The year South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics was the year I started my journey as a teacher. That was 1988.
Those many years I spent in the academe, 24 years in the Philippines and 6 years here in South Korea, taught me a lot about the teaching profession – more than those that I learned from undergraduate and graduate schools. My experiences as a classroom teacher and as a school administrator enabled me (and they still do) to look at issues, problems, and disputes using the lens of the one teaching and that of the one formulating and implementing school policies. My having been in the position of both made me understand how it feels to be in-charge of students and to be in-charge of both the teachers and students.
Those 30 years in 10 different schools in 2 different countries made the following very clear to me: that it is not easy to wear the hat of a teacher; that teaching is not just another job; that teaching is not just a means of livelihood but a way to serve; and that everything schools, from the simplest activities to the most complicated policies, should be student-centered because the students are the reasons schools exist.
There were many times that I reflected on teaching as a profession and education in general. Those reflections resulted to essays and research works.
This is where I put them (essays I wrote on education and some of the research works I have completed here in South Korea) together. I added also in this section the dissertation and thesis I wrote as requirements for my PhD and Master’s degrees, respectively.
In the university where I completed my PhD and Master’s, the research papers students are required to complete are called differently – dissertation for PhD and thesis for Master’s.
The other studies listed in the subsections identified below (with links) include those that I presented in international conferences and were subsequently published in SCOPUS-indexed international journals. Papers published in international journals are usually longer that the versions presented in international conferences.
The following is my most recent research work:
I presented this in an international conference in Manila earlier this year and is currently waiting approval for publication in an SCOPUS-indexed international journal.
Links to the international journals where some of the articles were published as well as links to the websites of the conferences where they were presented are provided on the pages allotted for the papers.
This part of my website is divided into the following subsections:
My website also features the following section:
Most of the articles found in this section are my very personal reflections on education.
(A Personal Essay)
This year (2019) marks my seventh year here in South Korea. I am forever grateful to God for this opportunity, to Gyeoungju University where I taught in 2013, and to Hanseo University where I have been teaching since 2014.
When I decided to accept a job offer from a university here in South Korean way back in 2013, I was ready mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually – and of course professionally. I majored in English and I am licensed teacher. I didn’t come here not knowing what to expect and what to do.
I calculated the benefits I and my family would get from my being employed here (in South Korea) and weighed them against the challenges and sacrifices I need to face and make. There’s no measuring scale to determine if getting all those benefits was worth all the difficulties and hardships I could be contending with and the fact that I would be away from the warm embrace of my wife and son.
Some of my friends and loved ones considered my move as risky personally and professionally. I had a flourishing career as a school administrator and I might start from scratch again should my working in South Korea not turn out well.
I was aware of such risks but I know how to play my cards well. What I consider as my strongest suits are my strong faith in myself and in God. I fully know what I am capable of doing and I know how amazing is God’s grace. I never doubted my abilities, more so His grace.
What made my resolve to work here strong (aside from the personal reasons I mentioned in an essay where I explained why I decided to work in this country) was when I read the contract sent to me after passing the interview. It indicated a working period that is approximately 60% less than what is required in the Philippines yet the pay is (approximately) 300% higher than my pay at that time. More than the salary though was the difference in the number of hours that I would be required to render work – 12 hours of teaching and 4 hours of office. I could use the extra 24 hours (on top of the weekend) to pursue my other interest – writing.
But the downside was – I was not used to being away from my loved ones. I was not used to not seeing my wife and my son for a very long period of time. I also couldn’t cook and I hated doing the laundry and cleaning the house.
I was also told that homesickness and boredom could kill me.
But the die has been cast. My resignation as principal of that school at that time was irrevocable and so was my decision to pursue a teaching career overseas. Even the tears of my wife could not drown my resolve to accept the job offer of Gyeongju university.
And here I am… on to my seventh year as an ESL teacher here in South Korea. There’s no trace of regrets whatsoever for the decision that I made in 2013 to come over. I can say that I have gained tremendous personal and professional growth since that time. True enough I was able to use the spare time to write not only stories, poems, and essays but research works as well. I had the studies I conducted presented in international conferences and published in “indexed” journals.
