Aww the life of an EFL teacher…EFL is actually different than ESL. EFL is English as a Foreign Language. It means that the rest of the country does not speak the native language you are teaching them. I am teaching these students English but the rest of the country speaks Korean not English therefore it has challenges of its own. In the USA we would teach ESL (English as a Second Language) it means that the native language of the USA is English. Just a little background information for you 🙂
After a month and a half of teaching I finally feel like I am getting the hang of things. The first week I was so stressed with lesson planning and I felt like everything had to be perfect with perfect timing and everything in order. I have come to realize that it’s rare that a lesson plan will go exactly as planned. I remember in orientation they taught us that some lesson plans will fail and bomb miserably and that’s when you need to just move on and not force the lesson. Other lessons will go really well and there’s no point in moving onto the next thing when they love this specific activity. Sometimes I over plan and sometimes I under plan but it always seems to work out. We have a text book to follow but I try and spice things up a bit by doing different activities. The text books are a bit cheesy as I remember in Spanish they were the same as well. I like to add games or competitive quizzes where if the students get it right they get candy or a stamp. 5 stamps = candy! WOohoo! I secretly wish I could just bring candy in every week but then it wouldn’t be as special as when they receive it. I also try and get the students out of their seats.
These kids are so over-educated and go to school twice as long as American students and go to school even on the weekends. They actually aren’t graded in English class so I try to make it as fun as possible and I keep the atmosphere light and fun. My goal is to make it feel as though they don’t realize they are learning but they are. I know that there are always going to be lessons where things are boring but if I can at least keep it fun and enthusiastic for the students then I feel like I’ve done my job. I always think it’s funny when I walk in the classroom and say “Good morning!!! How are you?!!!” and if it’s a morning class the students stare at me with blank faces…”I’m fine teacher. I am tired. I am hungry. I am good. I am bad.” I always respond enthusiastically… Oh nooo! You are hungry?! Didn’t you eat breakfast?! It’s beautiful outside. Aren’t you great?! Why are you bad?!” and then I tend to just laugh because these poor kids look exhausted but I do hope that they have fun in my class or at least enjoy it. Or like me as a teacher. Nothing worse when you don’t like your teacher and dread that class! I will be posting soon an explanation of Education in Korea and how extremely important it is to them.
I feel really bad for the lower level English students. I wish so bad I could help them but individual attention is tough when I see 22 different classes a week. When we do group work or pair work I always try and walk over to them and kneel down to talk with them and help them out. I know it makes them nervous but I try and be as smiley and nice as possible. And say Wow good job! I’m sure it can be very stressful when some kids are amazing at English and you can barely say the ABC’s. Some families can’t afford to send their child to private academies after school so their English level is lower than other students. But that’s the part of teaching I also like…how do I plan a lesson that I can make as clear as possible for all levels of students to understand? I also am constantly changing how I talk with students. I talk veryyy slowly and use short sentences. It’s been a huge growing experience for me.
I was reminded by a good friend that most people go to University for four years to learn how to teach. I originally went to school to be a teacher but changed my junior year meaning I missed two full years of learning how to be a teacher. I came into this job not having a clue. I have always worked with children so I was comfortable with that but actual lesson planning was tough for me. I have become much less stressed now and been able to get ahead of lesson planning. Things start to flow easier in my brain and ideas pop into my head more.
I have great mentor co-teachers that have taught me so much and I am very thankful for that. I have one co-teacher that has taught for 14 years. Her enthusiasm with the 5th graders and her great games and ideas are an inspiration for me and she has taught me so much already. She is what I aspire to be like. She has a structured rhythm for her classes that her students understand so there is a nice flow to each class. She keeps the students interested and having fun. She also always plays a song at the beginning and end of class so the students get to sing loudly at the beginning and end of class. It gets them excited for the day. I always clap afterwards and say “Oh beautiful beautiful!” I actually often have those songs stuck in my head throughout the day but I don’t mind 🙂 Here is a photo of me teaching!
I’m sure I have said this before and will continue to say this but I am really happy to be here. I miss home, family and friends and at times get a burst of homesickness or miss how easy and comfortable it feels to live in the USA but I feel like I am so meant to be where I am right now. I am working hard to learn Korean and have made some Korean friends so far that have helped with it. I am also learning to embrace the cultural differences and accept our differences. It has made me more humble and I feel myself growing every week. My job keeps me busy and constantly planning for the next day. It keeps me going and I haven’t had a day to be bored yet. My personality loves that and it feels so good to be challenged in a different way than I have ever been challenged before. I am often tired and weekends never feel quite long enough but I am truly enjoying my time here. There are days where I am really stressed and feel unprepared before class and I walk out of school thinking good thing that day is over…and there are days where everything goes as planned and I leave school feeling on top of the world. I am taking life day by day here. I know my next Korean Surprise is waiting for me around the corner but I will stay positive and keep an open mind and overall I am happy.
Until Next Time.
Love from Korea,