What started as a plane ticket bought on a whim has become a two year investment in learning how to best teach English as a foreign language and, who knows, maybe even a career. But how has teaching English as a foreign language changed me? Read to find out!
Once upon a time I would spend a significant amount of time ‘getting ready’ for work. I would plan an outfit that made me feel fabulous, style my hair however I saw fit and I’d apply foundation, mascara, bronzer and so on. In fact, come to think of it, I used to wear jewellery too! Since becoming a teacher my appearance has changed, vastly. Goodbye Towie, Hello Teacher (literally). In place of GHD styling is dry hair shampoo and actual shampoo occurs once, maybe twice, per week. In place of makeup is vitamin C serum and factor 50 sun cream. And as far as FASHUN is concerned, the body-con skirts and skinny jeans are but a distant memory. Instead, I wear:
- Shorts down to my knees (this accommodates my Hagwon dress code AND swag simultaneously). *preference: pockets as they are very useful for storing board markers!
- Skirts: knee length and ideally made of a man-made, non-creasing fabric.
- Tops of any description (blouses, tees etc.) that cover my shoulders, reach my neck and hide any suggestion of breasts.
- Under-tees and vests in black, white and beige courtesy of Uniqlo.
- Bras: the beige t.shirt type are pretty much my go-to teacher bras.
- Knickers: anything with no VPL, anti-sexy and in beige is always a winner.
- Knicker-overalls: as a teacher, if I dare to wear a skirt I ALWAYS wear shorts underneath. I teach kindergarten and I teach in Korea, need I say more?
- Jewelry: I wear a watch because time is on the essence.
- Footwear: Spring: trainers, Summer: Birkenstocks, Autumn: trainers, Winter: waterproof, grippy leather boots.
- Trousers: not too tight and with pockets #storagegoals.
- Handbag: let’s be honest, it’s a comfy backpack with lots of pockets.
- Extras are optional but unlikely: plucked eyebrows, bag-free under eyes, blemish-free skin, manicure, pedicure and shaved legs.
- Colours: Anything but white.
As someone who attained a degree in Eng Lit and prided themselves on having a pretty decent lexical stock, well, now that’s pretty much all gone to shit. Not only do I pronounce words with an American accent but I spell things the ‘merican way too. With regards to speaking aloud, I would be mortified to listen back to myself. It’s more difficult than you might think to communicate with a 5, 6 or 7 year old who is learning English as a second language. As a result, I get into really bad habits of speaking English the same way they do. Why? Initially, I did this so that my students could understand me, “You – happy – yes?”. However, now it’s just embarrassing as I easily slip into kindergarten interpretations on the English language. And yet despite my best efforts to speak naturally, in both syntax and pronunciation, it’s rare that I do. Further to this shame, I also slip far too comfortably into Konglish and adopt whiny Korean kindergarten mannerisms…I don’t know who I am anymore.
This is the only section where there is any improvement.
- PPT: I am the master of PowerPoint animations and creating PowerPoint based games (saves paper/the environment).
- Patience: it’s a virtue, and I got that down let me tell you.
- Resilience: is this a skill? If not, I have at least learned to take it on the chin, something I was totally unable to conquer until I evolved into Cherry-Teacher.
- Time Management: classroom time management took me a little while to perfect but with time and experience I did it!
- Public speaking: I am not shy but throughout university I would shake with nerves before any group presentation and I would opt out of modules that included public speaking. Now, I can easily teach a class in front of 20 parents and my superiors without so much as a quiver.
- Explaining: I think this is a skill that is essential as a teacher and I think I got (am getting) it down. My brain always congers varied and inventive ways to explain things to my students and not only do they seem to enjoy this process but it helps them to remember it too!
- God damn respect!: in Korean you gotta show respect to your elders, those in higher positions of power and your peers. At first, bowing seemed so unnatural and I’d always forget to pass things with two hands. Not now! New culture, new me. I’m embracing the etiquette of Korea.
And that’s a wrap! Of course, the journey of an English (as a foreign language) teacher is never ending and I learn new things each day. I have learned so much about myself, my students and Korea in the past two years and despite all the lows, it’s definitely been worth it for all the amazing highs.