Friday, 20 January 2012

I'm an English Teacher!

This is the end of our 5th week teaching at Lexis Foreign Language Institute and so far so good!  Lexis is a Hagwon, which is the Korean term for a private after school institute.  It seems that most kids go to some form of hagwon every day after school.  Hagwons tend to specialise in one subject (Lexis is an English institute surprisingly enough!) so kids maybe go to an English hagwon one day, a maths one the next, piano the day after that etc etc.  There are something crazy like 70, 000 hagwons in South Korea.  The kids appear to be worked very hard, often not getting home 'til after 11pm at which stage they still have all their homework to do.  It's not uncommon for high school students to survive on less than four hours sleep a night because the competition for university places is so great.  There's also a big culture, amongst the upper levels of society, to try to get their kids into Ivy League colleges in the States, putting even more pressure on the already stressed students.  One of the students I had in the first couple of weeks, a fourteen year old girl called Christina, has since left Lexis to move to Vancouver with her mum to increase her chances of getting into an American college.


Our timetable seems to shift about a fair bit which means we're never all that sure how many hours we'll work and what time we'll finish at on any given day but generally we seem to finish between 8:30pm and 9:30pm and so far its been working out at about 25 teaching hours a week.  We've to be in a 2pm and classes start at 3pm.  Sometimes we have back to back classes 'til we finish and other days we get a few breaks spread out through out the day.

The Staff Room: Mine's the desk with the hat on it!

I reckon we have about 100 students each.  The class sizes vary but I think my biggest one has 9 kids in it so not massive.  We both have some one to one classes too.  The bigger classes are generally 30 or 45 minutes long while the one-to-one's are generally an hour and a half long.

All the kids have English names which makes  it a bit easier to remember them, I'd say I just about have a handle on their names at this stage but if we used their Korean names I'd be pretty much horlixed!  The age of the students varies from as young as 6 or 7 up to about 15 or 16.  I'm never really too sure how old they are though, Koreans have a bit of an odd way of telling ages.  They are 1 when they're born and then on the first of January each year they get another year older, not on their actual birthdays.  So a kid born on the 31st of December could be 2years old when in fact they are only 1day old!! It's all a bit confusing!!

The teaching itself is going pretty well! I had one nightmare of a student in one of my classes to begin with but I've just off loaded him to Nick, delighted!! He seems to be dealing with him better than I was though which is good!  I had notions of the students all being nice, polite, reserved, well-behaved little Asian kids but not a bit of it, they're just a bunch of kids!  Some quiet and shy, some loud and boisterous, some clever, some not so clever!  On the whole their level of English is pretty bad.  There seems to be some sort of missing link in the way English is taught-they can all (more or less) read pretty well (some of the kids are reading sherlock holmes and romeo and Julliet and the likes!) but when it comes to speaking, forget it!  Their pronumciation leaves a fair bit to be desired at times too.  I'm often at a total loss as to what it is they are trying to say, I have to get them to spell for me!!  I've only just realised this week that the Korean teachers (who are also teaching English) use the same class textbooks that we do.  The tend to stay one or two pages ahead of us, so the kids are already familiar with the content when we get to them.  Our big thing is to correct their pronunciation so its all about getting them to read and say things aloud repeatedly.  The curriculum is pretty set so its really a matter of just going in, getting through 2 or 3 pages of the textbook and then playing some sort of game with them for the last 5 minutes.

There's a reward system in the school that seems to provide pretty good incentive to the kids.  When their homework is done well etc they get a stamp.  Five stamps makes a dollar.  A fake US Dollar.  These dollars are highly prized and every six weeks or so the school holds dollar parties where the kids can buy things with their dollars-sweets, chocolate, pens etc etc.  Anyway they go mad for it are are always asking for 'dollar teaching, dollar'!  Six year olds with dollar signs in their eyes...possibly not something to be encouraged but if it works....well, that's good enough for me!!

That fairly sums up or daily working schedule I think.  Monday and Tuesday are public holidays for Lunar New Year so after work today we're off til Wednesday at 2pm which is sweet :)  Giving hampers and gift sets seems to be the thing for Lunar New Year.  In Home Plus and E-mart etc (Tesco equivalents) there are tonnes of hampers for sale...the most popular of which seems to be hampers full of spam! yup! Spam!  What a gift!!

Spam Hampers at our local convenience shop 

The upmarket, elaborate spam gift set we got from our employers to wish us 'A Happy New Year'

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