Tag Archives: co-teaching

I suck at blogging

winter-camp-3787

One of my third-grade students who is clearly hard at work.

I’m now in the second week of a new school year here in Seoul. (The school year starts in March and ends in February.) Usually moving to the next grade was just another chapter in the same book of our childhood education. As a teacher in Korea, each year is like a different book written by a new author. Very little is the same from year to year.

I was the only teacher in my school who ended the last school year and knew his position for the next school year. Most of the teachers are teaching different grades now than they did last year. Teachers apply for certain positions, and then the higher-ups (the principals and vice-principals) place the teachers in their position without much rhyme or reason, it seems.

The results are drastic changes from the previous year. For example, of the six sixth-grade homeroom teachers, two taught second grade, one taught first grade and one was the P.E. teacher. I previously had three co-teachers (one for third and sixth grade, one for fourth grade, and one for fifth grade), but now I have four co-teachers — three of whom were homeroom teachers last year. Two of those three had never taught English before.

I don’t understand why the teachers get shifted around so much; in fact, teachers can only teach at a school for five years before they’re transferred to another school. (Again, they apply for a district in Seoul and hope for the best.) I’m no pedagogy expert, but it would seem that the teaching styles in first and sixth grades would be quite different and that keeping someone who has continual experience in the same grade would be more beneficial.

It’s been quite a transition period to say the least. I’m adjusting to the three new co-teaching styles — which right now means I run the classes to show the Korean teachers how we’ve done things and have them become more or less involved as they see necessary. It’s hard for them because the kids already know who I am from last year.

For the most part, things are going pretty well. It’s a similar dynamic to when I started six months ago, but now the roles are reversed. There are bumpy moments here and there, but the new teachers and I are smoothing those out pretty well. There’s always one exception, though, and it happens to be the most important of the new teachers — my official co-teacher who is responsible for me.

She might be one of the most awkward people I’ve ever met, and she’s extremely disorganized on top of that. My other three co-teachers have been prepared for their respective classes with me, so the lesson planning between us have been quick and to the point. With this other co-teacher, though, things are always a mess.

I don’t know what else she does (fifth-grade English is the only class she teaches), but she doesn’t prep during the three hours we have after school. Yesterday, I had to stay 20 minutes after I was supposed to be leaving so that we could sort things out — only to have her try and change them this morning. She over-thinks everything and consequently becomes a nervous wreck about it.

Her presence in the classroom is rather ambiguous as well. I’m not sure where she wants to be in the teaching balance between us, and I’m indifferent to whether she wants to do less or be more in control. She just needs to decide on what kind of role she wants to have so we can teach more effectively and not bore/confuse the kids.

The school year and half of the faculty might be new, but the struggles are still the same. I’m sure they’ll pan out, just as they did last year. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

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All that glimmers

It’s Friday, and I just got paid (two days ago), which officially makes me a millionaire. Absolutely no joke, I’ve never seen that many digits on a bank statement — granted it’s in Korean won, which unfortunately seems to be the only thing falling faster than the American dollar. This would’ve been sweet if I had any U.S. cash left to exchange, but now I’m looking to send money home to cover some bills.

I still have some money at home that I can use for the time being until the won decides to sort itself out. Other than that, things are good. Like I said, it’s Friday, and I’m staring out the window at sunny skies after watching three episodes of Entourage while anticipating the weekend. It’s so much nicer to be working in a place with windows. Even on the gloomiest of days, it’s nice to be able to see something other than colorless walls. I’ve been meaning to take a picture of the view, while not too bad isn’t definitely postcard material.

Regarding classes, I can feel the teachers loosening the reins a little bit. The co-teachers are asking more for my input about the lesson plans instead of pointing at different sections of the book to present. It’s nice that in two weeks, they’ve started to trust me a little more. I’m definitely no teaching expert, but I know teaching straight from the book doesn’t help these kids think in English, which is the goal if we want them to speak it.

Those worries are for another day. Now it’s Friday afternoon, and almost time to leave for the weekend. I’m probably checking out a rock climbing gym tonight then having a night on the town. The good times in Seoul continue.

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Teaching troubles

I’m in my third week of teaching now, and it has been every bit of an adventure as I had imagined it. The kids are doing the things kids do (especially the swooning fifth-grade girls), but they’re nowhere near unmanageable. All in all, it’s still, not unexpectedly, a learning experience.

The biggest challenge in this job is the fact that I’m co-teaching. The rapport between each of my three co-teachers and me still isn’t quite there. We’ll accidentally cut each other off thinking it’s time to transition, and other times, we won’t even have a transition. This lack of chemistry affects how I present my part of class, and I’m sure the Korean co-teachers are adjusting, too.

The hardest part of finding this balance is the lack of hierarchy. I’m obviously the better English speaker, but they’re the more experienced teachers. These kids have been with these teachers since March (because their school year starts in the spring), and I’m still a fresh face to them. Because of my lack of authority and experience, it’s hard to tell co-teachers certain things (i.e. the curriculum) don’t really work. Sometimes I get bored teaching in my own classes because we work from the CD so much, but I’m not confident in my own alternatives — if I have any.

With each week, though, I hope to be able to invoke more activities (especially with my fifth-grade class where I hold the reins) separate from the curriculum and turn it into a more conversation-centered class. Singing “I like apples” over and over can only go so far.

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