Teaching at an English Center

Teaching at an English Center

If you’re coming through the EPIK program to teach in South Korea, chances are very high that you’ll be placed in a public school much like the ones you’ll read and hear about through various blogs and other people. A large majority go to Elementary and Middle schools with a good few going to High schools throughout South Korea. However, a very small number of us get placed in English Centers, which can be most closely compared to a combination of Hagwons and camps. Our English Center is one of only three in the Chungcheongbuk-do province, and though we all operate differently, our goal is to give students a more natural and realistic setting for them to speak English in. While they are learning, the environment is different from a normal school’s. This gives students the chance to practice English more conversationally while also learning different subjects.

There are only 48 students and four Native English speaking teachers in the whole center, which means that we know every single student by the end of the week. A typical day for us at the English Center is a long but fulfilling one. Mondays and Wednesdays we’re at school from 9 AM to 8:30 PM, which feels long no matter how you look at it or break it down. Tuesdays and Thursdays are slightly shorter with us finishing up our last activities at 6 PM. We get a new group of students in every Monday morning and throughout the week each Native Teacher is responsible for two different Situational Learning classes (about 3 classes a day), Sports Activity, Morning Activity and, on Mondays, Ice Breaking. In the evenings when we leave at 8:30, each Native Teacher has separate duties and activities.

While we are responsible for teaching our students during the day, we also have a separate group of students that we come to us after school from 6:30-8:30 PM. These are our Gifted Students, and we have one class each of Elementary and Middle School students. There are only 15 of them to a class which makes planning lessons and teaching actually much easier, but each Native Teacher only sees our students once a week. I have my Elementary students Wednesday evenings while my partner has them on Mondays. While he’s teaching, I’m doing a night time activity with our Center children who are their for the week. During our Gifted classes it is two straight hours without our co-teachers which is both pleasant and slightly daunting sometimes. Still, our students very rarely speak Korean in the classroom when it’s just me, so it’s ok.

It’s a very complicated process, but luckily the ritual remains the same week to week with only lessons changing for our Gifted Students. We also rotate through Situational Learnings and our co-teachers, so we’re never teaching the same thing for longer than about 4-5 weeks with the same person. It can sometimes feel like you’re trapped in an endless cycle of Summer camps, but I love meeting my new group of kids every week, watching them grow over the course of a few days and then taking what they learned with them. Every Friday they put on skits for us to watch to show off the English skills they’ve picked up throughout the week, then we give them certificates congratulating them on finishing up the course, and we’re out of school by 12:30 which, after a long week full of ups and downs, is just…lovely.

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