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Author Topic: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)  (Read 17304 times)

Offline Anor Londo

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Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« on: March 22, 2012, 10:41:10 AM »
I should have known after attending my first EPIK orientation that I'm not cut out to be an ESL teacher.

I can envision the ideal image of an ESL teacher. It's someone who actively motivates students to participate; someone who chooses the appropriate material according to students' abilities; a person who speaks concisely and sensitively so that students aren't confused; someone who eagerly creates lessons plans catering to students interests; someone who is well-prepared and who can synthesize other people's lesson plans when necessary; someone who can adapt to the whims and arbitrary decisions of his superiors; someone who attends to the emotional and developmental situations of students; and lest we forget, it is also someone who is smart, attractive, well-dressed and culturally open; politically correct and always diplomatic; slim, milk-skinned and bleach-blonde hair who proficiently uses chopsticks and drinks sojo at staff dinners. 

Maybe there are other characteristics I have left out, but as far as I can tell I'm not one of those things. I never will.

I knew that I'm done with this gig while I was sitting on my desk, frustrated and guilty over the fact that I don't like my job even though it pays me well enough than the average Korean teacher, when I had this image in my head of the teacher that ESL schools, EPIK program, and other ESL institutions want me to achieve.

Smiling, grateful Korean students babbling in English; confident young people shouting in chorus, replete with the enthusiasm; their hands flailing in the air, overwhelmed by the cathartic power of the English language; their eyes bulge out as they scream my name. I'm there standing in the middle, a cult of personality, beside me my co-teacher clapping in approval, since everyone is happy-happy.

I thought about this image, for it is this image that stuck to my head whenever I see the ads for EPIK and hagwon posters, and I knew even if I were to turn that image into reality, or even if I had made my students happy in the past, at this point of my life that ideal means nothing to me.

Why?

I have no desire to make English fun and exciting and am sick of the expectation of making students happy every class, every minute, every second I step outside of my apartment.

I know that I have a privileged position in this country, but teaching basic grammar and transforming its aspects into play and then hearing theoretical justifications from for-profit universities, just makes me wonder:

How would we reassess our approach and expectation to ESL if someone dared to apply  the same approach and expectation to a subject like computer programming (which also requires learning a language)?




Offline Yu_Bumsuk

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2012, 10:48:21 AM »
Teaching isn't for everyone. Teaching EFL isn't for everyone. Teaching EFL in Korea isn't for everyone. And teaching EFL in a Korean PS isn't for everyone. Make an exit plan and find something you like.

That said, there are indeed some unrealistic expectations at some PSs that turn what could be effective and fulfilling into pointless and disheartening.

Offline VanIslander

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2012, 10:59:36 AM »
Two reasons I've been teaching ESL in Korea for 10 years:

1) It's fun. I enjoy teaching and my students enjoy learning.
2) It's meaningful. I see progress in my students' skills development, especially the production skills of speaking and writing.

If you are unhappy and unsuccessful then seek other employment. Life is too short to waste your time doing something you don't like and feel like you're making no difference.

Rock and roll, whatever you do!  8)

Offline JahRhythm

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2012, 10:59:40 AM »
Yu man, Yu alright. You made the correction through re-phrasing without calling attention to the error...proper teacher move. Here I was 'bout to be snarky...

OP, if it's not for you, it's not for you. You gave it a go. No harm in trying something and it not working out.
But, remember, the ideal image of an EFL teacher, as you described is based on your experience with Korean public schools/hagwon posters.
You can't really generalize beyond that.
There are positions and people who are teaching effectively in ways/environments that don't match that image.
Good luck with the next thing.
We teach EFL not ESL. Hagwon and "Private School" are not synonymous. Not everyone works in either a hagwon or public school. Immigration Question? Call 1345.

Offline ohherro

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2012, 01:29:10 PM »
Right on, JahRhythm.  Ops, if TESL isn't for you, then get out while you can.  At the very least, please let your school know.  Don't do a midnight run.  Language acquisition is a long process as these kids aren't speaking English at home.  Seeing progress will take some time.  Regardless, I'm glad you're realizing your strengths and weaknesses now rather than later.

I've been fortunate enough to work with wonderful people who gave me constructive criticisms and helped made English class more interesting.  And, I'm not a blonde hair and blue westerner.  Take what you will from the situation.   Overall, this is a great cultural exchange program where you are given the chance to develop professionally.

