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A little while ago I got a press release email from Rob Ouwehand, ATEK’s national communications officer, about ATEK’s presidential nominations period and upcoming elections.

There isn’t much time left for nominations as “the presidential nomination period has begun, and closes on August 6th: the first Friday in August.  ATEK is looking for people to run for president.”

As of five days ago when I received the email ” . . . there [were] not, as yet, any nominees for president.”  I wonder what the association bylaws say if nobody decides to run?  Hopefully that doesn’t happen.  I’d like to point out, though, that perhaps having the nomination period during the peak of native teacher summer vacations might just be a BAD IDEA . . .

Chris in South Korea wrote up a post about the nominations, On ATEK and a new president, and I think he also had some really good thoughts on what he hopes ATEK’s new leader can do, and what ATEK might want to consider for the future.

Then Rob wrote up a post on his own blog, ATEK’s Next President, and his ideas on who would be an ideal candidate and how to nominate one’s self (which I find a little strange, but hey, why not).  Here’s a key quote,

“Any general member can run for president… to become an associate member, go to ATEK.or.kr/join, and to become a general member (which you have to be, to run for president), the e-mail you receive for becoming an associate member will have more information.  Then, once you’re a general member, go to the general member discussion forums, and post a comment announcing your candidacy.  For more information, e-mail Russell at officers@atek.or.kr, or Greg at president@atek.or.kr”

Something else related to the elections and ATEK is a survey that was put out a while ago.  You can read about it here in Rob’s post, Calling All English Teachers, past or present… Survey.

When the link to the survey was first posted I went and took a brief glance at it and dismissed it immediately as having nothing much to do with an E2 visa public school teacher’s issues for living and working in Korea.  Later, I went back and did the survey anyways, hoping that my two cents on the questions might contribute something to the time, effort, and energy behind it.  But I did post a comment on Roboseyo’s blog about it.

Hi Rob,

I finally went and did the survey…but it really seems to be aimed at researching hogwan native teacher issues…

I might be making a survey aimed at E2 visa/public school native teacher issues…we’ll see if I have the time to make a question list and then put it into an online survey…

I’ll probably send you a draft of the questions if I get to it.

Cheers,
J

I never got a comment on it from Rob, but then he’s also an INSANELY BUSY MAN who just got married, was on his honeymoon, and also must be running around with his head cut off prepping and whatever other things a national communication’s officer does leading up to a presidential race . . .

Here’s the info, instructions and link that Rob put up on his blog (still, go check out Rob’s post about the survey too).  Oh yeah, it only takes about 2 minutes to do the survey.

1. click on this link
http://www.ballotbin.com/voterReg.php?b=15507

2. put your e-mail address in the two boxes.

This step is necessary so that we know we’re getting unique survey-takers, not the same ones again and again.

3. After you’ve entered your e-mail address, the survey website will send you an e-mail with a link, and then it will forget your e-mail address forever.  Another person will get an e-mail saying “hey! another person did the survey!” and that will be it: your address will never be connected to your answers, and will not appear in any kind of database.  Promise.

4. Once you get that link sent to your address, click on it, and fill out the survey.

It asks you questions about your experience teaching in Korea – answer the questions about your entire time teaching in Korea.

5. Tell your friends about the survey.

But I should get back to the ATEK presidential nominations . . . like I said at the top of this post, Chris in South Korea wrote up a post, ATEK’s Next President, and he had a lot of very good points.  What kind of person do I think ATEK needs?  Hmmm . . .

I put quotes on leadership (see below at the end of this post) at the end of My response to President Dolezal of ATEK which I wrote as part of a series of posts that created a wee bit of a flame storm between myself and the president, vice-president, and a few other people . . . I posted the quotes about leadership because I was pretty astounded at the kind of responses and leadership style I was being confronted with (though with everything happening to the president the stress he was under excuses a lot of what was said).  I’m re-posting the links here, along with other ATEK posts I’ve written, to give some context to how and why I blog about ATEK.

ATEK opens a Twitter feed, publishes its first newsletter, and a news article in Korean Herald about Legal Assistance Program — Looks like communication is improving under Rob’s leadership as the national comm’s officer…

The road to hell is apparently paved with my intentions to help ATEK out . . .

ATEK gets a new national communication’s officer – also known as – Roboseyo

And the post that sparked quite a bit of attention from ATEK,

If ATEK falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Musings on why ATEK isn’t communicating with the expat community . . .

I don’t know that I really have much that is new to say about ATEK and what I hope its next leader does . . . I pretty much feel like just repeating some of the suggestions I made in this post.

1.  ”The Faces of ATEK” – Do a photo shoot where the faces of ATEK each do a one minute self-introduction video (or 30 seconds) and introduce themselves, tell a little bit of bio info, and then say what they do for ATEK.

This will HUMANIZE ATEK for the native teacher community, and make it less of some kind of abstract entity.

It doesn’t have to be a pro video (maybe later in the future) and could even just be someone’s netcam or point and shoot camera in their apartment that they self shoot for now.

I’ve noticed that X is an ATEK member, I think.  Why not ask him if he’d be willing to volunteer some of his time to do a photo shoot of the council?  . . .

Point number 1, that I suggested in my post from April 28th, 2010, ties in with Chris in South Korea‘s post, ATEK’s Next President where he talks about his “recent poll [and how ATEK] showed a lack of name recognition” . . .

4.  Is there an ATEK monthly newsletter . . . ?

Yes, there is.  You can see the July 11th, 2010 issue of it here.  It’d be nice if there was more content but it’s a start.  Perhaps in the future it can have a “What did we do this month?” section with stories that have been “sterilized” of any content that allows the evil Hogwan Empire to track down the teachers being helped by the Rebel ATEK Alliance . . . and this way teachers in Korea would get a small glimpse into what ATEK spends its resources on.

6.  ATEK Town hall on Skype.  Why not have ‘town hall’ meetings once every 3 months, or twice a year where all members can watch live video feed of the president and executive council talk about issues and questions sent in before the meeting begins, and then during the meeting members and non-members can ask questions?  This idea needs a lot more fleshing out but it would be a truly democratic style medium in which all members and teachers in Korea could get some access to the leadership.