Now I am maintaining two websites – Hardpen’s Portfolio and Mukahang Poet – where I publish my works in both English and Filipino. Had I not worked here, I doubt if I could have written those studies I completed and created and maintained my two websites.
I also learned to cook and I have no choice but do my own laundry and house cleaning.
What about homesickness and boredom?
I am too busy with my work and my writings that I could not find time to be bored. And when I am not working or writing, I either go to the gym or hike in the mountain or watch movies and NBA games.
And why would I feel homesick when upon waking up in the morning I would call my wife, either through Facebook messenger or Skype, and we talk all day and night when I am not busy working and during weekends. Even if we have nothing more to talk about we don’t end the video chat. That way I could see her and my son moving around our home while I also do what I ought to be doing. I could hear them talking, my dogs barking, and our neighbors’ roosters crowing and hens clucking. Hearing all the sounds in our neighborhood that I got accustomed to make me feel as if I’m home.
Consider this – we have approximately a total of 5 months off between the two semesters. That allows me to visit my family in the Philippines after every 4 months and two weeks and stay with them for at least 40 days. I just have to make sure that I would be able to attend the spring and fall commencement exercises. We’re paid for 12 months in a year which means that even during semestral breaks we receive salaries. That’s a huge blessing.
For those considering ESL teaching in countries like South Korea, Japan, and China, you wouldn’t regret should you try. Just make sure that you really are qualified to teach. It is a disservice to the teaching profession should you assume that because you could speak English you could teach it even if you are not trained to be a teacher.
I have been a teacher since 1988. It has been a long journey full of ups and downs and filled with joys and sorrows. I don’t regret anything that I have undergone as a teacher and proudly I could l say that I triumphed over all the difficulties and pains because I wouldn’t last this long in the academe if not.
I worked in eight different schools in the Philippines, in six as a full-timer and in two as a part-timer. Here in South Korea, where I am teaching now is my second university. I stayed a year in the first one and now I’m on my way to completing my fifth year where I transferred.
Go back to the previous paragraph and count the number of academic institutions where I worked.
Two short of a dozen.
In those schools, I met different kinds of students, administrators, and – teachers, the best and the worst.
This essay deals with teachers I refer to as “jokers in the academe.” The experience I had with them taught me to have a great deal of patience. There were times though that I lost that patience and locked horns with them. Actually, I wrote this essay right after a verbal tussle with a joker.
Yes, you need to be patient when you encounter the jokers among your colleagues. These jokers aren’t funny at all. They are annoying.
I am not saying that I am a perfect teacher. I still have lots to improve. At least I have been trying my best to conform with the existing and evolving professional standards set for teachers.
Most importantly, I am not a joker. I would never be.
Who might these jokers be?
One of those that I classify as jokers are the “super dependents.”
The “super dependents” are teachers who will not solve their own problems. They expect their colleagues to do that for them. They are the ones who hate exerting extra effort to find a solution to whatever bugs them. Their sense of entitlement is so strong that they think that it is the duty of people around them to help them get out of a difficult situation.
What these jokers consider as problems are not problems to begin with.
For example – the school requiring teachers to apply a new technology in the classroom. That for them is a contentious issue. They would try to dip their hands deep into their bag of reasons to justify their non-compliance.
You would hear the lamest of excuses like “My training as an educator did not include applying those technology.”
Another excuse, lame also, “It’s labor-intensive.”
They want things to be given to them on a silver platter. They would never walk the extra mile.
They are like square pegs in round holes. No amount of explanation would make them buy the idea that being a 21st century teacher teaching 21st century learners would require the learning of 21st century skills.
These jokers don’t understand that part of their responsibility as educators – if they really consider themselves as educators – is to retool and retrain if necessary in order to cope with the demands of what has become a technology-driven pedagogy used by 21st century teachers.
They should not subscribe to the idea that “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” because they are not dogs. They’re human beings who are supposed to be rational.
