A Bit About Being An ESL Teacher

So I thought I would give a little insight on my life as an ESL teacher.  Living & working in this very small province called Hayang has been interesting.  The school I work for is a private language school of which there are many of these schools franchised throughout South Korea.  The location I work for is a very new school, only being in business since early the early months of 2010.  I work with 1 full-time Korean teacher & 2 part-time Korean teachers, all female.  I am the only ‘foreigner teacher’ as we are so aptly called.  I teach male & female students age 4 to 13 years old.  I begin the day teaching the younger students & as the day goes on, the students are older and their grasp of the English language is better.  Although, I have to say, there are some pretty bright youngsters too.  They blow me away sometimes with their English speaking skills.  I teach an average of six classes a day.  At one point it was seven classes, but at this point in time I am only teaching 6 classes. The youngest age 4,5,7 yr old students I teach two times a week.  There are two classes I teach everyday where the Korean teacher & I split the class time teaching 30 minutes each.  The rest of the classes I teach every other day, alternating with the Korean teachers.  The Korean teachers give homework, but not me.  I mostly review what was taught by the Korean teacher the day before.  We play games for reinforcement of the lessons, listen & repeat, reading aloud, reading comprehension, writing practice, conversation practice & spelling English words, dialogue where students role play with English  ‘scripts’.  We practice grammar & phonics.  In my classes the students are not to speak Korean.  Most do OK with this, but many struggle with this rule.  We give points for correct answers & remove points for inappropriate classroom behavior.  Most students are very eager to learn English.  Then there are those that all they want to do are play games.  Games are fun, but there is other work to be done too.

I really enjoy teaching these students.  I had the option of being placed in a public school.  But I am glad that I ended up at a private school.  In a public school you are teaching alongside a Korean teacher with a class size of 30 or more students.  In a private school I teach solo & the class size ranges from 2 to 8 students at this time.  As the school becomes more established, I am sure the class size will grow.  I enjoy being able to get to know the students one on one.  I see the students everyday come & go at the school and I often forget that their first language is Korean.  So to hear them speak to the other Korean teachers or staff or when they are playing with each other waiting for their class to begin, I feel like they will speak English at any time…But this just doesn’t happen.  But when they want to say something to me & don’t quite know how to say it, they will ask one of the Korean  teachers that are sitting beside me.  The Korean teacher will translate & then the student will speak to me what the Korean teacher said.  It is often the girls that will want to tell me that my dress is pretty or ask me about my family or some other personal questions.  It is quite cute.  And of course a hug or universal gesture doesn’t need any translation at all.  🙂

So I arrive at school each day by either walking, the bus or the school’s bus driver will pick me up. I don’t have any idea what the writing on the outside of the little yellow school bus says, but it obviously identifies my school as I have gotten some looks by Korean passerbys when I am picked up wondering why this adult is getting into such a bus.  Oh well.  I did tell this one guy that owns a car shop near where I wait for the little yellow bus near my apartment that I am a teacher.  Now he just smiles at me as I wait for the bus.

I have a small amount of time to prepare for class when I first arrive.  I get right into teaching a half hour after I arrive.  I teach a few classes, then I have a break.  But this break goes by quickly as it is used to prepare for the rest of the day’s classes & prepare for the schedule for the following day.  I am very lucky that this school franchise has produced its own English learning materials.  The material is even scheduled.  So all we have to do is tailor the schedule to our school & add in games & creative learning ideas so that we can present the material in a fun-non-boring or dry way.  Because you know how quickly children become bored!  🙂

So I teach the rest of my classes for the day.  The school owner provides the staff lunch/dinner each day.  I get lunch on the two days a week I teach the 4/5/7 yr olds.  The rest of the week I get dinner after my last class is over.  Dinner usually consists of a soup of the day, white rice and several side dishes.  I love Korean food.  Koreans love red pepper & use it to spice up just about everything.  Of course the staple of Kimchi is always served too-which is full of garlic, red pepper spice, mixed into cabbage.  Kimchi is a actually a very healthy side dish.

I usually work Monday through Friday 11:30-7:40 pm or 1-7:40 pm, depending on the day.  The little yellow bus brings me home too. The driver is a very kind Korean man.  We are help each other learn the other’s language.  But our lessons are very short, sweet & to the point since the bus ride is less than five minutes from my place to the school.

So I must say that I am enjoying teaching ESL.  I enjoyed my time as a Welfare Worker, working for various CA counties over the last several years.  But a few weeks into teaching I realized I hadn’t been rearing my glasses.  Why?  Because I am not sitting in front of a computer all day working away.  OK, yes, I do get my computer fill at home.  But my work life at this time is so different.  I am not staring at the computer.  I am working with students.  I am teaching, preparing for classroom lessons, engaging in one on one contact face to face with people who want to teach & learn English.  It is a very different environment from the County life.  And I am grateful.

Well, off onto another happy day of teaching.  I hope you all have a wonderful day as well!


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