Hopefully something like this can be up and running for the coming elections–I think it’d be VERY interesting and might generate more interest in the elections process.

12.  Does ATEK have a blog widget (is that the right word?) that bloggers who are members could put up on their blogs?

Maybe an ATEK blog widget for the upcoming elections to remind people to vote???  Hmmm . . .

Anyways, I’ve said pretty much everything I can think of right now.  I don’t really see many Kblogosphere bloggers posting about ATEK’s presidential nominations–but again I go back to why would nominations be scheduled during the peak of vacations for native teachers?

I really hope more than one person steps up and nominates themselves to run–actually, I’ll settle for ONE PERSON cause how embarrassing would it be if nobody showed up?

J

“One of the hardest tasks of leadership is understanding that you are not what you are, but what you’re perceived to be by others.”

Edward L. Flom

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

“A leader must be constantly aware of the power of his words . . . and his silences.”

Simon MacDonald

“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.”

Susan B. Anthony

“The ability to summon positive emotions during periods of intense stress lies at the heart of effective leadership.”

Jim Loe

People who let events and circumstances dictate their lives are living reactively.  That means that they don’t act on life, they only react to it.

Stedman Graham


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Roboseyo has posted about the launching of ATEK’s Twitter feed (something long overdue, and which I credit Rob with getting done–good job), and also about a press release in the Korea Herald, Expat teachers get more legal help, about the Legal Assurance Program.

Here’s an excerpt from the Korea Herald article,

“Foreign English teachers in South Korea can take advantage of affordable legal help through the KangNam Labor Law Firm’s Legal Assurance Program.

The firm, based in Seoul, has been offering services such as legal counsel and mediation affordable for English teachers, which has allowed several expat teachers to form unions.

The new Legal Assurance program offers many of the same benefits, including access to online resources, advice about conflict resolution, mediation and help filing legal claims if necessary. Now, however, individual teachers who are not union members may enjoy much of the same services.

For a monthly fee of 20,000 won, English teachers can have access to the full range of legal services offered by the firm on a group retainer.”

It’s nice to see that things at ATEK are beginning to gain momentum in terms of communication of what they are doing, and what they have to offer to native teachers in Korea.

Update: Oh, and you can view the first ATEK newsletter at this link to see more about what they’ve got going on.

J

Yesterday I was extremely annoyed by a comment President Dolezal of ATEK made about my post on communication issues and problems ATEK has been having since the beginning of 2010.

I’ll very briefly recap what sparked me up . . .

On the ATEK Open Discussion forum where Breanna Horn (National Council Hogwan Rep) started a thread titled, “A different Take 0n ATEK” she said,

“A post I found about ATEK’s online visibility at Kimchi Icecream and ease of access for teachers. Any thoughts on the post? Is there anything about this we can/should/have already addressed?”

President Dolezal responded with this,

“Well, part of it is that we haven’t had a comms officer in a few months.  Rob is in now so I expect great things.  Also, this guy didn’t do any research before writing his story. We have access to almost 2,000 teachers on Facebook now – twice our membership.  And, the bloggers write stories – however misinformed.  I think the NEW newsletter, a new comms officer, and some really big success stories from us in the near future will turn the current PR picture around.  I should mention that the perception of ATEK is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was a year ago at this time” (my bold and italics).

I was astounded, and annoyed, that the comment appeared to misunderstand what I was trying to say in, If ATEK falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Musings on why ATEK isn’t communicating with the expat community . . .

This morning I decided to see if any more comments had been made on the thread, “A different Take 0n ATEK”, and saw that President Dolezal had written more about this issue.

Quote:  “I’ve been following Kimchi Ice Cream’s blog as I follow all of the Korea blogs.  Over the months I’ve been reading he’s given an often harsh but fair critique of us, although I think his recent posts go too far.  The punishment does not fit the crime.”

My response: Mr. Dolezal, my primary motivation for writing, If ATEK falls in the forest, does it make a sound? . . ., was to evoke a response and discussion about the perceived (and remember, perception is ‘reality’ and there can be multiple ‘realities of ATEK’) lack of two-way communication, and in particular the lack of information being sent out of ATEK to the general teaching community in Korea.   My next ATEK post, ATEK gets a new national communication’s officer – also known as – Roboseyo, was (in my mind anyways) very ‘pro-ATEK’–yet this seemed to be ‘cancelled out’ somehow because I gave voice to a dissenting and critical opinion.

Last night before I went to sleep I decided to Google “ATEK Korea” and selected “the last 24 hours” in my search parameters to see if anyone Rob had emailed his press release to had blogged or reposted the news about ATEK selecting a new communications officer–based on the first three pages of results I didn’t see a single Kblogger or website that had written about ATEK’s most recent, and very positive, actions . . .

So when I see President Dolezal writing on the ATEK Discussion forums’ “A different Take 0n ATEK” a very flippant and off the cuff dismissal of my initial blog trying to generate more open communication between ATEK and the teaching community . . . and no acknowledgement of the fact that I had just posted a very positive blog about Rob’s selection as national communication’s officer–the big picture of why I was extremely annoyed with President Dolezal’s flippant dismissal of my blogging begins to make sense.

I’m not sure if “The punishment does not fit the crime” is some sort of convoluted apology and confession that he made a mistake, but in regards to the “punishment” aspect I kind of disagree with the manner in which the communication between myself and President Dolezal is being framed; I wrote my “punishment” post (as it is characterized), The road to hell is apparently paved with my intentions to help ATEK out . . ., as a rebuttal of how Mr. Dolezal had referred to my If ATEK falls in the forest, does it make a sound? . . . post, and as a criticism of the comment.  This was not about being punished, but about engaging with the issues I had raised in a more “professional” manner–which is something that I keep hearing directed at myself, and my blog, but doesn’t seem to be directed at the finger-pointers themselves.

