Teaching in Korea

dscn1216Many MAT students enter the program with experience teaching English abroad. In particular, recently many students have taught in South Korea or are exploring the idea of teaching there after graduation from the MAT program. The following is an interview with three current MAT students about their experience teaching in Korea prior to the program.

Heekyung and Inkyoung are both experienced Korean teachers of English who taught in very different contexts in Korea. Lara, an American, was teaching English in Korea for two years just before she entered the MAT program. Heekyung, Inkyoung, and Lara all share a love of learning and teaching language. Between them they have learned six languages (English, Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish and Catalan) and are continuing to learn more. They discuss their passion for teaching language below.

In what context did you teach in Korea?

Heekyung: I taught English to office workers in several companies mostly in the Seoul downtown area.

Inkyoung: I taught at an academic college preparation high school in Chuncheon (the capital of Kangwon province).

Lara: I taught at Konkuk University Foreign Language Institute in Chungju, South Korea.

What was one interesting, challenging, or fun experience during your teaching?

Heekyung: Most of my students were highly motivated, so it was fun to teach them.

Inkyoung: All the time teaching is challenging. I tried to teach with delight. I believed I failed that day’s lesson if students didn’t laugh in class.

Lara: Students wanted to get together outside of class. After the first semester ended, we went skiing on the best slopes in the country! On the way we had a beautiful spread of side dishes with a dried fish soup – so delicious and perfect for the winter weather. Because of a snowstorm we couldn’t ski one afternoon, but we collaborated and arranged a last-minute side-trip to the coast and had an awesome afternoon at the beach. Yes, in winter. I was so impressed at how well the group worked together to make an awesome trip.

What is one thing you learned about your teaching through teaching in Korea?

Heekyung: I learned that students who live in a country where they can hardly use the target language are experiencing more difficulties even though they put a lot of time and efforts in it.

Inkyoung: Teaching is not separated from learning. I planned to teach well with my view as a teacher. But many times I realized my lesson plan needed to be planned from students’ views.

Lara: Reflective teaching was useful to me. It gives me control over my planning and breeds patience for myself and expectations for my students.

How have your experiences teaching in Korea helped you in the MAT program?

Heekyung: As a learner and a teacher from EFL classrooms, I fully understand what kind of difficulties students have or might have. This helped me to easily understand who learners are and what they need to learn better.

Inkyoung: Various teaching experiences helped me to adjust to this culture better. I taught only boys for 4 years, only girls for 4 years, and co-ed for one and half years. I experienced different learning styles according to gender. If I worked only at a single sex school, I might not understand the atmosphere of a gender-neutral school. Although I have 9 years experience as EFL teacher, I can learn and apply ESL teaching approaches — concentrated in MAT — without big difficulties.

Lara: It helped in many ways, but one is that I can understand how many different teaching contexts exist.

What in the MAT program do you think will be most beneficial to your future teaching?

Heekyung: The classes in Second Language Acquisition and Approaches to Teaching Second Language have been very helpful!

Inkyoung: All courses that I took will be a big help to me. I will use everything that I learned from Approaches, Second Language Acquisition, Language Analysis & Lesson Planning, Group Dynamics, and Intercultural Communication for Language Teachers. I took similar courses in Korea, but I learned how to apply what I learned in my classes here at SIT to my teaching.

Lara: I believe I’ll be able to respond more fully and flexibly to students’ needs. Also, I wouldn’t feel as bound to using a textbook as I had been before.

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