When your purpose to teach abroad is to make a positive impact, you will do wonders.
Travel is a choice and an investment. Many of us choose the unconventional path to travel long-term. We aspire to immerse ourselves in another culture and experience an entirely new lifestyle and perspective. Some of us choose to teach abroad for various reasons—one of the many being to make a positive impact.
It wasn't long before my students became my main priority here. My job was not just limited to teaching English, but to sharing cross-cultural experiences as well. It is my purpose to help them build character and the confidence to become successful in their future endeavours. I don't expect to change the world, but knowing that I've made an impact on at least one of my students is enough of a reason for me to consistently give my best effort and heart into everything I do.
As a guest English teacher, there isn't much that I can do. My position does not allow me to be very flexible, express individuality or creativity. Collectivism and a social hierarchy is the cultural norm in Korea, so a lot of the times I find that I have to stick to the textbook and adapt to my co-teachers' teaching styles. However, like everything else in life, sometimes you will need to take the extra step and speak up for what you truly believe in to create a change.
I definitely experience many overwhelming days when I mess up or feel completely frustrated and under-appreciated by both my students and my co-teachers. Occasionally I would ask myself, "Why am I here?" Fortunately, there will always be students that remind you of the reason why you're here in the first place and why you need to keep going.
Three months into the job, I received a surprising phone call from the mother of one of my students. At that moment, I felt my heart beating fast, body heating up, and voice shaking as I spoke. But I shouldn't have worried; she was calling to thank me for taking care of her son and for being a positive influence on him. His parents were appreciative of my efforts in creating a pen-pal system and writing to my higher level students, allowing them to improve their English language literacy. As I was completely at loss of words, she continued and said they would like to drop by the office to hand me a gift for Teachers' Day, a holiday in appreciation of all teachers in Korea. It was moments like these that I remind myself that I need to give myself more credit and this is why I'm meant to be here.
Four months later, I was given the opportunity to be my authentic self and showcase my creativity. I was asked to do a live broadcast at my school to teach all 600 of my students about Canada. I was more excited than anything to be able to share my culture with them. I could've done a simple PowerPoint presentation, but instead, I wanted to do more and created a fun, yet educational 10-minute video. The video was not just for my students, but for myself and everyone back home as well.
I created a script with a short story where I played two characters, added one-liner facts for both my family and friends to make their appearance in, added videos of Toronto landmarks, and incorporated some slides, narration and an interesting commercial to end it off. The video was a huge hit, and it was truly a blessing to be able to witness my students reactions and to see my family and friends take part of this project. Not only did I learn so much more about my home country, but I had so much fun filming and creating this beautiful memory for years to come.
Originally published on Verge Magazine (November 29, 2016)