2009 ETA Program
Before the ETA program, I took Gandhi’s words to heart and tried to be the change that I wanted to see in the world starting with my Fulbright ETA grant year in South Korea. While change encompasses many features, I primarily perceive it as being assisted through greater dialogues and open communications among multiple stakeholders. For my interests in particular, I wanted to help interactions between Korea and the United States thrive. As a result, I initially approached teaching high school students with a savior complex. I wanted to prepare my students to make changes. I wanted to make a difference However, lesson plans did not always pan out to be as successful in practice, which often left me questioning if I was getting through to my students— let alone making a difference. Are my students learning? Am I effectively teaching? Is meeting classes not as frequently as regular classes going to have any impact? How do programs like the ETA grant compare to and/or exist with English tutoring and/or private academies, which are frequently too expensive and not readily available to all students? Fortunately, throughout my ETA year, I eventually learned that programs such as the ETA Program are not solely about teaching or delivering acts of service. It is also about listening, observing, and sharing diverse experiences between educators and learners alike. Teaching, as a matter of fact, is rather incomplete without learning and vice versa. Effective teaching and learning, therefore, is a two way street. Teaching is largely effective when teachers learn how to present and package lessons that are contextually conducive to learning. Likewise, learning is generally effective when students take the teachings they received beyond school grounds by utilizing what is available to them to forge their own paths of understanding. It is all about attitude, and optimism goes a long way. In hindsight, I think (and hope) that I somehow contributed to change, and if not, at least provided additional views of understandings, between Korea and the United States. Learning never stops, but it took being a part of the ETA Program to internalize that learning is a lifelong process. Thus, what Fulbright Korea and other similar programs are doing is so essential in terms of providing supplementary English education in South Korea. It fosters an opportunity (for better or worse) for students and teachers to mutually exchange their views on and about their diverse lives. Or, at the very least, encourage students to seek multiple resources in and out of the classrooms to address both domestic and global issues. As an ETA my grant year once shared at a workshop, ETAs are more English cheerleaders than English teachers. What students do with the information we present is entirely up to them, but at least they know there is something else out there. In fact, as teachers, we generally motivate students to seek, grapple, and innovate with what is available to further evolve our lives. In the end, we cheer—not preach.
Excerpt from 20 Years of Teaching & Learning. Seoul: Korea-American Educational Commission, 2012, pp. 77-78