Tag Archives: English

Big Winners

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, my coteacher and I won 2nd place in the Korean national teaching competition at the end of last year. Last week we went to Seoul, with an entire fifth grade class in tow, to receive an award and demonstrate our concept class in front of hundreds of teachers and school administrators from around the country.

I didn’t realize just how big of a deal this competition was until we walked into the auditorium in which the ceremony and demonstrations were to take place. In fact, nobody even bothered to tell me that all of the hard work I did last year was for a competition. After the fifth time we demonstrated our concept class in front of a huge group of teachers, I asked why we were doing the same thing over and over. That’s when I learned we were heading to the semi-finals of the competition.

2013 Korean National Teaching Competition

My coteacher receiving the 2nd place award.

In the auditorium, there was a TV crew and a couple of news crews setting up on the stage an hour before the show. We set up a booth with information about our class and then sat down to watch the ceremony.

They called all of the teachers up to to the stage one-by-one. It didn’t take long to realize that I wasn’t going to be recognized for my hard work. I wish I could say that I didn’t mind, but the truth is that I was a little upset. As the only foreign teacher in the top ten, there was little doubt as to why I was snubbed. Despite being a little butt-hurt, I kept a smile on my face and did my best when it was our turn to perform.

After our demonstration, a man walked up to me and addressed me by name. In perfect English, he thanked me for my hard work and gave me a gift bag. I found out later that he some big shot from the Korean Ministry of Education.

Once we loaded all of the students onto the bus, I opened the gift bag. I was surprised to find a new camera – not the normal gift of snacks and hand cream.

Sony DSC-WX300 Digital Camera gift seoul Korea

It’s nice to know that somebody noticed and cared enough to let me know I was appreciated. This kind gesture made a huge difference in the way I felt about the whole event.

Until next time.


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Brilliant Advertising

Wall Street English is a company that runs English academies around the world. They are well established in China, Russia and several other countries with large ESL markets. I started noticing their ads around Daegu early this year.

The ads always feature beautiful college-age western women. They’re sexy, they have absolutely nothing to do with English or education, and they stand out against the sea of ads directed at Korean tiger parents.



The reason these ads are so brilliant is because they appeal to the students, not the parents. No wonder this company is doing so well.

Until next time.

– Taft

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Medical Check

Today is an “I hate Korea” day (I don’t really hate Korea…that’s just what I call these days). I’m trying to get a medical check for my Chinese Z (work) visa, but I’m having trouble finding a hospital willing to fill out the form. It’s exactly the same as the Korean medical form, except that it’s in Chinese and English instead of Korean and English.

Apparently my local university hospital has some policy about only filling out medical forms for Korean visas. Given the fact that the girl with whom I spoke was completely rude, I have to wonder if she was just lying to me to avoid a bit of work. Seems like she went to the same customer service school as many other Koreans.

Since all of the foreign service offices at hospitals close at 5pm, and I get off work at 4:30pm, I don’t have the option of trying several hospitals. Wish me luck as I start calling around.

Until next time.


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Obama English School

Everyone knows that our president has many talents, but who knew that he had this kind of reach?

Obama, English, hagwon, avademy, Korea

I wonder if the students get to meet Obama?

This actually makes sense to me. Obama is one of a handful of Americans who all Koreans seem to know. Every time we see a black person on TV (educational videos), at least one kid yells, “OBAMA!”

Until next time.


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Weighing My Options

Since suddenly losing a job that I thought was a sure thing, I’ve been considering my options outside of Korea. For the past two years, the Korean government has been moving the proverbial goal line – making it harder and harder to become a university professor. Outside of university teaching positions, foreigners have zero potential for upward mobility. So it’s time to think about alternatives for next year.

Option 1: China

Despite their proximity, Korea and China are very different places. Korea’s standard of living is much closer to that of the US, but I don’t have much of a future here. Without a university position, I’m simply spinning my wheels. The opportunity cost of wasting another year of my life working an entry-level teaching position is significant at my age.

China, on the other hand, has a wealth of opportunities. The English teaching market is booming, compared to Korea’s shrinking market. I can make nearly the same amount of money in a place where the cost of living is significantly lower. There are also opportunities for foreign businessmen, which might allow me to finally put my MBA to use. The most important benefit of living in China is the opportunity to learn Chinese. In today’s global market, Chinese is a much more valuable language than Korean.

The downside of China is the standard of living. I’ve lived in Korea for nearly two years and managed to never use a “squatter” toilet. I’m afraid I may have to step out of my comfort zone and get used to squatters in China. With any luck, the minor culture shock I experienced in Korea will help me prepare for the monumental culture shock that is bound to hit me in China. But, frankly, I just don’t know what to expect there.

Option 2: Go Home

Going home doesn’t seem like a bad option at this point. I could get back to the “real world” and finally get started on a career. Though I’ve enjoyed a good lifestyle for the last eight years, I have been disappointed by the fact that I have heavy student loan debt and absolutely no savings.. Going home is likely the only way that I could make enough money to save and maintain a social life.

There are two things stopping me from pushing this option to the top of my list. The first is the fact that I’m really enjoying the expat lifestyle. Although Korea isn’t as exciting as it was when I first arrived, I still enjoy an easy lifestyle and a great social life. I’m surrounded by like-minded people who are educated and adventurous. As soon as I move home, the social life goes away.

The other, more important reason that I don’t want to move back to the US is the fact that I’m worried about finding a job. I am well educated, intelligent, hard working, and dependable. But none of that matters. In the current US job market, it’s simply not possible to get a job without “2-5 years of industry experience” (as seen in every job posting ever). I’ve been a police officer, a detective, and a teacher – none of which will help me land a job in sales, marketing, or operations. I don’t mind being underemployed for a while, but I am simply unwilling to go back to waiting tables.

So, those are my options. If I don’t get a decent university job in Korea, which appears increasingly unlikely, I’ll have to choose. If you were in my position, what would you do? I’d love to hear any advice you might have.

Until next time.


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