Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Intensive 6 month teaching English through English program -- Reflections Part II: Mad Preparations at Lightning Speed

At the end of my last post I wrote, "My face must have been ashen white, and I remember feeling like I was going to be physically ill. I think the Korean supervisor saw this, and probably the most deafening message that reached her was my silence . . ."

At the end of that meeting everybody left with a sense of impending doom. We had 25 working days, or so (I forget the exact number, but around that much) with half or more of the foreign team of 10 instructors away on vacation during the whole time, and some of them leaving and returning, and then leaving and returning again for various reasons. Add to the equation that two of the foreign teachers' contracts were ending and they had no motivation or interest in making lesson plans for the teacher training course and things were just utterly ludicrous.

How can quality education take place under the following conditions? 1) foreign English instructors with non-English/education/linguistics related university degrees, 2) foreign English instructors with no TESL/TEFL/CELTA instructor certificates, 3) foreign English instructors with no aptitude or natural talent in teaching = tourist-party 'teachers', 4) poor to absent leadership, planning, and communication in the foreign teacher office, and 5) poor to absent leadership, planning, and communication in the Korean office, 6) major problems in both the foreign teacher and Korean teacher office working together effectively on joint projects with very short time limits, and lastly, 7) last minute new details and requirements being sent to the training center office by the provincial education office that tended to undo work that had been done for different criteria . . . and the foreign teachers who had to do most of that work not being informed immediately but usually later when there was only a day or two before the deadline . . .

It was a recipe for disaster in the coming 6 months--and knowing what I know now I would never have stayed . . . hindsight, yeah.

So the meeting ended and everybody went to their desks . . . the next day, I think, the supervisor came in and said that my (and I think a few other instructors) suggestion to use professionally made textbooks was a good idea.

A major planning issue that had been brought up in the first meeting was whether or not we would have two different levels of program curricula--one for the elementary Korean teachers, and one for the middle/high school teachers. We were told by professional Korean teacher-supervisors, with decades of experience, that we didn't need to do this--myself and two other teachers argued ferociously, by this point politeness had pretty much put a white flag and then fallen over dead on the conference room table--that this was utter insanity and grossly ignored basic teaching methodology and COMMON SENSE! Our points were dismissed outright . . .

Even after the decision had been made to purchase textbooks to be used in the different courses of the program, there were still dozens of hours of teaching time that had to have original teaching materials and lesson plans made by the foreign instructors, or rather, by the four homeroom instructors as the other 6 foreign teachers would be teaching middle school and high school camp programs while the 6 month teacher training program was running. It was assumed by the Korean staff that those 6 teachers would prepare their own materials plus help us with the training program . . . uhm, yeah, not.

During the planning in the month leading up to Day 1 of the program we realized that we'd be short 2 foreign teachers--the training center didn't realize that within Korea it had a horrible reputation. They didn't realize that foreign teachers network and talk, and that if a training center/school/hogwan/university treats its foreign teacher poorly word spreads.

Not only would we be short of a full team but now the Korean staff was assuming that the four homeroom teachers of the 6 month training program would be willing to fill in the missing teacher slots/hours for when the children camp programs were running . . . unbelievable.

Add to all of this Crazy Teacher X. CTX had arrived about 3 months before all of the insanity began at the training center. He was in his late 30s, from NZ, and seemed to know his TESL really well. The problem was that CTX couldn't work with other people--at all. CTX also had an inferiority complex of gargantuan proportions, and oh yeah, he wore deoderant that didn't work so people could smell him from about 10 feet away . . .

Crazy Teacher X brought a whole category of his own to the planning with the stress and problems he'd create. If anyone disagreed with the tiniest thing he'd suggest he'd make everything everyone said after into a battle even if we knew he agreed with it--he'd disagree just to make everyone pay attention to his 'wounded' self-esteem.

Crazy Teacher X was assigned to be one of the 2 middle/high school homeroom teachers--I was the other. I had to work closely with CTX on an hourly if not daily basis . . . and between the insane stress levels of the 6 month program, and working closely with CTX I nearly lost my mind.

So with CTX in mind, imagine finding out that you'd have ONE DAY to choose 3 novels (for reading classes), a listening textbook, a speaking textbook, a vocabulary textbook, a writing/essay textbook, and a few other things. Also add to this that you'd have two Korean supervisors and two Korean teachers who didn't understand communicative teaching methodology who wanted to have the final say on what textbooks we would choose, and CTX who would go nuts if we didn't accept his suggested titles . . . and those are the conditions we to work under when choosing the textbooks.

Since the day for choosing the textbooks was going to fall in the next week, and it was the weekend, I decided to head to the Incheon foreign language teaching bookstore ahead of time to do some scouting on my own. Having 4-6 hours of time to choose textbooks you'd be using for MONTHS was riduculous and I knew that I'd just have to use my own personal time to do more research. I found titles that I thought were good and hoped that I'd be able to convince CTX and the Korean supervisors to agree with my suggestions.

Just a general note it's worth mentioning that Compass Publishing produces some of the best EFL textbooks, and workbooks, in the Korean market. I have yet to pick up a book of theirs that I thought was not well put together, and they often have English vocabulary with the Korean definitions beside them in the vocab sections of each lesson, etc. Oxford, Longman, and a few others are also really good. I'm considering doing little 1 minute videos in the near future where I talk about some of the best books I've bought and USED consistently when teaching in Korea.

Back to planning the six month kill Jason through previously thought improbabe and impossible situations . . .

Just traveling to the bookstore from the island by AREX took an hour and a bit.

. . .

And I'm going to stop writing about what happened in 2007 because the same thing is happening to me right now in 2009--unbelievable . . .

In my next post I'll write about what's been going on for the last week or so with my job.


1 comment:

AM said...

how did you and Julianne meet? And if you continue teaching in Korea, would you consider Seoul?