July 31, 2014
I’ve been teaching for almost two weeks now and I am finally getting the hang of things! It’s pretty strange being dropped into a full schedule without really knowing what to do, but as I go I feel much more confident in my abilities. So here’s a little day in the life for me (Mackenzie) and I’ll have Zach write one for himself soon.
SLP (Sogang Language Program) is a hagwon. In Korea there are tons of hagwons and not just for English. Hagwons can be for other areas of study like math or science. Hagwons are essentially cram schools which means we are teaching kids after they have already gone to school for the day. Crazy, I know! However, SLP also has a kindergarten program and that is slightly different from a lot of hagwons out there. Typically English teachers at a hagwon wouldn’t start their day until the afternoon when the kids are out of school and wouldn’t end their day until 10 or 11 at night. At SLP, it’s a full day because they offer kindergarten classes. In Korea, public schools begin with 1st grade so most kids attend some sort of private kindergarten to get them ready.
Age is another adjustment here. In Korea, when babies are born they are 1 year old, not zero like at home. So when our kids say they are 7, it really means they are at least 6. In addition, you don’t age on your birthday but rather you gain a year during the Lunar New Year (Seollal). So technically, a child born in December would be 1 at birth and 2 a month or two later when the Lunar New Year hits. WHAT! So, in Korea, Zach is 31 and I am 29 even though we haven’t had birthdays yet. UGH. Anyway, hopefully that helps explain the actual age of our kids.
I work from 9-6:30pm everyday except Wednesdays when I stay until 7. Every morning I have the most advanced elementary class at SLP, Cherry Class. When I say advanced it means they have all been studying English at SLP for 2 years and this is their 3rd year. Next year they will begin 1st grade at a public elementary. They are definitely able to communicate well and are excellent readers, however, I can really confuse them if I stray from typical questions or try to get them to answer a question about themselves instead of copying the prompts. They are pretty great kids most of the time and oh so cute! My Korean co-teacher teaches them from 9ish to 11 and I take over from 11:10 to 12:30. Then, Zach and I serve and eat lunch with them. We can eat the school lunch too if we want. It’s generally rice, a soup, a protein, kimchi, a vegetable, and a fruit.
After lunch, I teach a 40 minute science class on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays to the other kindergarten classes in a rotation. The other kindergarten classes are also fruit names: Blueberry, Plum, Melon, and Apple. I teach Blueberry and Plum separately and then the youngest kids – Melon and Apple – together. Melon Class is the youngest at 5 years old – which is at least 4 in Western years so those kids are adorable but they are just beginning their English training.
After my science class (which consists of very simple and kid-friendly experiments) I have a 30 minute break to prepare for my afternoon classes. All of my classes have a first or second part with a Korean co-teacher. (For example, if I teach from 2:30-3, the Korean teacher teaches from 3:00-3:30 so that it’s a full hour or if it’s a 40 minute class, 80 minutes.) On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I teach from 2:30 – 6:30 straight with two tiny 10 minute breaks. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach from 2:30-5:00. I have two classes everyday and the others are on a rotation.
From 2:30-3:00 I have a class of 6 kids that are probably 8-9 in Western years and from 3:00-3:30 I have a class of 10 kids that are around 7-8 in Western years. These two classes aren’t as advanced as my kindergarten class, so they have had less training in English. My first class does pretty well but again, I can really confuse them if I ask a question that isn’t in their workbook – like “What are you doing this weekend?”. My second class has a very wide range. I have a few students that are too advanced for the class and then a couple students who really can’t handle the class. So it’s tough for me to keep everyone occupied and learning.
On MWF I have two more classes of upper elementary kids – one from 3:40-4:20 & another from 4:20-5:00. My first class is pretty great. I really like the kids and they are eager to read aloud which is mostly what we do in my class. My second class is my least favorite class and I think it’s fair to say that I hate them! It’s one of my largest classes at 12 and it’s all boys save for 3 girls. They are just crazy and loud and clearly don’t respect me. However, I am about to get a new Korean co-teacher for that class so I’m hoping she won’t be as lenient as the last guy and maybe they’ll be a bit more behaved. We’ll see.
I really like the last part of my day on MWF. I have an advanced class of mostly girls from 5:10-5:50 and then a debate class from 5:50-6:30. My first class has only 7 kids and they are very smart. I think they are probably 10 in Western years. We do more reading and grammar in that class and all I really do is correct their mistakes. They still need a little help thinking outside of the books but they are definitely a delight to teach. My last class of the day is the most advanced class at SLP. It has only 6 students and they range in age from 11-13 in Korean years. The portion of the class I teach is all about debate so they are giving speeches to practice and then at the end of the month we have a debate between the students. I am essentially a facilitator. That class is a great way to end the day because they are able to think for themselves and then figure out how to say it in English.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a 3:40-4:20 class of young kids who are learning pretty basic English. I think they are probably 6-7 in Western years. Currently we are doing weather so they are learning things like, “It’s sunny!” or “In the summer it’s hot.” Then, quite the opposite from MWF, my 4:20-5:00 class is the youngest class I have. There are only 3 kids and they are 3-4 in Western years. They do not speak any English. I only do art and science with them. Essentially, the class’s purpose is to help them acclimate to a foreigner. So it’s pretty fun and easy. They jabber on in Korean and I just listen. They can say some basic words – Teacher! – and they can repeat words I say. It’s not the worst way to end the day.
On Tuesdays and Wednesday I make phone calls to my kindergarten kids so that their parents can hear them practicing English and so we can practice the test questions. The phone calls are the reason I stay until 7 on Wednesdays. Every other day I am out of the office at 6:30! I have plenty of time to make up lesson plans, grade, and do anything else during the day so I don’t need to stay after work to get things done which is great!
Anyway, sorry for the length, but that’s my day in the life of an English teacher!
**I’ll take more photos as I go. I didn’t want to freak out the older kids!