Learning About Teaching

Fourteen days ago, I extended my contract to stay in Korea.

Eight days later, I changed my mind and voided that contract.

By doing so, I won’t have a job as of September 1st.  I usually would think nothing of not having prospective options but for some reason, I am annoyed about this. I am not worried but I feel that at this point of my life, I should have a more concrete idea of what the hell I want.

Like always,  I have no idea. This infinite process of trial and error continues…

I am now certain that I don’t want to be a teacher. I reached this conclusion because I have the same problem now in Month Ten of this job that I had in Week One. I constantly take out my frustrations about the staff and administration on my students and it’s grossly unfair to them. It’s not a conscious decision but I am often frustrated with the system and I then wind up snapping on some fifteen year old kid.

This happened again last week. I was tested and angered by my co-teachers and some students from 9am till 2pm and shortly thereafter I flipped out on some poor kid who wasn’t even misbehaving or being noisy, but couldn’t understand me.  He was  sitting there quietly and not tearing his paper in half like I had asked about ten times and demonstrated twice.  I told him to look around. He didn’t understand me. I told him to look at everyone’s papers half the size of his. I shouted and shook my paper frantically. He stared at me, completely bereft of emotion or understanding. I ran to his desk, picked up his paper, crumpled it into a ball, threw it in his face and threw him out of class. I still cannot believe I did this. His only mistake was not understanding me. Which isn’t a mistake. He didn’t do anything wrong. Two minutes later, I went outside and he was facing the wall and visibly upset and confused. I told him to join the class again. When I brought him in, I couldn’t even look at him and I had to leave class, disgusted with myself. It turned out he is one of the most quiet boys in school and I still can’t get him to say a word to me.  I apologized to him after class and told my co-teacher to tell him in Korean that it was my mistake and I had a bad day. But really, who cares? People have bad days. That doesn’t give them the right to displace their anger and humiliate others. That kid probably thinks I’m a total asshole and he is right. Cos to him, I have to be. How could I not?  If you think about it, the only thing I taught him that day is that it’s okay for adults to become angry and throw things at children. Not my finest hour.

If  I can’t control myself then I am no better than a child and probably worse than half of them. Two weeks ago, I felt that leaving school was quitting on my students but I am now absolutely convinced that they will be better off with a new teacher, some one who will almost certainly be more patient, committed and able to make a difference.  Since I told my school I am leaving, the teachers have all been complimenting me a lot. The staff asks me to stay and the word they all use to describe me as a teacher is “sincere”. That means a lot to me because I think sincere is one of the best things anyone can be in this life. Although I am nowhere as efficient as I wish, for the school to recognize that I have given my sincere best everyday is very gratifying. Still,  I realize that sincerity is not enough. Far from it.

Teaching is great. The joy of getting something through to someone is very rewarding and trumps any “success” I have had at any other job. This job has left me looking forward to having my own children because  I would love to teach them, but while doing something else for a career.

It’s strange knowing I will probably never see any of these boys again. I wonder if they will achieve their dreams and what they will be like when they  grow up and have girlfriends and things like that.

I wind up missing everyone . I miss everybody. Leaving all these boys behind is going to be difficult. I imagine I will wonder about them the rest of my life.

I suppose being a teacher is about giving it all and then letting go.

It’s a tough business. Maybe the toughest there is. Too tough for me.

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One thought on “Learning About Teaching

  1. I really enjoyed reading this… teaching is not meant for everyone but at least you are conscious of your reaction and you took action to rectify the negative situation with your student. It sounds like your heart is really put into teaching but if you think this is the only field where you are frustrated with the a system and take it out on innocent students you are mistaken. I taught English in France for a year shortly after graduating and had the best time of my life. The last 4 year I have spend working in marketing in the corporate world only to realize I feel my work is totally meaningless and I have to deal with redtape,office BS, listening to a symphony of photocopiers, telephones ringing, fax machines beeping outside my small cubicle, and coffee talks as of 8am each day over whose whitepicket fence needs a paint job, or gardening techniques – I request to have an empty office due to all of the above distractions, but am denied as I am not in a Director’s position, and am told “what are the other workers going to think if this 20 something year old gets an office”… So, just like you, I am totally frustrated in my work environment and take it out on clients. co-workers, and even my boss.. Ok, all this makes me sound jaded, and perhaps I am venting. Sounds like it’s time to quit my job right before I get miserable, right? This I will do, and I just may accept the offer I received once again to teach English (again, 4 years later). Do I know what I want to do with my life? Like you, I too think that by now, I should have more of an idea what the hell I want. But I don’t… and for me too the process of trial and error continues, outside of the corporate world and away from the cubicle. My advice to you is: Don’t take life to seriously and have too high expectation for where you should be by the age of xx because all that is important is that you are happy right now. That is what I have learned the last 5 years. You made a decision to be jobless as of Sept 1 but that is completely ok..you will move on to do different things..try new things.. see what exactly your passion is – you may spend less time teaching but more time on self reflection and following your instict to write (if you still love words that is). I am glad I came across your blog…you are a great writer. Listen to your inner voice… it will get you to what you want.

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