…you’ll be knocked out by the end of them.
Obviously I’m not being literal here, but as I sit in my new apartment, arms sore from my week-long housekeeping, I struggle to stay awake past ten.
What’s worse is that you might not have a lot to show for your exhaustion. Take my suitcase, for example. It’s still propped open with clothes exploding from the inside. Or how about my apartment’s lack of internet? Or the recycling I still haven’t quite mastered, or my banking still not finished, or my total lack of bedsheets—thank goodness I brought tapestries.
Despite all my lugging and heaving of household products through the whole of Busan, everything’s only half settled. I’ve made my kitchen my own—but my fridge is woefully equipped with the bare necessities to stave off hunger. My books are all organized...in neat piles on the table that serves as a temporary desk.
Oh? Did you want to hear about the teaching now? Those first few wonderful days meeting my middle school girls and boys? Or how about the real start of it all?
From Orientation till now…
There’s not a lot of information about EPIK Orientation out there on the internet. I haven’t seen a play-by-play of anything other than maybe the Health Check. Youtube montage videos—the kinds with smiling, soon-to-be teachers waving at cameras as they dance around the airport—give us some idea, but the reality’s more like your freshman year of college. So replay syllabus week a couple hundred-thousand minutes over and throw in a sprinkling of Introduction to Pedagogical Theory. By the end of it, you're waiting at a curb with your "homeroom teachers" and all the other terrified foreigners. One by one, the numbers dwindle until it's your car that pulls up with your co-teacher--and you've got to say goodbye to everyone else.
Some people say Orientation doesn’t prepare us for our new jobs the way we’d expected—the focus is all on lesson planning though many find that we don’t actually end up doing much of that in our schools. Some people say Orientation feels like a show of some kind, an eight day rotation to settle us in.
They’re right. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though.
Between 9am to 9pm classes, we’re meeting other teachers who may or may not end up living near us. We build friendships in cheesy ice breakers and listen to panels on the importance of intonation in EFL. Then, if we’re feeling risky, we may go to the GS25 to pregame a noraebang adventure with dollar bottle soju before our curfew at 11pm. With any luck, we’ll make friends with the ajusshi passerby who asks for our names and welcomes us to Korea.
Through it all, we push away this limbo feeling.
This sense that our lives are still, even now that we’d made it to Korea, a stone-throw away. In just a few days it’ll all begin.
So maybe Orientation wasn’t some perfect EFL co-teacher prep course…I’ll take the memories instead.
Your First Day Teaching
If you've got Middle School Girls they'll gasp, scream, and yell "HELLO!!!!!!!!" from down the hall....
....or they'll peek out from behind a book and mumble quietly. If you've got boys the reactions will resemble that game of Tractor-Chicken from Footloose.
It'll be one or the other. There will, however, definitely be whispering--whispering between the girls themselves and any Korean teachers present. Don't worry--it's nothing horrible. I overheard a lot of my little ones saying I was pretty which made me almost choke on my water.
For your first day, chances are you'll give an Introduction Lesson. This is pretty easy: make a PowerPoint about yourself. If you want to actually leave a good impression? Make it interactive--don't just talk about yourself even if this is supposed to be a crash-course in who you are. Part of being an EPIK teacher is that they focus on cultural exchange. What's your background? Your favorite color? Do you eat spicy food? Have you got a boyfriend? What about favorite kpop bands? Whatever it is you want to tell them, make it a game. Some games you might want to think of include two truths and a lie, "Why is this important?", and Picture/Question Q&A.
It might sound crazy, but if you prepare a good enough Intro Lesson, then the mundane details will actually get your kids excited. Best part? Make it relatable. Give them a task so you can learn about them, too.
Here are a few screenshots from my Introduction Lesson. I added a few notes on what I did for each slide as well...
I know it might seem crazy when you'd much rather explore--but if you can, stay after school for an extra hour (or the alternative, go in an hour early). Use that time when the office is quiet to plan ahead for next week and/or snoop around to see if the previous EPIK teacher left behind some supplies. Sacrificing your time now will free up the hours later. Make sure you spoke to all your co-teachers about where they are in the curriculum and what they expect you to teach! Don't be shocked if you're given "English Club" or something along those lines...
The Fun Stuff
WOO! Picture time! Now that I've sorted the info-dump, here's a little look at what my life has been like these past few days...
This past Sunday and just before the start of my new work week, I took a break from all the errand running to meet up with two friends near Gwangali. We decided to spend a rainy Sunday at the beach, watched a volleyball tournament, then got 튀김 (aka fried food on a stick) and 어묵 (fish cakes) to enjoy back at the apartment.
Before Orientation, I landed in Korea a week early to take my time exploring Seoul. I took a drawing tour of Bukcheon Hanok Village, met some new friends from around the world, and had my fill of 삼겹살!
Pedagogy and Reflection
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience