Jeremy Adolor (Mimi)
• English teacher for 10 years
• Currently teaches at the Korean International School Philippines
• Previously worked at Enderun Colleges and Diliman Preparatory School
• Certificate of Professional Education from the University of the Philippines Diliman
• Graduate of AB Communication Arts, University of Santo Tomas Manila
My dream had always been to work in one of the posh towers in Makati, Philippines. Being a Communication Arts major, the goal of every student back then was to work in advertising. The odds didn’t seem to be in my favor as I didn’t get any callbacks from advertising agencies straightaway.
My first gig right after graduation was teaching ESL to Korean students at Jungchul Academy, Philippines. Back then, I was the youngest teacher there, and I felt really excited and proud to be a part of that company since it was and still is a renowned academy in Korea. Up to this day, when I mention Jungchul Academy to my students and co-teachers, they recognize it right off the bat.
After teaching a few ESL classes, I realized I quite enjoyed it. Even though I wasn’t an education major, my strong foundation in English from elementary school to high school and my love for reading books boosted my confidence in teaching my students.
It was at this company where I learned the value of empathy. Being a fresh college graduate, I was only 20 years old when I started teaching. Because of my age and past experiences, it was easy for me to connect with my students.
You see, when I was 12 years old, my mom brought me to the US for summer vacation. We had a lot of relatives there, so accommodation was never a problem. What I didn’t expect was the sadness and loneliness I would feel while traveling with my mom and grandma.
Sure, my aunts and uncles were very accommodating, but, as a 12-year-old, I wanted to hang out with people my age. Since it was my first time abroad, I was very shy and worried about my English–A LOT! I might have been a great English student in the Philippines, but using English in the United States was a completely different story.
Eventually, I got over this fear and started talking to my American cousins. I remember when I finally had the guts to speak to my cousin in California. I felt like “Yes, at last! I’ve got a friend!” But then, every time I finally started warming up to my cousins, we would start packing our bags for the next move.
While I was working at Jungchul, I saw a lot of Koreans come to the Philippines to study. The lucky ones came with a group, but most came alone. Seeing them reminded me of my 12-year-old self back in the States trying my best to fit in.
Understanding their situation, I talked to them more during break times and listened to their stories. Because of this bond, they became more comfortable and confident in class; I got to prepare materials according to their interests, resulting in better class performance.
Fast forward a few years later—teaching really seemed to be my calling, so I went back to school to pursue a certificate course in professional education. I took and passed the exam then became a Licensed Professional Teacher.
One of my teaching jobs was at an IT consultancy firm with employees from across Asia. Many workers didn’t speak English well, and, since they would be staying in the Philippines for quite some time, they needed basic skills.
As I spent more time at the company and met more students. I learned about the cultural differences within the organization. I was surprised to learn that being Chinese and being Hongkongese were completely different. Later, I met some Vietnamese students, who reminded me the most of Filipinos. I also had Thai, Taiwanese, and Japanese students, who were very keen to learn English. After a few months, as the number of students grew, I got hired full time at the company as a corporate trainer.
Now that I was fully a part of the company, I spent more time with my students and other co-workers. One problem I tried to remedy was the gap between groups—not only the gap between the Hongkongese and Chinese, but also the gaps between the employees from different departments.
At the office, if they didn’t work directly together in a team, they didn’t ever talk to each other! I was appalled! I felt like I had a new mission as a teacher and started organizing more group classes. This time, I grouped students of different nationalities and from different departments.
The first days were the most awkward, and my students were a little wary of each other. But after some getting-to-know-you exercises and after finding things in common, the atmosphere started to lighten up. I was taken back to my Jungchul days when I had carefully grouped Korean students who had come alone so they could make friends.
On top of this, I often asked my Filipino co-workers to practice speaking English with my students. It killed two birds with one stone, since most Filipinos never got the chance to talk to the expats either. After several conversation exercises, I was very happy to see them talking in the pantry and even making plans to hang out after work.
I stayed at my job for 5 years and, in that time, was not only a teacher but also a team player, a mediator, a friend, and a student as I continued to learn from my students and co-workers every day.
Leaving the company was hard for me. But at the same time I was happy because I knew I had done my best to serve my purpose. I knew I had touched lives, connected people, and made the English language accessible for everyone regardless of race, nationality, or hierarchy.
As I was about to exit the building, I was reminded of my post-college dream: to work at an advertising agency in a posh tower. Instead, I became a teacher. Even so, I got to work in the poshest tower in Makati while doing the thing I love. I was doing academic work in a corporate setting. Turns out, I got my dream after all–and much more!
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