Friday, January 27, 2012

And so it begins. Are you sitting comfortably?

Well, it's 2012 and that means that this is the epic year of doing a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education, as well as applying for a post in South Korea. I'm also going to do grown up things like buying some clothes that are not jeans and t-shirts so that I don't have to teach naked, and getting a driver's license.

This is inappropriate teacher-wear.

Today someone asked me why I'm bothering to spend a year working on a PGCE instead of quickly doing the TEFL and heading to South Korea with the August intake. Now, don't get me wrong - it was sorely tempting. However, it turns out that if I do a PGCE then the TEFL course is less than half price (because the practical side is covered in the PGCE course). It comes to roughly R5000. What's more, it gives me more time to get my life in order, including selling off all my books, getting in shape (so that I'm not That Fat Foreign Teacher), time to sort out any last minute emergencies, and a little more time with my dear local "family" who I might never see (in person) again. Hooray for Facebook and Skype, by the way.

I also felt that if I actually had some real experience teaching it would better prepare me for Korea, particularly as I'm planning to do my teaching practicals at a township school. These schools are poorly funded, lack the resources of private schools and the students are usually second-language English speakers. I've been told that if I can teach there, I can teach anywhere. Not to knock these schools, of course. Just because they're in a township rather than a posh suburb, and the kids aren't dropped off in 4X4s by their moms, but are more likely to walk to school, often long distances, this doesn't mean that these schools are not good schools or that the students don't want to learn. From what I've been told by former PGCE students, these schools are so desperate for teachers that they warmly embrace you and do their best to support you as you learn to teach. What's more, because of the politics and history of this complex and interesting country, a lot of these kids are the first in their families to reach this level of education. If they didn't want to be in school, they wouldn't be there. Maybe I have an idealised image of them, but I would definitely rather teach kids who are using their education to get themselves out of a difficult living situation than bored, spoiled kids who (so I've heard) like to deliberately mess with student teachers. That said, I should probably come back to this entry in 6 months when I know what these schools are actually like, and see if my theories and assumptions were even partially right.

Students from South African townships have achieved some pretty amazing things

Finally, having a PGCE and teaching experience under my belt gets me even more money in Korea. I will be honest - I am definitely interested in the a means to an end. The end being travel, adventure, and epically good karma. Teaching English, for me, is a fantastic way for me to pay off my student loan, and travel, and "discover" new cultures and places by being fully immersed in them rather than through the eyes of a guide book or museum display case. In this economic climate it seems like the best way to build up some sort of basic nest egg for my grown-up life. And that's probably why it's become such a popular choice for those of us with degrees that don't get the bursaries offered by organisations such as Golden Key; those of us who are the butt of many burger-flipping and pizza-delivery jokes, and who receive blank stares and "What are you planning to do with a degree in philosophy?" at dinner parties. These come from the same sort of attitude that people reveal when they say "Those who know do, and those who don't, teach." God, it makes me angry when people forget what an influence their teachers had on them. That physics teacher who made them give a damn about gravity. That maths teacher without whom they could not have understood the graphs they're forced to analyse in Economics 101. That English teacher who suggested that book about the doctor who saved all those lives, inspiring them to do the same. Yep, we teachers are actually a cunning group. We are the ones who program the brains of your children. We are the ones who gently nudge them towards greatness, however subtly...


...Just sayin'.

I'm itching to start this whole PGCE adventure thing. Wonderful Adventure Now Teaching - WANT. Doesn't quite have the same ring as that cheeky Eat You Kimchi segment, does it? Oh well.

In the meantime, I'm working my way through a great ebook called "The PGCE Survival Guide" and it's full of great tips about everything related to PGCE, from which mug you should use in the staffroom to what (not) to wear to class, and how to deal with the "I can't do this" moment. I've also made a Facebook group for our class, and so far it looks like a truly rad group of people. We're heading off to the mountains, to a little place called Hobbiton-on-Hogsback, and I'm really looking forward to it. Yep, we're heading to the Shire.

The Shire.

I'm also trying to be super organised, with a schedule that factors in some me time as well as lecture time and "free" time that can be filled with work or play, depending on my stress level at the time. Of course, it can't be written in stone until we see our timetables.

But the slow trickle of info from the Education department at my university is another topic for another post, and I think this one is long enough for now.

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