Offline Cereal

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2012, 01:45:39 PM »
I am enjoying myself here and despite being in only the third week of my second contract, my co-teacher has already asked if I am staying next year. Having said that, I, too, am not 100% convinced I'm cut out to be an ESL teacher in Korea. I really don't think all the games and chants and singalongs are necessary. The new principal in my elementary school told me the single most important aspect of my job was that the students have fun. Nothing else was mentioned. As long as the students have fun in class, everything is good.

In Laos I was expected to teach, and I did. We also had fun, but the students learned something every class and remembered it. There were no co-teachers. I doubt my CT here could pass the final exam I gave my Grade 6 students in Laos.

I do have personal experience to help me understand how difficult the Korean kids have  it as I attended elementary school in a 2nd language whilst studying a 3rd. I finished Grade 6 able to speak, read and write fluently at the grade 6 level in all three languages. I know how hard it is, I did it.

I believe the system is the thing that is broken here. I feel more like an edutainer than an educator most of the time. I deal with it easily enough, I'm only here for the money. As long as they pay me and give me the great benefit package, I'll sing and dance to their tune.
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Offline w4z

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2012, 02:22:40 PM »
Quit.  This is not a hard job, but you have to have some level of enthusiasm to get the job done.  If you don't, you are effectively depriving kids of an education.  It's not about you, it's about them.  If you leave, then hopefully a more enthusiastic person will take your place.

Offline Jrong

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2012, 02:46:22 PM »
As long as they pay me and give me the great benefit package, I'll sing and dance to their tune.
yes.


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Offline Anor Londo

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2012, 03:18:41 PM »
To make a few things straight:

I'm not going run away. I've been here for four years, but I'm going home in September.

I like my students and I have no major problems with my school.

I am unhappy about the expectations on me as a ESL teacher. The constant requirement to make things interesting and exciting is rather absurd.

Jarhythm is right. There are other teachers who do an excellent job without following the image  and expectations projected by the EPIK program et al.

The reason for this thread is because I needed to bitch in a public forum; it is unfair to say these things to students and teachers.

If you asked my kids if "____ teacher" is unhappy with teaching, they'd probably say no. Which makes me even more depressed.



Offline gtrain83

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2012, 03:20:58 PM »
Quit.  This is not a hard job, but you have to have some level of enthusiasm to get the job done.  If you don't, you are effectively depriving kids of an education.  It's not about you, it's about them.  If you leave, then hopefully a more enthusiastic person will take your place.



Yup, kids who don't pay attention, never do homework, always say they hate English, never bring a notebook, book or pencil,etc... YOU really are depriving them of an  education. I am not saying to be a mime and lazy when teaching nothing will be that helpful unless they are actually wanting to learn.

No surprise that the best student in my school comes to me for extra work (like adult level articles and she is in 6th grade...the one I gave her today is about social anxiety) and the worst students don't bring their books even when i see them outside school the night before class and tell them to bring it. (one student "lost" his book the first week) I think the system is more flawed than the majority of teachers. I am not saying I am a great teacher (really I think I am kinda bad at it even though I try and REALLY like my students and want them to succeed) but come on...no grades, EVERYTHING has to be fun at ALL times, etc.

Offline teachermc

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2012, 03:31:58 PM »
To make a few things straight:

I'm not going run away. I've been here for four years, but I'm going home in September.

I like my students and I have no major problems with my school.

I am unhappy about the expectations on me as a ESL teacher. The constant requirement to make things interesting and exciting is rather absurd.

Jarhythm is right. There are other teachers who do an excellent job without following the image  and expectations projected by the EPIK program et al.

The reason for this thread is because I needed to bitch in a public forum; it is unfair to say these things to students and teachers.

If you asked my kids if "____ teacher" is unhappy with teaching, they'd probably say no. Which makes me even more depressed.

We all know that students learn best when they want to learn something and seek it out.  Most public school teachers (teaching any subject) are not teaching in an ideal environment.  Yes, a school is hopefully a place where people can learn things, but in reality another important function is childcare.  Students need somewhere to go and something to do if both their parents decide they want to do things outside of the home.

Being an English monkey here is part of the idea that teachers can/should make students care to learn something they may or may not have any interest in on their own.  Some days I feel like it is possible and on bad days I think I was a bad (yet expensive) babysitter.

Offline flasyb

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2012, 04:17:53 PM »
To make a few things straight:

I'm not going run away. I've been here for four years, but I'm going home in September.

