I went to Korea through a program called EPIK, (English Program In Korea). This program works with various offices of education in Korea to place foreign teachers in schools. The majority of EPIK teachers while I was there were elementary teachers. In fact, I was told that I would be placed in an elementary school, and the 9 day orientation was mostly geared towards elementary teachers. I found out about halfway through orientation that I was placed in a middle school, and didn’t find out until I was with my co-teacher on the way to the actual school, that it was an all boys’ middle school! Today, I’m going to tell you a bit about the responsibilities that I had while teaching middle school in Korea.
Korean middle schools have grades 1–3, (grades 7-9 in America), each grade level had an English textbook and workbook in one. I was responsible for teaching the listening and speaking portions of each chapter, and my Korean co-teachers taught grammar, and writing. I also had much more leeway to have fun in my class, as long as it circled back to what was learned from the textbook. I saw each class once a week, and this was the same for the girls’ school.
My co-teachers took a month to cover each unit in the textbooks. The listen and speak section of each unit was two full pages, that I had to break up over the four weeks. This was tricky early on, because that meant that each week I had only half a page of content to teach, and sometimes that half a page barely had anything I could pull from. This is where creativity came into play, and I’d have to find games/activities that I could use to relate to the content. My co-teachers would often use my class time around exams to review with the students for tests, so I’d have to make those classes up the following week, which allowed for one full page instead of half. For the girls’ school, I taught a page a week, and there was something extra in the text books that I taught for the remaining two weeks.
Once a semester I also was in charge of speaking tests. Students were given several topics beforehand to practice, on the day of the test, I’d take each student one by one, and they’d randomly chose a card which had the topic that they’d discuss with me. It was honestly more of a memorization check, since my Korean co-teachers would go over it with them in their classes, giving them time to write out and memorize their responses.
Twice a year, I was in charge of camps, one in the summer, and one in winter, which lasted two weeks each. The way camps were set up at my school, was I’d have two classes, one for the lower levels, and one for the higher levels. The boys’ school was part of some government program, so camps had to be centered around a book. So, what I’d do was pick a book that also had a movie. The first camp that I lead was a winter camp, and I chose Diary of a Wimpy Kid as the book. We didn’t read all of the book, but I picked and chose parts based off of what we’d see in the movie. I also used Night at the Museum, and Spiderman for camps.
During my last camp, I did more creative things with students for the first part, and the second part we did the book and movie. We had a “cooking” day, where we made sandwiches, another day we did a treasure hunt, where they had to find clues to move on. Those were probably the most popular two that I did with students.
I only did one camp at the girls’ school during the year I was there, (winter camp was canceled due to construction). Doing camp at the girls’ school was much more relaxed, we did things like make hairbands, games, and cook. All levels were in the same class, for a few hours, with a break halfway through.
There were times where I had a before, and after school class, as well as a class during the day for teachers, however these were irregular, and usually didn’t last an entire semester.
One more thing I’d like to add, as an EPIK teacher, I was a contracted teacher, so I had to do what has become known as “desk warming.” During the spring and winter, students have several weeks off, (although most of them attend classes and camp during this time), most teachers also have part, if not all of this time off as well. My co-teachers were rarely there themselves, so I was mostly on my own. However, as a contracted teacher, I had to be at school, unless it was my vacation time. This meant endless hours of free time, in a mostly empty school. To pass the time, I would lesson plan for the upcoming semester, nap, watch movies, dramas, take walks, amongst other things. The principal would often treat the remaining teachers/staff to lunches, which was also really nice.
There are similarities in the responsibilities of middle school EPIK teachers, but there is no one size fits all. It really is up to each school on how they chose to utilize foreign teachers, while following guidelines. I had several friends who also taught middle school, and their roles and responsibilities were quite similar to what mine were.