teaching, a new focus


I miss being this goofy and getting away with it.

I’m the type of person who gets very involved with my dreams. I have lots of them, and they tend to change. Or be refined. You guys know by now (how many dozens of times have I said it?) that I’m moving to Korea when I graduate. See, I’ve even taken out the “want” and now it’s an “I am.”

Up until recently, my plan was to teach English until I was fluent enough in Korean to be a translator. And I would still like to translate, and that could still end up being my full-time job there. But lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the bit before. The teaching bit. I love teaching. I enjoyed it in Taiwan and I enjoy sharing with people things I’ve learned and am excited about. One thing I love to do is create enthusiasm.

Right now in college I’m taking a Phonetics and Phonology class. Now, for those of you who aren’t into linguistics, Phonetics would be the study of speech sounds – how they’re created in the mouth, lungs, larynx etc, and how they’re heard and interpreted. Know about the IPA? You should. Phonology is how those sounds are used in a language – what the rules are, and so on. For instance, in English you can have the consonant cluster [skr] as in “scream,” but you can’t have [slr]. You know that intuitively as a native English speaker (if you are). To me, this sort of thing is fascinating. We’ve studied other languages and their sounds as well, like the clicks of some African languages and the guttural sounds in many Arabic languages. Most of these are fairly easy to produce once you know how to articulate them (though I can’t do a Spanish trill to save my life).

As I was in class one day, I thought about comparative phonetics, and how I wanted a chart of all the sounds in Korean so I could figure out how to teach Korean kids to make English sounds. Am I turning into Professor Higgins? I wouldn’t be upset.

My point (long time getting here) is that I am getting really excited to start teaching. I’ve been getting books on child development (Piaget), second-language acquisition, and ESL teaching techniques. Thank heavens for a college library full of dusty old academic tomes.

This is all rather funny, since for most of my life teaching was the one career I flatly refused to consider. I was pulled out of school to be homeschooled in fourth grade, had hated nearly all my teachers for their incompetence, and had(have) such a bad impression of American children that I thought to teach would be a living hell for me. Plus I was convinced at that young age that I didn’t like being social and wanted a job where I could be a hermit. (I still think this sometimes, but foreign children are a lot more appealing to me.)

At the risk of making this post statistically too long to be interesting, I want to say one more thing. Other people, and even sometimes the teachers themselves, seem to view teaching English abroad as a sort of interim job. The thing you do before you begin living. I may have mentioned this before. But it really irks me, particularly now that I actually want to focus on the teaching and make a real job of it. Heck, I even have a notion of starting my own experimental English school, based on projects and conversation, not tests. But when I tell people my dream, I always wonder how seriously they take me. Whether they think I’m just doing it because it’s a sure job, and what I’ll do once I stop doing it. So many people seem to do it as a gap year or as some adventure, so those of us who are serious about it and want it as a permanent thing aren’t taken seriously.

Maybe I can become the first celebrity ESL teacher and turn the impressions about it on their head.



TaLK Korea


Let’s say for the sake of argument that I end up hating college after a year. I don’t expect that to happen, since, after all, “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” –Jack Sparrow

But let’s say that after a year I am fed up with living that life and desperately need to get back to Asia for some re-wiring. Or maybe I’m getting sick from lack of tteokbokki. Back when I was first looking at school recruiters, I found a program called TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea). It’s run by the same people who do EPIK (English Program in Korea). But while EPIK requires a four year degree and places you in a contract position with a public school for a year, TaLK only requires a two year degree and places teachers in rural areas for six months or a year.

The intent was to get rural areas decent English instruction, a project begun in 2008 by the president. While EPIK teachers are “real” teachers, teaching during normal hours under a normal contract, TaLK is less stringent – more of a volunteer deal. I’d teach after school, only about 15-20 hours a week, and get a stipend rather than a salary.

The program sounds amazing, actually. I wasn’t interested at first because it was in rural areas and I wanted to be in a big city, but after thinking about it and actually visiting a big city there, I think I’d like to go to a smaller town. They’re more close-knit and I’d think I’d see a better representation of what Korea is than if I were in Seoul from the get-go.

If I went, it would be after a year or so of school, and only for six months. I don’t want to keep putting off my degree and turning it into the monster in the closet. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a break from school, and this would be a fantastic opportunity to see Korea again close up. Plus I could get a jump-start on learning Korean while there.

So, when I’m living at home again, this will be in the back of my mind, fermenting like good kimchi, waiting to burst forth when the going gets rough.


my current dream


A sunflower. Which has nothing to do with dreams. 

I think humans must always have a dream. (I DREAMED A DREAM IN TIME GONE BYYYYYY!!!!!) Even when we are in the midst of depressing or insufferable circumstances, I think we will tend to imagine a greater place of happiness. I knew I wouldn’t stay in Taiwan forever, but until around four months ago, I didn’t have a clear picture of where I wanted to go. I had vague, nebulous ideas, but nothing concrete. I fully believe that those who plan where they want to end up are the ones most likely to reach their destination. My dream could change; it has before, but some things have always remained the same. I want to live in Asia; I love Asian culture and I feel that it suits me. I want to work with language; either as a teacher, writer, translator or blogger. I want to create and enjoy a beautiful life.

So below is a specific outline of where I see myself in five years. (Now I can answer that pesky interview question.)

After I finish school and get my BA, I’m planning on moving to Korea and teaching English. Ideally, I’d like to teach high school or middle school. I really love getting people excited about things, and I would love to be able to go more in-depth on topics related to English, America, and Western culture. I wouldn’t really be able to do that with younger students, and I feel that college-level is a bit beyond me…

I want to build my blog and become a pro, perhaps even moving into vlogging once in Korea. I know plenty of people who live off of their blogs, and that’s been a dream of mine for a couple of years now, ever since starting TFA. But I know it takes a while, and so I need a good job in the meantime. (If nothing else, I would need some better and more expensive equipment.)

I want to build a ministry for girls. Once I move to Korea, I want to connect with a local church and start a Bible/English class for older teens. Or perhaps connect with an overseas mission project and help establish clubs where I live.

Remember my other post about living in the future? These things are what keep me floating in Tomorrowland. I have to be careful not to lose myself in dreams of a future in Korea. I have to rein myself in and buckle down to Chinese even though I really prefer Korean. It takes discipline, but I’m learning and getting better at it, and I think this acquisition of self-control will be invaluable in my later life, no matter where I end up.

So for now, I’m keeping all this in mind, but not my whole mind.

Huzzah! SUNFLOWERS! (Which, again, have nothing to do with dreams.)