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Top 10 Time-Savers When Teaching in a Korean University
Let’s be real. Teaching in a Korean university is probably the easiest job you’re going to ever have in your entire life. Teaching hours are light, prep + grading are usually minimal, and you have no expectations for results whatsoever.
However, some people do let the job take up a lot of their time, which could actually be spent doing other stuff. If you’re like me and have lots going on outside of work that you want to have time to do, here are my top 10 time-savers for when you’re working in a Korean university.
#1: Google Drive
The top time-saver tip I can give you is to use Google Drive. See: Why I Love Google Drive for more details, but the gist of it is that it’ll save you a ton of time. The first semester, it probably won’t because you’ll have to plan lessons and homework assignments, make PPTs, etc.
But, for the following semesters? Just go into the folder for that class, pull it up and away you go. It’s how I managed to to do all the planning and admin for 20 teaching hours in less than four hours per week.
Oh yeah, don’t forget to recycle your syllabi from semester to semester too!
#2: Stop the Math Madness
I see my fellow teachers doing all sorts of crazy things when it comes to grading. For example, they’ll have a homework assignment worth 10% of the final grade, but they grade it out of 20 points. Or, a final exam worth 30% of the final grade, but they mark it out of 57 points. Now, I certainly could do the math and convert all this stuff, but I’d rather poke my eye repeatedly with a sharp pencil. If my assignment is worth 10%, I grade it out of 10 points. Same with every single thing I do.
It’s better for the students too! They can figure out their own final grade without a whole bunch of mathematical hurdles.
#3: Stop the Homework Madness, Part 1
One of the biggest time-savers, or time-suckers is homework!
If it’s a conversation class, make the students do videos, either just talking by themselves, or interviewing someone. Then, have them put the videos on YouTube or Naver and email you the link. It’s far easier than dealing with stacks of paperwork, and the other bonus is that it practices speaking in a speaking class. If a student meets the basic requirements, I give them full points.
#4: Stop the Homework Madness, Part 2
Another form of homework madness is in writing classes. I’ve taught advanced academic writing a few times where students are writing 5-paragraph academic essays. Forms of madness for a class like this involve:
-getting nitty-gritty into every single grammar mistake
-requiring students to submit endless revisions
-attempting any sort of “group” essay writing
-weekly assignments or something of the sort
Call me ridiculously lazy, but I choose to focus on the big picture. I mean, if a student is a fourth year English major and has been studying English for 15 years, but doesn’t have a grasp of basic grammar, there’s nothing I can do to help them. I instead focus on big picture things like thesis statements + topic sentences, logical arguments and cohesive devices.
Endless revisions sent to me by email: my personal form of hell. Instead, I do some serious “self-editing” in class. It’s better for the students too! I won’t be there to hold their hand once they graduate and have a job where they have to write in English.
#5: Lone Ranger all the Way!
Some teachers are all about collaboration. I love the idea, in theory. But, my experience with it has been that it ends up sucking up ridiculous amounts of time. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and of course, my way is the best way! So although shared tests or lesson planning probably result in better tests or lesson plans, it’s going to eat away your time like nothing else.
#6: Embrace the All or Nothing
When grading, I do the all or nothing. Adding up 1/2 points here and there is another one of my personal hells. By using the all or nothing method, I can grade each midterm or final exam in less than a minute (a grammar/vocab test, essays obviously take much longer to grade).
#7: Don’t Take Attendance the First Two Weeks
At my university, the first couple of weeks in the semester are a total gong-show. Students are coming, students are going. It makes my head spin. I don’t even bother taking attendance the first two weeks because sorting out that chaos is just way too stressful.
More tips here: Classroom Rules when Teaching in a Korean University.
#8: Stay on Top of the Paperwork
If you let the paperwork build up, it’s going to make your life more stressful. Grade homework within a couple of days. Enter grades into your spreadsheet as soon as possible. It’s better for the students too, because you can let them know their current score in the class, should they want to know.
***Important*** If you rock the paper grade sheets, as opposed to the spreadsheet, make sure you photocopy the sheets each time you add new grades. And obviously, store it separately! This way, you’ll be okay in case of losing grading folder disaster.
#9: Portfolios: Nobody actually Checks Them
Most schools require teachers to make portfolios with lesson plans, sample tests and homework, etc. The secret is that nobody actually looks at them as long as there is a binder full of paper with your name on the shelf by the due date. Do the bare minimum and not a scrap beyond that.
Not wasting time making fabulous portfolios is going to be one of the best time-savers for you when working in a Korean university. Some teachers spend 20+ hours doing it. I spent 10-15 minutes per class.
#10: Consider Overtime Carefully
I consider the overtime I do extremely carefully. Some things just aren’t worth the money if it will require a ridiculous amount of preparation because it’s a “serious” class that I’ve never taught before. I would possibly do it if there were opportunities to do it again in the future. But, a one-off? I’ll usually say no.
Another thing I avoid are those classes that are going to require extensive interaction with me. Small group discussions with Korean students are another one of my personal forms of hell because they’re usually ridiculously shy and it becomes all about me the entire time, which leaves me exhausted after about five minutes.
I hate grading participation and think it’s overall, pretty ridiculous. I used to be all about it, but these days, I’ve just said no. Adding up all those little points each day is way too annoying and it’s just so wrong on so many levels. See: Grading Participation and Why I Refuse to Do It.