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Proud of My Work

Before I ever left for Korea I was working at an Insurance Company in San Francisco. My boss was this kooky old Japanese man who lived by a lot of morals and codes. Have you ever watched Mad Men? The office was kind of like that, and even had old type writers.

While he was training me to be an Insurance Agent he would now and then pass on knowledge. This one time he told me that when you do a job you should do it right. You should do such hard work that when it comes time for you to leave (for whatever reason) the company should be sorry to see you go. At that time I was fresh out of college and with a small work history behind me. I tried my best at that job, but know I could have left it better.

A Day of Professional Development: KOTESOL International Conference 2012


On October 20th and 21st Sookmyung Women's University held the 20th KOTESOL International Conference. During this time teacher's and ESOL enthusiasts gathered to see presentations ranging from topics such as mobile language learning to gaining more participation from students. Yet most importantly it felt like a time to celebrate the profession of teaching English as a second or foreign language.

I for one enjoyed the presentations I attended and especially found the conference well organized and entertaining.

First Time Teacher's in Korea: Some helpful points

Last weekend I randomly met up with a newcomer to Korea. He has been here about half a year and teaching down in Jinhae, which is near Busan. During our visit he expressed to me some difficulties getting use to teaching in Korea. Certainly some of the points he made were exactly how I felt when I first started teaching, and I couldn't help but see how far I have come. Recently he posted this on his Facebook:

Seoul Cambridge Day XII


On a lovely early Fall day I headed to Sookmyung Women's University in the Yongsan area. This campus is quite lovely and set atop a hill near a park. If you ever get the time I would suggest exploring this area as there are many restaurants, cafes and dessert shops nearby.

I came for the event Seoul Cambridge Day XII, as suggested by the KOTESOL organization. This event brought together teacher's and professionals to hear lectures on Cambridge materials and teaching methods.

Seoul KOTESOL Chapter Meeting

I have decided to take teaching English a bit more seriously, and in that process realized it might be a good idea to join the KOTESOL group. About two or three years ago I attended their international conference they hold each year in the Fall. Although I showed up at the last half of it, I remember it felt great to be around folks who are interested in teaching English.

Yesterday, I attended the Seoul chapter of the group and enjoyed their monthly meeting nearby Sookmyung University. It was a hot and sultry afternoon when I arrived, and due to a busy morning had skipped lunch. But I grabbed a snack and joined folks in the cool air-conditioned room. There I was greeted by Stafford from the Chosun Bimbo, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting at other events. I also was greeted to some other nice folks who are part of the group.

Milestones

Today I completed my second time of open classes at my current school. When I went through this last year I was way more nervous. I really wanted to make a good impression last year, and so rolled out high energy and a lot of activities. This year, I was still a little nervous but seemed to calmly get through it.

On the Business of Being a Team Leader

It's been almost two months into my second year at my school, and I figured it is time to talk about being a Team Leader. This title makes me in charge of three other foreign Native English teachers in my department (2nd grade). It also means that I am in the intermediary between the English crew and the Korean homeroom teachers. When I was first given this duty I was stricken with fear that I couldn't do it, and would find myself stressed out too much. Today I am going to expose how being a Team Leader has developed for me and give insights into what's been happening so far.

First Team Leader Meeting

My mind is in a swirl and I am home cooking tofu stir-fry. But about an hour ago I learned about what it will be like being a team leader next term and the duties that are going to come my way. The school basically wants to overhaul the English Department. Make it more standardized, meaning tests and homework should have a set grading system. It all makes sense, with it showing that we should be more unified and organized. The main goal is to boost the English Department's reputation. For years now, as it has been observed, the attitude was "Here you go, you can figure it out." A very easy going attitude that showed the Korean teachers we were likely lazy and can't be motivated.

Video as a Tool For English Education in Korea

I noticed something the other day while teaching my winter camp classes, and that is Korean kids love Youtube just as much as kids back home. Of course, this should come as no surprise as Korea is a very wired country. But I think seeing videos in the classroom has been a part of their lives since they started school. I for one have used a multitude of math-song videos and for fun, played those cutesy and catchy ones that get their attention.