Quote:   “In his defense, he has corrected the bit about us having no Facebok presence.  Actually, since my last comment, due to some recent mergers, I have increased the total number of people we reach to 5,000.  I will not use the bully pulpit to defame Jason or any other blogger personally or professionally no matter how much they come after me.  Will any of them give me or ATEK the same respect?  I remain hopeful.”

My response: I would appreciate it if members of ATEK, President Dolezal, Vice-President Bean, and National Communications Officer Ouwehand (though with Rob not so much), would change the reactive and overly defensive cognitive filters they’re using to interpret ‘fair and objective’ Internet writing about ATEK, and in particular, blogging (notice I didn’t use the term ‘news’ here) from ‘unfair, toxic, attacking, and immature’ Internet content about ATEK.  A distinction needs to be made between criticizing specific speech acts and specific isolated issues that teachers might disagree with, or constructively criticize, versus the generalized attacks that go after the person through character assassination and outright deliberate distortion of facts and all of the other negative methods used over the past several months.

President Dolezal, I was not ‘coming after you’ with the intent to smear your name, defame your character, or any other extremely negative motivation.  I was, however, criticizing the leadership communication style and content of your comment.  If anything, I’ll own up to the fact that I should have been much more precise and articulate about why what you wrote had annoyed me.

The primary motivation behind why I wrote, The road to hell is apparently paved with my intentions to help ATEK out . . ., was to criticize the specific comments you made on “A different Take 0n ATEK” about my writing “this guy didn’t do any research before writing his story”–to an English major (in particular, ME), referring to a person without naming them while at the same time criticizing their writing (and without checking and doing your own research to see if they’ve updated or retracted what you’re unhappy with–or did you?) is very insulting.  Then, in the same comment, you say “And, the bloggers write stories – however misinformed”–which I found extremely ironic because it again illuminated the failure of getting the points I’ve been trying to make about communication with the native teachers in Korea: if ATEK had been publishing regular updates about the day to day operations, and small things bit by bit that are happening, then I imagine I would never have had cause to write my “harsh but fair critique” . . .

On another note, Julianne and I were talking about how ATEK uses facebook groups.  Julianne pointed out that facebook teachers have to,

1. Actively click on the group’s tab . . .

2. Then click on the specific group they want to look at.

3. Then look to see if there are any updates.

I just spent a couple minutes looking at my account settings, and the “notifications” in particular–from what I can see there are no ways to set up notifications for a facebook group when the moderator, or members, post new information or whatever.

In terms of using facebook groups as a way to communicate with ATEK members, and those who sign up just to stay informed, the onus is on the teachers to regularly remember to take the time, and make the effort to check for updates and news bulletins . . . yes, it’s small, but it takes ‘3 clicks’ and some of us are lazy buggers, and some of us get busy/stressed/forgetful to do things like take the time to check what ATEK has posted regularly, lol.

Also, some teachers who are not members of ATEK also do not want to sign up for the facebook group too.  I don’t think it’s unfair to ask that ATEK make information available to non-members who also don’t want to sign up for an ATEK facebook group.  Consider the fact that if you do provide a website or blog where non-members of ATEK can read about what ATEK is, what it’s doing, what it can offer . . . consider that this might then facilitate these teachers taking the next step and joining ATEK as a member–having to sign up to anything in order to learn about ATEK can be seen as some as a kind of ‘forced’ pseudo-membership which can then be used in ways that the non-member teacher might not like; one example of this might be “We have access to almost 2,000 teachers on Facebook now – twice our membership” or “Actually, since my last comment, due to some recent mergers, I have increased the total number of people we reach to 5,000”–signing up for ATEK’s facebook group is not supposed to be the same as signing up to be a member, and I get that, but when these numbers may be used for recruiting purposes and other reasons then it makes it less likely that non-member teachers will be willing to sign up to learn about ATEK and find out what is going on when ATEK may use the group membership numbers in ways that are not in line with why non-member teachers signed up in the first place.  If teachers sign up to learn more about ATEK, and keep themselves informed, but NOT as a sign of active and consenting support for ATEK–these numbers should not be used out of context and for recruiting and PR purposes.

Quote: “The thing is when I said ‘bloggers’ are misinformed I didn’t single anyone out.  The tone of my message may have obscured the true meaning which is that I know we need to do a better job communicating.  He was right about that.  That’s why I mention that I’m hopeful about the future. Furthermore, I concede that the reason ‘bloggers are misinformed’ is that they aren’t getting enough information from us and have to rely on hear-say.”

My response: THANK YOU! This is the first time I have begun to feel like I’m being heard in terms of what I was trying to say about ATEK and communication and the general teaching community in Korea.

I have to say, though, that while you may not have “single[d] anyone out,” the framework of the single paragraph you wrote has me juxtaposed in extremely close proximity with the “misinformed” comment.  Some readers would associate my blog and its writing with the ‘misinformed’ shot.  Framing and context are often more powerful means of conveying information/ideas/opinions than what is specifically said in the message . . . I kind of expect someone who is a “trained journalist” to know that.

Quote: “If I didn’t spend so much of my time reacting to negative press or conjecture I could instead turn to promoting ATEK and more importantly to helping teachers.  Just today I was deeply involved with a case that turned out well – the hagwon owner even thanked us for helping.  There will be no blog about that.”

My response: Again, I’ll point out that if ATEK was being proactive, and producing and painting the landscape upon which it operates, then one might think there’d be a lot less “negative press and conjecture.”  If you, or Rob (I think he’d be the safer choice as I rarely if ever see him make political and diplomatic gaffes), had tweeted about the hogwan case then there’d be something positive to blog about . . . unfortunately this has not been the case since the end of 2009 (the last press release, before Rob was appointed as comm’s officer, on the ATEK site is dated 2009, December 30th), and I think one of the reasons why you “spend so much of [your] time reacting to negative press or conjecture” is because ATEK hasn’t been producing it’s own media content, and sending out information for teachers to process.

