Thursday, October 21, 2010

So...what exactly is it I'm doing all the way over here?

I’ve been here for over two months, so I figure it’s about time I introduce my class and my job at Global Kids International Language School (GKI). I teach at Global Kids International Language School (GKI), a private institute - better known in Korea as a Hagwon (학원) – alongside twenty other native teachers from the US and Canada. As far as hagwons go, GKI is one of the biggest; most other hagwons max out around ten foreign teachers, while others even have as few as one foreigner. (Part of this may be because GKI, with only one other campus in Seoul, is not part of a franchise like many of the hagwons such as LCI or Avalon that have as many as 60 campuses throughout Korea.) Hagwons vary in many other ways as well. I have one friend who only has 4 kids at a time, while I teach an average of 12 students per class. Another friend teaches only elementary and middle school students from 2:30 to 9:30, while I teach both kindergarten and elementary from 10:00 to 7:00 Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 10:00 to 3:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a planning period for kindergarten from 4:50 to 6:20.

All that being said, from what I’ve heard most English hagwons serve the same purpose: to jump-start kids’ English learning at the kindergarten level, or to supplement their Korean-school education with afterschool English classes at the elementary and middle school level. My job here is to aid in both. In the mornings I teach kindergarten and in the afternoon I teach elementary. My mornings are dedicated to phonics, arithmetic, story time, arts and crafts, and silly songs. I’m a “main teacher,” which means I plan lessons and activities around a weekly theme ranging from Atlas of the Earth to Great People of the World, Time and Measuring to Movies and Cartoons, Our Country to Halloween, as well as teach bookwork that is laid out by my supervisor.

On the other hand, in the afternoons on the days that I don’t have kindergarten planning I teach first semester 7 year-olds phonics and vocabulary and fourth semester 10-13 year-olds reading and essay writing. These classes have a completely different feel. For one, unlike kindergarten I spend minimal time with these classes - the 7 year-olds one hour a day, and the 10-13 year-olds 40 minutes 3 days a week – so I haven’t been able to make the same connection with my elementary students as I have my kindies. I also don’t do much planning for these classes. Other than picking out words for spelling tests and grading, I am provided all of my lesson plans. Everything that I teach in the first semester class is handed to me in a minute-by-minute format, more or less outlining what questions I should ask about what page at what time. The fourth semester class is slightly less rigid, but I am still given the worksheets I have to complete with the classes every day, even though I often go beyond what I’m instructed to teach by giving extra essay-writing instruction and extrapolating on the reading topics. Though I don’t do any planning for them, the fourth semester classes require a bit more work outside of school because I have 36 essays to grade 3 times a week…but more on that later.

So, that’s my job in a nutshell. More interesting anecdotes and rants will come with time, but at least for now you get the general idea.

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