that are so hectic, that five hours goes by without my noticing (I like those days). Fortunately, getting a job at a company that I enjoy working at and in my career field helped my motivation. Also, a good talk with my boss after six months also helped kick my butt into shape. And I have the opportunity to make myself more valuable by giving suggestions to the anchors and reporters. Officially, I don't have a lot of power, but I am in a position to influence others, should I choose to do so.

So, the moral of the story... I shouldn't teach English. I would love to teach writing or journalism. But yea, me and teaching English, eh, we don't get along so well. Though, I'm sure it would have been a completely different story if I had taught children or had to come up with my own lesson plans...

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