Well, here’s my biggest D’oh moment of Year 2010 (though knowing me, I could very well outdo myself in the next month and a half). Here’s the scene: I am giving my 10-minute teaching “lesson” as a part of an interview with one of the top five most prestigious universities in all of Korea. What I’m doing is presenting a faux game show to the “students” to introduce them to the cultural references and vocabulary items that will come up in the article they are going to read before the following class.
Knowing that the article is going to talk about a state senator, I present a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger on the screen and say, “This man is the senator of what state?” The students give their answers, and I carry on. After I’m done, one of the interviewers asks me, “Isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger the Californian governor, not the senator?” Of course, she was 100% right, and I was 100% a pure-grade butthead. I admitted my mistake, and the interview went on, but really, I was in no position to make mistakes as I don’t have prior teaching experience at a university. The panel was very no-nonsense, very direct, and apparently, I haven’t learned anything from all the Apprentice episodes I’ve watched, because I did not hold up very well. At one point, one of the inquisitors asked me what I knew about the school’s English program that set it apart from other schools, and since I couldn’t very well answer “Nothing,” I started babbling on about how I’m sure such a fine school as this one would probably take a “holistic” approach, and don’t even ask what I meant by that, because I still have no idea. D’oh, d’oh, d’oh X 100.
So I’d say that my chances of getting hired at particular school range from 0.00000001% to 0.00000002%, but overall, it was definitely a valuable learning experience. Fortunately, the interview with I had with another college a few days prior to that debacle actually went considerably better. The panel there was intimidating as well, but they were also more willing to smile, and I actually saw a few nod appreciatively as I made my points during my teaching presentation. They also asked me some questions which were more informal and personal, like “Who’s your favorite writer?” (Scott Spencer and Haruki Murakami) and “Have you visited this part of Korea before?” (Yes, I have a friend who lives nearby). And the office workers positively loved me once they found out I spoke conversational Korean, and the guy who was giving instructions to the waiting candidates ended up asking me to translate for him quite a bit. If I were a tad more evil, I could’ve just said something like, “Oh, he said the interviews are all canceled, so you guys should just go on home,” but I didn’t. Anyhow, I won’t know until the end of the month, but I’m rather optimistic about that, knock on wood.
But who knows what will happen? With teaching at a universitiy in Korea, it’s the whole catch-22 situation of having to have experience for you to be able to gain experience, and it takes both luck and persistence to get your foot in the door (fortunately, I do have a Master’s degree, without which I doubt I’d even be getting to the interviewing stage). So if that means having egg on my face a few times during the whole process, well, bring it on, because I’m ready to make more than a few face omelets. Maybe I should make one for Senator Schwarzenegger, as well…