This past Saturday I pretty much decided that I would stay for a second contract at my university in spite of the job description and workload being changed without any kind of discussion at all . . .
I will be teaching 3 classes worth of a course called "Classroom English." This course is intended to prepare students that will become elementary school teachers for teaching English, and to improve their general English language skills, and begin their training in how to teach English using English (as opposed to what the majority of Korean teachers do in Korea--teach English using the Korean language). The lectures for this course run 3 hours a week--in a row--yeah. The first two hours tend to be fairly productive, but the 3rd hour ends up being a grind for myself and the students. Luckily for me, and for them, the way the other instructors and myself have put together the schedule after the fourth week the third hour is comprised of teaching activity presentations in which the 2nd year students get to have their first crack (literally, and it's very interesting to see what potential they have) at teaching a 20-25 minute activity that is evaluated by the instructor. The students during the course of the semester complete two presentations. It's generally a really fun process to see them realize how much skill, preparation, etc, goes into teaching, and for me in particular to see how they interpret the activity instructions when they present--there have been many times where I had to fight from laughing so hard I'd cry. Those days are awesome.
I will also be teaching a "Speaking Methodology" course. The general idea for this course is to help students understand the basic parts of speech in the English language, to improve their own speaking skills, and of course, to get some teaching speaking methodology under their belts in an applied learning context as opposed to other courses that might focus more heavily on theory. This is the first time for me to teach this course so it should be interesting. I have taught courses before with similar content, and have a fair amount of reading and studying about the topics involved so I think it should be a good experience for me. This particular class is a also 3 hour lecture . . . I seriously can't understand the 'logic' behind the length of time, but I don't get to choose that kind of thing . . . .
Next on the list is a non-credit course that I put together based on a book called "Speech and Presentations" put out by Compass Publishing. I will teach this in a 50 minute lecture twice a week to two different classes. These non-credit courses tend to be kind of crappy because the students know that no attendance is recorded, and there is no testing or final grades that go on their transcripts (ironic how the same problem I faced teaching in public school here followed me in a way to the university level, sigh). So they sign up, and most come for a week or two, maybe a month, but once the tests and assignments begin to pile up enrollment drops from 20 to 4-8 if you're lucky. For me, the bizarre thing is that the textbook I've chosen is a really really good one, and I have a blast teaching it. It really helps the students improve giving instructions in English skills (very useful for Korean teachers), and how to demonstrate how to do a game, activity, or any other sort of thing you'd need to demo in a classroom. While other instructors will sometimes have nobody show up for their one hour 'fluff' courses, I generally seem to always have a core group of 6-8 who show up every week. Oh well, I'd rather know students value a course that holds NO TEST SCORE VALUE to them in terms of the academic ranking the university transcripts give--that is huge praise in this country.
The final addition to my course load comes from the newly added 6 month intensive English training course put on by the provincial education office through my university. The focus of the course is to improve the English language skills of the 20 trainees that have been chosen to do the first trial run of the program at my university and in this part of the country.
The 6 month program I taught at in 2007 had elementary and middle/high school teacher trainees. It focused on both English language skills AND how to teach English through English which meant it also had a lot of theory and methodology instruction. It seems like the results of the 6 month program across Korea in 2007 and 2008 must have resulted in some changes to the program because how it's being put on is a little different now, at least for the elementary training. My Korean supervisor used to go to national meetings with all of the other program supervisors across the country and it was VERY interesting to hear about what was going on in other parts of the country in the program.
The 6 month program is not for pre-service (or 'student-teachers') but rather it is an "in-service" program that has trainees who have graduated from university and have been teaching professinally in the ed system for years. Apparently the atrocious English test scores and language ability in the education system, and on TOEIC and TOEFL, etc, when ranked globally, has finally pushed the government to face the fact that native English teachers have known for----ever. The English language skills required to teach English successfully are lacking and more training is needed--though how this problem is being approached is a whole other issue.
