Co-Teaching in South Korea

Next week we have the bi-annual open class day at my school. This is when parent are invited to view and evaluate our classes. This is a practice I don’t really agree with, but I go along with it as it’s a part of the Korean system (although I am a huge believer in peer evaluation).

It also just so happened that one of my co-teachers, whom I will be teaching with during the open class read the lesson plan I sent to all my co-teacher for next week, this was the first time this academic year. I knew because she said to me “Alex, this lesson plan, it needs changing as it makes it look like I don’t do anything in the class”, to which I replied “{edited for political correctness as my site is getting quite a large audience nowadays}”. Anyway, I did eventually agree to build a larger role into the lesson plan for her, just as I used to at the beginning of the academic year, before I realised she neither read the lesson plans nor {edit}. This is not a complaint by the way, I love teaching by myself and find the students actually more engaged and concentrate more when I do.

I thought it would be nice to write about what co-teaching is really like for those who are thinking of coming and teaching in Korea. At the moment the internet is filled with information from people who seem to have a serious chip on their shoulder for one reason or another, and have only terrible things to say about teaching in Korea. The other side of the coin are the job agencies trying to get you on the plane as quick as possible so they get their commission!

So here’s my attempt on a guide as to what you expect if you’re thinking about coming to teach in South Korea:

(1) The “I really don’t want to be here” co-teacher.

This co-teacher can be found at the back of the room laughing every time a new kakao talk message comes through!! Oh and the phone won’t be on silent!! But this co-teacher isn’t necessarily a bad thing!! She/he will let you plan the lessons how you want, prepare the materials how you want, and conduct the lesson how you want. I usually find that experienced teachers enjoy the freedom this allows, inexperienced teachers can end up with 30 8 years terrorizing them and making them wonder how someone who looks so cute can possibly be so evil, while the co-teacher receives so many kakao talk messages you wonder if she’s messaging herself!!

(2) The “lack of confidence but wants to get involved” co-teacher.

Some co-teachers will have a huge amount of teaching experience, but a serious lack of confidence speaking English. This can go one of two ways, they can be a fantastic co-teacher, such as one of mine is, and help you control the class and monitor the class, but not really have the confidence to speak in English in front of the students. I think these teachers are usually a bit older. I have heard of other teachers like this that feel the need to get involved in other, sometimes more negative ways. They walk around the class giving a student a good bollocking for some minimal infringement when you’re trying to explain an activity or makes a students do 30 press ups half way through an activity for not working properly, resulting in all the students around the area not working properly either!!

(3) The “I’m in control, you look like a tape recorder” co-teacher.

I’ve never experienced this myself, but I know enough people who have. This co-teacher will have you do lesson plans, tell you they’re a load of crap, make you completely redo them, then take over the lesson and use you as a human tape recorder as and when needed. If you end up with this co-teacher I figure there is two things you can do: a) not give shit, collect your pay at the end of each month and accept you’re getting paid for nothing. b) speak to your co-teacher respectfully and patiently, try to discuss ways in which you can have more involvement with the class, suggest activities you could do with the students for 10 minutes at the end of the lesson and build from there.

(4) The “help you when you need it” co-teacher.

This is probably seen as the ideal co-teacher. They help with your lesson plans if they have a concern, will co-teach with you to help you monitor the students, and if you need it give examples. Or they might set up a system where they teach for half the class and you assist them, and then you teach for half the class and they assist you. Either way they to come to an agreement with you on what the best way to teach the classes is.

At the end of the day co-teaching comes down to personalities, outlooks on education, your relationship and also how much support they think you need. I’m sure people have experienced many other types of co-teachers I haven’t mentioned here, but I think these have been the common from my experience and from talking to other people. If you do get to Korea and you have problems with a co-teacher I recommend setting up meetings and sternly, but calmly, explaining what the problem is and offering solutions. As of yet I know very few people, if anyone, who has had their entire experience in Korea ruined by their co-teacher, unless they didn’t even try to do anything about it.

Don’t forget you can follow me on twitter @AlexSWalsh or pop your email address in the field to the right for automatic updates when I post new blogs.

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