Saturday, October 17, 2009

Are you a backpacker?

I teach in this program at my university, that's on weekends and for gifted kids. Because it's on a Saturday and for kids, the guy in charge seems to have a hard time finding foreigners to teach in it so there are various and random Koreans doing it as well. One lady, who I just met for the first time and I had a conversation that left a bad taste in my mouth.

The gist of it was, "So, you're just a backpacker?" Me: "No, I've been teaching for 5 years, I consider myself an ESL professional, I don't want to talk to you anymore, goodbye." Anyway, some thoughts:

1. I was most definitely a backpacker during my first year teaching in Korea. I was almost totally clueless about teaching, especially the kindy kids which are not my cup of tea. However, by year 5, I have gotten my act together and consider myself a true professional. I'm not formally educated in the area, but have done extensive reading, thinking and talking with co-workers about the field. So it's insulting to be labeled as a "backpacker" and clumped together with the newbies fresh out of uni and off the plane.

2. Korea is my home. I'm not here for the one year plan anymore. I have a garden, long-term friends, hobbies, and furniture. I will stay until something offers me serious motivation to leave. I'm definitely not backpacking through on my way to greener pastures.

3. Yes, I like traveling. But I do my job and am pretty good at it (I think!) for 34 weeks of the year. Why shouldn't I be a backpacker and enjoy the other 18 weeks traveling around Korea or other countries? Why does this backpacker label have to carry over to when I'm actually working and clearly not in that role anymore?

Your thoughts? Backpacker or professional?

1 comment:

ageekinkorea said...

This was an interview question when I got hired at a university. "Describe how you view yourself in the classroom in relation to the students."

I said, "I'm a professional teacher. I'm not their friend. I'm kind to them, but they must respect me and do what I say."

The interviewer liked my answer. There is definitely a shift in people's perspectives when they decide to stick it out here long term.