Quote: “I’m held to a higher standard than others are in communication because of my position.  I can’t just go and throw out my feelings – so I have to sit and watch it happen in front of me with my hands tied.  I made one small comment here about how I agree with some criticism and made a general dig on the fact that many bloggers shoot first and ask questions later.  I’d like to see the general quality of the debate lifted.  I’d like to see true investigative stories and objective analysis that relies on information directly from the sources and subjects of stories.  I’m a trained journalist, so maybe I’m appyling an antquated idea of newswriting to a new media opinion-based style.”

My response: I totally get that it must suck to have to exercise a high degree of self-control over what you say and how you react–but bemoaning the realities of being the president of a teachers association strikes me as a little . . . I don’t know.  It seems to me that as teachers in the classroom we have to consistently think before we speak, and edit/censor what we say and how we react to what our students say to us.  Now, I’m not saying that there is a teacher-student dynamic between the president and teachers in Korea, but some aspects of this do apply to a leader and how he/she speaks to the general public when they hold a position that is as high profile as president of the first ever teachers association in Korea.

If the “general quality of the debate [is to be] lifted” there will need to be significant changes in ATEK leadership attitudes towards how it communicates with the teaching community.  Raising the quality requires increasing the amount of easy to access information; raising the quality requires regular and consistent communication of plans, goals, small accomplishments, small events, and other things; raising the quality requires a readjustment, and more specifically, a reconstituting of the general attitude in ATEK that expects OTHERS to ask questions, search for information, and actively seek out anything and everything about ATEK: this kind of one-sidedness is the antithesis of two-way communication.

Perhaps one issue here that is not being talked about is the nature of blogs, and the multiple sub-genres (types) of blogs, in Korea.  I think Rob has mentioned this before on his blog (sorry, I’m too tired right now and don’t have the time to go and hunt through his posts for the link), and I’ll say it in my own way.  Blogs are personal diaries, voyeuristic windows into people’s lives, a very different breed of ‘news’ and information.  Bloggers have varying degrees of training in terms of writing, researching, critical thinking and analysis, and so on.  I have to wonder if ATEK’s leaders have asked themselves the following questions: What are blogs, if we perceive them as news and information mediums, capable of? What do we expect blogs to do for ATEK? Are these expectations realistic?  Which specific bloggers are capable, and WILLING, to fulfill our expectations? Have we explicitly told the bloggers what we hope for, and expect from them?

Imposing the expectations and standards of a “trained journalist” on bloggers and the content they produce for consumption by the teaching community in Korea is . . . a little puzzling (the most diplomatic word choice I can come up with right now).  I don’t think it’s a case of “maybe I’m applying an antiquated idea” to blogs in Korea that write about ATEK and teaching issues; I think it’s a case of why are you imposing professional journalism and news media standards on blogs that do not in any way resemble pro journalism and news websites and news blogs that overtly identify themselves as such?  I think a reassessment of some of the expectations and assumptions about what Korean English blogger-teachers are all about might be in order.  Otherwise, the misunderstandings and misinterpretations will continue to abound–at least on the ATEK side of things.

Quote: “So where do people go for news?  The PR from an association?  Opinion blogs?  Anti-foreigner mainstream press?  There are a couple of reliable news sources but they are scarce and fleeting.”

My response: Excellent question!  It’s a shame that it appears like this might be the first time it’s asked in a critical manner.  Where DO native teachers in Korea go for news about ATEK???  Especially, where do teachers go who are not members of ATEK to get information about ATEK and what it is doing, what it needs, and any other things ATEK wants teachers to know?

Perhaps it might be time to do some self-reflexive analysis of what ATEK  has available in terms of ‘communication resources.’

If one takes a look at the “Korean News” tab on the ATEK website you can see that it has blogs mixed in with news websites . . . if ATEK has its own definition of what a ‘news blog’ is, and explicit standards and expectations for bloggers (not that we are in any way obligated to follow these things) . . . Is it the fault of bloggers that some/many/all of us (?) don’t know what ATEK expects?  It might be a good idea to stop the irrational and reactionary complaining about what bloggers are writing about ATEK when the bloggers are doing what bloggers generally do as opposed to actual news media online, and blogs that overtly self-identify as news blogs.

Any regular reader of my blog knows that I have NEVER made any claim to being a ‘Korean English news blog for teachers’–imposing pro journalism and news standards on my blog is kind of bizarre in my mind because I am not being paid by ATEK to blog for them, I’m not a member of ATEK, I’m not the ATEK communications officer blogging for them, and nobody at ATEK has asked me to blog about anything ATEK related . . . I choose to do so, and do it in the manner in which I see fit–it’s my blog, after all.

When I like what ATEK is saying and doing, I’ll post positively about it.

When I don’t like what ATEK is saying and doing, I’ll post critical opinions about it.

I generally try to make efforts at blogging “true investigative stories and objective analysis that relies on information directly from the sources and subjects of stories”–but again, I’m writing on a blog, and I don’t perceive blogging to be the same as writing for publication on a news website like the Korean Herald, for example.  I don’t think many other bloggers see the writing they do as professional level news publications either.

There is a small and very select group of bloggers in Korea who have adopted semi-pro to pro level journalism standards, and the blogs they publish do act as sources of information about living and teaching in Korea for native English speakers . . . while my blog might have a lot of information and resources on it I do not profess to be a professional blogger, and I definitely do not have professional journalism education, training, and experience.

My final point is that I blog as best I can based on the energy and motivation I have at the time, the information that is available at the time, and with differing degrees of research and time spent on critical thinking depending on the topic and other factors . . .

But this post is not an apology for how I blog, or what I blog. When I make a mistake I try to correct and update the post immediately, and if someone posts a comment and challenges or criticizes something I’ve posted, I think about it, and if I agree and change my mind, I also update the post . . .

The simple fact of the matter is that the primary issue here is ATEK + COMMUNICATION + TEACHERS and trying to evoke a productive discussion about how things can improve . . .

I think I’ve expressed everything I have to say about this issue.

Good luck, and I hope that my criticisms, suggestions, and ideas for ATEK produce positive results.

