I Will Never Be a Teacher

Very early on in my life, my father made the declaration that I was destined to work with children. Because of my general stubbornness and the fact that a large majority of my family members are teachers, I have always responded, “I will never be a teacher!!!” I have said “never!” to being an educator my entire life. In college, I studied Political Science, which, to me, was about as far from education as a person can get. And yet, four years later, here I am. Teaching.

One of the many goals I’ve had for myself has always been to live overseas. And after studying here, I knew Korea was where I wanted to be. When I began the EPIK process, teaching was just a way to get back to the country that I love so much. I figured I wouldn’t hate teaching. I figured I’d be good at it. I figured that if my grandpa, my parents, and various aunts and uncles could do it, some of their teaching talent must have rubbed off on me. But I completely underestimated how much I would love it.

I am now two months into this experience. I have spent my time going on plenty of adventures with great friends, usually involving soju. Overall, Korea is just as great as I remembered, and I love it for most of the same reasons that I loved it when I was here last summer. Which are mostly food related. But the difference is that this time around, I feel like I am doing something truly meaningful. I have a job that matters.

In Korea, teaching is one of the most respected professions. This country values education more than almost anything else. My students want to learn and my coworkers value my perspective. I get gratification everyday from the people who surround me at Onsan Elementary School. I have a job that I can get excited about. Though being in Korea is a great adventure, the greatest adventure is everyday when I see progress and excitement in my students. This might just be because I give out candy and stickers like it’s going out of style, but hey, I’ll take it.

As much as it pains me to admit it, I am beginning to see why my father saw this as my destiny so many years ago. I find myself using my mother’s teacher voice to get my students’ attention almost everyday. When my friends and I meet for the occasional after school drink, a large percentage of our conversations have to do with the hilarious things that happen to us during the school day. Just as I am becoming more acclimated to this culture and my small Korean vocabulary is beginning to grow, I am also becoming more of a teacher.

These last two months have flown by, but they haven’t necessarily been easy. In light of recent events, being away from home has been harder than I ever imagined. But no matter how far away from my home and my family and Amigos I am, having a career that gives me purpose makes it worth it.

The other day, I was sitting at my desk. A first grade student whose English is almost as terrible as my Korean walked up to me, said “jelly” and gave me a bag of gummy bears. In that moment, all of the loneliness, or dare I say homesickness that may have existed in me went away. Because it reminded me that I am doing something that gives me purpose. And having purpose makes any great adventure even greater.

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