An excellent evolution has occurred with the use of video in the classroom, and that is teachers making educational videos with their students. The forum waygook.org has already shown areas where teachers are integrating a video-creating lesson into their classes. Also, you catch teacher made videos on youtube with some that are awesome and others quite simple. Here for you are an example of teachers taking the video camera in the classroom and making it a fun tool for English education.


Winter Camp 2012 Wraps Up

Wow! Camp has come and gone in what feels like the blink of an eye. However, I can say I'm pleased with that reality. Camp this time around (compared to last summer) was a bit easier. I think it is because I had the higher level class, although at times they started to test me.

Keep on Chugging Them Out

After three days into this year's Winter Camp I have finally found the time to come home after classes and get back to lesson plan creation. I have now started on the 2nd semester for next year. Given the first week of planning wasn't too bad as that will just be fluff stuff till we start the book again.

This Winter Camp I have the high level kids and on the one hand it is a relief they aren't as wacky as the low levels, but on the other they argue with me about everything. "Teacher, but I answered the question so give me a sticker!" "No, teacher you are wrong!" (That last one gets spit out quite often.)

2011 You Were...Well..

Wow! It is the end of 2011 already. I'm 30, single and the battery to my wireless mouse just died. This past year was marked by mild discoveries and accomplishments. For one I finally found a school I am comfortable working at and also a neighborhood that is nice to live in.

I got out and saw some nice places, one of which was the beauty that can be found on Jeju Island.

Moving On Up to the 2nd Grade

It came as a complete surprise. A text from the boss on my computer, after I returned from lunch. Requesting I come and talk to him about next semester. I replied and the next thing I knew I was up in his room learning of my near future.

Turns out all of the 2nd grade teachers are moving on next year. For each grade there is a team leader and these folks, as you can imagine, manage the show. So 2nd grade's team leader would be missing. In short, he wanted me to move up to 2nd grade Math and be the team leader.

At first, I was skeptical because I liked staying in 1st with all my materials and plans for next year.  But I was curious and so learned more of his proposal. Turns out he really needs someone to fill the 2nd grade team leader position, and felt I was best because I have experience with the kids and the school. Plus it fits that I will go into 2nd Grade Math, as the book is the same company and similar material.

What Happens When Public School isn't the Dream Job

I have been reading the blogger, "What Would Eve Do?" and noticing that she has been having a hard time at her Public School. It reminded me how when I was working at a hagwon (my first job here) I thought that Public Schools were a lot better. I quit that school after 5 months and moved to a Public School. Indeed, many improvements were felt and life was somewhat less stressful. But the fact that I was working in a Korean work environment never transformed.

Today I am addressing the allusion some people might have that Public School jobs are somewhat more magically better than hagwons. However, at PS jobs you definitely get paid on time and have solid vacation.

Maybe Next Week

Today our school held our usual monthly meeting. On the agenda "contract renewals." When I saw this I got excited and thought something along the lines of, "If you put down 'yes' as your response, then you folks got the job" was going to be announced. Instead, they just announced that people need to make up their minds by Nov. 8th and someone will be coming to you around next week to talk about the contract.

That Time of the Year Again

As a contract teacher there comes a point where you don't know if you will be asked to stay or go for the next year. At my past two public elementary schools I was given the thumbs down on staying at their schools. So this time I really want to be asked to stay.

Their system is a bit different and seems more friendly. Since there are 22 foreign folks working here I guess they need to streamline everything. They sent out a mass-message asking us to respond to a survey by the second-to-last week of this month. I already enthusiastically filled mine out and handed it in. My answer was a definite, "YES." I want to stay at the school and even continue teaching first grade math. 

Results of the Jelly Bean Contest

The kids did pretty well guessing close to the number of jelly beans in each of their jars. As for a class assignment I think it was a lot of fun and helped them make a big connection to the word, "estimate." The fall back was that many students were disappointed they didn't win. I suppose I could have given out the jelly beans evenly to the class and let the winner just feel good. But I sometimes feel that things can't always be "even" for these kids.

