GEPIK Orientation June/July 2008: Part 3

Continued from Part 2

Day 4: Thursday 3 July 2008

The last two days of the Orientation went by very quickly. The Thursday was a half-day, and we only had two lectures. The first was “Native English Teachers 101” by Dini Turner. I believe she is married to James Turner, who gave the less-than-successful talk on classroom management the day before. Well, Dini wasn’t much of an improvement. To be honest, her talk wasn’t that good. However, the information included in her section of the Orientation booklet should come in handy, as it has all sorts of information about what you should expect from your school and what Korean co-teachers need to know about native speakers. It also has some examples of what your pay slip should look like, as well as leave forms and other odds and ends.

After a short break we had the second (and last) lecture for the day. This was “The Role of Teachers in Co-Writing Class – English Writing” by Won Jangho. Actually, it was more of a talk on how to use videos to structure a writing lesson, and how to get students to write more. Speaking and writing (the productive skills) are sorely neglected in the Korean school system, so this really caught my attention.

Won Jango's talk on "The Role of Teachers in Co-teaching Class - English Writing"

Won Jango's talk on "The Role of Teachers in Co-teaching Class - English Writing"

This was a great lecture. The speaker, a Korean English teacher, clearly outlined how he uses videos, many pulled from YouTube, to structure his lessons and to practice specific grammar points. I stole loads of ideas from his talk, and I’ll be implementing these in my lessons from next semester. I struggle to get my students to speak in class, and I’ve found that they are much more comfortable writing as they aren’t under the spotlight if they make mistakes. BUT, I can use the writing to get the students to speak a little more. I’ve already used some of these ideas in my lessons this week. So far it has worked well, with the students writing short descriptions of monsters they have drawn, and then reading these aloud to the rest of the class. Great stuff!

The afternoon was set aside for an outing to Hwasung Fortress in Suwon, but the weather wasn’t playing along so we ended up going to the Gyeonggi provincial museum instead. This was relatively interesting, but after a long week it was a wee bit difficult to appreciate it. The museum showcases a lot of artifacts from Korean history, with the focus on items and events linked to Gyeonggi province.

Day 5: Friday 4 July 2008

The last day of the Orientation was a bit of a write-off. It started with a review of a short survey we had to fill in on the first day of the Orientation. The survey asked some simple questions on our awareness of Korean culture, as well as some basic info on our own nationalities, ages and length of time in Korea. The review of the survey wasn’t that exciting, though it was interesting to see that about 25% of the people at the Orientation were from South Africa. That’s about 44 out of the 180-odd people there. Not bad.

One of the group posters

One of the group posters

After the survey review we broke up into groups and had to come up with some ideas for improving the teaching of English and cultural awareness at our schools, and then put these ideas on some posters that would be displayed for everyone to see. We had about 40 minutes or so for this whole exercise, and I was pretty impressed by what the different groups came up with in such a limited time-frame. Not that many of the ideas were particularly practical, but they were nice nonetheless. After all the posters were put up for display, everyone walked around and put stickers on the posters we liked. I think the idea was to select the posters with the most stickers as the best, but I don’t think many people took this seriously (including yours truly). I entertained myself by looking for any posters that Africa on them, and then putting a sticker on where SA should be.

After the sticker session we filed back into the hall for a review of the posters, and this was the last little bit of nastiness for the Orientation. Each group had about a minute to talk about their poster, but some people in the audience started clapping as soon as they were bored to indicate that the speaker should stop. I felt this was really rude, especially when one guy, who was a bit of an odd character, didn’t even get a chance to start before people started clapping. This really lowered my opinion of certain people in the crowd.

But thankfully this session didn’t last long. Afterwards it was all just goodbyes and thankyous and the like, and then a final performance by traditional dancers and drummers.

Rachel Cameron giving her speech

Rachel Cameron giving her speech

One of the last speeches was by Rachel Cameron, one of the attendees. She spoke about how she had lost enthusiasm for her job, and before the Orientation had considered quitting and going back home to Austalia. I think she articulated how many of the people at the Orientation felt when she spoke of how the Orientation had made her re-evaluate her role as a teacher in Korea, and how, even though things often aren’t that great, that things can improve and we can still enjoy our time here. It was good to hear that other people felt the same as me. All in all a pleasant, and very Korean, way of ending the Orientation.

Then it was grabbing bags, catching the bus back to Migeum station, and home. Thank goodness!

Overall the Orientation was worthwhile. Not everything was great, and some lectures were terrible. But on the whole I feel like I’ve returned to work a little better prepared and with a lot more ideas for making good lessons. I’m also going to try my damndest to improve relations with my co-workers. I think both sides are guilty of making mistakes here, so it’s up to me to try and make it better. So far it has worked well, so let’s hope I can keep it up!

Gepik Orientation 2008: Part 1

Gepik Orientation 2008: Part 2


4 responses to “GEPIK Orientation June/July 2008: Part 3

  1. Thanks for typing this up and posting it. I’m headed back to Korea soon for my second public school contract, and my orientation with SMOE will be at Hyundai Learning Center. I’m guessing the set up will be similar. It was nice to read about your experience to help give me some idea about what to expect.

  2. Hi Nick

    I’m glad you found it useful.

  3. This was really interesting to read. I will train at the Hyundai Learning Center in a month, so it was nice to hear about your experience. The JET Program in Japan has a very similar training set up.

    I do have a question, though. What’s the curriculum like for public elementary school students? Only a few of my Japanese 6th graders could read some English words and most of them couldn’t remember what I had taught them last. I think the most difficult thing that I taught was “Which do you like better, rice or bread?” Are Korean public schools similar?

    • Glad you liked it. It was an interesting experience, and it feels really long ago now. Good luck!

      Your experience at Japanese schools seems to be good prep for teaching at a Korean public school. I taught middle school, and by the end of my year I would have been happy if the kids could respond correctly to “How are you?”, even though I used that phrase at the beginning of EVERY lesson. Some students and classes were great, with quite a bit of English spoken, but the majority really struggled. It’ll probably be something similar at public elementary schools.

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