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Your position in South Korea will be that of teacher of English as a second language. It will be your responsibility to help students develop their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. You will likely teach a variety of levels, from beginner to advanced. There will be some students who have studied abroad and can carry on a conversation, and others who will be just beginning to learn very basic vocabulary. You will find it rewarding to see your students progress and improve their ability to communicate in English. This is one of the biggest benefits of the job.
Although contracts do vary, teachers will generally have about six classes a day. They are usually between 40-50 minutes in length. Classrooms usually have 12 students or less, making it quite manageable. There are a variety of styles amongst different academies. Some focus on lots of testing and homework, while others are more relaxed and encourage playing games with students. Some have a very tight curriculum, while others leave it up to the teacher to decide the pace of the class. It is best to adapt your style to that of the academy at which you work. Regardless of the place you work, you will need some creativity, and will have some level of input as to the style of the classes you teach.
Many people worry about going to Korea with no previous teaching experience. This is very understandable. Getting in front of a class for the first time can be intimidating. But, if you have the right ideas and the right systems, within a very short time, you will have no problems.
This guide is not meant to be a shortened version of teacher’s college, but far from it. It is based on ten years of teaching English as a second language in South Korea. It is meant to be very practical, and to give first time and experienced teachers some valuable information to make their classrooms more manageable.
There are two things that we believe make for a successful classroom environment. These two keys are systems and consistency. First of all, let’s examine systems. They can be very simple or more complex. Of course simple systems are easier to implement and maintain. More complex systems can be beneficial, particularly with higher-level students, and highly motivated students. The key to effective systems is being consistent with your system. Whatever rules you set up for your class, whatever behavior you expect from your students, you must be consistent. If one day, speaking to friends is allowed, and the next day it is not, students are confused. They do not know what to expect, and therefore you lose control of the class. This is not the students’ fault so much as it is the teacher’s fault for not having told them what is expected, and then sticking to that.
We will now examine various potential problems, and how you can address them. It should be taken into consideration that the vast majority of the time, you are in control of whether a certain class is a pleasant one, or whether it is a frustrating experience every time you teach it. There is only a minute amount of classes that can truly be called bad classes, and even those classes can be brought to a level of productivity that is acceptable. Remember, you are in possession of the ability to shape the attitude of any class.
One of the big problems has to do with students speaking Korean in class. Pretty much all schools say it is their policy to have no Korean in the classroom. Although good in theory, this is rarely the case in practice. This problem actually provides you with a great opportunity. Most students have a very limited ability in English, thus the reason teachers are in high demand. Therefore, if you can manage to eliminate Korean from the class, you have essentially eliminated all forms of noise and disruption. On the other hand, if the students’ have a high level of English fluency, then you will likely encourage discussion amongst themselves in English.
The problem and opportunity have been described, but there has yet to be a solution provided. The following systems can be applied to just about any problem you may be confronted with. Let’s examine how it applies here.
The 1 2 3 System
The 1 2 3 System can be used with many variations. For example, let’s look at the Korean-speaking problem. On the whiteboard or blackboard, write one of the following:
________ 1 2 3 Out (나가)
________ 1 2 3 Homework (숙제)
________ 1 2 3 Call (부모님 전화)
________ 1 2 3 Director (원장님)
________ 1 2 3 Minus (점수 빼기)
You can chose which format would work best in your class. You can also add your own. After writing this, explain to the students that if they speak Korean one time, their name goes on the line and they get one circle. The second time gets them two circles, and the third gets them whatever punishment you have decided on. They are all quite effective. No student looks forward to leaving class, getting extra homework, having their parents called, visiting the school director, or losing marks on a test.
At this point, it cannot be emphasized enough. BE CONSISTENT! If you are not consistent, this system will not work. If sometimes you let students get away with speaking Korean, but other times you write their name, you will discredit the whole system. The students will not buy into it. On the contrary, if you are consistent and meticulous in the use of this system, you will be amazed at how well behaved your students can be.
The 1 2 3 System is very flexible. It can be used to control other negative behaviors as well. It has been used successfully to eliminate all talking, excessive standing and walking around, and lack of attention amongst others. A variation on this is the yellow card, red card system. Soccer is very popular and students know about the rules in soccer, which dictate that you get two yellow cards, and then a red card. You can get yourself a yellow card and red card. Carry it with you to class, and use it for the students who are misbehaving. They often enjoy this style of class management.
You may face a lack of enthusiasm from your students. If this is the case, it may be time to spice up your classes. One of the great things about teaching is that you can at times be a kid yourself. If your students are bored, try being more conscious of how you conduct your classes. Be honest, are you boring? Would you enjoy going to your class? More importantly, do you enjoy going to your class? If you are not having fun in your classes, chances are, neither are your students. Start by checking yourself first. If you dread going to class, if you are tired or irritable, it may be time to work on your own attitude. There is a direct correlation to you enjoying time spent with students, and students enjoying time spent with you. This is your chance to prove what many of us have said when we were younger. “If I were a teacher, I would do so and so to make my class better, not like this teacher.” Well, you’re a teacher now. Go ahead and make it a great class! Be the best teacher you can be.
It will be very helpful for you to use the staff and Korean teachers at your school. One of the major difficulties you may encounter is the inability to communicate with a student when you need to tell them something important. Don’t be shy about calling in help. Get someone to translate for you in order to make sure that your students understand what they did right, or wrong.
There are also many proactive ways in which you can eliminate many potential classroom difficulties. Show genuine interest in your students. If they know you really care about them, they will work hard for you. Children are very perceptive. Although they are very innocent and somewhat gullible to certain things, for example Santa Claus, they are not easily tricked when it comes to feelings. They are able to tell when someone is interested in them, and when someone is impatient with them.
Try to show each individual student some attention. Some students are very outgoing and try to answer all the questions. Others are more reserved and keep to themselves. Make an effort to make sure that each student participates on a daily basis. Also, unlike Canada or the U.S., you do not risk a lawsuit for coming within a foot of a child. Innocent touching of children is quite common in South Korea. Touch is a very powerful thing, and can have a big impact on children. Make an effort to give each student a high-five, or pat him or her on the shoulder. Please to not misunderstand what is being said here. We are obviously in no way encouraging inappropriate contact with students. Also, avoid patting students on the head, as this is considered insulting in Korea.
Be positive with your students. If you like a certain behavior, encourage that behavior. Reward the behavior. You can do a multitude of things to systematize this as well. You can have “Best Class of the Month”, or “Student of the Month” contests. Give out points that can be added to a test score, for example, for abiding by certain criteria such as homework completion or participation. Carry a small notebook with the ongoing results. Students are very competitive, and usually try to do well in these types of contests.
It is very important to keep a close watch on yourself. There will be times where you will have to show students that you are upset. The key to survival in this game is to never really be upset. You can show that you are unhappy with what a student has done, but inside you should be smiling and realizing that it just comes with the territory. Never take anything personally, and don’t let yourself lose control in class. Always try to remember that regardless of what happens, it is not that big a deal. Keep a relaxed attitude, and you will look forward to working. Teaching offers you a great opportunity to develop self-control, self-awareness, creativity, patience, a positive attitude, and high levels of energy. Take advantage of this and become a proud, productive teacher.
Claim a new and exciting job opportunity today! Visiting another part of the world for free while earning excellent money is not unrealistic. In fact, it’s easily accessible, and you can do it! There are boundless positions available to teach English