sean’s esl teaching decision

hey there, sean here. this is my first post I have written on here. sarah is far more eloquent than me so you will definitely know who writes what posts. I will try to keep this short but I tend to ramble.

My first experience teaching came when I took a job at an elementary school as a drum teacher in 2004. My sister went to the school prior and told me they needed a drum teacher for an after school program. I played drums and was doing janitorial work and had quit a job dishwashing for an italian restaurant. Besides, the school was right down the street from where I lived. Prior to this I had no teaching experience and both my parents were teachers so I always said to myself “I will never be a teacher, I don’t want to be like my parents.” I took the job and was put in a room with 20 elementary students and was terrified. I didn’t know what to do, but they all looked to me for direction. I didn’t have a lot of self confidence but they looked up to me. I showed them rhythm using cans and plastic tubs I found in a closet. After a week they loved the class and we had created songs. I found the job very rewarding and I really started to enjoy my students. I taught there for 4 years and received a grant for 3 drumsets, took over a guitar class, started a photography, film class, and a garage band class where my advanced guitar and drum students wrote songs together. It was a blast. I watched my 3rd graders graduate as 6th graders. I guess teaching was in my blood whether I knew it or not.

I studied film production in college and didn’t want to spend more time in school starting over to get a teaching degree so I decided to finish it. I made the move to Nashville and finished college. I taught at another elementary after school program and then started substitute teaching. I could only take high school jobs and still work at the after school job. High School was terrifying at first. The students were disrespectful, cursed, and made fun of me. It was quite a change from elementary school. After subbing at almost all the schools in the district I met some teachers who used me as their permanent sub and I was getting consistent work at 2 of them. I taught for a month as a theater teacher and loved it. The high school kids eventually respected me and it was a lot of fun. I subbed at the other school as a culinary arts teacher while their teacher was on leave. The teacher never came back and I took over the class for 8 months. It was an alternative school where students were sent after being expelled for guns, physical violence, drugs, and mental health issues. It took a while but the students started to like me. I took a job the following year as an Educational Assistant and handled all behavioral issues with 11th and 12th grade students. It was a very physical and mentally demanding job. I learned a lot about my students and myself in the process. In the spring of that year the district decided to close the school due to budget cuts. I was on the staff until they closed their doors. So what was next? I was’t getting any younger. It was time to get out of Nashville and teach overseas.

Why did I want to teach overseas?
I have been wanting to teach overseas since I was in college. While in college my friend studied in Japan and became engrossed in the culture. He introduced me to literature like murakami, music, films and the culture in general. I became very interested in Japan but in southeast asia as well. I took japanese at my university and tried twice to study abroad but it didn’t work out. I have been to europe 6 times and wanted to make sure that Asia was next on my list. I have been teaching for about 9 years and wanted to try to teach abroad. I have friends that taught in Busan, Korea and recommended Korea as a place to teach.

I met sarah and told her of my plans to teach overseas.We started doing research and narrowed it down to China, Korea, and Thailand. China seemed to have the most jobs. But Sarah and I are both vegan and I sought advice about China from the head of the Paradise TEFL program. He made it very clear to me that it would be very difficult to be vegetarian in certain areas of China and that the pollution was terrible. Thailand wasn’t a very lucrative place and Sarah has debt from college. I had heard great things about Korea and the more research we did we found out schools there paid for your flight, apartment, and you made good money. So it was settled. All we needed now was to get certified. Through a friend who had taught in China, I got in touch with Stephen from Paradise TEFL and he got me in touch with Hugh. I talked to Hugh for almost a year. We were originally planning to travel to Chiang Mai to get certified there but we found out that he was coming to Portland, Oregon to teach a course there. Perfect! After my school closed down we had talked about moving to Portland because it is a rad vegan friendly city. It was settled.

Sarah and I moved from nashville to Portland, Oregon. We got married. Then we took the TEFL course to get certified to teach english and started applying for jobs. We applied separately and were not hearing back, so we decided to start applying together. We started getting phone calls and emails. We went through 11 interviews in a week and picked our job. That is when things got expensive. Sarah already wrote about how detailed the process to get your documents and everything turned in. I am not going to lie, I might have given up if it were not for her to keep everything organized. We ran into so many walls and had so many issues. I probably spent about $1,000 getting things apostilled and notarized multiple times because it wasn’t on the “right” paper, (blue instead of white, are you serious?!) Also we were on a time crunch so everything had to be overnighted from the west coast to the east coast and back to west coast and then to Korea. It was extremely stressful.

We sold everything and fit our lives into 6 bags and got on a plane and here we are now. A year ago this was just a conversation and now we are here doing it, teaching in Korea. It feels awesome.
I’ll be posting mostly pictures and videos to document our time here.
So stay tuned!

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