My Advice to Teachers Thinking of Giving Up…


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Teaching abroad isn’t for everybody

I know that life abroad for many people can be difficult. There are lots of adjustments to make. New foods, different cultural norms, learning a foreign language and general communicative difficulties, workplace issues and general stress can really wreak havoc on people’s personal lives. For some people it’s their first time abroad, and when homesickness kicks-in, it can cause some people to up and go back in the middle of the night (the so-called “midnight runs”).

In a country like Korea, workplace communication tends to be last-minute, and most people don’t speak English well, if at all. That can make teachers’ lives hard. Some parents have a lot of power and strong opinions can affect the workplace, too (at least in the private sector). In addition, kids can be brats and mouth-off, not listen, or generally be disruptive, and the Native English Teacher can’t discipline students easily. Some private academy (학원 “hakwon”) owners don’t follow their signed contract (paying late or not at all sometimes), and that can really drive people to rightfully leave (sometimes in the form of a midnight run). Plus, the longevity of a career in teaching ESL abroad can be hard to maintain. One more thing, some people just don’t like teaching abroad. Others find out can’t teach as well as they had thought.

All these things (and many more, I’m sure) make leaving the field appealing. Well, my advice to those who are contemplating leaving is this:

Don’t lose  hope!

Everybody, even myself, becomes tempted to throw in the towel. When the stress becomes too great, when lessons don’t go as planned, when your principal is on your back for something you may (or may not) have done, or when personal issues collide with the workplace, don’t give up! Seek out other teachers when you’re struggling. Forming connections with fellow English teachers really helps deal with living abroad. If I hadn’t made the friends I did after coming, I may not have stayed here as long as I have.

Sometimes leaving is necessary (as in the case of family or personal matters), but if those aren’t the case and you’re just thinking of quitting because you’re new and things aren’t going well in the classroom, continue to try your best. If, after trying again, you truly feel like teaching isn’t the job for you, then go ahead and leave if that will make you happier.

Ultimately it’s your choice and you need to do what you feel is best.

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Filed under advice, ESL, Korea, Self Reflection, Teaching

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