The program's total hours of instruction is 750. 600 or so of those hours will be at the university in Korea, with the remainder in the US at a university ESL one month program this coming July. The immersion in American culture and an English environment are intended to force the trainees to use the English they know, and to acquire cultural experience and knowledge while they are living and studying in the US.
The course I chose from a list (and all we had to go on were titles, and 2-3 sentences describing the general purpose of each course in the 6 month program) is called "Cross Cultural Communication: Understanding English Cultures." I was pretty excited that none of the other 5 foreign instructors want the course because this is a huge opportunity for me to expose, and hopefully educate, trainees to a wide range of cultural ideas and issues that probably every foreign teacher in Korea wishes Korean teachers could be taught about in an academic setting . . . none of this guarantees the trainees will open up their minds and 'understand' (oh god, that hyper-abused word is DEFINITELY going to get some air time in my classes) English cultures, but at least the opportunity for exposure and dialogues is going to take place.
Something I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about is how I can give the trainees some simple yet effective strategies for interpreting and understanding cultural differences instead of allowing stereotyped/automatic thinking to shut down any cross cultural awareness and understanding . . . I've already thought about using things like my post about when Koreans say, "Wow, you can use chopsticks!" (The "Chopstick Reaction": foreigners using chopsticks in Korea -- "WOW!!! She can use a FORK!") and another idea I've used before to explain some of my personal feminist philosophy on gender issues to people back in Canada who have never thought about gender equality issues . . .
Right after I finished an exam back in 2003 a bunch of us and our prof went for drinks. During a conversation gender and labels somehow came up. I remember explaining to a guy who thought the term "firefighter" was stupid, and that women should just accept the label "fireman" in spite of the fact that it erases their existence as women, essentially neutering them and assimilating them into the caveman collective . . . I pointed out to the guy that if the history of the word "fireman" was actually that women did the job historically, and men were the ones trying to break into the profession that he'd probably not like it if he was called a 'firewoman.' I told him to imagine going with his girlfriend for the first time to meet her parents. I suggested that he imagine what it would feel like when she introduced him, and then said, "Steven is a firewoman." At this point his jaw kind of dropped as enlightenment flashed through his eyes and he said, "Yeah, I guess you're right. I wouldn't like that." Hmmmm, one point for the feminist, zero for patriarchy--zing!
Anyways, last Saturday Julianne and I went to Seoul and I was able to find a textbook that I could use for the first session in the 6 month course. The program has been divided into 3 sessions. I teach one course in each of the first two sessions, and the third session is when the trainees are overseas for a month in America. In the second session I'll be teaching an intermediate level reading course, and that should be a lot of fun too. I plan to try and find children's stories that the trainees have likely never read or been exposed to for use in the classroom here. I'm hoping to find stories that they will love, and that I know have high potential for teaching English in the elementary language classroom.
Well, this post is getting into mini-novella length so I'll just say that a big reason I haven't been blogging much this week has been due to all of the prep duties one has to do when getting ready for a semester of teaching in a national unversity of education in Korea--on top of which has been added teaching prep for the 6 month program too . . .
I'll close by saying that SOME of my faith in the "individuals with decision making power" at the university has been restored because they made some concessions to help the foreign instructors deal with the heavy workload . . . I'm still not happy that I was never given a choice, but I've decide that one way a foreign instructor can 'understand' Korean culture is to contextualize teaching English in Korea as an adventure in non-sexual S&M--yes, S&M, LOL!
I've had fun with Julianne joking about how some days I pretty much might as well be wearing a certain kind of black leather outfit with appropriate mouth piece and strap while I'm at work. And that the higher-ups then become masters and mistresses wearing 'formal power costumes' and shiny dressy shoes with high heels and platforms (wait a second, they already do! lol) . . .
Admitting to myself the 'true nature' of my working conditions has been liberating--in an I-choose-to-submit-myself-to-doing-anything-and-everything my masters and mistresses want me to do . . .
If you live and teach here--think about it . . . lol.
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