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Life after Japan: Teaching in Chile

Writer(s): 
Paul Doyon, Visiting Professor, Universidad Catolica del Norte, Antofagasta, Chile

 

I left my non-tenured teaching position as an associate professor at Utsunomiya University, located approximately 120 kilometers (80 miles) away from the Fukushima nuclear accident, in March of 2011. I had done some research on the negative consequences of nuclear power back in the ’70s as a teenager living downwind from the Three Mile Island accident. Hence, I became well aware of the dangers involved in living in the vicinity of nuclear plants.

This knowledge spurred me to leave that area immediately. Within several days of the accident, my wife, my son, and I were all living in my wife's hometown of Tajimi, in Gifu Prefecture, approximately 400 kilometers away from Fukushima and in the opposite direction the wind blows.

 

I played with the idea of seeking work outside of Japan, but since my Japanese wife seemed determinedto stayin Japan, I decided to concentrate my efforts on looking for another university position in Japan, but outside the Tokyo and Tohoku areas. Since I had (at the time) over 23 years of TESOL experience in several different countries (Japan, Australia, China, India, and Thailand),heldtwo MAs (one in TESOL and another in Advanced Japanese Studies),spoke Japanese fluently,and had numerous publications and presentations under my belt, I did not think it would be a problem finding a new post. I applied for 25 university positions advertised on JRECIN forwhich I met the criteria – and eventually received 25 rejection letters – which I suspect had something todo with the fact that I became ill back in 2005 living in the vicinity of several cell phone towers and have since been publicly vocal about the possible health risks wireless technology is posing to the public.

Fortunately, Ireceived offers from China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Chile. I decided not to go to China because of its pollution problems; the pay in Turkey was very low; and Saudi Arabia just seemed too repressive a society for me to live in. Chile seemed attractive to me for a number of reasons: 1) a decent salary with the possibility of tenure after two years, 2) the dry climate of the Atacama Desert (the driest desert in the world) would mean fewer allergies (no mold, no pollen), 3) the economy is booming due to the fact that China and India are buying up Chile’s copper,and 4) it is a modern European-like country with both a Hispanic and Germanic population. Added to that is the fact that I had never been to South America and it would present an excellent opportunity to learn Spanish.

I have now been teaching here for approximately two months and I love it. I teach in theEscuela de Inglesat the Universidad Catolica del Norte in the city of Antofagasta in the north of Chile. My colleagues are a mix of both Chileans and Americans,and the majority of my students are English pedagogy majors studying to become English teachers. I teach mainly freshmen and juniors the speaking and listening components of a four-skills course.

I find the students here, for the most part, considerate, sincere, and much more politically-oriented(there were nation-wide student strikes at the university level here last year calling for better and more affordable education) with more developed critical thinking skills than their Asian counterparts. I have been giving my 3rd year students weekly homework assignments which entail watching videos related to global issues and then publishing their feedback in weekly newsletters which serves the purpose of feeding their feedback back to them. The responses from the students about this activity have been exceptionally positive.

I have also decided to start a pilot graded reading program and have asked my wife (who along with my son plans to join me here next year) to send the approximately 50 graded readers I had bought over the years in Japan. Textbooks are extremely expensive here and it is seemingly a bureaucratic nightmare trying to buy them due to high taxes for imports and bidding regulations regarding their purchase. Hence, if you would like to donate graded readers for this program, please don't hesitate to contact me at the above email address.

Chile has its own TESOL organization aptly named TESOL Chile<tesolchile.cl>and will be holding its annual conference (ELT: Global citizenship for a fair world) between August 31 and September 2, 2012 at the Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Education in the capital of Santiago. The call for papers is open until June 29 for those interested in presenting.

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