Friday, 4 March 2011

ATEK Officer No Longer

Well, readers, it's time to let everybody know.

Since about May last year, I was a ATEK's National Communications Officer, but I'm no longer an ATEK officer.

You see, this December, I was accepted into a local Graduate School of International Studies, so I'll be a full-time student instead, doing Korean Cultural Studies. The way the rules work now, no longer being an English Teacher disqualifies me from being an ATEK officer as well. I'll continue to be an associate member (anyone can be an associate member), and I'll continue to support ATEK however I can, but I've made way for a lady from Busan named Rachel, who will be taking over as ATEK's press liaison, and the like. Rachel's an excellent lady, and you can reach her at

I'll write some of my personal opinions about what ATEK needs heading into the future in another post, soon, lest this one reach TL/DNR territory.  However, and I don't think I can state this strongly enough...

I remain convinced that ATEK is the group with the best chance of effecting real change, and a real improvement in the lives of English teachers in Korea, and there are just tons of opportunities for you to get involved in ATEK if you're an English teacher:

1. there are sixteen regional areas in ATEK (PMAs) - this means that you can focus on local issues, and local activities. That's really cool.
2. there are twenty different types of officer positions in ATEK, which means that there's an officer position that fits your area of interest, knowledge, and expertise.
3. there are ATEK positions that run the gamut from "as needed" to "I'm really getting into it," as time commitments go.
4. Some of these officer positions are very much still being developed, which means you get a blank slate in some ways, to adapt the role to suit your interests, and the needs of your local organization.

What does ATEK need right now? All across the regional organizations...

1. Volunteer and Social Officers
What is it... Volunteer officers find, and spread the word about opportunities for English teachers to give back to their communities. There are organizations all around Korea that would love some English teachers to donate some time, and you can help connect teachers who want to help, with organizations who'd love to have their help.

Social officers plan events where English teachers can meet and network with other English teachers. Clubs, special interest groups, and the like: sometimes this position includes event planning, and other times, it just means letting ATEK members know about events that are already being planned by others.

What's so great about... These positions help push against the stereotype that English teachers are morally unqualified, or that they don't care about Korea, Koreans, or Korean culture, or that they don't do anything but drink on the weekend.

Volunteer and Social officers are super-important to ATEK, because the best kind of recruiting happens at these events, both for members, and for potential officers to fill out other positions in the local organizations. Do you want to know why Busan PMA is flourishing? Because they plan events, and attract good people to ATEK through these events.

Time commitment: self-determined.
A good officer is... social, good at meeting people and organizing events, a team player, flexible, organized, either good at taking care of details, or delegating them, and hopefully fun.

2. Ethics Officers
What is it: Ethics is a separate part of ATEK: Ethics operates as the conscience of the organization. An Ethics officer's job is to understand the organization, and the principles it's founded on, well, and to help other officers understand the organization through that lens.

The ethics committee may sometimes need to investigate cases of behavior that is of questionable ethics, or to make recommendations for how to carry out a task in the way that is most ethical, and most harmonious with ATEK's bylaws (the organization's constitution).

What's so great about... ethics is the conscience of the association, and a well-functioning ethics committee is absolutely vital to helping ATEK build its credibility and moral authority as a trustworthy organization helping English teachers.

Time commitment: as needed. High during times of crisis, low when everything's running smoothly.
A good officer is: principled and aware of the effects events and actions have on the image of the organization, and the integrity of the organization. A good ethics officer has often studied law, philosophy, or ethics in school, and will need to become familiar with ATEK's bylaws, in order to test ideas and issues, and plan the course of action that is most harmonious with ATEK's bylaws.

3. Membership Officer
What is it: A membership officer takes care of the membership list for ATEK: because they are dealing with people's private information, membership officers must be responsible to handle this sensitive information in ethical ways. Membership officers also help oversee ATEK's elections (until the elections committee is fully functioning) by making sure that those who are voting have proper registration and legitimate voting privileges within the organization. Because they are the only ones with access to members' information, membership officers are also responsible for e-mailing communications to members, and communicating with members.

What's so great about... maintaining accurate membership records and keeping the organization well organized will help ATEK with its NGO application. Accurate and up-to-date records represents the legitimacy and professionalism of the organization.

Time commitment: if the organization is growing, membership officers are busy making sure everyone is properly registered.  Frankly, it can be quite a time commitment, especially during training and learning the ropes, and during periods of growth.

A good officer is: detail-oriented. Good at handling information databases (spreadsheets etc.) Computer-literate and well-organized. Sensitive to ethical concerns about private information. This is a great job for someone who wants to quietly play a vital supporting role, but does not want to be highly public and visible in their role.  Uses a PC (because the membership database spreadsheets run on PC programs for now.)

4. Communications Officer
What is it: Communications is the PR arm of ATEK.  Not only does the communications committee write press releases and keep in touch with the media and ATEK members, the communications committee also helps work on improving content on ATEK's website, and developing a new edition of the English Teacher's Guide to Korea.  Important updates and information packages for English teachers and other education-interested people is all in the Communication Committee's sphere of influence.

What's so great about... you can help get the word out about ATEK.  ATEK has an important message, and a lot to offer English teachers, but teachers don't join if they don't hear about it.  In the course of representing ATEK, you get your name out to newspaper and magazine editors and other media professionals.

Time commitment: medium to substantial, depending on how much time you put into ongoing projects: there are a ton of ongoing projects, so if you have the time, the communications team will have something for you to do.

A good officer is: media and computer literate (both new and old media are good) maybe with training in writing or journalism.  Creative, articulate in writing and well spoken.  Sensitive to public perception issues for ATEK.  Good at compiling information (for the guidebook), and good at expressing the goals and concerns of ATEK's members.

