Before I write a single word, I want to preface this with my awareness that my advice is based only on my own experience- I am not, by a long shot, the expert on cross-cultural office relations. However, I do get along quite well with everyone in my office, so if that's proof enough for you, please read on!
|Step 1: Eat delicious food together.|
AKA Slow Motion Teacher Talk.It's a disease.
The first symptom, as you might guess from my subtitle, is slower speaking speed. Unsurprisingly, if you speak quickly to someone in a language they aren't super comfortable with, they won't understand you. It's the same for me with Korean. If someone mumbles or talks too fast, I can't catch anything, but if they slow down for me, suddenly a world of comprehension opens up for me.
When I first started teaching, I was nervous. When I'm nervous, I speak more quickly. I think a lot of people do this. In an ESL classroom, though, fast talking is not gonna fly (though it is great for saying things you don't want your students to hear). That was the first critique I got from my co-teacher: slow down. So I did. Suddenly, a classroom full of unresponsive glassy-eyed students began to understand me. Maybe not everything I said, but finally I was getting through to them on some level.
It’s still amazing to me how many people are unable to understand text. Now, I don’t mean the people who are actually illiterate, which is a genuine concern, I mean people despite being able to read cannot actually understand what is being said and the context and content fully. Such people are the type who have been gifted with the ability to actually read, unlike so many deprived of the skill, but who cannot use it to living a fulfilling life.
As I briefly mentioned before, I teach English at a university here in Korea. This job is well suited for creatives and photographer who are working abroad and need to balance work life with their photo life. I say this because many of us are not quite pro yet and need a visa in order to work in Korea. After spending 10 years here in Korea and working up from hogwans to public school, and now at a university I feel that I can finally take advantage of my days. However, the question that I get a lot is “how did I get this job?”
I know it's not what you want to hear, but it's true. A good portion of my students on any given day don't give a crap about learning English. When I first started teaching, I really let that get to me. I sincerely care about these kids, I want them to learn, so every student who talked or napped through my class was like a personal wound. Right in the feelings.
Teaching is hard.
If you’re anything like me, the closer you come to getting on that plane, sending in that application, or whatever step you’re at, the more freaked out you are. I get that feeling. As I recall, my entire last month in Seattle was split between frantically trying to see everyone I knew, and obsessively looking up such seemingly inane yet vitally important things as “Can I buy toothpaste in Korea?” (Answer: you can, but it tastes odd) Because I know where you’re coming from, my biggest advice to you, in the timeless words of Douglas Adams, is this:
This is part 5 in a 5 part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome! This final tip is an all-encompassing one: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Shake things off. Insert other cliche but true statements here.
This is the 2nd post in a 5-part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome! This one is really important. Doing your research into the culture before you come is vital to managing your expectations about the life you will have at your school. In general, but especially in regards to your job, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected. While in most situations there’s nothing you can do but accept it, there are a few tips I have to share that may alleviate some of the stress caused by last minute situations that can occur in your school.
This is the 4th part in a 5 part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome! Being an active participant in your school and having a good relationship with your coteacher(s) is so important. I really can’t stress this enough!
This is the 3rd post in a 5 part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome. This tip is more straightforward but surprisingly causes new teachers a lot of grief, especially if its unexpected. You will be spending a lot of time during the hottest and coldest days of the year sitting at your desk. Here are some tips to help make your office more comfortable!