J

ARGH! I just finished this post, and decided to see if any more comments had been posted at the “A different Take 0n ATEK” and there have been.  Please go and see what Rob and Dolezal have posted.

Rob, “There’s always going to be some static, and some criticism on blogs, and there will always be opinions, and there will always be blog posts written without sending a fact-checking e-mail to the sources, because that’s how a lot of blogs operate: as a blogger myself, when I have an opinion I’m excited about sharing, I want to publish it RIGHT NOW, not send an e-mail to five people, see if they reply, and then see if I’m still excited about my original idea.  On the other hand, most bloggers are pretty good about printing corrections and updates; that’s common blog etiquette, and that’s the climate in which one operates, when dealing with blogs.”

My response: Excellent points!

Dolezal, “That’s right Rob – blogs can be a great way to disseminate information.  I truly see their potential and I know that there are differences between them.  I’m just asking for fair treatment.  Just as my postion requires that I act in accordance with certain expectations, I think the influence and impact of a blog also comes with responsibilities.”

My response: Please see the above sections where I talk about the need for you to articulate what your “expectations” and “responsibilities” are to bloggers when they talk about ATEK-related issues.  In terms of what is ‘personal’ and what is ‘public’ in regards to what you say and do–the unfortunate truth for leaders in high profile positions is that anything and everything they say and do is open to comment, and criticism, by the public.

Dolezal, “What is the crime I have committed that deserves such raw treatment?  This poistion I’m in is already thankless and isn’t paid, so my reward is a personal feeling of accomplishment.  I don’t mind being judged on what I am doing professionally, but I’d like to see some understanding of how hard this is and to avoid character attacks.

I deeply regret responding to this thread in the first place.  Just as I have regretted responding on any blog.  The lesson I have learned is that I can’t respond at all – I just have to endure or ignore.”

My response: I’ve said this before, I’m going to say it again, and I’ll keep saying it every time I hear someone who chooses to volunteer whinge about the costs and sacrifices they have to give:

“I’m tired of hearing the ‘we’re not paid,’ ‘we’re volunteers,’ ‘we’re new at this,’ and ‘we need time’ excuses.”

You chose to do the work, and come on! Teachers are critical, cranky, cantankerous creatures and if you’re going to be the leader of a teachers association then you’d better get used to this truth, and figure out better communication strategies for asking them to be patient and understanding than simply the same old tired lines of we’re not paid, we’re new and inexperienced, and we’re having problems . . .

I’m going to finish up with some quotes on leadership,

“One of the hardest tasks of leadership is understanding that you are not what you are, but what you’re perceived to be by others.”

Edward L. Flom

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

“A leader must be constantly aware of the power of his words . . . and his silences.”

Simon MacDonald

“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.”

Susan B. Anthony

“The ability to summon positive emotions during periods of intense stress lies at the heart of effective leadership.”

Jim Loe

People who let events and circumstances dictate their lives are living reactively.  That means that they don’t act on life, they only react to it.

Stedman Graham


I see that ATEK’s leader (I won’t disgrace the title “president” in reference to him) has commented about my post on the ATEK Open Discussion forum where Breanna Horn (National Council Hogwan Rep) started a thread titled, “A different Take 0n ATEK” which says,

“A post I found about ATEK’s online visibility at Kimchi Icecream and ease of access for teachers. Any thoughts on the post? Is there anything about this we can/should/have already addressed?”

The response from ATEK’s leader?

“Well, part of it is that we haven’t had a comms officer in a few months.  Rob is in now so I expect great things.  Also, this guy didn’t do any research before writing his story. We have access to almost 2,000 teachers on Facebook now – twice our membership.  And, the bloggers write stories – however misinformed.  I think the NEW newsletter, a new comms officer, and some really big success stories from us in the near future will turn the current PR picture around.  I should mention that the perception of ATEK is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was a year ago at this time” (my bold and italics).

Thank you for completely missing the point of If ATEK falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Musings on why ATEK isn’t communicating with the expat community . . .

I’m feeling a new blog post coming to me: 100 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Join ATEK!

Does anyone else find it incredibly bizarre that ATEK’s leader himself points out what I about write in my post?  He says,

“I think the NEW newsletter, a new comms officer, and some really big success stories from us in the near future will turn the current PR picture around” (my bold and italics).

I wonder if he realizes that he seems to be admitting there have been problems, that there has been a lack of communication “from us” to the native teachers, and that the “PR picture” has problems that need to be “turn[ed] . . . around” . . . which is what I was trying to convey through my post . . .

Seriously, very not impressed!

Oh, and I might as well illustrate further why I’m just a wee bit pissed off.  A couple days ago I sent EIGHTEEN IDEAS AND SUGGESTIONS to help improve ATEK that I spent time and energy writing up and sending to Rob . . . yeah.

1.  “The Faces of ATEK” – Do a photo shoot where the faces of ATEK each do a one minute self-introduction video (or 30 seconds) and introduce themselves, tell a little bit of bio info, and then say what they do for ATEK.

This will HUMANIZE ATEK for the native teacher community, and make it less of some kind of abstract entity.

It doesn’t have to be a pro video (maybe later in the future) and could even just be someone’s netcam or point and shoot camera in their apartment that they self shoot for now.

I’ve noticed that X is an ATEK member, I think.  Why not ask him if he’d be willing to volunteer some of his time to do a photo shoot of the council?  . . .

2.  Have an “ATEK forest” with animated/flash trees.  Tree 1 would be the structural tree with links to picture/video/role/title/rank/name of ATEK’s leadership.  Tree 2 could be the ‘useful teaching sites’ tree with links to teaching resources.  Tree 3 could be an ATEK site map that links to the major categories …..and so on.

A community made of ‘trees’ ….

3.  Print up on sheets of A4 paper (6 cards per sheet to be cut up) the basics of ATEK and then have a volunteer media blitz in major cities around Korea where ATEK members walk around handing out small pieces of paper with the ATEK website and basic info on it to native teachers walking around popular foreign shopping and drinking areas.

