[LEARNING CURVE]How not to approach learning EnglishI’ve been teaching English for about a year now in Korea and I must say that it has been an interesting experience, especially teaching English in a hagwon, or cram school. When I think of a hagwon, I think of an English school, key word here being school, but in my experience it’s been completely the opposite.
I’ve been working in a hagwon for about three maybe four months now and I wouldn’t necessarily call it teaching.
When I first started working there, I thought it would be just straight up teaching but it really hasn’t worked out that way. Early on, I realized that I’m not really a teacher I’m more of an entertainer rather than a teacher.
Let’s face it, what fifteen-year-old kid in their right mind really wants to go to an English school or any other academy for that reason when they can just enjoy being a kid?
That reason right there is why I have to be more of an entertainer rather than a teacher. It’s like a juggling act because you as the teacher have to have that balance of not only being a teacher but an entertainer as well.
The kids have to learn something but at the same time they also need to be entertained because once you lose their attention, the learning stops.
If the kids are having fun, the learning naturally takes place but if they’re bored or uninterested they just sit there and don’t learn anything.
I’ve also found the education system in Korea to be very different than that of the one in the United States.
In the Korean education system, the kids just sit there and memorize facts. There’s no participation or critical thinking of any kind and I don’t like this because I’ve seen Korean students who come to the States to study and when the time comes to participate in a lecture or group activity they can’t function because they are used to just sitting there and memorizing facts.
I’ve seen Korean students who when a professor calls on them in a lecture they freeze and can’t think of anything to say. It’s not because they can’t speak English well because if they couldn’t, they wouldn’t be there in the first place. It’s the same with my students.
When I ask them why can’t you do this or why is this particular grammar structure this way, they just sit there. I can tell that they know the answer and they want to speak but they don’t because they’re taught not to.
It’s also been an interesting experience in terms of what my responsibilities are as the teacher. Homework is a good example as its something I’ve found particularly interesting because it’s completely the opposite to that in the States.
In America if the students don’t do their homework it’s their responsibility, their fault. In Korea, it’s the teacher’s fault if the students don’t do their homework, not the students.
Same with tests, if a student doesn’t pass a test it’s the teachers fault. I’ve been in this situation a number of times in the past three to four months and it’s always the same story.
I personally don’t see why it’s my fault if students don’t do their homework. I can’t go door to door, to every student’s house to make sure that they’re doing or did their homework. That shouldn’t be my responsibility to watch over every kid to make sure that they do their homework, same with tests.
I’ve had students who don’t do their homework and don’t study for their tests and so consequently they fail. I then get phone calls from parents blaming me for their kid’s failure.
It just amazes me how it’s my fault that their kid doesn’t do their homework and doesn’t study.
I understand that it is my responsibility to make sure that they learn something but at the same time I can’t force them to do their homework and study especially when they have a poor attitude.
I can give them Fs until I’m blue in the face but unless they change their attitude and do what they’re supposed to do it’s a lost cause.
by Brian Hiltz