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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!

How and Why I Love Teaching

teacher

How do I love teaching?

Let me count the years… thirty!

Yes, I have been a teacher for three decades now. I began my teaching career at a basic education institution in Bauan, Batangas (Philippines) in 1988 and served  my 30th year in the academe at a university in South Korea. I will be returning to that same school for 2019 (and beyond… God willing) to continue my journey as a teacher.

Despite the not-so-good comments I heard  about teaching as a profession when I was young, I embraced it and I don’t regret having done so.

It is both surprising and amusing how lowly teaching is regarded by some people. It is one of the least popular jobs anywhere in the world.

Parents in the culture where I grew up would tell their children graduating from high school to just take up an Education course and be a teacher once they find out that their children are of average intelligence.

To some professionals, teaching plays second fiddle.  They would seek positions in the academe as teachers when in their chosen fields they could not get job offers. Many native speakers of English who had difficulty finding jobs in their own countries are working as ESL teachers in countries like Japan, China, and South Korea. Luckily for some of them, even if they are not graduates of Education courses or are not trained as teachers, there are schools who would hire them only because they are native speakers of English. I consider this a disservice to the teaching profession.

I love teaching and I do take my job as a teacher seriously. I sought employment in the academe upon completion of my bachelor’s degree knowing that I am qualified to be a teacher. I became a teacher not because I have no other choice. I became one by choice.

I know that teaching as a profession requires a lot and I made sure I am apt to the task. I went to graduate school, attended conferences and seminars, took certificate courses (like TESOL), and studied by myself the application of technology to education. I also keep reading books and journals related to both my subject area and pedagogy. All of the aforementioned  I did  (am doing) in order to  ensure that I could cope up with the demands of the profession and to give nothing but the best to my students. This is my way of respecting my profession as a teacher.

Why do I love teaching?

Search for the 25 best-paying jobs (or make that 50… or 100) and it’s very unlikely that teaching is included.  This is what makes the teacher’s job not-so appealing. Teachers get paid low and on top of that –  they are overworked. They work way beyond office hours. Such is the reality that I fully accepted. I never whined about it.

But for me, it’s never been the pay. It’s the happiness and the sense of fulfillment that teaching gave me. That’s what I love about this profession.

I enjoy doing the things that teaching requires me to do. Teachers need to read and write a lot. And those are my hobbies. Teachers have to do a lot of talking and leading and I so happen to love public speaking. I love the feeling of being in front of people… talking to them, making them laugh, and leading them to action.

Teaching allowed me do the things I love doing. It actually honed my skills and improved my knowledge in the areas where I could excel. It developed in me values that guide me both personally and professionally. It challenged me to strive for excellence and pushed me beyond my abilities. It made me believe in myself and it strengthened my faith in God as well.

As Jim Rohn said, “True happiness is not contained in what you get, happiness is contained in what you become.”

What I have become because of teaching is just amazing.

And the rewards for becoming what I have become are equally amazing.

The rewards – both intrinsic and extrinsic – are just awesome.

Don’t tell me that teaching is not financially rewarding. Teachers can be paid handsomely if they play their cards well and push the right buttons. It’s a matter of how they handle their career in the academe, how they build up their reputation, and what stuffs do they have in their professional portfolios.

Here is my advise to teachers like me, most especially to the young ones – don’t teach for the money. Become first what you ought to become. Be the best teacher you could be. Don’t be contended with your Bachelor’s degree. Aspire to have a doctorate. Attend all the seminars and training you could attend. Be certified in your field. Invest on yourself… not on gadgets and other material possessions. Plan well your career in the academe and make the right decisions.

If teachers would love their job and treat it with utmost respect, they will get the rewards they richly deserve.

Why I Came To South Korea

(A Personal Essay)

me

I decided to try ESL teaching here in South Korea not because there were no good jobs available in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, I had to cut short my employment back home in 2013 to come here. That time I was employed as  Principal of a basic education  (K to 12) institution. To earn extra, I also worked as a part-time instructor in a college and academic consultant in another school .

I had no trouble finding jobs in the Philippines. I carefully crafted a career path and built a strong supporting structure that would ensure I won’t run out of options and  ascertain a stable future for me and my family.

So, what made me decide to teach here?

Firstly, I suffered from a severe “job burnout”. I got so tired being a school administrator and a teacher at the same time. There was no sense of fulfillment anymore. I wanted to go back to full-time teaching and try to discover what I was missing. Yes, there was something missing.

I started doing supervisory works in 1994 in 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. Thinking that I could pursue a career in the public school system, I applied (and was accepted) as College Dean in a local college. It did not turn out the way I wanted. The working environment and the organizational climate was not what I envisioned it was. It was then that I began to feel the “burnout.” From there I transferred to that basic education institution where I became a principal. It did not help that at that time the said school had to renew its FAPE (Fund for Assistance to Private Education) accreditation. Those were the days when I almost had to sleep in my office to finish all the required paper work for the re-accreditation.

I really got tired supervising people and performing administrative works. I felt sick about it. I wanted to go back to just being a teacher and find out what I was missing – something else that I should be doing. That’s the reason I applied for a teaching job in South Korea.

After passing through the proverbial eye of the needle, I was hired.

It was that “job burnout” that got me seeking for a job opportunity overseas. It’s not just because the pasture is greener.  I would be branded a hypocrite if I say I don’t need a higher pay. But I was really satisfied with the salary I was receiving at that time. It was good enough that it enabled me to buy a small parcel of land and had a house built.

Of course I am happier and more satisfied with my monthly pay in this country. 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 almost 60% less in terms of hours. That basic education school where I was a Principal then 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. That job burnout (and the search for that something I was missing) torched my soul and it was  making me unhappy.

Then came the opportunity to teach here.

When I got settled, I finally figured out what was missing. I found out that with my being so busy with my administrative functions and my concurrent consulting and teaching duties, I was not able to attend to my other passion – WRITING.

In the Philippines, being a school administrator and a 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 felt I ought to do. Sometimes I would even go to my office on Saturdays. With that hectic schedule, I could hardly find time to do what really makes me alive – writing poems, essays and stories.

That’s what makes teaching in South Korea different for me. It afforded me a lot of spare time which I could use to write. It gave me an opportunity  to create (and maintain my own websites.) I was even able to write papers for presentations in international conferences and for publication in international journals. Something that, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do in the Philippines. Back then, I would be lucky if in a month I could write even just a single poem.

ESL teaching is part of the career-path I paved for myself. I really trained and prepared for this. I am  a licensed English teacher in my country. As early as 2009, I was already thinking of coming to this country to teach. I also applied in universities  in the Middle East but I was really hoping  that it’s here (South Korea) where I would be given the opportunity to do ESL teaching.

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. There were some personal demons that I ought to slay. It’s too personal to share. 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.

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

God is really good. (Yes, I believe in the existence of God!) 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 a personal crisis. I wouldn’t have not done so had I opted to just stay in that air-conditioned principal’s office.

I am forever grateful to universities (like Hanseo University and Gyeoungju University) who believe that not only native speakers of English could (and should) teach the language – that  qualified non-native English speakers could also excel in ESL teaching.

South Korea has become my second home and I would love to stay here to teach (and write) for as long as  possible… if given the opportunity.

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