Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Teaching for Free - Why do it?

ATTENTION ENGLISH TEACHING F2 VISA HOLDERS (and anyone else who is able):
I am officially recommending that if you have a couple extra hours a week to give free teaching in your community a shot, it is an excellent idea. Many communities have cultural and education centers that offer classes in things like yoga, Chinese, knitting, and other hobbies and activities but English is conspicuously absent from the lists. So, if you are interested and are not sure how to go about it in your community or where to go, please comment or email me and I will try to hook you up.

WHY do it? Here's what I thing (If anyone cares :)

1. As long-time residents and/or F2 visa holders, we have a stake in our communities even if we don't plan to live here forever. The more we make our presence known in a positive way, the better outlook the community can have on the foreign community at large. This benefits both sides.

2. We have all read the negative stories about some foreign teachers; drug users, philanderers, pushers, child abusers, perverts, gangsters, etc. The press seems to try and paint a negative picture of English teachers whenever possible. The only people who are more undeservedly vilified in the press than English teachers are the soldiers of the USFK. Here is an opportunity to turn some of this negative press around.

3. I have heard that in Seoul some of the foreign communities do have a high rate of presence in their communities. But out here in the provinces and outside of these communities, foreigners are fewer and farther between.

4. Having a presence in your community helps level the playing field by giving you a voice in that community when discrimination rears its ugly head. Discrimination is a fact of life for foreigners in Korea. But you will find that the people who work in the local offices are much more understanding and helpful than the average Joe Kim in this situation.

5. For uni and college teachers - volunteer work is something that Korean professors are obligated to do and if any of us EVER expect or would like to have tenure...well, I won't say it get the picture.

6. Volunteerism is highly respected in Korea (as it should be everywhere) but it is highly UNexpected that foreigners will get involved in this way.

7. I know that the USFK has several volunteer organizations that do great work in their communities that include English teaching in orphanages and these are great. So I know that I am not the first to do anything like this. But I have never heard any stories of foreign teachers getting involved in their neighborhoods. I would like to see that change.

8. ____add your own thoughts in the comments section. :)

Other potential benefits include:

1. Private lessons - If you teach private lessons (most F2 holders I know do) you will be surprised at how a class of 20 or so housewives can drum up lessons without even being asked to do so.

2. A presence in the community, particularly with people in local government, will make you a valuable asset to your school. Something that 1 or 2 year contract holders can appreciate.

3. If you teach an evening class, you may find that you are offered more side jobs than you can handle. (How many of you would like to be so busy that you actually have to turn down 50,000 won-plus per hour jobs?)

5. It cannot be expected in a volunteer class, of course, but you may find that you are paid a 'transportation fee' that is more than your school pays you for overtime.

I haven't been doing it for very long but I really can't see any seriously negative aspects to this type of volunteerism. Even if you never get any of these benefits, you still get the benefits of being know and respected as a person who cares about your neighbors and your community. So, once again, if you would like to take the step to be more civic minded then please comment or email me with your questions and thoughts.

If anyone reading this has any other stories about volunteering in Korea (particularly English teaching), I would love to hear them.

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