4.  Is there an ATEK monthly newsletter [THAT IS NOT ONLY FOR MEMBERS]?  For now it’d need to be something VERY simple in form and design otherwise it’d be a nightmare in terms of time and energy to produce.  It could have things like: dates and basic descriptions of ATEK’s activities over the past month, highlight the biggest thing done in the past month, 1 teaching tip for each level of school and type of school from hogwan to elementary to high school to university, new and interesting teaching websites, TED video of the month link, and so on.

DELEGATING sections of the newsletter to be written by different people is the best idea for this.  Also, editing by all members of the national council would be a good idea to avoid mistakes about info, etc.

5.  If you want to get ATEK supported and networking with companies and money groups why not begin a ‘book of the month’ for teachers and post it on the website, and put it in the newsletter too.  I’m sure you’d have publishing company reps salivating to get involved in that–especially if you point out that as time passes the numbers of people you’ll be sending the letter to will only grow.

6.  ATEK Town hall on Skype.  Why not have ‘town hall’ meetings once every 3 months, or twice a year where all members can watch live video feed of the president and executive council talk about issues and questions sent in before the meeting begins, and then during the meeting members and non-members can ask questions?  This idea needs a lot more fleshing out but it would be a truly democratic style medium in which all members and teachers in Korea could get some access to the leadership.

7.  ATEK website forums are not really being used from what I’ve seen.  Organize a Kblogger blitz where a question/issue is posed, people blog about it and post the link to the forum where answers can be posted, and watch the use of the forums explode. (PLUS it increases traffic to the ATEK website).

8.  Facebook ATEK Groups–there needs to somehow be a primary group which ALL facebook ATEK people, and other groups’ members, have signed up for.  It doesn’t look like that’s happening, and in terms of getting info out fast and in ‘real time’ or close to it that’d be a good idea, I think.  I know a Twitter feed would be even better but I think that fb has more users who are checking it hourly if you know what I mean.

9.  The ATEK orientation guide needs to be promoted regularly throughout the year.  It’s a great resource and will draw new teachers constantly just through them checking it out.  When I say ‘regularly’ I mean February and March, August and September, because those are the big influx times for new teachers each year.

Again, Kbloggers could drive traffic to the orientation guide link, and by proxy to the ATEK website.

10.  ATEK needs to THANK the volunteers for their time and energy periodically.  Name people who have gone above and beyond, and say what they’ve done.  Post this on the website, facebook, and a few other places.

11.  ATEK Volunteer Awards…….?  January of each year, nothing fancy, but something to give recognition of hard work, sacrifice, etc.  Something that can be put on your resume to show you’ve been contributing to teaching in Korea, etc.

12.  Does ATEK have a blog widget (is that the right word?) that bloggers who are members could put up on their blogs?

As for why I haven’t joined ATEK yet . . . I still have a bad taste in my mouth from seeing all the toxic bickering that went on.  I’m very unimpressed with the lack of visible small tasks being accomplished to help ATEK grow and develop (again, this is where my comments come from about how YOU have a very different vision of what ATEK is right now, and what’s going on that makes it worth my time and energy).

Are my expectations too high? Maybe a little, but I think if you don’t have a clear vision, and long term goals to shoot for, that ATEK just becomes some little group that will likely fade away due to a lack of clear goals and something to work towards . . . and if no one is hearing about the small steps being taken day by day, little task by little task, it begins to look like all ATEK is doing is trying to get its body count raised.

13.  Why should I join ATEK?  “100 Reasons Why You Should Join ATEK”  People need to be sold on why they should join ATEK, and this would be a good way to sell ATEK and explain what it is and why you should join.  Post it on the website, and blogs.

14.  ATEK Social Events that could also function as fund raisers for operational costs.

a) Christmas dinner at restaurants in each of the ATEK regions for members and non-members (maybe bring a non-member to the dinner).

b) Christmas caroling

c) ATEK hike a mountain and plant the ATEK flag, take a pic, and post it.

d) Halloween parties

e) Thanksgiving dinner

f)  Welcome new teachers just arriving in Korea dinner

15.  Cross-cultural tips for teachers: have a tip in each newsletter about common cross-cultural issues.

16.  Do an active recruiting drive to fill the vacant positions.  Maybe some kind of 30 second video with the president making a speech about why teachers should apply?

17.  Get X (name of a popular Kblogger) on board! . . . . . . . . .

18.  Benefits–appeal to what native teachers need and want,

a) social networking with other professionals–fb groups

b) access to teaching resources from long term and experienced NETs

c) human rights activities – have ATEK start getting involved with other groups by sending volunteers to events (if the human rights event is ALREADY set up, then the only thing an ATEK person needs to do is send out info and get volunteers to sign up–pretty low time and energy cost if you ask me)

d) partiers: set up fund raising events where NETs who like to party can do so and at the same time contribute an obegwon (500won) per drink to ‘the cause’

I guess when the top two leaders of ATEK keep making excuses about the lack of consistent and up to date communication, and how they shouldn’t be the ones trying to keep the native teacher community informed and up to date–well, all of this begins to make sense:  “we haven’t had a comms officer in a few months” (Dolezal) and from my original post a comment from Bean, “But my point is, if you want information, go get it. Dont’ complain that it doesn’t find you. I’d rather have less spam in my inbox and go dig than the other way around. I have yet to be convinced that spamming people will enamor them to us.” (Click here to see the original context of Bean’s quote. I think it’s relevant to my post about communication in that he seems to think that getting info out to the native teacher community is like ‘spamming’ . . . I don’t understand that kind of thinking.)

Oh, just in case you’re like me and haven’t memorized the names of the president and vice-president of ATEK–you can see the names and ranks on ATEK’s national leadership on the website here.

It seems to me that ATEK’s leadership really dislikes critical and dissenting opinions and criticisms . . . and I completely get that there has been a veritable blizzard of toxic non-productive bullshit flung at them for some time now–but it seems to me that neither the president nor the vice-president are willing to take a moment, and do their own research . . .

Perhaps a survey of ATEK’s leadership and its ranks might be in order to see how they feel about whether or not ATEK has been communicating with the native teacher community effectively, and consistently, and in a manner in which the onus is NOT placed on teachers to have to search for ATEK and everything it is claiming it has to offer . . .

