Category Archives: My Personal Experiences

Why Did I Decide To Come To South Korea?

As my 9th year here in South Korea started a few days ago, I tried to recall what made me want to come to this part of the world. It was not fate that brought me here. It was a conscious decision made after many nights of contemplation and prayers.

So, why did I travel to the Land of the Morning Calm?

The reason I decided to venture into ESL teaching here in South Korea was not that there were no teaching jobs available in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, I had to cut short my work in my country back in 2013 to come here. At that time, I was employed as  Principal of a basic education institution. To earn extra, I also worked as a part-time college instructor  and as an academic consultant in another school.

I had no problem finding jobs in the Philippines.

So, what made me decide to teach here?

Firstly, I suffered from severe “job burnout”. I got so tired of being a school administrator and a teacher at the same time. I desired to go back to full-time teaching.

I started doing supervisory works in 1994 at a technical-vocational institution. I resigned in 2002 then moved to another school, a Catholic tertiary institution, where  I was offered a supervisory position – head of the Education program. From there I became a college dean in another school then principal in a basic education institution. From 1994 to early 2013 I was a school administrator and a teacher at the same time.

I really got tired of supervising people and doing administrative works. I felt sick about it. I felt sick with the politics involved in supervising and managing employees. My last two years as a school administrator were terrible and horrible, particularly the penultimate one. How I wish I could go into details.

I wanted to go back to just being a teacher. That’s the reason I applied for a teaching job in South Korea. I was hired. My getting hired also proved that the notion “that only native speakers of English could (and should) teach ESL in South Korea” is but a myth. The truth is some of them could not and should not teach.

It was that “job burnout” that got me seeking for a job opportunity overseas. Not that I wanted a greener pasture.  I would be branded a hypocrite if I say I don’t need higher pay. But I was somewhat satisfied with the salary I was receiving at that time. It was good enough that I and my wife could save then, later on, buy a small parcel of land and had a house built. My family and I could even enjoy some of the luxuries in life, travel if we wanted.

Of course, I was (and more so now) happier and more satisfied with my monthly pay in this country when I came. Who wouldn’t be? It’s roughly 75% higher than what my Pakistani employers paid me in the Philippines and with me having to work 60% less in terms of hours. Do the math. That basic (K to 12) education school where I was Principal is owned by Pakistanis operating a vast network of schools (The City School) in Pakistan and some parts of Asia.

At that time I felt that I was at the crossroads of my career. I have to admit that there was some kind of dissatisfaction within me. Burnout torched my soul and I was really unhappy. There was something missing.

Then came the opportunity to teach here.

When I got settled, I finally figured out what was missing. Because I was so busy with my administrative functions and was teaching at the same time, I was not able to attend to my other passion…WRITING.

In the Philippines, being a school administrator and teacher at the same time  require that you stay in the workplace, officially, for 8 hours a day. But most of the time, I would stay way beyond that, even if I wasn’t required to. It was just something that I felt I ought to do. Sometimes I would even go to my office on Saturdays and Sundays. With that hectic schedule, I could hardly find time to write poems, essays and stories… much less do research.

That’s what makes teaching in South Korea different (and a blessing) for me. It allowed me to have a lot of spare time which I could use to write.  I was even able to write papers for presentations in international conferences and for publication in international journals. Something that, unfortunately, I couldn’t do in the Philippines. Back there I would be lucky if in a month I could write even just a single poem. Here, after 8 years, I have written a lot, as in hundreds of them. I had them published in my  two websites (madligaya.com and chingligaya.wordpress.com). I even found time to pursue my interest in personal growth and development. And that worked more wonders for me.

ESL teaching is part of the career-path I paved for myself. I really trained and prepared for this. As early as 2009, I was already thinking of coming to this country to become an English teacher. I applied also to schools in the Middle East  but it was my dream that I would be given the opportunity to do ESL teaching here.  After my rejections by 2 universities in the Middle East, I didn’t lose hope of eventually landing a job as an English teacher overseas. True enough, in 2013, a university here in South Korea, believed that I have the necessary qualifications to teach English.

I did not become an English teacher overnight or by accident. I did not teach because there are no other jobs available. I chose to be a teacher.

I am a licensed English teacher in the Philippines. I passed the Licensure Examination for Teachers  2003. I was required by the RVM sisters to take it (and I am thankful that they did.) Then in 2010, notwithstanding my busy schedule, I enrolled in a certification class in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

My second (and last) reason for deciding to try teaching here (South Korea) has nothing to do with my career. At that time I was journeying to midlife. Midlife crisis is a real thing. It isn’t a myth. There were some personal demons that I had to slay. It’s too personal to share. Let me just say that I am not proud of those decisions I made during those times. Suffice it to say that I needed space. I needed that entire space between the Philippines and South Korea to really get my bearings back… to bring back sanity to my existence. Let me just concude this paragraph with this… Romans 8:28.

