My semester at Kyungduk Girls’ High School in Daegu, South Korea

The Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education recently held a workshop and dinner where they invited Native English Teachers who were involved in special after-school projects to give a presentation on their work. Here is my complete presentation:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for having me here tonight.

I would like to tell you about my experience teaching a special after-school class at Kyungduk Girls’ High School. When I first saw the email from the DMOE, I immediately thought that this is something new and exciting to put on my resume. I am the embodiment of an elementary school teacher – I even have the voice – so this was a good opportunity for me to challenge myself.

Background

The program took place from March to August 2016, for two hours on Wednesday evenings. Kyungduk is a massive school, located in the Seo-gu district where I live. Seo-gu and Nam-gu are two of the most underprivileged areas in Daegu and this program was offered free of charge, something I think is just fantastic.

Syllabus

I decided to use my journalism background to give the lessons a solid framework. I studied journalism for four years and practiced full-time for three, and I shamelessly borrowed from the writing exercises that I learned at university. During the two-hour weekly seminars, the students produced stories for their online magazine and learned how to promote their stories on Twitter. I showed them how to use WordPress and Twitter because these are great tools for writing and editing.

sparkletwit

On the first day, the students brainstormed the title of their magazine and the topics they would cover during the semester. They came up with the name “Sparkling Ladies” because they sparkle, and they all nominated and voted on topics that interest them. This way, I could plan each week’s lesson around one or two topics that they chose themselves. We also allocated jobs, for example editor, proofreader, photographer, designer, etc, and to help them get to know each other better we made press passes with their names, photographs and job description (this way, I also got to learn their names!)

I really like the concept of Task-Based Education. Each week, I prepared materials on one of two topics of their choice. I the introduced the topics to them, as well as some journalistic strategies, and then for the rest of the time they did research on the topic and at the end of the day presented what they found and put it online. So this was a lot of fun. We started off by interviewing each other. I showed them examples of interviewing strategies, taught them the 5 Ws and the H and the “So what?” or the news hook, and then they took turns interviewing each other and writing great profiles. We also wrote lists of the best restaurants in Daegu, they all love chicken and tteokbokki, I’ll have you know. We wrote music and movie reviews and had fictional interviews with musicians, we gave each other fashion and beauty advice, and we made a Public Service Announcement about endangered animals. It was so great. And the best thing was that, I was just an observer or advisor, they were in charge of making their own learning experience.

Benefits

The students made something that they can be proud of and it really boosted their confidence. The topics were diverse and democratically chosen so everyone felt like they were getting a turn to talk about things they enjoy and find interesting. The students’ fluency also improved, at the beginning they were quite shy to speak out but as we warmed up to each other they started speaking faster and with more confidence. I think they also felt comfortable around me and that is really great.

My experience

The program was very well-organised. The school always kept me in the loop of important test days and the teachers welcomed me with open arms. They always gave me coffee and asked about my day. Both students and staff were super supportive and I never had any complaints. I feel like the students really learned something, even if it’s just how to ask questions and do research in English.

My recommendations

I think it’s a very important program for high school students and I would suggest adding more students to the program and getting more NETs to participate. I only had ten girls in my class, which made for great classroom management, but I couldn’t help feeling sad for the girls who didn’t get the chance to participate. I think it’s a good idea getting NETs with vocational training to offer something extra: for example journalism or business or environmental studies majors can really show high school students the possibilities of what they can do one day.

In conclusion, I had a really great time teaching these classes and coming up with ideas for lessons. It made me see my role as a teacher in a different way, and opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I can do with my particular skill set in the future. Thank you for the opportunity.

Check out EPIK e-Press for more stories on the adventure that is teaching English in South Korea!

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