I like my students and I have no major problems with my school.

I am unhappy about the expectations on me as a ESL teacher. The constant requirement to make things interesting and exciting is rather absurd.

Jarhythm is right. There are other teachers who do an excellent job without following the image  and expectations projected by the EPIK program et al.

The reason for this thread is because I needed to bitch in a public forum; it is unfair to say these things to students and teachers.

If you asked my kids if "____ teacher" is unhappy with teaching, they'd probably say no. Which makes me even more depressed.

We all know that students learn best when they want to learn something and seek it out.  Most public school teachers (teaching any subject) are not teaching in an ideal environment.  Yes, a school is hopefully a place where people can learn things, but in reality another important function is childcare.  Students need somewhere to go and something to do if both their parents decide they want to do things outside of the home.

Being an English monkey here is part of the idea that teachers can/should make students care to learn something they may or may not have any interest in on their own.  Some days I feel like it is possible and on bad days I think I was a bad (yet expensive) babysitter.

This is it. I give out handouts and 80% of the class ignore them and talk or crumple them up before the lesson is over. Not a lot you can do with students who are so disrespectful and show such a disregard to their teachers and the materials I make. If it's not a game, most of them don't care. That's the reality of "ESL" at my school.
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Offline millionsknives

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2012, 05:35:46 PM »
Just wanted to chime in on the whole, things can be pretty disappointing when teaching English in Korea.  It seems to me that my English class is largely an afterthought for both the English department and the students.  Though I'm in a public school I'm not employed through EPIK and therefore not bound to any of the luxuries of an EPIK teacher, like having a co teacher.  Engaging my coworkers in any form of constructive brainstorming for lesson ideas is often like pulling teeth with a string and a door knob. I'm left with no curriculum and I have no real idea what the other teachers are really teaching the students.  Lower level students won't speak for fear of being wrong and higher level students won't speak for fear of looking like they are trying to be better than their friends.   Also without a Korean in the class room, keeping order is always a matter of just how much students like me.   Not being allowed to single out students doesn't help that situation in the least.  The students aren't all interested in learning English and not all of them are at the same level of English knowledge.  Then they put 40 of them in my class at one time and expect a universally successful lesson.  Luckily the expectation of universally successful can be translated into the students not complaining.  It appears to me that compared to students in the American experience, who are considered young adults, Korean students are really just big kids who act accordingly.  This doesn't really translate into a condemnation of the students themselves as much as the education system they exist in, although it could possibly be taken as a general cultural slight.  Anyway,  its Thursday evening which seems as good as any time to gripe. 
I understand how the trials and tribulations of teaching in Korea can make people miserable and how it is definitely not for everyone.  More power to you if you can transition into something that is better suited to your wants and needs. Most people don't get that much out of a job.  It's always better to try something else than just get totally burnt out though. 
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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2012, 09:55:52 PM »

I think I'm pretty lucky because I feel little to no pressure to make my lessons 'fun'… if it happens it happens, but the actual teaching is the main part.

I think that the whole fun and games things is insulting-- to the NETS and to the kids as well. I can remember watching some English TV show where they were just doing straight English and they actually had to resort to telling kids flat-out that 'this isn't studying, this is FUN!' and the poor young girl that they had saying it couldn't believe that the words were coming out of her mouth.

But yeah, I think it's totally messed up how 'fun' seems to be more important than making clear, focused lessons that are level-appropriate. To be honest, I would consider any KT who insists that I should be doing this to be incompetent. The problem is that a lot of KTs don't think we could ever be 'real' teachers just because we're not Korean…

Offline Andyroo

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2012, 07:38:01 AM »


But yeah, I think it's totally messed up how 'fun' seems to be more important than making clear, focused lessons that are level-appropriate. To be honest, I would consider any KT who insists that I should be doing this to be incompetent. The problem is that a lot of KTs don't think we could ever be 'real' teachers just because we're not Korean…

If you are at an accademic high school then your class is about as important as PE in their eyes. You don't teach for the test and the test is all that matters..... if they ever end up bringing in the NEAT test I would expect a big change in attitude.

Offline Yu_Bumsuk

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2012, 07:47:02 AM »


But yeah, I think it's totally messed up how 'fun' seems to be more important than making clear, focused lessons that are level-appropriate. To be honest, I would consider any KT who insists that I should be doing this to be incompetent. The problem is that a lot of KTs don't think we could ever be 'real' teachers just because we're not Korean…

If you are at an accademic high school then your class is about as important as PE in their eyes. You don't teach for the test and the test is all that matters..... if they ever end up bringing in the NEAT test I would expect a big change in attitude.