Anyway, let’s talk about dogs.
They bark, right?
Some of the jokers in the academe are like dogs. They bark a lot.
I call them the “barkers.”
These jokers bark about their disagreement with school policies and what they perceive as incompetence among the “people upstairs.” They are the eternal fault-finders who see nothing but negative in the organization. They live to seek the “tiny black in an ocean of white.” For them nothing is right, everything is wrong.
They complain day and night, except when they go to the ATM machine during payday.
Do they deserve their pay? Are they doing their job? Only them and their students could tell.
Yes, there are times that they have valid reasons to disagree. But what is frustrating is that they bark up the wrong tree. They don’t address their concerns to the right people at the right place and at the right time. They grandstand during meetings wasting their colleagues’ precious time. They force them to listen to their misguided eloquence. Sometimes they also write long unsolicited e-mails where they express their grievances. They don’t understand that not everybody in the organization share their opinion about the policies and the school administrators.
The funny thing is these jokers just bark but they don’t bite.
They do nothing about their complaints except bark about them. But when the administrators responsible in implementing the policies they disagree with are present in meetings, they are very quiet, silent in one corner of the room wagging their tails.
These jokers curse the school and their administrators at every opportunity they have. They tell everybody that the school where they work is the worst place to be. Yet at the end of the school year they (let me use these words again) wag their tails as they sign their names on the dotted lines for a contract extension.
Dogs bark. They also eat their own vomits.
The last category of jokers in my list are those who applied (and luckily got hired) as teachers even if they are not qualified and trained for the profession.
They are the ones I call the “pretenders.”
Yeah, they pretend to be teachers.
These jokers applied as teachers because there are no other jobs available. They are very fortunate (and the students unfortunate) that there are schools willing to hire them even if they are not qualified to be teachers.
Among these jokers are English teachers who thought that they could be English teachers because they can speak the language. I have emphasized in one of my essays that it doesn’t mean that when you know something you can already teach it. “If you know it, you can teach it” is a fallacy.
Knowing a subject matter is different from knowing how to teach it. The former is only one of the many requirements for the latter.
“Real teachers,” those not pretending to be teachers, know what it takes to be a teacher. Teaching is not parroting the contents of the book. It’s not delivering a monologue in front of the students.
Teachers need to choose the best strategy to use in the class from a variety of strategies available. They have to set objectives and test if those objectives are met. They need to differentiate the levels of their students and identify the corresponding techniques and activities suitable for those levels.
“Real teachers” know what philosophy would inform whatever they do and say in the class. They know which sociological, psychological, historical and legal foundations upon which they would base all their decisions as teachers.
It means that the job of a teacher is so complicated that not just anybody should be allowed to teach. And when a school commits the mistake of hiring applicants who are not trained to be teachers, expect them to become the jokers in the academe.
In the academe, most of those who complain a lot – those who create a lot of troubles – are the ones who are not really trained to become teachers. These jokers are the ones who seemed to be lost in the wilderness not knowing what to do and how to do things related to the job of a teacher. They are the ones who would blame others when they encounter difficulties and can’t figure out how to deal with them.
The common trait among these jokers is that they want everything given to them in a silver platter. You need to explain to them in detail (and repetitively) how to perform tasks that teachers are supposedly trained to do. Sometimes they would even require their colleagues to do things for them. They would not bother learning how to do it themselves.
Beware of the jokers in the academe. They’re not funny.
These jokers could be many or but a few in schools everywhere.
There was a voice within that kept telling me not to mind the jokers in the academe. I did so, but not for long. It became too difficult for me to hold my horses when I heard the “non-performing” barkers whined and whinged so persistently. It’s so difficult to just turn a blind eye (and a deaf ear) to the things they are doing (and saying) all the time. I had to say my piece – through this essay.
What’s dangerous is that they are contagious. They contaminate the working environment. They have the ability to flip the organizational climate, from positive to negative.
So, beware of the jokers. Avoid them like a plague.
These whining and crying babies are not cute. Don’t babysit them.