Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Foreign English Instructors/Teachers in Korea: Bring pictures with you for an introduction lesson during the first week at your school

During the first week at your school you may or may not begin teaching classes. Some schools are ready and have integrated the foreign English teacher's classes into the schedule, and others have not. Some schools will have a desk prepared for you to have in the teachers office, and some will not. Lastly, some schools will have a computer ready for you to use, and yes, some will not.

Before I continue . . . here are two other posts that you may want to read to help you settle into your new school, and begin working with a co-teacher.

First Day At School For New Native English Teachers in Korean Public Schools -- Checklist

8 Tips for Foreign English Instructors Co-teaching with a Korean English Teacher

A lot of new teachers don't know what to do for their initial contact with new classes. One thing many teachers realize is that Korea is a VERY visual country. Image and how that image is perceived is something Koreans spend a lot of time and energy on. With this being said it's a really good idea for new foreign teachers to bring pictures of things they're willing to share with their students and co-teachers while introducing themselves.

I'd suggest bringing pictures of the following things.

1) Family portrait
2) Pictures of you throughout your life: elementary school, middle school, high school, and university (not the drunken party ones!)
3) If you've traveled bring pictures of places you've been to--students LOVE the idea of traveling.
4) Pictures of you doing your hobbies, and of you doing whatever activities you enjoy.
5) If you have a special talent like playing the violin or guitar, dancing, painting, etc, show them some samples of you doing that.
6) Pictures of everyday life in your home country.
7) Pictures of the region where you're from.
8) If possible, have a map so you can show them where you're from too.
9) Money and other cultural objects from your home country.

Those are a few of the things you might want to use in an introduction class with Korean students. Be aware of the grade level of the students, especially maturity and attention spans, and be careful to not show too many or too little of the pictures you bring.

If you can scan the pictures you have into digital files, or they're already digital and you have them on your computer, I'd suggest making an introduction power point presentation. Put simple words and sentences on the slides to back you up as you speak to the students. Often, new foreign teachers speak too quickly, don't use repetition of key words and phrases, and don't vary their speaking speed from fast to medium to slow as needed . . . and students may have difficulty understanding you until they become accustomed to your speech style and accent. Having the gist of what you're saying up and on the power point slide can really help the students understand what you're saying. Sometimes even the co-teacher will need this kind of help too.

I'd recommend that you talk about yourself and basic biographical details for half of the class time.

1) First and last name
2) Age
3) Marital status
4) If married or if you have a girlfriend or boyfriend the students will want to know: name, age and job, you might also include something like a special talent they have or hobby
5) City and country you're from

Elementary school classes run for 40 minutes, middle school for 45 minutes, and high school for 50 minutes.

The reason it is critical for you to introduce yourself with certain key facts is that in the Korean language and culture system you generally do NOT talk to someone that has not been PLACED somewhere in the hierarchy of social ranks because Korean language is very structured in terms of how you address someone according to their social rank in relation to your own, and what you can and can't say and how you can and can't say it. I cannot stress how critical it is to establish yourself within the socio-cultural matrix of everyday interactions so that the students will begin talking to you.

All of that being said there will be students in every class who are fearless and insanely curious about you. They will yell and scream questions at you with passionate excitement. Some students may have spent time studying English in foreign countries and if they are not concerned with the class/some students mocking them for being able to speak English (yes, that happens) they will also ask you questions too.

If managing the class time and things you've planned gets out of control and you end up having 5, 10, or even 15 minutes of unplanned time you can do one of the following.

1) Hangman using the info from your introduction. (your name, age, where you're from, etc)

2) Let students ask you questions--but this depends on a lot of things. For example, students need to be old enough and have enough English to ask you questions (elementary students might not). You might consider telling your co-teacher to let the students know they can ask questions in Korean that the co-teacher will then translate into English for you, and you give your answer, and the teacher then translates it back into Korean.

3) Teach them a simple song that is fun and upbeat, has low level English and a lot of repetition. "Row row row your boat" is a great song and you can begin working on pronunciation issues with "R" and "L"--if you don't know what I'm talking about you will soon, lol. "Low low low your boat" is what you'll hear from at least 30% of every class unless you're with some very gifted students. You'll need to think a litle bit about how to teach them to make the "R" and "L" sounds if you haven't done that before. Don't forget to use the chalkboard or whiteboard to draw a picture of the mouth and tongue shape and movements if you know what to draw. Also, writing out the words on the board will help too. Erase them as the class learns the song. Erase individual letters in each word or entire words depending on the level of students.

4) If you play the guitar and sing you'll become an instant rock star if you sing a song for the class--believe me. (Video this if you have a small camera cause you'll regret not doing it later on when trying to explain how you suddenly became Justin Timberlake/Britney Spears for five minutes, lol!)

5) Juggling or magic tricks are also very popular.

For new foreign teachers who are very introverted and shy you may want to make a handout for the class using The students can spend the last part of the class doing a word search or cross word puzzle to review the information you shared in your introduction. Make sure to provide the answers before the class is done, or at the start of your next class.

Lastly, be prepared for students, and co-teachers, to ask you questions that are considered taboo in your home culture. I address cultural differences in this post,

New Foreign English Teachers in Korean Public Schools -- One Foreign Instructor's Take On Some Major Cultural Differences

Here's an excerpt,

'Normal' Questions in Korea--'Taboo' in Western Cultures

1. Why aren’t you married?

2. Why don’t you have children?

3. When will you get married?

4. When will you have children?

5. Why don’t you have children?

6. What is your blood type?

7. Do you like Korean men? Do you like Korean women? Why? Why not?

8. How old are you?

9. Do you go to Church? Why? Why not? Or, What is your religion?

10. How much do you weigh? What is your weight?

11. How much do you make? What is your salary?

Some foreign teachers will not be offended at all by these questions, and may even answer them (if you're in a class please keep in mind age appropriate content, and some of these questions in and of themselves cannot be answered with any degree of tact and diplomacy). Try to give polite and vague answers and if the speaker still presses you for an answer thank them for their interest and move on to something else.

And from another part of that post,

NOTE: Bear in mind that if you refuse to divulge information, and refuse to answer the majority of questions your co-workers, and other Koreans, ask you it may result in difficulties for you over the course of your year in Korea. Try to be flexible and adapt as much as you can to Korean cultural norms and expectations.

As a foreigner living and teaching in Korea, these things may seem to be ‘bizarre’ cultural attitudes and it is very easy to fall into believing that Korean people are "ignorant," but we need to realize that we are using a set of WESTERN cultural assumptions about what is ‘normal’ and ‘ordinary’ to judge what Koreans think is normal and ordinary. Educate yourself about Korean culture, and share your knowledge of Western culture, and keep a fun and friendly attitude about the differences, but also respect them too.

Well, I hope that this post is helpful to the new foreign teachers that will be flooding the country over the next several weeks.

Good luck!


Lola O. said...

I have to say you are awesome. You have sooooo many helpful posts for new teachers on your blog. I have printed out those checklists you posted.

Thanks for all the useful information.

woo_chan said...
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lixue said...

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