I teach about 55% academic HS and even though most of the students are below average for academic I find that it's possible to make most classes work by teaching based on the same materials the KTs are, writing part of their mid-terms and finals based on materials I've covered, and teaching to the EBS listening test. You're right, though, that the NEAT has the potential to create a big change in attitudes ... just as it looks like the elimination of HS NETs is on the horizon in many areas. Oh well, the students (and parents of students) who know what they need will create a demand for HS hagwon lessons that aren't entirely a joke.

Offline kps1

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2012, 09:20:04 AM »
I started laughing by the time i hit "eagerly creates lesson plans". Thanks for the Maya Angelou-esque rant.

Offline 제이

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2012, 09:29:16 AM »
I have no desire to make English fun and exciting and am sick of the expectation of making students happy every class, every minute, every second I step outside of my apartment.

Yeah I do somewhat agree with this one. It's frustrating trying to make 재미 있어 classes all the time for students who don't care one way or another about learning English. Also, when I leave the school I just want to be left alone. But since I live around the school it is inevitable that I meet students, and I still feel like I have to "perform."

Quote
I know that I have a privileged position in this country, but teaching basic grammar and transforming its aspects into play and then hearing theoretical justifications from for-profit universities, just makes me wonder:

I agree I too have doubts for some of the theoretical justifications, but you have to keep in mind that the theoretical justifications don't have the Korean PS context in mind. They usually approach things from an ESL or intensive language school context. In those contexts, using games as language practice is entirely justifiable. But like you, I really have my doubts about how they work in a public school with ~40 unmotivated kids who are already swamped and tired with classes. I don't think Krashen had the bomb game in mind when he was talking about lowering affective filters.

Part of the problem is that the theories are about students in Universities or Intensive English schools, since that's who hires the professors who write the articles.

Quote
How would we reassess our approach and expectation to ESL if someone dared to apply  the same approach and expectation to a subject like computer programming (which also requires learning a language)?

You have to understand that computer programming languages are way different than natural languages. You don't have to speak computer code. You don't use computer code at a restaurant. Computer code serves a very specific purpose which is creating algorithms and logic structures. Natural language is far more complex, even though both require a fair amount of practice.

Offline w4z

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2012, 09:29:43 AM »
Quit.  This is not a hard job, but you have to have some level of enthusiasm to get the job done.  If you don't, you are effectively depriving kids of an education.  It's not about you, it's about them.  If you leave, then hopefully a more enthusiastic person will take your place.



Yup, kids who don't pay attention, never do homework, always say they hate English, never bring a notebook, book or pencil,etc... YOU really are depriving them of an  education. I am not saying to be a mime and lazy when teaching nothing will be that helpful unless they are actually wanting to learn.


It's part of our jobs to control this behavior.  If you have these problems, you shouldn't be blaming it on the students.  I've seen the worst of the worst classes totally turned around by an enthusiastic and involved teacher.  You know...the ones that don't do it for the pay check.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 09:32:47 AM by w4z »

Offline Andyroo

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Re: Bad Teacher Rant (A loss of faith in teaching ESL)
« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2012, 09:54:09 AM »
I teach about 55% academic HS and even though most of the students are below average for academic I find that it's possible to make most classes work by teaching based on the same materials the KTs are, writing part of their mid-terms and finals based on materials I've covered, and teaching to the EBS listening test. You're right, though, that the NEAT has the potential to create a big change in attitudes ... just as it looks like the elimination of HS NETs is on the horizon in many areas. Oh well, the students (and parents of students) who know what they need will create a demand for HS hagwon lessons that aren't entirely a joke.

I was lucky my predessesor took her job seriously and did all the hard work of getting the school to take the conversation classes seriously. I get to write 5 of the test papers and have a text book to use. I teach vocational so it’s not so important for student motivation; that’s up to me but it’s a godsend in relations with the Korean staff because it means they are invested.

I would love for NEAT to come in just because I have a few students that are good at English relative to their classmates but not good enough for it to affect their test scores. When I look at the tests they do you need either good memorization skills or a really high standard (that few of my students have) of English. Below that bar and it is a bit of a crapshoot as to what scores they will get.

I have a few in the lowest class that would give the Korean teachers a shock if the test results better reflected ability.