Guest blogger Ken Su, an educator and ESL teacher, shares his teaching journey and experience teaching abroad with a family.
Why did I become a teacher? Sometimes when life starts to get hectic and I notice I start to get lost in the day-to-day, I take a step back. I take this as an opportunity to recenter myself and return to the root of my ‘why.’
This practice reminds me why I devote myself to this profession.
With more than 10 years of experience as an educator and physical education teacher, my ‘why’ is what continues to motivate me. Remembering my ‘why’ is how I’ve found long-term success on my teaching journey.
Out of college, I started out as an international talent scout in Taiwan for various Major League Baseball organizations. This eventually lead me to pursue my passion as an educator where I discovered my own talent as a Physical Education teacher.
Throughout this time I had a daughter, Kaylen, whose own experience attending international schools has shaped my perspective and ability to care on deeper levels as an educator.
I’ve learned a lot in the last 10 years as a teacher and as a parent.
My hope is that my ‘why’ will inspire you and that my teaching journey so far will encourage you.
As an added bonus, I thought it would be fun to interview my daughter Kaylen and get her thoughts on attending different schools around the world.
You’ll get an idea of what it’s like teaching abroad with a family!
Moving from Taiwan to the US
I was born and raised in Asia.
With the opportunity to extend my education in the West (USA) during the early stages of my career, my lived experience can act as a showcase to people who are looking to expand their exposure to various cultures and societies with the goal of enriching life.
I was fortunate to be involved in sports, which has been my passion for life since I was little.
My first profession, straight out of college, was working as a translator and international coordinator for one of the professional baseball teams in Taiwan in the early 2000s.
Becoming a Yankees talent scout for the MLB in Taiwan
While playing in Taiwan, and during my interaction with players coming from different countries and backgrounds, I realized I needed to take the opportunity to further my skills in baseball.
I did so by constantly learning from various different resources.
This accumulation of knowledge eventually led me to become international scouting personnel for various Major League Baseball organizations, which I considered to be the highlight of the very first phase of my own career.
It was a dream come true for every little kid who loves baseball!
This experience of working in the sports industry resonates with how I look at myself now that I have become an educator.
I not only work with young learners (players) but parents and the school communities altogether to support them in growing for their future development.
What athletes have in common with students
All the students that I encounter on a daily basis are exactly the same as those young baseball student-athletes I scouted on and off the field.
These students carry all types of individual attributes (potentials) that are either being identified or hidden, with the hopes of receiving support and guidance from trusted adults who carry the expertise along the way.
I would compare schools to baseball organizations that carry very similar operational strategies.
This includes identifying one’s expertise, offering support via structured training and coaching, developing young learners with systematic approaches, and the goal of allowing learners to be the best they can be in their chosen professions down the road.
What I’ve learned from my students
Talented players come from all around the world to work collaboratively and cooperatively under an agreed, common goal, which is to make it to the show and win the championship.
I value organizations that show a higher level of inclusiveness, embrace diversity among players, and offer equal opportunities for everyone to learn and grow with needed support.
This will create a much greater positive impact on the people and society, both within and outside the profession for greater success across all levels.
Isn’t this the same philosophy that we, as educators, and in the teaching profession are trying to achieve?
Wanting to create a positive impact as an educator
It is my passion and love for sports that led me to my adventure of becoming an educator, and where I eventually fell in love with the profession ever since.
As I always want to make sure I treat people with the same respect I carry towards myself, I was blessed to be invited to explore the opportunity of being a PE teacher.
It happened many years ago at an American school while I was doing my scouting work.
The head of the school and I happened to have mutual connections, and with my passion for sports, they saw the potential of me working with young learners.
Soon after the meeting, an opportunity arose where I was brought on board to join the team.
First day on the job as a PE teacher
It was my first day on the job as a PE teacher, and I had to not only understand how to teach, but how to be an effective teacher.
I applied my very little experience of the western education system that I thought I knew, dating back to my college life experiences in the USA almost a decade back.
The result of my first taste in teaching was a disaster.
