Daejeon: One Month Teaching English
It has been one month since I started working at my high school in Daejeon. Some days fly by while others feel like they will never end. Moments occur when I think, “Yes. I’ve got this! The school is awesome, the kids love me and I’m killing it”. Then there are moments when I think, “Howwww am I going to do this for one year”??? There are many ups and downs – between days and even between classes. I suppose that is how most teachers feel though. I have plenty of company in this.
The first week was spent “desk-warming” (which I’m extremely thankful for now). I didn’t actually start teaching until the middle of March. During this time I lesson planned and prepared for my classes. I am so thankful for that time now though because I am finding I take SO much time to plan my lessons. So at least I was able to get a head start. I also haven’t started at my second school yet. I go there on Thursdays and Fridays, but I start this week. Therefore, I’ve only been teaching for three weeks, half of the week. I’ve had it easy so far.
I have four to five classes each day. I teach all grades 1-3 in high school – 10 classes in 1st grade, 10 classes in 2nd grade, and 2 classes in 3rd grade at my main school. There are only three grades in high school in Korea. At my secondary school I’ll teach seven classes, but only 1st grade.
My 1st and 2nd graders I only see once every two weeks and my 3rd graders I see twice per week. There are different ability levels in each class, but overall the students are of a beginner level. However, there are some students that will surprise you and come at you with full, complete sentences. Most of the students can read English, but not write or speak.
My biggest struggle is classroom management and motivation. In my 1st and 2nd grade classes there are approximately 30 students in each class. My 3rd grade classes have around 15. The 1st and 2nd grade classes are usually pretty chaotic. They have a lot of energy, talk a lot and can’t stay on task for very long. My 3rd graders have very little motivation. In all of the grades either the students sleep or continuously talk.
I’ve been told multiple times by my co-teachers that this is normal at this school. They sleep and talk in all of their classes- not just in mine. I am at one of the lowest-performing high schools in Daejeon. Most of the students have behavioral issues and problems at home. Many of the students resent school. I think my co-teachers are worried I’ll be discouraged. But I’m not! I’ll just keep trying different methods until something hopefully works.
Another issue concerning motivation is that I am at vocational high schools. Therefore, most of the students will not continue on to university so they do not have to take the university entrance exam. Thus, they really have no desire to learn English. Their thought is “If I don’t go to university and I do not want to leave Korea, why do I need English”? So that’s an additional struggle.
You can do this!
So right now I’m grappling with these road blocks and concerns. How do I motivate teenagers who really don’t care? How do I keep students on task when they can’t focus longer than five minutes and do not want to listen? In what ways can I make my classes more fun? Some of the lessons I create I think are really interesting, but then when I actually do them some classes love it and in others they bomb. The differing class dynamics are very strong.
I have to keep in mind that it has only been one month. This is my first time teaching. It is going to take time to get the hang of things. I’m feeling a little negative today, but everything will be fine. There are going to be good days and bad days. I need to work to create lessons that are more engaging and fun. Maybe I’m being too ‘serious’ in my classes right now. I need to work on what I can change myself. Execute my classes in a better way.
Hopefully my next post will be a little more positive, but this is where I’m at right now. I’m just trying to figure things out. I need to actively remain positive and make an effort to have fun in my class. That energy will (hopefully) spread to my students.
Teachers and former teachers out there… What struggles have you come across? Any advice?
Life in Daejeon
Living in Daejeon is still very enjoyable! I like this little city. Paul and I bought used bikes so now we try to bike everywhere. We spend less money on public transportation, and we get a little more exercise. We haven’t traveled outside of Daejeon yet, but we have checked out different parts of our city including Ppuri Park, Expo Park area, biked along the river, visited a couple of temples and went to Yuseong Hot Spring with our neighbor. Next weekend we have plans to go south to Jinhae for the Cherry Blossom Festival and then to Seoul the following weekend. Overall, the one month in Daejeon has been fun, challenging, a learning experience, busy, and enlightening.