The Last Shot

For the final discussion I’d ever have with my co-teacher we decided to drink a little bit. Obviously. Already a few bottles of Cass littered the table and steam rose off the grill as we placed another slice of meat on the kalbi grill. She was telling me I did a good job.

“Foreign teachers need to be excited and happy to teach, you did that very much this year,” she told me.

I wonder, what sorts of teachers aren’t excited to teach? Teaching isn’t a profession that lends itself to large sums of money so it seems that the people who would do it would do it out of love. When I first decided to be a teacher, I told myself that if I ever felt bored with teaching that I should quit. Students deserve teachers who care.

“Yes, but I felt like I should have done more. I’m not sure the students learned that much from me.”

“No, you can not do more. Hey, you only have very little time to teach students and you have over 1000. You can not teach them everything. We need foreign teachers so students feel excited about English and so that they can get used to being around foreigners. You did this, even when you were tired you still acted excited”

“But couldn’t you hire any foreigner for that? Who cares if they’re qualified teachers?” I queried.

I was beginning to feel that my college degree was going to waste. You don’t need to be a real teacher to do this job. In fact, that’s one of the education systems favorite marketing points ‘Teach English in Korea! Travel the World! You don’t need a teaching degree!’ The only qualification we need is to be born in an English speaking country. I guess I’m qualified then, congratulations to me. I took another sip of the Cass and felt just a little bit more numb.

“Yes, but that is a difficult job. Hey, there are not many teachers who can keep attention of students for forty minutes.”

She was trying to make me feel better. I didn’t really need it, but I guess it was appreciated. Nickelodeon programming also does a decent job keeping a child’s attention for forty minutes to an hour.

She continued “The students liked you and I could see that they became very comfortable with you. Two years ago when we have no foreign teacher the students were very scared to speak English. Now they speak lots.”

“Yah, but only really easy sentences, and most of the time they don’t even do it correctly.”

For example, ‘hello, nice to meet you,’ when I’ve met them twenty times before. Another bottle of Cass down.

“But we are very poor school. Students are excited to have foreign teacher. Especially guy teacher, it makes us think we are very special. The students are more prideful of themselves and think English is fun.”

Some people talk about fighting the good fight. Sticking it out when times are tough. But if I wanted to fight the good fight I’d move to Africa, or New Orleans. Besides, the kids who are smart learn English by studying themselves and by attending hogwans and the lower level students don’t care…who exactly am I teaching then?

“The students are sad that you are leaving,” she said as she tried to grab one of the waitresses as she ran by. I guess she had a point. Maybe I was just trying to convince myself to the contrary.

“I still don’t think I did anything that special.”

And with that we ordered one last bottle of soju.



Filed under Culture, Education, Narratives, The foreigner experience

2 responses to “The Last Shot

  1. kat

    Hey, give yourself some credit. I’m sure you have made some difference for one of them.

    You can’t really expect them to be speaking good English after only a few years, went they are still living in a country that hardly speaks English. At least they tried.

    You’ll be leaving Korea? For good? Well, all the best!
    I really enjoy reading your blog.

  2. The entire Tefl International Video (teaching English TESOL) course is posted here:

    Made in Thailand, it was never copyrighted. Originally in DVD format all files were converted to MP4. Each video is now small enough to fit a single CD and easily played on Ipod.

    To download these files you will need a file share program such as Emule or uTorrent (

    Note: a TESOL/TEFL certificate is NOT required for teaching in Thailand.

    Latest requirements:

    The Thai Ministry of Education has declared that all foreign teachers must have a Teacher Profession Certificate in order to legally teach in the country.

    1) Foreign teachers who have a right to hold the Teacher Profession Certificate (must have been working in school before June 12, 2003) and want to extend their certification in 2009.

    2) Hold a bachelor degree or higher in Education and has experience in teaching at least 1 year.

    3) Hold the other fields of a bachelor degree or higher and already hold the Teacher Profession Certificate from abroad

    4) Hold the other fields of a bachelor degree or higher and already has experience in teaching at least 2 year. Hold an educational certificate that takes at least 1 year of study.

    The Tefl International “Thai special project” where you work in Thailand while taking that course does NOT meet above requirements. If you are arrested, jailed or deported Tefl International will not be of assistance, you are on your own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s