Any Real Critiques?

A well thought out response

There were the Lovers

I wrote this post yesterday about why Korea isn’t the place for serious teachers. It went big, with more than 12,000 views in less than 24 hours. A lot of people really seemed to be in support of it and mentioned that it reflected their own experience almost completely. Or, that I put words to vague feelings that they had.

This was my favourite comment:

I don’t know how to agree with this more. So. Much. Truth.


There were the Others

And of course, there were the others. I didn’t really expect so much negative stuff because isn’t what I said common knowledge amongst English teachers in Korea? Maybe I’m hanging around with the right wrong people or something… Anyway, people said things like:

You should learn Korean.

Your grammar is terrible. Are you really a teacher?

Why don’t you just go home?

If you were a serious teacher yourself, you wouldn’t feel like this.

You didn’t actually make Korea your home.


These are the best of the worst

I tried to find the arguments that were well thought out and focused on my actual points instead of things that aren’t important like whether or not I speak Korean, or making the assumption that I must be a terrible teacher. But, I couldn’t find any. It was pretty disappointing.

Instead, I just found this less than useful stuff that I listed above. Someone even started making rude memes about me. Thanks, Ben May for the publicity, I guess?



Does anyone want to write a response to my original post, going point by point and explaining why what I said isn’t true? I’ll even post it up here with a link back to your site. I’m honestly asking. I would welcome a more constructive dialogue about this stuff than what has been going around on Facebook.



  1. Leonie Overbeek

    Hey Jackie! Wow – the flak outfall to the previous post was immense, and as usual not well thought out. But that’s what you get when you poke a stick into a hornet’s nest.
    Serious critique?
    Okay, here goes:
    1) The lack of respect – I agree that as foreigners in general we are on the low rung (make that holding the ladder) when it comes to the formalized respect that Koreans show each other. But, I wouldn’t want that anyway, since it is empty and based on fear. What I do, and I know some other teachers who do the same, we earn respect in our relationships, our schools and our society. We do that by not letting standards slide, by not accepting a casual dismissal, by insisting on good manners and good behavior. And it is a constant struggle, one that doesn’t end, and that can be soul destroying in the long run.
    2) There’s no room for advancement. As long as contracts are for a year or two at the most there never will be. And certainly for those who have a career path in mind, Korea is a dead end. But that depends also on what you define as advancement. As far as I’m concerned teachers who want to graduate to admins and finally heads of department or principals/deans etc. lack ambition. I want to remain a teacher, teaching the kids according to new input I receive and preparing them for the big bad world out there.
    3) Pay is stagnant. True – along with cutbacks and freezing posts and dismantling programs, but then the economy hasn’t been doing that great either. I’ve gotten raises and I’m happy that I can do what I want with what I get. However, the pay drop for newbies from a couple of years ago show the bubble bursting, and also the reflection that many employers are paying what is accepted.
    4) Can you teach… Well now, this is the real elephant in the room, isn’t it? Korea has suffered from the fact that their planning of their English programs is abysmal. There were no real goals, no real structures, no real planning. A lot of money got thrown at the idea of an English speaker teacher in every classroom back in the day, without ensuring that those teachers knew what they were doing. And the backlash is that now the points you raise in 5,6 and 7 are all valid. However, this does not mean that there are no professional teachers working within the system, being recognized for what they do, being appreciated for it, and finding satisfaction from that.
    Which brings me to your critiques of the public school system – yes, there is a lot of teaching to the test, but there is also a lot of teaching for creativity, from teachers who care. Again, personal experience has made me lucky enough to work with some of them, and to support them and to unleash my own passion for the kids, and I know that I’ve made a difference in how some students and teachers see themselves, their country, and their future. I hope that the seeds of a revolution were sewn then.
    In conclusion, if I have to honestly level a general critique it was that you did tend to generalize.
    Oh, and I did not comment on the university experiences since I have no experience there myself.
    Best of luck in your new life and I hope we stay in touch!

    1. admin

      Thanks for your thoughts Leonie. I appreciate it! And, also think it says a lot that you were the only one who came up with a well-thought out response.

      Respect-I think at the individual level, it’s possible to gain it. Your students, co-teachers and admin certainly are capable of realizing who is a real teacher, and who is not. Not that I really care what the average person on the street thinks…but I sometimes feel like English teachers in Korea are like the personal injury lawyers of the USA in terms of respect. They’re both jobs that have the potential to help people but there’s a whole set of disrespect that goes along with it from the average person. I guess the secret is to just own it and not worry about it. I haven’t mastered it.

      Teaching-It’s hard to do it year, after year, after year and not get burnt out. If you’re able to do that, I applaud you! I’ve been doing it for 10 years and I’m certainly ready to throw in the towel. However, I actually like doing admin and am quite good at, so would be very happy if there were a position within education in Korea that involved this. But, there isn’t for the most part.

      Good teachers- of course there are plenty of good teachers. I consider myself one of them and I know you most certainly are. I just don’t think the system in Korea is set up well to allow these people to unleash their passion for the kids, as you put it. You can, but it’s not easy. As long as SKY and the Seuneung remain, I’m not sure how this is going to change and while individual teachers can do some good work, it’s a drop in an ocean of teaching to the test.

      Generalizations! Yes, kind of a necessary evil in a post like the one I did. I also find it pretty hard to not do so when I’ve been here for 10 years and seen the same things over and over again.

  2. Ervin

    I felt you sound like quite a few foreigners overseas teaching English. Small fish, big pond. I think you partly wrote it just to get more hits to your blog – fair enough, a lot of people do that. From what I can see Korea does have big problems and you seemed to mention a few. BTW you didn’t say if you speak Korean. Any decent teacher who has been over there that long I would have thought would have made a real attempt at it – not only to learn more about the place and the people but also to get more empathy for their students struggling with their second language. You also mention teachers having a bad name there, well if they are just complaining and looking at ways to make money are they that much worst than all the dodgy English school owners? I don’t want to be too negative about you but you have to think about the overall image you are portraying as well as what you say. Here in China there are many people doing the same thing…I think it best you move on to what really makes you happy. God bless, Ervin.

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