Sunday, March 1, 2009

Day 1 of 6 Month Intensive English Training Program

At 9:30am this morning the five other foreign instructors I work with and I all got to go and do the typical dog and pony show--also known as the 'opening ceremony' in Korea. We walked into a classroom where the 20 Korean teacher trainees were already sitting, and sat down in front of them . . .

I wondered (foolishly) if the professor running the opening ceremony might speak in English because the program is supposed to be an English immersion program . . . nope. I do get that for the sake of expediency (and comprehension) it probably makes more sense to speak in Korean during an opening ceremony but it still makes me shake my head that English wasn't used. At the very least it would be nice to see more Korean supervisors and directors in the public school system, and Korean English professors who have the fluency (all of the ones I work with have very good English skills) run meetings and ceremonies in Korean AND English. Say something in Korean for 3-4 sentences, and then translate it into English. Time management and the amount of information to be conveyed probably makes this impossible at times, but I have seen it done on occasion with some of the better supervisors and directors in the public ed system, and once and a while in university.

The ceremony lasted about 20 minutes, and didn't have the typical feel of the literally over one hundred ceremonies I've sat through over the last four years. There were no drums and music with the Korean male voice of authority voice over calling Koreans to their national duty, no singing of the national anthem, and the speeches were relatively short. I was kind of glad that the foreign instructors weren't asked to give long speeches too. We just stood up when we were introduced in Korean. Our names and the countries we come from were given, and when it was my turn I stood up, bowed slightly, and sat down again. Overall not that bad a ceremony.

And then, of course, we did the obligatory photo of everyone who was there. I always get a slight kick out of watching to see who is uncomfortable standing next to the tall, chubby, shaved head foreign guy from Canada . . . this time, however, the trainees didn't seem to be all that freaked out by my appearance--cool.

The trainees are now in the midst of writing an English language skills assessment test. I saw a copy of it last week and winced at how difficult it is. The general level of the questions testing reading, writing, and grammar skills was NOT easy . . . the reason I was given when I asked about this (I wondered why on earth the test didn't have a wider range of question levels) was that the test designers wanted to see who was advanced and who wasn't--not who is beginner, intermediate, and advanced . . . I feel a little sorry for the trainees who are in the advanced-beginner to low-intermediate level because having to do an English language skills test on the first day would be pretty nerve-wracking in my mind.

The other thing about this test is that the trainees were originally supposed to be starting their first class with a foreign instructor right after the opening ceremony--but that got squashed after it was figured out that an assessment test had to be done on the first day but hadn't been factored into the schedule . . . I'm sooo glad that I'm not the one who lost instruction time in their 50 hour course because I'm already struggling to figure out how to reasonably fit everything I want to do into my course schedule.

Well, time to get more prep done for my first class with the trainees on Wednesday.


Oh yeah, you gotta love how teachers in Korea get free hand towels as gifts . . . I think this might be number 15 for me, lol.


Foreigner Joy said...

hand towel hah! you could use that as a complete towel if your Korean..

Jason said...

Now now, be nice, lol.

The younger generations are getting way bigger, and many of the high school students are now pretty tall, and almost similar to North American students' body sizes . . .

But yeah, it is funny to think about.