This week, I received an email from another teacher in Korea asking to write a guest post. I haven’t done one of those in a while. It’s great to connect with other teachers, and share what they have to say! This post is by a writer named, Jackie Bolen.
Here’s a short bio about Jackie:
I’ve been teaching in Korean universities for almost 10 years and while the way I do things has certainly changed over the years, I still remember that first year and all the mistakes I made. I hope to share these tips with you so that you can avoid these same pitfalls and have an excellent time teaching in a Korean University.
Here’s a recent article of hers that was in the Busan Haps magazine:
5 Tips for Teaching University Students in Korea
#1: Have Low Expectations
This tip applies mostly to teaching freshman. The first year of university in Korea is a time of rest after the stress of high school and before Samsung, or mandatory military service for the boys. Of course you have to give homework, administer tests and monitor attendance but don’t make it too difficult and your students will be much happier with you. Don’t worry about it!
#2: Simple is the Way to Go
You probably have so many excellent ideas for how you’re going to have the best and most exciting classes but always remember that simple is best. This tip applies to pretty much everything. Remember that many of your students won’t really speak English that well, particularly if their major is something like engineering. At the practical level, make your syllabus really easy to understand and perhaps even translate it into Korean. Homework assignments should be about the English, not about who can actually understand the instructions. Explain grammar points in such a simple way that even the lowest level student in your class can understand it. Introduce five new vocabulary words each week instead of twenty or more. Make your grading system really transparent and explain it multiple times throughout the semester.
#3: You Can’t Fight the System
The longer you’re around Korean universities, the more you will see things that are unlike our home countries. You’ll have to pass seniors who never show up to class and/or fail every single assignment. You’ll also be required to carefully track attendance, which is something my professors never did in Canada. It’s best to just accept things the way that they are and not try to fight the system. You are a foreigner and changes in the system will come because of the Koreans at your university, not you.
#4: Be Fair and Care
You don’t need to be the, coolest or most beautiful teacher in order to be popular and get good student evaluations. Don’t worry, it’s actually far easier than that. You just have to be fair by treating all students equally and also show them that you care at the same time. You can do this by remembering their names, talking to them outside of class if you see them, and being a decent human being in case of a problem of some kind. Grade all students the same and never play favorites.
#5: Build a Good Reputation
The best thing you can do when you start working at a university is to build yourself a reputation as a stellar teacher by preparing well for classes, submitting paperwork on time, attending social functions, and being well-liked by the students. This will get you promotions and opportunities for better classes and overtime work, which will go a long way to ensuring that you have the happiest life possible in Korea. For even more tips about how to make your working life in Korea awesome, check out How to Thrive in South Korea: 97 Tips from Expats.
Jackie Bolen is a Canadian living in Busan and she blogs about her experiences teaching in a Korean university at: My Life! Teaching in a Korean University (http://teachinginkoreanuniversity.com). If you’re looking for a university job in Korea, you can check out her book on Amazon: “How to Get a University Job in South Korea.”
Contact her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org