A lot of emphasis in Elementary school (especially the younger ones) seems to be that everything has to be the same and fair. I explained the rules before they put in their numbers and so they should have understood. What was good, I think, was that some classes had a group of all the same close numbers. So I let them play rock, scissors, paper to sort it out.

Speed Ahead

My one week vacation ended this morning as Tom nudged me awake at 6:30. I know not to wake up immediately because of this, but when I did wake up I knew that three weeks of camp were ahead of me.


Sink or Swim?

I could let the current sweep me away or I could let the mountain defeat me and give up. Or I could strap on some flippers or put on some serious hiking gear and get to the top. This is the metaphor I am using today because it relates to the realization I came to about my job.

Stress has been building up and sleep has been deteriorating, and it is not the kind of life I want to have. Usually, what one does is blame outside factors and never really look in the mirror. This time I have decided to look at myself and see what I can do to improve my life.

You might be asking what has been so stressful? Mostly I have been worrying about what the homeroom teachers think of me and with open class coming I started to doubt myself. I also knew there were issues with our department that I wanted to fight for, but felt defeated because in Korean society the loudmouth-aggressive person is usually left behind.

Open Class Coming and other Work Stuff

As you can see spring has been good to me with fun trips to places here and there. The warm weather has helped calm my mood and ease my mind when it comes to work rambles. The job is puttering on like a well greased machine, with a few hiccups here and there.

But a big bump in the road is coming up, and that would be open class. It's not my first time with this kind of job-related aspect, but I definitely feel like this one will be more serious. For one the people who will be observing me are the parents, and since they pay for their kids education I can only guess their gaze will be mighty. The open class is not till next month, but I am already in the thick of planning it. We are given the liberty to do whatever we want, even can break away from our regularly scheduled plan. However, I am planning on sticking with the schedule but making sure there are interactive activities involved.

Job Satisfaction

Maybe it is because I didn't have six classes as usual today or that spring is here. I am sure there is a reason but whatever it is I feel really satisfied with my job in Korea, right now. It's the fourth job and I suppose after many trials and errors I have come to a point where I like my work. I wasn't trained to be a teacher but I feel I have learned and survived through enough that I am capable of the job.

I guess it could be that the kids are transitioning out of their kindy-selves and into first graders. Really, though I feel like this job suits me and I am starting to enjoy being in a room full of feisty children. One thing though that has really helped is that I don't do any coteaching anymore. I don't have to worry about coordinating things with someone who doesn't understand me and won't take the time to try.

Shifting

It's April and that means a full month has gone by at my new job. I have to say a lot has transpired within that time. I panicked and worked at a stressed pace the first three weeks and then started to get my bearings. Also for some reason I thought I had to go slower in the book, but it turns out I should have been going faster.

That brings me to today where I realized that since I need to cover about four pages per class that there will be little time for extra activities and games. One way you can look at this is that the children will miss out on having a good time, but you can also see it as I don't have to spend so much time planning. Before I was trying to find key points to address about the math they were learning and bring it to them in a way that developed their English. Now I see I will just try to make sure they are speaking and creating the Math-English while we work in the book. I am sure I can squeeze in a fun game or craft somewhere amongst that.

Culmination of Challenges

Today I am writing this post but if things go grammatically wrong do forgive me. Work has been culminating into a pool of half good and half bad. The good half are the groups of children that function in the classrooom, and the bad half are the groups of children that are dysfunctional in the classroom. What has ended up happening is that the bad half drains the life out of me and makes me wish I wasn't a teacher.

The good half, on the other hand makes me feel warm inside when a toothless-girl smiles at me and we giggle together. This half makes me believe that I can transform the subject of "Math" and turn it into "Math English." I feel hopeful and full of life!

Tom the Laptop

I have yet to purchase a desk for my home. Instead of a nice comfortable place to do my work I have been completing it on my bed. Tom seems to find this a fun advantage for him, as instead of my laptop making it onto my lap, Tom gets there first most often. Usually the following picture is how I look while I try to get ahead on my lesson planning.

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