Could it be that teachers are talking more about pronunciation? Are we seeing the beginning of a shift?
A shift from “This pron stuff is mysterious and difficult and elusive and endless…”
And towards “Hey! If you approach it differently this pron thing is pretty straightforward, doable and FUN. And although it is EVERYHERE, there isn’t a whole lot to it…!”
Pull the Other Leg!
By Oliver Geronilla
After months of giving a series of lectures, facilitating endless group activities, comes a lull– a welcome respite, at least for me–but not for many aspiring teachers who are now at their jumping-off point for a career in ESL teaching.
It’s a catch 22 for these aspiring teachers. In order to get hired, they need to have a teaching experience. To have a teaching experience, they need to teach!
But how? Simple. Many language school managers provide this opportunity by accepting greenhorns to work as teaching staff with a paltry salary. “Never mind,” says Jerome Vidal, a “conversation” teacher at Han Maum Academy. Shooting from the hip, he continues: “What is important is that I know that my students learn from my classes. What’s more, I get to learn the ins and outs of teaching ESL through the Teachers’ Development Program, and I get to validate and practice the theories we learn in the training sessions.”
That’s a give-and-take relationship. Both parties benefit from each other. But the doubting Thomas in me tells me otherwise. Having served as the head of research and development of ECI Manila and the school director of IEN Monol International Baguio, two of the biggest language schools in the Philippines, I have fully come to terms why this happens; hence, every time I see promising teachers being asked to go on an unpaid leave of absence after the “peak seasons,” my heart bleeds.
That’s usually the case among many neophyte teachers who are tapped by English language schools run by Korean nationals to meet the demands of having temp and stand-in teachers for the peak seasons—the so-called English summer and winter camps. The sad part comes when these camps are over.
I believe that no one really benefits in the long run. While it might sound wise to save money by hiring teachers who cannot ask for the moon, personnel managers do not realize the negative impact that it creates in the company. Having a fast turnover of teachers results in poor camaraderie and loose organizational cohesion.
Institutions, we have to remember, are made by people– people who are not scared of “change,” people who have unquenchable thirst for knowledge, people who nurture and care about the values of professionalism, accountability and esprit de corps. These ideals are ignored all in the name of avoiding responsibilities.
I have heard countless times how teachers are deprived of their right to the benefits mandated by law such as medical insurance, social security, etc., to name a few. Perhaps, I am lucky to have been given such wonderful employers like Mr. Kim Kwang Il and Sung Bok Choi who have never forgotten their duties despite the financial challenges they have experienced.
The academy where I am currently teaching suffers from the same dilemma. The teachers whom I train with the help of my dedicated colleague, Mr. Roderick Toledo, “come and go.” The best ones look for greener pastures; the mediocre stay on for theirs is akin to running the risk of shooting themselves in their feet if and when they leave. And the bad ones? Oh well, they “die a natural death.”
By the law of averages, it’s impossible to change horses in midstream. So the cycle goes on: Welcome new faculty members, see them persevere, and bid them goodbye.
|By Oliver Geronilla
When I was just a little boy living in the countryside, I always thought all East Asians were Chinese, and that all Europeans and North and Latin Americans were Americans! This was despite the lessons I had in geography, civics and culture, which remained in my head until I was a high school sophomore.
Now I smile when Filipino kids say “Hey Joe!” to the white-skinned; and when they say “annyeong” to the yellow-skinned. Being a mestizo, I sometimes find it to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys when even my fellow Filipinos mistake me for an East Asian.
Just recently, I was amazed when I was suddenly stopped by a group of young Filipinas while Tony, my Korean student, and I were walking inside the University of the Philippines’ Los Banos Botanical Garden. Giggling, they excitedly asked if they could take a picture of us. I declined and hurriedly walked away from them.
Why did I do that? The obvious reason was that I didn’t know how to handle the situation. And my student? Well, we shared the same reason. When I got home that night, I flirted with the idea of entertaining some funny thoughts. What if we allowed them to click their cams to satisfy their “curiosity?” That would have given me and my student some moments of fame and popularity! Alas, we’re not trained to pose before strangers.
But that was the surface of it. I knew there were some underlying reasons why I acted that way. Perhaps I thought it was inappropriate. Have you heard of a Westerner asking a “nobody” from Asia for a picture?
“Blame the boob tube for that,” my friend commented. This reminded me of my article “Be Our Guest,” which I wrote for this paper. The current entertainment landscape has given Filipinos an alternative way to while away the time. Korean soap-operas are here to stay indefinitely. And with the TV advertisement made by Kim Bum for RC Cola, expect the Korean frenzy to go several notches higher.
This trend goes beyond the Pavlovian principle of conditioning. The way I look at it, Koreans have somehow penetrated the Filipino teenagers’ Weltanschauung. I, for one, must say that things are changing now bit by bit, adding a wider hue in the Filipinos’ cultural palette.
Koreans, too, I suppose, are no longer culturally impervious. Those who have visited or have migrated to other countries may knowingly or unknowingly be the socio-cultural conduits that spice up the peninsula’s changing cultural landscape.
Interracial marriage is another interesting factor that should be considered when looking at how Koreans have slowly showed their openness to other cultures. Aside from the mail-order brides that have hit the headlines countless times, there are genuine love stories that have ended in “walking down the aisle.”
These marital unions make the concept of having a borderless world not only a sociological perspective, but a biological process catalyzed by the need to reproduce. Through the process, standards of beauty will begin to change. And perhaps cosmetic surgery, double-eyelid surgery for instance, will become a thing of the past as more and more Koreans are born with those highly-admired eyes of the West – a product of racial admixture.
It should be noted that South Korea, once dubbed “The Hermit Kingdom,” is still one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world where “mixed blood children” still face two things that are poles apart: discrimination and/or adulation.
For centuries, many Filipinos considered Western looks as the standard of beauty. As such, mestizos and mestizas have an inherent edge over those whose looks resemble their Negrito-Malayo-Indonesian heritage. But now, the physical features of East Asians, especially Koreans, seem to have captivated the imagination of many Filipinos. Sure, Western beauty is still “wanted” here, and Hollywood stars remain famous, but they seem to lack the pull that Korean talents currently have.
Oliver Geronilla, who once worked with W. Scott Thompson, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, is the head teacher of Hanmaum Academy, the Philippines. He has been teaching ESL since 2000.