What’s up South Korea?
Behind Classroom Doors in South Korea…
For those of you who read my previous blog post ‘Behind classroom doors’ in China, cheers for taking the time to. I hope you had a few chuckles and enjoyed it! Now I’d like to take the spot light off me and lead you to the doors of South Korea…
My friend Tim who’s originally from the good ole country town Pukekohe has packed his bags for the second time round and is currently teaching university freshman students in Busan, South Korea!
What made you decide to teach English in Korea?
Initially I saw it as an opportunity to work and travel outside of New Zealand, and I saw an advertisement for EPIK in the university magazine when I was an undergraduate student.
What kind of arrangement did/do you have with your classes?
Before: Up to 30 hours a week, from 2-20 students crammed into a small class with desks, chairs, a whiteboard and little else.
Now: On average 15 hours a week, with generally 20-30 students in a larger classroom setting with computer and whiteboard.
What is your biggest challenge in the classroom?
Currently a challenge I’m facing is working within a confined classroom space; there are about 40 desks within the classroom which doesn’t leave a lot of room for activities like mingles or any other kind of interaction away from students desks.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching in Korea?
Korean students are very diligent and respectful toward their teachers.
What kind of resources did/do you have at your school?
Before: Pens, pencils, a whiteboard, a copier, and textbooks prescribed by my hagwon (private school).
Now: Whiteboard, classroom computer, colour projector, textbooks with internet extendability, my own office. No printers (yet).
What do you dislike the most about teaching in Korea?
There are some things that are disagreeable about any country that you may live or work in. For me, I really hate the ‘tiger parenting’ philosophy amongst many Asian countries. Parents want the best for their children and push them hard to excel. But I often feel that they are pushing their children too hard, and sapping the life out of them. Children are meant to have a childhood.
What are some cultural and classroom etiquette differences you’ve learnt/noticed in Korea?
◦ Writing a person’s name in red ink is taboo.
◦ Pointing at someone with your index finger is also taboo
◦ If a student sees your underwear, it is funny.
◦ If you have hairy arms, it’s fascinating.
◦ Korea is highly mono cultural, so as a teacher you can get away with something that you may not be able to in a multicultural setting like in Auckland, New Zealand.
What about exciting stuff like tests/exams for your students?
In my old private school, a more appropriate name for it would be testing academy. Students had tests coming out of their ears and they were expected to perform well in each one, which I think is bullsh*t, and only adds to learner stress which is counterintuitive to academic excellence.
Currently at my university I will perform two tests in a semester; a midterm and a final exam.
What is something you have learnt from teaching abroad?
What can’t be learnt from living and working abroad? I would encourage anyone to go and do it. Perhaps one of the biggest things I’ve learnt is to appreciate and maintain the benefits of keeping an open mind.
Do you have a memorable/funny classroom experience you can share with us?
At my private school, I used to teach children as young or 6 or 7 and it seems in Korea, things like ADHD or some kind of attention disorder goes unnoticed or unmentioned. So I used to teach this one kid, Harry. He was really intelligent and had abilities well above other students. He could complete tasks in a flash.. when he put his mind to it. Other times in the classroom, he would be jumping around, breaking sh*t, and hitting other kids. So I found a way to adapt to this. I would teach 9 students, and then I would teach Harry. Often this meant having to wrestle with Harry to make him sit in the seat, and even doing something as simple as placing an object (ie pencil) in his hands to capture his attention. The other students were then still able to complete their work, and it was a nice break from monotonous teaching.
What kind of advice would you give to others who are interested in coming to Korea to live and teach English?
In your bags – pack an open mind and lots of warm clothing if winter is coming.