For over the past year and a half, I have lived and taught English in two different after school academies. Certainly I am no expert in the field, yet I feel that the structure of the system needs some improvement. Not that any educational structure is imperfect, but in terms of learning English, I feel the South Korean government, private companies, and even the parents have unrealistic expectations of the teachers, as well as the students.
One of the major issues I have with the system is: the parents. For one, the parents have unrealistic expectations for their children. Some kids are not “gifted” or learn languages easily. Yet, their parents expect incredible improvements in the span of mere months. In my experience, learning a language takes complete immersion and more than just an hour or two a day with a native teacher. Furthermore, parents want their students to always improve, and schools record these results through examinations. Not spoken examinations, but multiple choice examinations. It’s truly a shame that parents, and most countries in the world, put an emphasis on tests.
Tests truly don’t show the aptitude for students, in my opinion. Instead, I remember constantly studying for hours, then after the exam I forget all of the information. I mean seriously. The only way to remember, especially for me, is constant exposure. I remember in Spanish class in high school, my teacher played tapes and CDs and everyday we repeated the words. And to this day I still remember how to ask for the basics and even remember some other random words that I learned over 8 years ago. Maybe that’s because the English and Spanish language vocabularies are slightly similar (necessary= necessito). However, parents should be more patient, yet I can understand them. A society that requires testing with high scores in order to get into good universities, and positions that determine the rest of your life, is extremely stressful and worrisome.
My previous school’s teachers all spoke English to their students, which definitely helped the students increase their English listening and speaking abilities. Even my younger students could talk to me on a basic level. Unlike my previous school, my current school’s students are incredibly low. The boss informed me of this issue, so I had no expectations of the students. However, I was quite surprised. I cannot hold a conversation with the students. Though they do have more fun. The students do not receive the same strenuous types of work as other hagwons, so these students seem happier. I guess it’s a give and take.
All and all, so far the experience of working and teaching in Korea has been stressful, but rewarding. I do enjoy teaching students, but I don’t think I can teach students something like English. Maybe art or something fun. One day, maybe I will try to teach adults or college students. Most of these students, I have heard, try harder since they pay for the classes themselves in order to achieve better results in their life, or on some required exam. Either way, these kids have impacted my life, and I hope I have made a slight impact on theirs.
Stay humble. Work hard. Be kind.