TeachingTraveling.com: Here’s a great account from Steve Sirski, who has been an ESL teacher, filmmaker, and scholar in South Korea, Cambodia, and Ukraine!
Steve, tell us a bit about your background.
Steve: I’m from Winnipeg, Canada and I’ve been teaching English on and off for the last three years. I’ve recently returned to Canada from Ukraine where I was doing some family roots research and teaching English in Kharkiv. I may stay in Canada for the rest of the year but I’m planning my next journey already.
Before traveling and teaching, I was a full time student studying Classics, filmmaking and ancient languages at the University of Manitoba with the view of becoming a professor. While attending university, I was also working (sometimes all at once) as a basketball official, in a corporate job, a filmmaker and as a drummer (both in a rock band and a Ukrainian polka band). All of that work kinda got to be a little much to handle and I thought it was time for a change. So, after I graduated with a MA in Classics, I decided to see what the life of a backpacker and English teacher is all about. On January 1st, 2009, I began my first backpacking trip throughout Western Europe while waiting for my Korean paperwork to clear. The next month I flew to Busan, South Korea to teach for the first time.
TT: Amazing! Tell us some highlights of your travels and teaching around South Korea and other countries you visited.
S: For South Korea, a highlight would be making a short film with my Grade 6 Advanced English class, which was then screened at a Korean film festival the next year. I wrote the script with a friend of mine who was attending Kyungsung University in Busan and then turned it into an educational tool for the kids. The students read the script and made the storyboards, which you can see at the end of the movie.
Cambodia was a very humbling experience. The country has had such a troubled past and I knew next to nothing about it. I was working at the SFODA orphanage there and was amazed that these kids could still laugh and play. It was as if they were one big family and all the cares in the world didn’t matter when they got together. I particularly remember a lesson in which we talked about the languages of the world. I would draw some squiggles on the board and have the kids guess what language it was. They laughed when I told them what the Khmer language looked like to me. Teaching in Cambodia really opened my eyes to the power of laughter and how it can be used not just for education, but in everyday communication.
For Ukraine, it was researching my roots and learning that the reality of the country is much different from what I imagined it would be while growing up in Canada. It was both heart-breaking and fascinating to go to the country and see what my grandparents had left behind. The country is going through so many changes and I look forward to going back and seeing how it develops over the next decade.