5. PMA Chair
What is it: A PMA stands for "Provincial or Metropolitan Association" - these are ATEK's local chapters.  A PMA chair is like the moderator of a discussion: the PMA chair's job is to understand ATEK's national goals and aims, and to help the PMA's local officers to develop a local identity for ATEK, that works in their own community, while being in harmony with the national association.  PMA chairs recruit officers, and motivate them perform their role the best they can; they represent their PMA's concerns and local issues in the National Council.  It's like ATEK's version of a middle manager, helping the relationship between the local and the national association to be functional and productive.

What's so great about... it can be a flexible position, because of the different ways different officers need support and encouragement, and the different officers a PMA might have, or lack.  While a PMA chair can help delegate and coordinate tasks, so that those vacant officer roles aren't missed, a chair can also devote a lot of energy to recruiting people for those vacant officer positions.

Time commitment: can be high in an active PMA... but seeing an active PMA is really satisfying.

A good officer is... a great team-player, good at working with people and coordinating and motivating people.  Adaptable, willing to flex their vision to fit with the goals of the organization at large, and the interests and talents of the other PMA officers.  A good networker and communicator, able to see the big picture, and a good judge of talent, to identify potential recruits for other local officer positions.

6. Webmaster
What is it: The national webmaster is in charge of ATEK's website and runs the technical side; other members of the webmaster committee answer to the national webmaster, and the webmaster collaborates with the communications committee to help the website best convey the information the communications committee needs to share with the public.  Most of ATEK's officer materials are also digital (training manuals etc.); the webmaster (unless I am mistaken) also makes sure that these digital information resources are operating the way they should: accessible to those who need it, and secure from those who don't need it.

What's so great about... ATEK's website is often the group's first point of contact with press, educators, and English teachers.  Making the website run more smoothly and look nicer, making the information there more accessible, and keeping the back end clean, while helping less computer-literate officers learn how to use the forums and website effectively, is an important part of presenting ATEK to the public.

Time commitment: as with Communications, the tasks here are ongoing, so whatever time you're willing to give, ATEK would be happy to have.  Could be high, if you have a lot of ideas and energy.

A good officer is... highly computer literate, knows about website design.  Familiar with joomla, the program that powers the website.  A creative team player who can help generate ideas on how to best communicate with the public, through ATEK's website.

7. Employment "Labor" Issues Officer
What is it One of the most important roles in ATEK.  The employment issues officer is not a lawyer, but has been trained in educating people about their workplace rights according to Korean law.  This is the officer who helps people understand their contract, understand when their boss is doing something illegal, and develop a strategy to ensure fair treatment under Korean law.  This person is not a lawyer, a representative, or a legal counsel, but this person knows a thing or two about problem solving, including when to call a legal counsel.

What's so great about... you get to help people.  Literally every week, somebody comes to ATEK with an issue about unpaid wages, or severance, or other work and contract issues.  The Employment Issues Officer hears these people out, and helps them deal with their frustrating situation.

Time commitment: high.  Do it because you really love to help people.  It's rewarding as anything, but the training, and dealing with teachers' issues, is a time commitment.

A good officer is... possibly trained in, or knowledgeable about law.  A problem solver who is task-oriented, and loves helping people, and dealing with people.  A good listener and communicator, who has a knack for getting to the heart of a problem.  Organized and good at following through.

These are not the only areas where ATEK is looking for officers, but it's a pretty good start.  This list skews to the practical: there area also officer positions that focus on cultural understanding issues, human rights issues, other emergency needs, as well as professional development.  You can go to to learn more.


Anonymous said...

"there are twenty different types of officer positions in ATEK"

Which is why ATEK is failing, hard.

From what I can gather on the dead/dying ATEK forums, the group can't even get enough people to join up to do the most basic of office-keeping/logistical type work.

At the same time, you're trying to recruit for the most specific/highly defined positions.

Learn to crawl before you try and sprint, ATEK. Your organizational structure as of now is an uninviting mess.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

Before the officer positions became specialized, though, Wet Casements, ATEK lost a lot of officers because their roles weren't clearly defined, they didn't know what to do, or they got stressed out because they felt like they had to perform multiple roles. Workload's enough of an issue with some of these positions, without some officers feeling like they have to be their PMA's communications officer, Chair, and Social officer at the same time.

Chris in Busan said...

I am a full ATEK member but never hear anything from ATEK these days. I do not have time to do any ATEK work and 90% of the foreigners here teaching English are freaks. ATEK is really needed, 100% necessary but has no organization at all. I worked with migrant workers in South Africa who were better people than most foreigners here. I wish ATEK had an active president.

Walter Foreman said...

Wow... tough crowd. Three comments in and not a single congratulations on your upcoming grad. studies; maybe everyone already knew.

In either case, congratulations!

Mike in Seoul said...

I was considering doing something with ATEK, and I was checking out the website a lot. About a month ago I saw a bunch of officers just disappear. It went from like 25 officers to like 12 officers in all of Korea and from like 8 to 2 here in Seoul. What was up with that?

I gotta say that from my side it looks like there was a mass exodus or something. Doesn't make joining or being more involved look that appealing.

Anonymous said...

Too bad to see you leaving ATEK. I respect you took the time to write out what that organisation needs and what it is good for.

Congratulations on the upcoming studies as well.

As for ATEK, it is still suffering from chronic disorganisation, low membership and lack of direction. It has seemed to veer away from the disastrous Human Rights track.

All one can hope for is that ATEK figures out that it can best help teachers by simply being an information network and a place that allows teachers to connect with others.

More than that is unrealistic considering the nature of the ESL game in Korea.