I asked my friend, Puleng to share her experience teaching in South Korea so far. You could say it’s too early in the day to ask perspectives, but I think when you get used to something i.e. teaching for a while, your comparisons clouds over a little or changes. So while we’re still in the stages where those comparisons can be made, I present to you part two of the series ‘Teaching in Middle School’ from Puleng’s perspective.
“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?
They say that you should “expect the unexpected” when it comes to such things, especially if it is a new experience. What threw me off when I received the placement was that during the orientation, they covered all of us in one blanket- being elementary school. Talk about being caught off guard.
Nonetheless, my first thoughts were “OH NO” ,how will I interact or deal with the school work when all I had in my mind, and from the information we received during orientation, was elementary school? So there I was panicking for a moment, trying to un-condition myself out of the elementary school information we had received, thinking that the kids might be a tad bit unruly, not be small enough to enjoy games, animation and singing along to songs. I was ready to take on the challenge though because the GET I replaced had contacted me before EPIK told me where I will be going even though she did not divulge much.
In spite of that, I convinced myself that middle school children surely know English by now, they should be able to have a small conversation with me and I will just be taking the back seat during lessons, they have gone through the foundation phases and have been exposed to the language and a GET. Therefore, my thoughts were that I will be smooth-sailing through all of this. That was when I started to realize that I sold myself some dreams. Little did I know…
I have learned my lesson; that do not assume people know what you think they should know. Test the waters first and find what works. That the easiest concept to you might make zero sense to the next person, trust me. Why is English so much fun? “All the faith he had had had had no effect on the outcome of his life”- because that sentence makes perfect sense right?
Q: 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?
A: Having a vast difference of teaching in two different countries is something inevitable. With the most challenging thing being the language, Korean is a language I had never had heard prior to coming to Korea so that on its own limits how much I can say to the students with them actually comprehending it. The advantage of having students who speak one language is that the translation process from the co-teacher is quick and smooth; no misunderstandings whatsoever. Secondly, the children here come from a homogeneous culture- which I personally feel is easier to deal with and discipline, whereas in South Africa it is numerous cultures in one classroom so it is challenging on so many levels. In addition, even if the students misbehave, it’s nothing traumatizing or as uncouth as compared to the students I have taught back home (maybe it’s still early days but I can only hope that this is what it is).
As it’s a developed country, there is definitely a handful of resources within the teachers’ and students’ reach- elementary and middle schooling is free so it is impressive that the standard of resources and education remains high, whereas in a developing country like SA, quality resources in education are scarce and are for the wealthy and privileged- which happens to be the minority, unfortunately. I was so overwhelmed at how everything is conducive for learning and teaching.
Being a GET is not as intense as being a “normal teacher”, so that does relieve the pressure a bit. The expectations for a GET aren’t a matter of life and death as they are for the regular teacher.
Lastly, the school hours and calendar days are really lengthy; school starts late and ends later than it does back home.
Teaching in different countries and environments is an experience that is truly worth the trouble and rigorous administration. Currently, it has not been a breeze on the daily but it has definitely been worthwhile. As much as some children will really test your character and become out of hand, the cooperative and eager ones outnumber them by far.