Thursday, July 9, 2015

June 8 2015

Day 1 – June 8, 2015
I was struck by many ideas discussed in today’s class, but not as new learning – more as reminders of past experiences, which is sometimes what I need to give me that extra push to be a better teacher. The idea that “being a NS does not make me a better teacher” is one that comes to mind now. I had no idea there was so many political ideas behind this statement. I remember when I was in Korea the parents of my kids would always ask if their kid was being taught by a NS and smile as the director told them so. I remember thinking at the time what a load of crap this was. I knew nothing about teaching a language then, at 24 years of age, and I remember thinking how much better my Korean team-teacher was at conveying a thought or getting kids to “buy in” to the who reason for their being there.
I learned so much from “Lily Teacher” that year -- namely classroom management techniques that are so essential to running an elementary classroom, but I never thought to ask how much she was getting paid or how she was being treated. She seemed happy. She seemed like she loved her job. If I had it to do over again knowing what I know now from yesterday’s conversation in class I would have so many questions to ask her. I know she took on so much more of the teaching responsibilities than I did in the Kindergarten classroom (much of it merely because of the language barrier) but she did all the talking to parents about behavior and parent conferences – it seemed unfair that the only thing I had to do was lesson plan, grade, and show up and talk. From someone that has self-worth issues, teaching in South Korea was the only time I felt I’ve been “paid what I’m worth” but I didn’t feel like a earned any of that salary and was extremely not confident in my abilities – making me feel bad for what I was earning. Being 24 is hard for a middle class white woman from Decatur.
I’m not ungrateful for that experience though. It did seem a little weird that I was getting paid twice as much as I was getting paid in the states and all of my meals and housing was covered on top of that. I didn’t ask about salary because I know that’s considered rude in the states. I would kind of talk about it with the younger Korean staff because I felt more comfortable with them, but because there is a very Confucian element to Asian culture, I avoided talking about such personal matters with the staff that was twice my age. I know that the younger Korean staff was not treated well and I don’t think they were paid as well as we were either. They never gave me a number, but were always making reference to the fact that they were broke and better get married soon so they could move out of their parents’ houses. I learned later that was very common – housing is such a commodity that young people really can’t afford to live on their own and it’s not as common for them to live with roommates (as we do in the states) as it is to live at home with a college degree until they save up enough for an apartment in the city but don’t move out typically until marriage. After today’s class I kind of want to research this further. I don’t think I was taking advantage of people, I was simply doing what every 24 year old in America does, gaining experience while trying to get out of undergrad student loan debt. There was nothing political at all about my actions, but now I feel bad for the “white privilege” I’ve been given – a topic I am aware of more and more as I dig deeper into the field of ESL teaching. I consider myself a pretty hard worker and haven’t been handed anything in life, but others will see it that way simply because of the color of my skin – and compare me to others that have had definitively worse lives simply because of their culture and background.
I have written in my notes from yesterday “misconception about accent” as well. Which must have meant something at the time – I always ask where people are from when I hear an “accent” that is different from the mainstream. I wonder now if I’m offending people when I do this. I am simply curious and want to know more about the world I live in. I’m wondering now if it makes people uncomfortable --- I think maybe I will wait until I get to know them a little better before I “pop the question” so to speak. I have always considered accents a sign of worldliness – white people are boring and the thicker your accent the more you know about the world because the more you have traveled. Now I’m rethinking this. It may not be the case and people are just as shy about their “accent” as I am about my southern twang when I slip into that. 
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