Two years ago, my school warned me. They told me the current 2-year contract I’d just signed would be my last. By that point, I’d been teaching at the same university for 15 ½ years. I was confident the law was on my side and that they couldn’t get rid of me without cause. With 50 fast approaching, I didn’t want to reinvent myself. I contacted a lawyer who informed me I had a solid case. It turns out we were both wrong.

A metallic picture of the word wrong, indicating I was wrong to think my job was protected and I'd have to reinvent myself
You cannot imagine how wrong you are

That legal advice had given me false hope that things would somehow work out. Everyone I spoke to sympathized, “That doesn’t seem right. They can’t do that to you.” In the back of my mind, I rationalized, “Even if things don’t work out, I’ll simply get another teaching job.”

But, when my legal appeal actually failed (actually, it was rejected, but that’s another story), a thought I’d never had before surfaced: 25 years of being in the classroom had worn me out. What if I were lucky enough to find another university teaching position? I’d have to start all over and still have no job security. Not exactly appealing, to say the least.

My thoughts shifted to what else I could do. How could I reinvent myself? A few obstacles immediately became clear. I’d been teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) since I was 23. My master’s degree is in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Honestly, if my university hadn’t let me go, I likely would’ve stayed there until I retired. What else was I qualified to do, particularly at the tender age of almost 48?

Once an English teacher, always an English teacher? Can I reinvent myself? Maybe…

For the past 25 years, I’ve been spotting and correcting errors in my students’ writing. Perhaps that’s why simple typos and obvious grammar mistakes “in the wild” here in Korea drive me crazy. Misspelled words on signs, apostrophes used with reckless abandon in ads, and capital letters used (or not) at the whim of the author—these all scream out to me that someone didn’t care enough to do the job properly. 

English typo on Korean menu—instead of bone in it says born in
60,000 won for an entrée, but you couldn’t afford a proofreader?

I respect anyone who attempts to learn a second language. Yet I will never understand why a non-native speaker wouldn’t seek a native-speaking proofreader’s help before sending copy to print. If I return to Canada to open a Korean restaurant, I guarantee you I’ll seek out a native Korean speaker to proofread any Korean text on my menu.

Native speakers can often instantly and easily spot obvious errors They jump out at you. Did you catch the missing period at the end of the first sentence in this paragraph? 😉 I’d be mortified if I hadn’t used a Korean speaker to proofread my Korean copy, only for a Korean customer to point out an error on my menu. Being the anal perfectionist I am (ask my wife), I’d have to go to great expense to get the menus reprinted.

The question became, “How could I reinvent myself as I approached 48?” I’d only worked in one field. How could I turn my desire to see English used correctly in Korea into a lucrative job outside the classroom? As is often the case in life, the answer revealed itself to me in an unexpected way.

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