Thursday, April 10, 2008

a week before good-bye

I'm not actually leaving Korea until the 27th of this month, but my classes finish next week, with the 18th (Friday) being my final day of teaching. Hard to believe that my time at Smoo (you newbies might not know that that's my nickname for the school where I teach) is almost up-- three very pleasant years.

Smoo has definitely been the best gig I've had since coming back to Korea in 2002. When I was in Seoul from 1994 to 1996, I worked at two different language institutes (and did a stint teaching business English at a large firm in Yeouido), and from 2004 to 2005, I did the same. Let me tell you, the move from such institutes (called hagweon in Korean) to a university like Smoo was like the transition from night to day: while the pay suffered a slight decrease, the stress level went way, way down. I've been lucky, in all my jobs, to have worked with decent (and in many cases excellent) coworkers, and to have taught great students, but the main problem in all my previous jobs boiled down to two things: unreasonable schedule and unreasonable management. In this job, far from working 44 hours a week (as I'd done in my 2004-05 gig), I generally teach only about 20 hours a week-- high for the typical Korean university, but low from my "hagweonic" perspective. I'm also lucky to have bosses who, whatever their quirks, have been humane and understanding to me. This in turn has made me much more willing to go the extra mile for the school, which I've tried to do in different ways: by holding extracurricular French classes, by having one-to-one tutoring sessions (students could sign up for a time slot), by creating ad posters for our program, cooking full meals for our end-of-term parties, and so on. I would never have done these things at any of my previous jobs.

So it's going to be a sad good-bye next week. I look forward to going home for a while and doing this trans-America walk, but I'm also sad to be leaving this life behind. I've got a job where I like-- love-- what I do, where that love and effort are appreciated, and where I feel very much at home. Luckily, I do plan to come back to Korea when the walk is done, so however sad this good-bye will be, it won't be a "good-bye forever."

And now... I've got an 11AM pronunciation class today. Final exam for these students. Next Friday, we're just partying.


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