1) One hour a week is not long enough to effectively teach.
O.k. the easiest thing to do here is some maths, 45 minutes per week, for 30 weeks a year, for 7 years. 45 x 30 x 7 = 202.5 hours of purely conversation based classes (I’m basing this on having no conversation classes in 1st and 2nd grade). This is building on top of the other 2 or 3 hours per week that students spend in other English classes.
When I was at school I only had one hour per week of subjects such as business, economics and R.E., I’m almost certain my teachers were not resigned to failure because of this. Lack of time does not automatically equate to lack of effectiveness. If you are only teaching in Korea for a year, they will not suddenly stop conversation classes when you leave. Learning to speak a language is a long drawn out process; we have at least one year to do as much as we can to contribute towards that process.
Also, if you feel you need more time, why not set up an after school class?
A couple of suggestions, your co-teacher is most likely knowledgeable about (to name just a few) Korean students’ interests, possibly large class classroom management techniques, structuring a lesson and specific issues Korean students might face in your lessons.. You can bring to the table new teaching and activity ideas, authentic materials to expose the students to, a sense of fun, excitement and intrigue. Play off each other’s strengths. It’s not always easy, but it is doable.
If you are experienced then discuss each other’s roles in the classroom. How can it possibly not be useful to have another teacher in the room with you? They key is to be clear about what each of you are there for.
Either way, make sure you both have a clearly defined role in the classroom. If your co-teacher sits at the back playing on his/her phone, it’s most likely because she/he doesn’t know what role you would like them to have.
Not buying it? Well, please find me another job where you are paid to sit at a desk and do whatever you want for a period of time. Use the time effectively; you are being paid to be a professional teacher.
If I was to offer one tip for planning your lessons, it would be to ask three questions in every stage of the lesson:
‘What are the students learning?’
‘At what point is the learning happening?’
‘How are they learning it? ‘
If you haven’t had much teacher training or experience planning lessons is really tough I know. Personally, I would recommend doing some research online, maybe start off with the very safe PPP format and, when you get a bit more confident, I would highly recommend getting to know and playing with task-based learning. Perhaps you could use some of the desk warming time for this?
Personally, I believe that that an effective teacher has the students’ attention focused on him/her for as little time as possible. Honestly, if you feel like you have to jump on a table to keep the students listening to you, you’ve probably been talking for too long.
We cannot just presume that because X is how we do it in our home countries, X is how they should do it in Korea. Step back, think about why they might do X like that in Korea. Korean culture is vastly different to that of our native countries, so why would they do everything the same? Learn to adapt and adopt, to understand and contribute.
If you do a good job, if you are passionate about what you do, if you give your students opportunities that others can’t or won’t, your co-teachers and parents will appreciate you, but your students will never forget you.
9) I don’t think NSET’s are given nearly enough training on how to deal with the ins and outs of public school politics and etiquette. It can be a minefield of cultural misunderstandings if you go in with a Western-thinking cap on and you don’t adapt or even worse if you try to fight it.
10) I hear this all too often from other NSET’s here. In listening to a lot of peoples’ stories, I think a lot of it stems from #9 and peoples’ inability to adapt and be flexible. To be fair I’ve heard of some genuinely unfortunate situations that people have been placed in. But the more people I talk to, the more I believe that you get back from your students and your school what you put into it.