Teaching in a Public School in Korea: The Art of Co-Teaching
You may have heard that when teaching in a public school in Korea you don’t work solo. Instead, you are teamed up with a co-teacher(s) who you are expected to work and teach classes with throughout your contract. Co-Teaching is defined as two teachers (a native English teacher and a cooperating teacher) working together to share the planning, organization, and delivery of instruction, for a group of students. This sounds easy enough to understand, but the question that arises is, which one are you? Teacher or co-teacher? The answer to that is not an easy one. The roles of native teachers and co-teachers varies widely from school to school and between grade levels.
The majority of native teachers teaching in a public school in Korea are now in Elementary Schools, with some teachers placed in Middle Schools and very few left at the High School level. Due to the simple fact that Elementary aged students have a lower grasp of the English language, your co-teacher will likely lead the class, while you’re there to assist. Students will look to the Korean teacher for explanation and translation into Korean, which is something you probably can’t offer. If this is the case, you will likely be working together on lesson plans, ensuring you both know what to expect when classes start. Alternatively, you may be given more lead way in the classroom (more likely as the students age and level increases), with your co-teacher taking on the role of assistant. In this case you may be solely responsible for lesson planning, sending the materials to your co-teacher ahead of time so they will know what to expect in your classroom. As there is great variation in teaching responsibilities across placements, it’s important to address the expectations immediately. Communicate with your co-teacher(s) to clarify what is expected and what the dynamic in your classroom will be. If you’re not prepared, the students will know it and then, good luck.
One, Two, Three, or More
Another variation with each native teacher teaching in a public school in Korea is the actual number of co-workers you’ll be working with. Every teacher is paired with one ‘main’ co-teacher who is there to help with logistical issues, things related to your contract or personal life. In the classroom, however, you may be working with multiple teachers across the English department, each of whose teaching style may differ. You may have one co-teacher who leaves all of the instruction to you, stepping in only when necessary, while another echoes all that you say. Both of these co-teaching methods can produce successful results as long as it’s clear to you, before instruction begins. Communicating with each co-worker and organizing your lessons accordingly will support the success of your classroom.
You may have heard this before, but Korea is dynamic. This is evident at the national level; however, you will soon come to find out this also applies within organizations and even daily life. You may build a solid relationship and working dynamic with one of your co-teachers, only to have this person removed from your schedule a few weeks later. Things change often in Korea, and the classroom is no exception. Be open and ready for change; adaptability is key in this country. This is especially true at the six-month mark, when the second semester of the school year starts. It’s not uncommon for teachers to leave, rotating to different schools in the area. Being open to change and learning how to quickly adapt to it will help you survive not only in the classroom but with your entire life in Korea.
Stephanie is a storyteller, yoga enthusiast, and wandering soul who recently settled in for her second round of teaching in Korea. After her first stay in Korea, teaching in a public school in Korea, Stephanie spent nearly two years traveling, exploring the world, making new friends and becoming a certified yoga instructor. If you want to read about her travels, teaching tales or just learn more, check her out here: www.yogifootprints.weebly.com