Okay, so you’re teaching in Korea at a university and are left entirely to your own devices as far as what to actually teach. Is this a good thing, or bad thing? It depends on you and your outlook on things, but find out all the details about this reader question here, along with tips and tricks for how to thrive in this kind of environment.
Newbies to teaching in a university in South Korea: this is the article for you!
Do you Ever See your Boss?
“At my uni I’ve been completely left to my own devices and whichever curriculum I develop is completely up to me. Having no supervision or a certain textbook that I’m required to use is great in many ways but also a little unsettling in others for a newbie. Do you have any advice as to how to handle this situation?”
Some Thoughts on No Supervision at Work
Thinking back to my own experience of this many years ago, I do indeed remember the kind of unsettling feeling. The, “Oh crap! What do I do now?” There quite literally was nobody in administration who cared what I did in my classes.
I walked into the English office at my first university job, expecting to be handed a textbook with a syllabus, as per my experience teaching at Korean hagwons.
However, this was certainly not the case at all. Quite the opposite in fact as they expected me to be the expert in all things English teacher. I pulled something together and it eventually got better and better from then on. Here are a few of the things I did at the beginning before I landed on my feet and built up a resource of teaching materials and courses outlines, etc.
Coworkers are your Best Resource
Everyone likes being the “expert” and I’m sure they won’t mind answering your questions (just like I don’t mind answering reader questions). If you don’t have a shared teacher’s office, and rarely see your coworkers, send out a group email with your questions and I’m sure you’ll at least get a few responses. Or, find (set-up) the Facebook group for English teachers at your university.
Offer to take a couple people out for lunch and pick their brains. It’s going to be your best resource by far.
I remember back to that first semester. One of my coworkers saw me floundering in the teacher’s office and gave me a copy of his syllabus for a couple of the classes we shared. It was a serious gift! Another teacher and I used to commute together and I used that time largely to pick his brain about what to do in class with regards to management, grading, etc.
Relax and Chill Out
Administration at universities in Korea generally have low expectations. Just show up to class every week, give some tests, input attendance and final grades, come to meetings, and don’t sleep with the students. Really. It’s not so difficult to do an acceptable job.
The foreign teachers who get in trouble are the ones that cancel classes, have “interesting” relationships with the students, are hated by the department secretary or their coworkers, or who just don’t do, or are late with the paperwork.
Now, of course as a professional teacher your own expectations for yourself should be considerably higher than just scraping by, but don’t stress about curriculum and stuff. No one else is. Just do your best. Nobody actually expects that much of foreign teachers in Korean universities. Whether or not any learning actually happens sometimes seems irrelevant. As with many things in Korea, it’s all about appearances.
No Supervision at Work? Use the Internet!
Do some searches online for things like, “writing class university Korea syllabus” or “freshman English university Korea.” You’ll find that many teachers post their syllabus online and this can be a valuable resource for you. It can serve as an excellent basis for what you do, and you may even wish to copy and paste large parts of them.
Just remember this #1 tip: Simple is better. If you teach freshman English, your students will probably be lower level than you think.
Ask be sure to ask questions on the Foreign Teachers in Korean Universities Facebook Group. The people there are really nice and the admin is a cool person (it’s me!)
Check out This Book for Some Conversation Activity Ideas
- Jackie Bolen
- Kindle Edition
You’re usually given a textbook of some kind to follow but that gets pretty boring pretty quickly to slavishly follow that page by page. The students will appreciate if you mix things up a bit. After all, they’re been studying from the same old ESL/EFL textbooks for years now.
If you’re at a bit of a loss as to what activities your students would like to do, check out this book on Amazon: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Teenagers and Adults. I think you’ll find it useful as your plan your university lessons.
You can get the book in both digital and print formats. Keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office and use it as a handy reference guide for your lesson plans. Or, take a copy with you on your phone or tablet for lesson planning on the go. It really is that easy to have better English classes!
How are the Activities Organized?
The activities start with a brief overview so that you can tell, at a glance, whether or not it’ll work for your classes. Then, they get into the step-by-step, detailed instructions that show you what to do before class for prep (usually minimal), during class with the students, and then any possible follow-up.
Don’t forget the teaching tips that’ll help you prevent some of the most common problems. And of course, make the activity as good as possible.
Get your Copy Today
Check out this book of ESL speaking activities for yourself on Amazon:
Have your Say about No Supervision at Work in Korean Universities
Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other teachers, like yourself who may be new to teaching at a Korean university.
Last update on 2019-10-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API