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Teaching Middle School in South Korea

Admin - Apr 01 2015

Ever wonder wonder what a day in the life of a TEFL teacher is like?  Well, we are here to tell you… or rather TEFL Institute alumnus Atinart K is here to tell you.  Atinart teaches middle school in South Korea through the EPIK program.

“First period starts at 9:00 AM, and runs for 45 minutes. I get to school at 8:20 so I can do some quick prep-work and get some coffee in me for the rest of the day. On a normal day, I typically teach 5 classes. Some days, I teach 6. And on the best of days, I teach 3 or less, but those are few and far between unfortunately. I am responsible for planning all of the class material, and for me, the PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production) method is something that I use frequently. I have a co-teacher in every class, and they are great at helping me with translation for the lower-level students, and the occasional disciplining. Disciplining usually doesn’t get much worse than making a student stand up at the back of the class for being disruptive, or sending a student outside when he/she is being extremely bad. To be honest, I don’t have many discipline problems at my school, but I think that it is mainly because this is my 2nd year here, and the students know what I expect of them. I also think that my reward system helps with discipline as well. At the beginning of the semester, I give my students a stamp sheet. They can earn stamps by speaking English, using English, or with good behavior. This works fairly well, although I did have to make them glue it into their textbooks so they wouldn’t lose it. And write their names down. In pen. So they wouldn’t cheat and just share a stamp sheet between 5 people. One of the many lessons I learned during my 1st year!

I teach 1st (7th), 2nd (8th) and 3rd (9th) grade. I have about 35 to 40 students per class, and 22 classes per week. That’s about 750-800 students per week that I see. I try my best, but it’s almost impossible to learn their names when I see so many of them! I am responsible for the Listen and Conversation part of each lesson. We use a textbook, and I supplement the textbook material with my own. Here is what a typical lesson is like for me:

  • Greet the class, and do a warm-up activity. For example, I sometimes do a 4-corner trivia game, and the students who guess correctly will get a stamp. (10 minutes)
  • Introduce the topic, and the key phrases. I provide them with examples, and we do some listening and repeating. Students hate this, but it’s important! (10 minutes)
  • I then try and have a practice activity where students can practice speaking the key phrases. An example activity I recently used is the Telephone game. (10 minutes)
  • After this sort of activity, I usually have a production activity or game. Students show me that not only can they repeat/speak the key phrases, but also that they know what it means. A great activity for this is having students create role-plays using the key phrases. This will normally only work for advanced classes. For mixed levels, I usually give them pre-made role-plays with fill-in-the-blanks that they then memorize and present to the class. (15 minutes)
  • That’s it!

This is what the perfect class is like. This is also definitely not normal. The students almost always take too much time doing the practice activity, and we can never get to the production activity. However, I get two weeks to do each lesson, so part two of each lesson is usually when I have them create their role-plays, dialogues, etc.

After classes end, I usually have an hour or so to do some lesson planning. I am also sometimes busy helping my co-teachers review midterm/final exam questions, proofreading student newspaper articles for the Newspaper club, or preparing for my extra Teacher Conversation class. I’d like to say that I am always productive, but usually I just sit down and relax. The productivity works better for me when I’m rushed for some reason. And the best part of my day? It comes at 4:30. I go home! Thanks for reading!”

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