I don't mean to, but I wake up early. Either the rush of nerves or a decision I've yet to make urges my eyes open. Mulling around the kitchen, I piece together breakfast. Toast. Eggs. A small piece of feta. Eventually, I bring myself to my laptop and stare at the ridiculous PowerPoint I'd made last week. It lists all the pros and cons between the two programs in Korea for which I've been interviewing. I need the same documents for both, so either way I begin piecing together papers. Apostilles and diploma copies, background checks and transcripts. When it's just turned light enough outside, I take a break and go for a bike ride by the water.
Eventually it's late afternoon and I've made a decision. I bring my folder of documents to a local FedEx shipping location. My over-dramatic English Major brain is already building up a short story of metaphors as I pass rows of houses with their neatly mowed lawns and children playing in gardens. From down the block I hear students being let out from my old Greek-American elementary school and I smell a mix of souvlaki with dukbokki and even crepes from at least three different restaurants.
Sometimes the world builds symbolism for you.
I walk into the FedEx office, thinking that at 8 years old--when I would have been the one racing out of school--I would have never imagined making this move. The man behind the counter waves me over since I'd just gotten off the phone with him, and he knows I need help.
"Korea?" he says when he looks over my documents then nods his head at all the posters written in Hangul along the walls. "I came about sixteen years ago."
"Have you gone back since then?"
"A summer here and there." He glances at the address I hand him. "What are you going for?"
"Teaching," I say. "I'm a little nervous, to be honest."
"Don't be. Everyone will want to feed you, though, so watch out."
I laugh. "At least my Greek grandma trained me for that."
The man finishes printing out the label in both Korean and English. "Greek!"
"Giassas? Ti kaneis?" he says.
Hello, how are you?
"Kala?" he asks.
Are you well?
Despite the nervous bubbles in my stomach, the nerves at seeing my documents placed on a tray marked for international express, I answer ''yes' in both Greek and Korean:
Compared to my usual EPIK Guide, today's post is a bit different. While the last two had been more focused on the pros and cons of each program as well as the details concerning EPIK's initial application, this is more of an....update, I guess.
So I made it to the interview, passed, and mailed everything to my coordinator. According to my FedEx tracking number, the package has been signed off and is currently in EPIK's offices. The only thing left for me is to wait for a placement, which can be nerve-wracking at best. I'm a bit of a control-freak (to absolutely no one's surprise), and waiting around to be told where exactly in Korea I'll be is a...challenge.
So let's talk about the interview then. It'll keep my mind off the thousand what-ifs I'd otherwise create just by sitting around.
What You'll Need
Letters of Recommendation
Before I begin, here is a direct link to EPIK's website.
This application includes the components listed above. As it's the very, very first thing EPIK coordinators will see of you--your ticket to an interview!--you'll want to be as thorough as possible in filling it out. The first six pages or so are house-keeping: educational background, work-experience, and the whole shebang. Keep format in mind as you run through the details.
I know most people are worried about their lesson plans and essays most of all, so I'll begin with those. As an update to my own EPIK process, I'd been invited to and passed the interview stage! Expect a post about that interview prep/experience as well as general feelings and emotions going forward. (Sneak-peak, I'm screaming.) Finally, to be transparent, I'd received feedback on my lesson plan due to its better application as a high-school lesson, so I'll tackle that further down as well.
Either way, this is what I did to get a positive result, and while I can't guarantee anything, I can share a little (or a lot) about what the initial application had been like for me...
Before I start I want to clarify that these are my thoughts not as a linguist, but as an English educator. I am by no means an expert on languages, but rather want to consider the ways in which we Language Arts and ESL/EFL teachers grapple with the difficult reality of Standard English, stigmatized dialects, and neocolonialist attitudes in English language learning.
In my post on Babarbados, I said that Bajans speak English, and that’s true. Obviously Barbados is the Caribbean, though, so there’s the Bajan accent most tourists will grapple with...
I’ve waited two weeks to collect my thoughts, but what can I even say that hasn’t been said already? What can I even say that will undo the murder committed by a single man and a group of cowardly politicians too selfish to deny blood-money from the NRA?
Sorry—was that too “political?”
Alright! I've been meaning to make a comprehensive EPIK Guide for a while. Now that I've got my documents in order and sent out my EPIK initial application, it's time to break down the steps. This is both an initial FAQ for those considering teaching-abroad/EPIK and a master list of what needs to get done if you want to teach abroad in South Korea through their government sponsored program. Any subsequent posts concerning these forms will go into the step-by-step process of obtaining said document. For now, I've listed all required EPIK paperwork in the right hand column below.
Sometimes I think I fell into EFL without really noticing. I'd gotten my teaching certification in English Language Arts, did an entire year of interning at the middle and high school level with the usual Romeo and Juliet required reading. My career as a teacher began with little to no indication I would, one year later, begin planning to move abroad. In fact, my career as a teacher was as average as they came:
In about a week, though, I send in my application for EPIK, the English Program in Korea. That's not to say I won't be filling out paper-work as a teacher in Korea, of course--running a classroom has a certain universal rhythm.
