I created a mini series called ‘Teaching in Middle School’ asking friends who are currently working in a middle school their thoughts on what it’s really like teaching here. I start off the series with my perspective, followed by two more friends 🙂
“Congratulations! You’ve been placed in a middle school!” So really, what were your first thoughts when you saw that placement certificate at the EPIK orientation?
Well, I knew prior to seeing the placement certificate but I suppose seeing where I’ve been placed in black and white solidified it – I’d be actually working in a middle school. I was somewhat anxious because this would be the first time I’d be teaching students over the age of 10/11 on a regular basis. These students would have more opinions and be vocal able it and oh yes, the classes would be much bigger than my previous teaching experience. These were some of the concerns I had when I saw the placement certificate.
Now you’ve been teaching in your middle school for a little while, do you like teaching middle schoolers? What is an average day like? Had any Korean surprises yet? How do you respond to changes in your day?
I can honestly say, those concerns I had initially aren’t ideas that run through my mind now I’ve been teaching in middle school for about two months now. I can say I do enjoy teaching and teaching older students. I have some really great classes where the students’ personalities, abilities and interests combined together make class pretty easy to teach. It’s easy to talk to those classes and get their opinions on various topics. Though they may not want to be there, they try and enjoy the forty-five minute class as much as possible (and I try and make my classes engaging for those specific classes, yes I have favourites). Of course, classes who are the polar opposite, I keep chitchat to a minimum (because they never respond) plow through the workload and say goodbye. And that’s pretty much an average day for me. I teach seventeen running classes and one after school class. Whenever I get the news that classes have been cancelled or moved to another time slot, to me, they aren’t really a Korean “surprise” anymore. It is what it is.
If you can compare your current teaching life to your previous teaching life back home (or in another country), how does it differ/resemble what you’re experiencing now?
Boy. That’s a big’en. There are so many things to compare and contrast about my teaching life in China which will come in another post but so far, I think there are more differences than resemblances. I think the initial introduction to teaching in Korea through EPIK was the biggest difference to my teaching experience because the orientation was so insightful. There was a chance to build community, learn important information and a chance to have adequate preparation. China gave me none of that – but hey, I worked in a private language school so I think the stark differences lie in the type of institutions. With EPIK’s introduction my teaching life has had more pros because of the recognition that I’ve come across the world to actually be a teacher and not an entertainer. Life is not as stressful as it had once been in China and I actually have a social life! (More on these last few points in another post).
If you’ve never taught before, what’s teaching like for you as a newbie? Have you found teaching a struggle or a breeze? Do you have lots of support?
Though I’ve taught before, I get more support than I initially received while in China. I’d definitely say for newbies wanting to teach abroad, EPIK helps a lot.
Any advice you’d like to give people interested in teaching in Korea – especially those falling into middle school level. Any things you would have liked to have known before you landed in middle school?
If you’ve never worked in a middle school then take it as an opportunity to try something new especially if you’re considering teaching as a career. Heck even if it isn’t, it’s still pretty fun to dive in because you could meet some really cool students whose life you could impact and vice versa. I would say go with zero expectations and learn from each lesson. Make tons of mistakes but learn from them!