Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When You Struggle for Words

I've struggled for a long time wondering what to write here.  My blog used to be something that brought me a lot of joy to write and create.  But lately, I have lacked the desire to update, as well as missing the passion that came with writing and creating something new.  I have also not been enjoying my job as well as some of my experience thus far this year, so I tried to keep from running to my blog to rant about them.  I've read a lot of ranting-style blogs expounding on the negatives of Korea, and I don't want to be one of them.

Earlier last year, I knew that I wanted to do one more year in Korea so I would have time to prepare to either go back to school or head into the lateral entry program once I return home for good.  When I went home in March in between my contracts, I felt the pull of home more so than I had before.  I thought I was making the right decision, given the options, by coming back for one last year.

Once I returned and started at my new school, teaching through the GEPIK program, I started to regret my decision on a number of levels.  Public school is touted in Korea as being a more stable job with more vacation and a higher security of being paid.  But what most people don't realize at first is that public school can be as random in terms of good schools and bad schools, just like hagwons.  I was told that given my experience and what I wanted to accomplish at home, public school would be the better option for me.  It would look better on my resume and give me more related experience than another hagwon could.

But again, not the best of decisions.  I considered handing in my notice, quitting after a few months.  I also considered not telling my school at all, and just leaving.  I wasn't planning on returning to Korea and teaching here again in the future.

The problem with that is there is a lot of money involved with leaving a contract early.  Especially in public school.  Not only would you forfeit your end-of-year severance bonus, you would miss out on a paid flight home and you're on the hook for paying back the money for your incoming flight.  In addition, you have to repay the settlement allowance of 300,000 (about 250 dollars).  Public schools also withhold money for 3 months for a security deposit, from which they deduct your last month's bills and any amounts accrued for damages to your apartment.  That can be anywhere from 700-900,000 won (650-850 dollars).  You would probably forfeit a good chunk of that as well.  I've also heard that sometimes it is difficult to claim your pension if you quit a public school contract early.  That last part is merely hearsay but it would suck nonetheless.

So as you can see, quitting early hits you in a lot of ways.  I have plans to get LASIK surgery this year before I get back to the States, where it costs WAY more than it does in Korea.  I also have a few more places to check off my travel list.  I am uncertain the next time I will be in Asia, so I need to check off these places while I can.  Because of all of this, and because of wanting to have a nice nest egg ready for re-entering an American lifestyle, I decided that I would stay.  Even if it meant having to sit through the next year biting my tongue.  And thus, trying not to bitch about it too much to friends or on the Internet.

Some classes go great some days; other days they can be like going to the dentist and getting teeth pulled.  I feel like the dentist in a lot of cases.  My school has made me seriously question the future of ESL in Korea and what schools hope to accomplish by hiring and retaining foreign teachers.  As someone who wants to be a teacher back home, it almost breaks my heart to not be able to teach students.  I feel generally underused as a teacher at my school, where the general attitude is that English is not necessary or important at all.  (Often makes me wonder why this particular school decided to hire a FT in the first place.)

If there is anything I have learned in all this is that I do not want to teach high school anymore.  I thought when I came here that that was what I would do once I returned home.  I loved my high school teachers and the fact that they could teach a whole class on what they loved and specialized in.  But teaching high school isn't in the cards for me, I suppose.  Through all my experiences here in Korea, it's the elementary school students that have brought me the most joy.  They are at the age where they are old enough to understand the basics of life, but untouched by raging hormones and changing attitudes.  They have good and bad days just like other students, but generally their enthusiasm for learning and doing new things remains unbroken.  Now, anyone who is an elementary school teacher is welcome to offer their comments and opinions to this.  I would be glad to hear your perspectives!

Right now I'm trying to focus less on my life at school here and focus more on the future:  LASIK surgery, traveling a few last places, seeing friends that are still here, and getting ready to move home.  That, along with talking to friends back home, is what is keeping me sane.  To all of you who have listened to me the past few months, I thank you immensely for your willing ears.

And this is me, hopefully finding the oomph I needed to get back into blogging again.  Thanks for sticking with me.
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