People talk about five-year plans like there's only ever one road--one path--you could take.
At midnight, I'm standing in the kitchen with my father, and my heart feels like breaking. He's not yelling, and he's not angry.
Growing up, you lose time.
Quite literally you age, but beyond the passing of one year to the next you also start narrowing your interests down. As a kid, it was soccer practice, then ballet, then art class, then karate, then play rehearsals, right? Volunteering at the animal shelter, then guitar lessons, then practicing frosting designs on a batch of cupcakes for your friends. Swim team. Track. Even reading.
Growing up, you were told you could try anything--become anything. You had the chance to live as passionately as possible, to throw yourself into new ideas and see them through, either to ruin or triumph.
Now, these interests have a way of disappearing when you're so overwhelmed with living. You go to school and work, then come home to a list of errands and practical goals. Somewhere along the way we stopped making decisions based on what we enjoy, but rather "What's safe?" "What's my middle ground?" "What needs to get finished?"
"What can I put on my resume?"
We don't ask ourselves how we can draw everyday, or keep making lyrics like when we were bored in math class. We don't ask ourselves to mash music together like when we first started learning how to play the piano.
We work and we get tired, choosing to watch TV before bed. We are pressed on all sides to make a living then enjoy the fruits of our labor--a fancy car, a flat-screen TV, whatever.
And this isn't always bad. It isn't always the usual "creative-mind-becomes-trapped-by-the-nine-to-five" hellscape scenario. Sometimes that 9-5 lifestyle fits. Sometimes the creative mind finds contentment in their day-job.
But sometimes we feel a dull ache for the type of curiosity, physicality, and creativity we'd had when we were younger. We open our eyes one morning, excited for the change that a recent business merger provides, only to notice that something's slightly off--just a bit hazy, right there by the corners.
Everyone knows TEDTalks, especially teachers.
In regards to ELA, they're a great tool for exploring rhetoric--Does the speaker appeal to logos? pathos? ethos?--What are their strongest pieces of evidence, and where is such evidence placed in the speech? Beginning or end? This leads the classroom through a close-reading exercise, transferring skills learned in ELA to media, speechmaking, and argumentative language as a whole.
When it comes to ESL, though, you usually find a few websites that have ready-made, video worksheets catered to a student's fluency level. You can even find step-by-step lesson plans if you search hard enough. On TEDed, they have clickable quizzes paired to short videos (usually 10 minutes). Such resources are useful to have on hand, but sometimes their predictability can run a class stale.
Besides, a worksheet isn't always the most student-centered option. It's the equivalent of watching the video once, then again, then pausing at points to ask teacher-led questions. It turns what should be an engaging and real discussion into a hunt for the "right answer." With ESL, the "right answer" is important, of course. Our goal is always comprehension--but to extend that comprehension? It challenges students to understand and produce language.
Thanksgiving break is here, and Monday morning is an iPad class where I'm hoping to use videos on travel. Since all my students are currently travelers visiting the United States, let's cross our fingers that the theme will help them stay active. As you can probably tell, I'm thinking about drifting from the normal routine. Ditch the worksheet and the mind-numbing step-by-step questions that would play exactly into the boredom you'd expect from a morning-after-vacation class.
While searching for something to use, I stumbled upon this blog post entitled "10 Speaking English Activities using TED." I was immediately a fan of the Vocabulary Collection idea (as that has been an activity I use in reading comprehension task), the Post Speech Interview, and the Wh- Group Questions task.
In addition to the ideas listed above, I was also thinking about putting students into groups of 3. In these groups, they'll be assigned a different TEDtalk and must watch, take notes, and create a summary presentation of their video. This summary is then shared with the other groups. Actually, the more I think about this, the better I can see it working if I combine the task with the Wh- Questions activity.
And when you think about these types of lessons, they actually require less prep work but open up to more differentiation: Find videos at different levels. Students make their own interview questions using grammar points A, B, or C. This group creates a poster summary, this group a written summary, this group records their summary on the iPad.
I've got a few extra days to think about this lesson, so if anyone wants to share their TEDtalk-Go-Tos, let me know!
I admit I sometimes have trouble keeping track of the grammar focus in a conversation task. There are so many students mixed and matched, and, as a teacher, you feel compelled to walk between each group to correct them.
But then again you also don't want to interrupt the natural flow of English they're reinforcing. But then again that vocabulary isn't the focus today, the grammar structure is. But then again frequent corrections discourages students. But then again maybe this needs to be a more guided tasks with predetermined fill-in-the-blank scripts. But then again...
Yeah. Conversation lessons can be brutal. You have to think of an authentic scenario, balance all your students, and somehow give them feedback. Oh. And maybe, like, persuade them to talk instead of stare at you?
This past unit had been on Music, though, and I implemented the following two activities pretty seamlessly.
That's all I've got for you today, but next week's unit is sleep. If anyone's got some ideas for that, pass 'em along. Until then...
Pedagogy and Reflection
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience