Steve Schertzer

Determine your own significance

The true value of an English teacher

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "evaluation" as,
1 : to determine or fix the value of
2 : to determine the significance, worth, or condition of usually by careful appraisal and study. (

I'm going with this definition for the remainder of this blog entry. From the Korea Times,

12-29-2009 18:44
By Kang Shin-who
Staff Reporter

Native English Teachers to Undergo Evaluation

Elementary and secondary schools plan to create a blacklist of "incompetent" native English speakers and to ask immigration not to reissue English-teaching or E-2 visas to them.

Also, the schools will share information on individual assessments of foreign teachers among themselves. About 23,000 instructors are working in Korea, among them 8,000 are at the schools.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced Tuesday it has made several measures to improve the quality of native English speakers for conversation classes at schools.

The ministry will form an association of officials from city and provincial education offices nationwide to chart policy for the teachers.

The National Institute for International Education (NIIED) will team up with the association to evaluate their performance. But it has not yet made public what objective criteria will be used in concluding whether they are competent or not.

NIIED, which runs the English Program in Korea, or EPIK, will play a central role in operating training programs for the foreigners.

The government also plans to mandate new native teachers to participate in training programs for 10 days or more. During the programs, they can learn about skills used in teaching and managing classes along with Korean culture.

Currently, about 6,000 of the teachers placed at elementary and secondary schools for English conversation classes have participated in the training programs.

Native English teachers incompetent in the classroom? Of course they're incompetent. Many of them, anyway. Then again, many of the Korean English teachers are incompetent as well. I spent three years in the Korean public school system where many Korean English teachers could bearly speak English, let along teach it properly and effectively. The truth is, many teachers everywhere are incompetent or uncaring or just not dedicated to the needs of the students. That's no surprise. What is surprising is that there are some good teachers out there in spite of the fact that almost no one assists them in any way. Or is it because of the fact that no one gets in their way?

It's not like some of the native English teachers planning on going to Korea are thinking of commiting a crime. It's not like some of them take drugs. From Dave's ESL Cafe, Korean Jobs Forum.

(Posted: Mon Dec 28, 2009 2:42 am Post subject: E2 Visa Drug Test -Mushrooms)

 I have landed a teaching job in Korea, fantastic, however, my friends are hell bent on throwing a not to be forgotten mushroom-induced party (ironic?) for my farewell. Needless to say I am not so enthused about the prospects because I understand that the E2 visa process has a drugs test in it?

If I took the test tomorrow I would pass no problem. I am a very infrequent user of drugs. But it appears hard to come by reliable info on the actual test. Anyone know if they test for mushrooms? The active substance would be Psilocybin.

Obviously the most common sense approach is not to take anything. I am, however, planning for a worst case scenario.

Good God! And I was hoping that the mushroom part of this post was about favorite pizza toppings. Silly me. It's not like some native English teachers are planning on going to Korea and working illegally. From Dave's ESL Cafe, Korean Jobs Forum.

(Posted: Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:06 pm Post subject: Working short term with NO visa)

 I have previously taught English in Korea for 5 years with many E-2 visas. I took a year off in Canada. I still have an apartment in Korea and the ChunSae lease expires the end of May. I will return to Korea in January to begin to remove my stuff, send stuff back to Canada, and prepare to end the lease. While in Korea, I would like to teach so I can earn some cash so I don't starve! What are my options? I know a lot has changes in the 13 months I have been away form the ROK (Naver Eng.Spectrum, H1N1, other visa issues).
I don't want trouble, but I would like to teach February to May until I return back to Canada with my stuff and my money.
Thoughts and ideas would be appreciated.

Thoughts and ideas would be appreciated? Okay, how's this for a thought: STAY HOME, YOU MORON! Just what Asia needs. More foreign criminals landing on their shores. And we wonder why the TEFL industry is finally getting tough with foreigners.

Then some teachers actually have the audacity to complain when the public schools in Korea ask a drug related question on the application form: From Dave's ESL Cafe, Korean Jobs Forum.

Posted: Tue Dec 29, 2009 11:24 pm Post subject: Gepik renewal form: "I promise I have never used drugs.

Has anyone else noticed this needlessly insulting little piece of criminal suspicion on the Gepik renewal form?

Below all the stuff about applying to renew, you are called upon to sign a statement, "I certify that I have never been arrested or charged with drug-related offences in any country".

Ridiculous. Especially when you consider that to get your visa in the first instance you had to not only provide an exhaustive blood test but also a full CRC.!

Ridiculous? Really? Those bloody Koreans and their rules for foreign teachers. They want to know if we take drugs and drink alcohol. Oh they're so mean! Next they're going to want to know if we have ever had sex with a child and have an Asian girl fetish. So the Koreans may have finally come to their senses and are now are reluctant to hire foreign drunks and potheads to teach their children. My God, what's this world coming to?

Grow up, you dumb English teachers! Lay off the pot and magic mushrooms. Try applying for a work visa instead of working illegally. Develop a work ethic. Start climbing mountains on the weekends instead of drinking until you puke. Stop complaining that you had to work an extra hour last week. Stop excoriating Korean society because 23 year old Korean women actually have the intelligence not to sleep with you. You really do look like whiny little babies when you post all of your petty complaints on open forums.

But I guess that's more fun than taking responsibility for the future success of your students. Easier than say, determining your own significance.

