I decided to try my hand at this teaching thing about 4 years ago. So, I packed my bags and came halfway around the world to teach in Korea. I quickly fell in love with what I do and haven’t looked back since. However, I have looked up. Part of this journey has been the desire to learn and grow as a teacher.
When you reach a particular point in your career as a teacher, you start to look at where you want to go next. Not because you’re tired of teaching, but just because you want a bit of a change, a bit of an alternative, to change your focus a little. So you explore the choices – what can I do now, what can I become? What choices do I have in terms of progression from the status of being just a teacher?
Where I sit, I’ve got a few choices. The first option is staying put. It’s quite an easy option. Korea has offered me a great life. With many of the benefits and lifestyle perks, I am not left wanting for much. However, if I am honest with myself, my qualifications (on paper) aren’t up to snuff and if I want to not only continue with this education game (that is ever changing) but stay in university level, I need to “level up” as it were.
Related to this is option 2: Stay here and continue my education. This too is a fairly easy option and not totally out of the realm of possibility. While in Korea and teaching university, not only do you have a significant amount of vacation but, you also have a decent amount of free time; more than enough to continue your education. While an easy life is not wholly undesirable, it isn’t what I came here to do.
The third option is to move on, to continue growing and challenging myself in different ways and different places. While on one hand this is a bit daunting, it offers also a bit of excitement – gaining more worldly experience, teaching new students from new cultures, maybe even getting a PhD in a different country. The more I get into this, the more I realize that there are boundless opportunities in and out of the classroom.
So what do you do? For one, you look sideways. Explore possibilities beyond just teaching: writing, workshops at conferences, supporting professional organisations, activism, all those things and more. Position yourself as a professional outside and build a name for yourself in different places around the world. There is a huge community of teachers and other professionals out there in the big wide world so find them and talk to them. Blog, tweet, make connections, talk to people. Do some research and use this to enable you to meet and share ideas with people – one of the best formative experiences of my professional life, in fact.
Enjoy it and explore your own path within that role. Mix it up a little, try new things out. Teach different student groups, dabble in other subjects, if you can. You’re bored of doing it that way? Do it differently, try a different method, something completely off the wall and see what happens. Doing this teaching stuff can be the best fun you can get in a professional life. And it’s infinitely more fun than spreadsheets.