Just a thought.

J

I got an email this morning with a press release pdf file attached about ATEK‘s new national communication’s officer, Rob Ouwehand–also known as Roboseyo.

In my last post, If ATEK falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Musings on why ATEK isn’t communicating with the expat community . . ., I wanted to elicit reactions from ATEK members, its leadership, and the general native teacher community . . . and I think I succeeded in provoking some thought and action about the general issue of TWO-WAY communication between ATEK and the native teacher community, and also the general lack of outgoing communication from ATEK’s leadership about what it’s doing.

You can read the full text here,  ATEK: New Communications Officer Plans to Get the Word Out.  I’ll share a few of the more salient points . . .

Rob is going to be a busy busy BUSY guy: “His duties will include communicating with the press and other media, developing and maintaining communication channels with the expat community, and responding to interview requests and inquiries from other media.”

I like how specific Rob is in describing the “goals for his term include working with ATEK’s webmaster on maximizing the website’s usefulness, finding new ways to more regularly update the public on ATEK’s actions, and plotting and producing materials useful for teachers at different stages in their life in Korea, from deciding to come, arriving, and adjusting, to maximizing their experience here and contributing meaningfully in their communities” (my italics and bold).

I think if ATEK, and Rob in particular, is creative in its communication and public relations strategies that reaching over 20,000 teachers won’t be a problem, “However, Ouwehand has his work cut out for him: there are estimated to be over 20 000 foreign English teachers in Korea, and it is difficult to reach them all.”  If one teacher is reached in each of the hundreds (if not thousands) of groups out there, and within each group that ONE teacher shares their knowledge about ATEK with their group members/friends about how to access ATEK’s resources, and sign up if they’re interested, then the problem is nowhere near as ginormous as it seems to be.   Twitter, Facebook, and blogs will facilitate this goal if they are used strategically and creatively, I think.

“Ouwehand believes ATEK is an easy sell: “It’s hard to refuse a group that is doing everything it can to make your life easier.””  I recently sent Rob an email in which I made some suggestions for ATEK, one of which was: “Why should I join ATEK? [Make a list of] “100 Reasons Why You Should Join ATEK” [and publish it on ATEK’s site].  People need to be sold on why they should join ATEK . . . Post it on the website, and blogs.”  I can see some of what ATEK is doing to “make [my] life easier” in Korea, but I think having ONE HUNDRED specific small, or big, things it can do would motivate more teachers to join.

Rob is definitely a good choice, in my opinion, for communications officer. “He has been published in The Korea Herald, Newsweek Korea, and been featured in the Canadian Embassy newsletter. On his blog he talks a lot about community, and the need for expats to become more connected; “Writing about it is easy; now it’s time to take action.””

I was impressed to read a member of ATEK’s leadership say something similar, I think, to my post about the critical need for regular and consistent communication between ATEK and the native teachers community, “Russell Bernstein, ATEK’s National Membership Director, is hopeful about the change as well. “Building a great support system for teachers in Korea is nice, but it only helps them if they know about it,” he explained. “We think Rob is the man to spread the word, and help ATEK connect with the people who need our services and support”” (my italics and bold).

Considering how often new teachers arrive in Korea, which is literally on a DAILY basis, there is a need for consistent and daily communication (which could be done via Twitter, and Facebook).  New teachers need to be informed of all the resources they can access, and if ATEK becomes the primary ‘hub’ (sorry, had to do it, lol) of ‘all things native teachers need’ then it has to repetitively send out messages about what they can offer, and why new teachers should join their association.

If ATEK does something in the forest, now Rob can tell everyone about it, and we then have a chance to learn about it, think about it, and make an informed choice to help each other out.

Congratulations Rob!

J

Update:  I noticed that there is a link to my If ATEK falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Musings on why ATEK isn’t communicating with the expat community . . . post at an ATEK open discussion thread.

Breanna Horn starts a thread titled, “A different Take 0n ATEK” and says,

“A post I found about ATEK’s online visibility at Kimchi Icecream and ease of access for teachers. Any thoughts on the post? Is there anything about this we can/should/have already addressed?”

If you have the time please go and post what you think about the issue.


Update: I see that ATEK’s leader (I won’t disgrace the title “president” in reference to him) has commented about my post on the ATEK Open Discussion forum where Breanna Horn (National Council Hogwan Rep) started a thread titled, “A different Take 0n ATEK” which says,

“A post I found about ATEK’s online visibility at Kimchi Icecream and ease of access for teachers. Any thoughts on the post? Is there anything about this we can/should/have already addressed?”

The response from ATEK’s leader?

“Well, part of it is that we haven’t had a comms officer in a few months.  Rob is in now so I expect great things.  Also, this guy didn’t do any research before writing his story. We have access to almost 2,000 teachers on Facebook now – twice our membership.  And, the bloggers write stories – however misinformed.  I think the NEW newsletter, a new comms officer, and some really big success stories from us in the near future will turn the current PR picture around.  I should mention that the perception of ATEK is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was a year ago at this time” (my bold and italics).

Thank you for completely missing the point of this blog post (see below).

I’m feeling a new blog post coming to me: 100 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Join ATEK!

Does anyone else find it incredibly bizarre that ATEK’s leader himself points out what I write in my post?  He says,

“I think the NEW newsletter, a new comms officer, and some really big success stories from us in the near future will turn the current PR picture around.”

I wonder if he realizes that he’s admitting there have been problems, that there has been a lack of communication “from us” to the native teachers, and that the “PR picture” has problems that need to be “turn[ed] . . . around” . . . which is what I was trying to convey through my post . . .

Seriously, very not impressed!

My original post begins here . . .

Okay, so ATEK is getting a bit of renewed Kbloggage lately and a few of my friends on facebook are also talking about them too.

But I would like to pose the following question: If ATEK falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

Where I’m coming from is that if I don’t visit the ATEK website regularly (which I don’t), and I’m not a member (which I’m not), then I pretty much don’t hear anything about ATEK and what they’re up to.