From the Korea Times,

01-08-2010 20:13

By Kwon Mee-yoo
Staff Reporter

Teacher Evaluation Program Starts From March

Every elementary, middle and high school teacher will be evaluated in 18 criteria, such as attitude toward teaching and guiding students, by their colleagues, students and parents, at least once a year from the spring semester.

The result of the assessments is not related to personnel affairs or wages, but those who are rated as inadequate will have to complete a separate training course.

Oh, so incompetent Korean teachers get to take a mandatory training course while incompetent foreign teachers are put on a blacklist and told never to teach in Korea again. Good for you, Korea! It's not like you're vindictive or anything, right? It's not like you're xenophobic. You really do want the best for your children. I know. I've seen it. The thing is, the people who run the educational dog and pony show, (and that includes politicians, administrators, principals, vice-principals, schools directors, and co-teachers), are clueless as to how to educate children properly. And they're clueless as to how to properly work with and integrate the foreign teaching population into the Korean educational system.

Here's an idea. Why not train them better? Why not develop professional development programs and work together with the native English teachers that you have freely invited to your lovely country? Too logical for you, Mr. Kim? Too much responsibility for you to take, Miss Park? After all, it's easier and much more fun watching these foreign monkeys fall over themselves while you stand there and chuckle with delight. Right, Mrs. Lee?

Short of counting on the clueless Koreans to do the right thing regarding the proper training of native English teachers, wouldn't it be nice if these native English teachers took a more proactive approach and developed the leadership necessary to succeed in the classroom, rather than wait for Moses Kim to decend from Mount Kimchi with stone tablets outlining the dos and donts on how to behave in Korea? Ya, right! And dogs should stop licking themselves. The thing is, there is enough blame to go around for the deplorable situation Korea, and most of Asia, finds itself in regarding the incompetence and bad behavior of its foreign teacher population.

 From a reader of the Korea Times' article Native English Teachers to Undergo Evaluation.

svt19 ( 12-29-2009 23:30
I am a NSET at my school. I wouldn't mind evaluations. The problem is, SMOE, my school, and my coworkers have no actual goals, expectations, criteria, curriculum, grading system, or anything of the sort in mind for my classes. What could they possibly evaluate me on? My competency at trying to educate and entertain students off of the top of my head with zero support?

Your co-teachers have no goals, expectations, criteria, and grading system for YOUR classes? Are you listening to yourself? Your co-teachers have classes of their own. And I doubt very seriously if YOU have goals, expectations, critera, and a grading system for THEIR classes. Again, they are YOUR classes. Be proactive. Be an educational leader. Become the teacher you have always wanted to be! This is your opportunity to determine your own value and significance.

What could they (your Korean co-teachers) possibly evaluate you on? Well, how about this?

Besides the obvious responsibilities of showing up on time and doing your best, your responsibilities as a teacher include, but are not limited to:

1. Teaching your students how to become responsible people.
2. Instructing them in your particular field of expertise.
3. Teaching them to acquire good study habits.
4. Helping them cooperate with each other
5. Giving them the freedom, when necessary, to learn on their own
6. Guiding them through life's tough moments
7. Being available to your students during non-class hours.
8. Helping your students reach their full potential.
9. Attempting to make the teaching profession a better place for others.

How's that for being proactive? How's that for attempting to determine your own worth and significance?

This same person goes on to say,

svt19 ( 12-30-2009 00:17
I, personally, am overqualified at my school. Most of my students cannot answer simple questions like "what did you do on the weekend?"

Most of your students cannot answer the question "What did you do on the weekend?", and you consider yourself OVERqualified? Huh? Unless you have a Ph.D. and a Nobel Prize in Physics, you are not overqualified to teach Korean children, (or any children for that matter), how to speak English. Regardless of ones qualifications, teaching children is both an honor and a privilege. Most foreigners in Korea, (and many other countries for that matter), don't seem to understand that important fact.

By the way, Korean, like most Asian languages, has no past tense. Korean students, like many of their Asian counterparts, don't learn to formulate past tense questions until middle-school.
And they certainly can't answer them until they are taught how. Here's an idea:


That's what I did. I developed quality lessons of questions and answers based around different grammar points, and practiced this with the students. I even put these questions and answers in dialogue form, and had the students practice with each other. But never did I complain that my students "cannot answer simple questions 'what did you do on the weekend?'" Those who cannnot answer "simple" questions have never been taught. That, my little foreign teacher friend, is exactly why you are there. And did I mention that it's a great way to be poractive and to determine your own value and significance?

There is a cardinal rule in the teaching profession: "Don't ask permission, ask forgiveness." I have met so many foreign teachers over the years in Asia. They seemed so lost and confused, and clueless as to what to do in the classroom. It was as if they were aimlessly walking around holding a sign which read, "It's almost Monday morning. What will I do with all those kids?" They were continually asking permission to do things; constantly afraid to take matters into their own hands and determine their own significance. Outside of my first year or two, I never did that.

Those who know me know that I take charge from the moment I step into the classroom. It becomes my room and I am responsible. I've never cared what others think about me or my teaching style and I never will. If I get a good evaluation, (and I've had some good ones), that's fine. It doesn't change things and I still do what needs to be done. If I get a bad evaluation, (and I've had some bad ones), that's fine. It doesn't change things and I still do what needs to be done. I know what needs to be done long before I step into the classroom and no evaluation, good or bad, is going to change that.

I don't ask permission. And only sometimes do I ask forgiveness. I know my value as a teacher. I determine my significance by being responsible and dedicated. And you can put that on my evaluation.


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