A contest highlights English-teaching skillsIn a nation where English instruction seems to be the only business that booms all year round, Korean teachers of English competed for the first time in a tournament to see who could teach the foreign language best.
Dozens of Korean middle and high school teachers recently met in a Seoul university lecture room, waiting their turn to display their skill.
Some taught English songs, some led a debate, and others presented a skit to introduce an easier way of learning English.
But the grand prize went to Choi Su-yeong, 32, a teacher from Jeonil Middle School in North Jeolla province.
Her main idea was to keep her students alert.
“My students are in the seventh grade, they easily get bored and distracted, so you cannot expect them to understand everything you say to them, especially when we are teaching a foreign language,” Ms. Choi said. “I give them reasons to participate in my class and try to make it fun.”
On stage, she showed an example of how she taught her class. She told her students to act like celebrities they liked. Students took turns introducing themselves while they answered Ms. Choi’s questions. When Ms. Choi noticed that some students were getting bored, she suggested to the “celebrities” that they play a game. The winners were invited to her party, while the losers ― those who spoke improper English ― were not invited.
“This is just an example of how I keep my students focused,” she said.
“We received feedback from teachers nationwide telling us that such a competition should have been started much earlier,” said Lee Kil-ryoung, an English education professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, the organizer of this first event.
The number of actual applicants was 100, but he said there were many more who wanted to watch and learn how others gave their lessons.
“Younger English teachers these days are far better at speaking English than the older generation,” said a male English teacher from a middle school in North Jeolla province who requested anonymity. He explained why he thought the older generation had less chance of winning the contest. The teacher, who looked well over 40, said, “In our day, grammar and vocabulary were the most important factors in good English.”
“I shudder when I remember my high school English classes, which is probably the nightmare we all have,” Mr. Lee said. “They were horrible. They wanted us to memorize everything. If we couldn’t, we were spanked or slapped.”
Although there are now more “civilized” ways of learning English in after-school private classes, he said the contest was meaningful in that it aimed at normalizing public education, another reason why it limited the participants to public secondary school English teachers who were Korean nationals.
The judges believed that English teachers were much more competent than previously, but many teachers seemed to forget that it was the students that they were talking to, not their colleagues.
“I noticed that lessons [taught by Korean teachers] were communicative, but only some of them were highly interactive,” said Mike Misner, a foreign professor at a teachers’ college. “Becasuse there are many students and only one teacher, simple teacher-to-student communication may not often be effective.”
by Lee Min-a