Some might suggest that if I want to hear updates (I’m indifferent . . . okay, slightly curious at times) that I should just join ATEK and then I’d be on their email list . . . but I don’t want to; I’d also point out that expat teachers like myself who are sitting on the fence in terms of ‘to join or not to join ATEK’ might be persuaded to join if regular communication and press releases were posted on a mainstream expat Internet web site or blog as opposed to only on ATEK’s website.

ATEK’s lack of press releases has resulted in me getting my information from Chris in South Korea and Roboseyo‘s blogs–which I find really bizarre because neither of them are press officers for ATEK yet they seem to be filling in this ginormous void that ATEK doesn’t seem too concerned about . . . or maybe doesn’t know about . . . or . . . meh, whatever.

It’s sad that ATEK doesn’t have an active blog (I think a former press officer used to, but it disappeared when he did) because I would add it to my side bar and definitely would have clicked on this story, ATEK adding new legal assurance program–but this story isn’t coming from ATEK, it’s coming from Chris in South Korea‘s blog.  Chris, being the good guy he is, blogged about the information he received in an ATEK membership email about the development–so, it seems like if you’re not a member you can’t be privy to what ATEK is doing unless you join them, visit their website, or know someone on the inside . . . help me out if I’m missing any other options for getting info . . .

The legal assurance program is something substantial, something positive, something big (at least in my mind it is) that ATEK has produced that can and likely will make a big difference for foreign teachers who run into contract problems with their employers, and other legal situations they need help in.  Yet there has been no Korean English news media press release, and foreign teachers in Korea will likely for the most part learn about the story via a blogger who to my knowledge has no official connections or role with ATEK other than as a member . . .

Instead of producing their own media press releases that reach as wide an audience of native teachers as possible ATEK seems to be relying on its website as their primary communication medium–which I personally think is a big mistake.  How can ATEK expand its membership when it is failing to communicate and reach out to native teachers through mainstream channels?

UPDATE: Julianne and I were chatting about my ATEK post tonight during dinner, and she pointed out the following problem: It is now April 21st and neither Julianne nor myself remember seeing a major publicity and recruitment campaign put on by ATEK to inform newly arrived in Korea native teachers about membership and other relevant info.  You’d think that if increasing membership numbers is the primary focus of ATEK right now that there would have been a major media campaign at the end of February and throughout March . . . was there one? I mean, other than on ATEK’s site itself?

Here are some questions I posed and did a little research on . . .

UPDATE: A buddy from facebook posted this comment,

“Hi Jason,

You can get updates with http://www.twitterfeed.com, which will send ATEK’s RSS feed to your Twitter or Facebook account.

You can read more about it here:http://thesocialmediaguide.com.au/2010/04/25/how-to-send-rss-feeds-to-twitter-and-facebook/

I hope that helps,

Dayle.”

Thanks Dayle.

Does ATEK have a Twitter feed? No.

I did a search on Twitter and came up with nothing.  I did a search on Google and came up with nothing.  (If there is one please post the link in the comments for this post and I’ll add an update too.)

Does ATEK have a facebook group for communication and sharing information? Yes/No.

A facebook search for “ATEK” produces 81 results (not all of which have to do with ATEK in Korea). There is a Seoul ATEK Group, and a Busan ATEK Group, a Gyeongnam ATEK GroupGwangju ATEK, Jeollabuk ATEK, and more . . . . Gyeongbuk ATEK, Gyeonggi ATEKGangwon ATEK, Chungnam ATEK,

Chungbuk ATEKJeju ATEK,  Daegu ATEK, and possibly many more . . .

UPDATE: Roboseyo sent me an email about this post, and apparently I missed finding the primary ATEK facebook group.  The problem with this group, though, is that you must sign up to view whatever is there–and that might be the reason why people are reluctant to do so.   It’s been suggested that people don’t want to sign up for this group because they think it means they’re also signing up to be a member of ATEK–which is not true, you’re just signing up to be a member of the fb group; I think it’s more likely that people want a chance to look at what is being said, and done, in the group before they sign up.  I have to wonder if the reason it’s a CLOSED group that requires one to sign up is due to some of the anti-ATEK people online and how they can be extremely negative and toxic in their comments and postings on websites and blogs . . . if it was open access to the public then the group would have to deal with this kind of crap.  If this is the case then it makes sense to me that you have to sign up . . .

I put ‘Yes/No’ as the answer to this question because while there are many facebook ATEK groups there doesn’t appear to be one centralized group which is moderated by someone in a leadership position at ATEK.  This seems kind of odd as facebook is probably the most popular website native teachers in Korea use, and would be the easiest location in which to set up a group page where native teachers could join in order to stay up to date with ATEK’s progress but not have to join ATEK if they didn’t want to . . . hmmmm, now there’s something that might merit looking into.

Anyways, I hope ATEK figures out how to communicate more with the native teacher community.

The last thing I want to comment on is the nonsense taking place in the comment sections in these two posts: Rumblings about ATEK: Response to Chris and Rumblings around ATEK – and a new group forming UPDATED.  I’ll just copy and paste what I wrote in the comment feed on Roboseyo’s post.

“It’d be nice for a change if all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over bruised egos would be put aside and some individuals would exercise some restraint about what they comment about . . .

If all the time and energy invested in ego defense and inflation were put into the issues native teachers have in Korea imagine how much more productive that would be . ..

There’s a reason why I haven’t blogged about ATEK–and that’s primarily cause I get tired of reading all the pissy little comments and flame wars that blow up over who said what, when, how, to who, and why, and then hashing all of it to death.

I’d rather listen to the sounds of lip smacking and slurping that I can hear in the teachers office right now as an ajusshi teacher eats his ramen then continue to hear some of the comments in this post.

BLAH!”

I hope some of the ideas and suggestions here might help ATEK create a communication vehicle with which it can share information with native teachers in Korea . . . cause right now my answer to this question . . .

If ATEK falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

. . . is . . .

Not really.

J

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