Sunday, September 12, 2010

On being left to your own devices

I've had an ongoing email conversation with Paul, who is a newbie to university teaching in Korea. Here is an excerpt from one of his emails:

"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 is great in many ways but also a little unsettling in others for a newbie."

Remembering back to own situation 4 years ago, I understand exactly how he feels.  Some thoughts on how to handle this:

1. Talk to your coworkers who've taught at the uni for a while.  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.

2. Relax.  Administration at unis 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.  Now, of course as a professional teacher your own expectations for yourself should be much higher but don't stress about curriculum and stuff.  No one else is.

3. 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 syllabi online and this can be a valuable resource for you. 

4. Read the archives of this blog for some more tips.

5. Ask questions on the Korean Job forums at Eslcafe.  Many uni teachers are on there and will answer any question you have.


Keepongoing said...

This semester I am teaching advanced intermediate and Advanced English Conversation. I am in the English Literature department at my university. I do not use a book in either class, I prepare my own curriculum.

For the intermediate advance class, I have it broken down in 2 parts: People: Heroes, Villains and Role Models and the second part is focused on Places: countries and culture. At the beginning of the semester the students are placed in groups and each group adopts a developing country for the semester. For the midterm the student will give a presentation on a hero, villain or role model. For the final the student will give a presentation on an aspect of the developing country that their group adopted. For both parts, I have several task based activities for the groups. I tell them that the overall purpose of the class is to prepare them to discuss current events. I have done this class before and the students were quite motivated and seemed to get a lot out of it.

For the advanced class, I have it broken down in 3 parts: The first being presentation skills, second is interview skills and finally debating. In this class they give a presentation for both their midterm and final. The first is on a topic of their choice and the third is more of a demonstrative presentation. I have also taught this before with success.

Both classes are a little content based, but I have had more success with these than with the use of a text. In my opinion a lot of the text recycle a bit too much and many of my students have lived in English speaking countries for extended period of time.

I love having autonomy in my classrooms.

Jackie Bolen said...

Thanks for your great ideas. I think Korean students are text-booked-out, after seeing them semester after semester for year after year. I would be too I guess. How many times can you talk about the weather and introducing yourself without getting bored?