It was not only a disaster for my students but for myself as an adult.
There were no clear procedures or defined rules for students to follow. I had no idea how to create the flow of a well-run, planned learning environment for students at the time.
This experience actually brought me back to the first day that I stepped into the classroom in the USA to continue my college education, like a moment of deja vu.
There were so many unknowns!
It was scary not just from the learning perspective, but due to being in completely different surroundings, mixed in with the pressure and expectations from my family to be successful.
What I learned after many years of experience as a teacher
Years later, with more experience came greater development.
These learning moments propelled me to continue my professional development and improve the quality of my work by reaching out to others, asking for support, and always seeing failure as a practice for success.
I have been very fortunate to be associated with and guided by many experienced experts in their professions, throughout the duration of my career.
Each one of them carries a similar quality, and that is to always keep learning.
Taking this approach will help you and others around you to become better.
Plus, understanding your ‘why’ is something I learned to help me move forward toward the new goals I aim to achieve in life.
It will keep you moving forward.
What it’s like to be a student and the child of a teacher
My 11-year-old daughter’s name is Kaylen.
It is my daughter that motivates me to be the best teacher and role model I can possibly be.
She reminds me of what it’s like to be a student! Like a teacher, her responses and feedback help me grow.
Kaylen was born and raised in Taiwan.
She started her learning journey at an American international school in Taiwan from Pre-K alongside my continuing teaching journey.
As a teacher, I’m lucky to be working in the same school community since becoming an educator nearly ten years ago.
Kaylen has also had the opportunity to go to a non-local private school in New York City for grades one and two. We moved (back) to the US for a short detour and career change from education for a little over a year.
A learning experience for both of us, Kaylen and I were embarking on a new adventure in education together.
As a way to understand the student’s perspective as a teacher, I thought it would be fun to do a little interview Kaylen and see things through her eyes.
Here we go!
Seeing the world as a student through Kaylen’s eyes
Ken: Kaylen, can you share a little bit about how you feel about being a teacher’s daughter?
Kaylen: It feels cool being a teacher’s daughter because I get to see my dad every day at school. I like that I get to stay after school when the other students can’t so when there is no practice for any type of sports, I can just run around the gym.
Ken: Kaylen, based on your learning journey up until this moment, can you share how you feel from learning in different environments (Taiwan and USA), and which experience you feel more comfortable learning in? For example, the community you live in, the food, the people, classmates, or teachers that interest you one place over another.
Kaylen: I felt more comfortable learning in New York because there were lots of different people and cultures surrounding me. The food was really good in New York and at the school I went to, lunch every day is always very different from the day before.
The people I met at my school in New York were extremely kind and included me in everything they did.
The teachers at my school in New York are really kind and instead of having a T.A. (teacher’s assistant), there were 2 teachers that taught the students equally.
The teachers in Taiwan at my school have one T.A. and one teacher teaching the whole class, which I don’t really like!
Ken: Kaylen, which subjects or teachers did you enjoy the most, and why?
Kaylen: I enjoyed P.E. (physical education) because I get to do different sports and take a break from all the studying and working in class. I really like my P.E. teacher Ms. Stella because she shows patience and teaches P.E. really well.
Ken: Kaylen, what do you like and dislike about school and learning in class?
Kaylen: I like that I get to learn about things I need in life and things that are going to be useful in the future.
I don’t really like how I need to wake up really early every day for school and most of the time, teachers don’t really include anything fun in learning which will make me really tired and bored.
If I got to choose or design what type of teachers or teaching styles to draw my interests to learn more I would make the teachers include something fun in learning so that way the students won’t get bored.
I would also make the teachers be strict and kind at the same time so that the students will get a little pressure but then on the other side have really kind and respectful teachers.
If you’re thinking about becoming a teacher or teaching abroad with your family, consider your ‘why’
It might not be as simple as deciding to go for it, but it’s an important question to ask yourself throughout your teaching journey. It worked for me and I hope it works out well for you too. Remember that even when you become a teacher, you’ll be learning just as much as you’ll be teaching!