Then my efforts paid off and my prayers answered. I was hired by a South Korean university in 2013.

God is really good. I got what I wanted… just teach and no more supervisory works. That gave me a lot of time to write. I was also able to squeeze myself out of that personal crisis and take the road to self-improvement more seriously. I wouldn’t have not done so had I opted to just stay in that principal’s office in the Philippines.

My journey as a teacher continues. This is my 33rd year as a teacher – 24 years in the Philippines and on to my  9th year here in South Korea.

As Seth Godin said, “Do what you love and love what you do.”

What I do that I love is writing and what I love that I do is teaching.

To God be the Glory!

The Jungle Story

pretty-scene-with-animals-in-a-forest_1196-296 (1)These articles were some of the blogs I wrote  way back in 2009 and posted in another website. These ones specifically chronicle my experiences when I was working at a Catholic institution.

I owe a lot from that school and the Congregation that operate it. I would say that I spent my best years as an educator in  that school. That organization helped me shaped my philosophy as a teacher and as a school administrator. Whatever I learned there still inform the decisions I make as an educator today. It’s one of the best schools, if not the best one, in Bulacan, Philippines.

There is only one thing I regret when I was there. When it was time for the Congregation to re-assign their leaders (they do so every three years), we were unlucky to be  given a leader that we didn’t deserve. That’s my opinion.

At that time I did not expect to meet a school administrator whose leadership style and interpersonal skills are plain awful and downright unacceptable. It was the least I would expect from an educational leader and a “religious.” The unspeakable experiences I had with that leader consequently  led me to decide to leave the institution. In the process I gave up a chance of receiving a decent amount of money in terms of benefits from the school’s pension plan. All that I needed then to do was to bear another school year with her so I could complete the required 10 years for me to qualify to get that amount. But it wasn’t worth it.

Peace of mind is a priceless commodity… almost a rare item. No amount of money can buy it. Since that “religious” took the reins of leadership of the institution, I felt like I stopped growing personally and professionally. I kept criticizing her and the policies of the school which I know is not a healthy thing to do. I was no longer having fun at work. So, I decided to leave. My other reason for leaving is – it’s against my dignity as a person to say negative things about my employers but continuously work for them and accept their money. It doesn’t make sense.

My wife disagreed vehemently with that decision. She is a practical woman. I was head of the Education department, the pay is more than enough for us to meet both ends and enjoy some of the luxuries of life, and the workplace was just a 20-minute drive from home. She tried to convince me stay for even just one more year for the pension benefits. But I said no. There’s one thing more important than money – DIGNITY.

So, going back to what I said several paragraphs back… the only one thing I regret when I worked with the institution.

That regret is the subject of this collection of blogs that ran from 2009 to 2011.

Why do I consider it a regret?

It is not because the school administrator assigned to us was the embodiment of what a leader should not be.  It was my fault. I expected nothing but the best from her because I got used to the excellence and benevolence of her predecessor who brought out the best in me.  When her predecessor left and she took over, things changed… not for the better. To cut the story short, she succeeded in bringing out the worst in me. That is what I regret. I came to a realization that I don’t deserve to be a Catholic educator. That realization made easier my decision to leave the institution that was my second home for nine years.

So here’s the series of those blogs. It’s just unfortunate that (probably) the ones who could really understand these blogs (and could relate to them) are the ones I worked with in that institution during those times. But I hope you would read on.

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THE JUNGLE STORY

There was once a hallowed forest  populated by animals (of course!). The leaves of tall trees were so thick that the golden rays of the sun could hardly filter down. Shrubs and grasses abound effectively hiding the light alluvial soil. Life was abundant in the hallowed forest.  Different animals from different species abound.

The forest  was ruled by specially-trained and and carefully-bred animals belonging to the “veiled clan.” Only those who belong to the clan would have a chance to lead a forest that belongs to their clan. The members of the “veiled clan” take turns in controlling several forests scattered in the face of the earth.

The animals there worked so hard to make that forest  hallowed as it should be and for almost a century that the forest existed  in peace, harmony and prosperity. It maintained its pristine beauty through the efforts of the animals and their benevolent leaders from the veiled clan.

Those years were the Golden Age of the forest. But the forest  was not meant to stay in the pinnacle of success. Just like different civilizations on earth,  it passed through  own Dark Age. It happened when the “veiled clan” decided to bring in the hippopotamus as the new leader of the hollowed forest.

This series of blog-story begins with the coming of the hippopotamus.

Please click here to continue reading.

 

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