Friday, May 24, 2013

EPIK Cultural Shock

Korean base privacy on the status and relationship of that person meaning certain personal information such as age, marital status etc are necessary in order to maintain that relationship.

Koreans give personal information to strangers or casual acquaintances to become more intimate whereas Westerners require intimacy first. We like to know someone first.

Restrictions among western friends are
1. Not borrowing money. We have a saying in the US “If you want to loose a friend loan them money “
2. Respect a friend’s privacy
3. Not putting another under obligation. Again we don’t mind if you ask but learn to accept no without being offended.

Korean ways are
1. Respecting the elderly (though I do not see this on the subways and buses nor with the handicapped or mentally ill) Korean society has been influenced by the West to wait in line, but it is still uncommon. Westerners and Koreans have opposite views on courtesy in a business relationship.
Westerners place business and personal relationships separate as to keep neutrality in decision making and to process quickly. Whereas Korean’s value personal connections for a long-term, trusting business relationship. Both of these practices have their good and bad points. I personally will not rent an apartment to a friend, close associate or a friend or a friend. It can cause too many problems and cause one to make decisions based on that relationship and not what is necessarily good for the business.

Let’s talk about what we are all here for “English Education.” I grew up in a family of teachers and have many friends who are teachers in the US so I was really taken back when I came to Korea.

Though Korea has a national curriculum there seems to be no conformity in English Education. Even in the Universities where Native Teachers have a Master Degree and are teaching Koreans about English Education the majority of their degrees are not in English. In Korea’s thirst for English Education they have been bomb-barded by many Koreans and foreigners who lack the skills or the passion as teachers. In choosing a NT, recruiters first seem to look for someone who is white; between the ages of 22- 35 then they consider their experiences last.

Rumor has it in the foreign community that NT’s will no longer be considered for coveted positions in public schools in Seoul or Busan if you are over 50 and sometimes down to 40. I have seen this myself on the websites. Recruiters have told me to only look for positions in the country or less popular areas.

Korean teachers have too much power in what goes on in the relationship and when something goes wrong they have no where to turn. Again I am lucky at my school as the teachers there are real cool.

(Maybe a board of Koreans and NT’s who are trained in conflict management and cultural differences and can give needed information to live and work in Korea).

Consistency in teaching methods- Though I like to do many things in teaching we want consistency in certain teaching methods. Being from a family of teachers I have learn that students in the elementary schools need to build a solid foundation and some things are just not negotiable.

In the English language there are 220 Sight Words. These are all taught from pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade in western schools. This starts a foundation where children will be able to recognize the meaning of a sentence even though they may not understand every word. At least one sight word is in every sentence in the English language.

In Korea this should be mandatory starting in the first level in which English is taught and should be finished within 4 years or the 6th grade whichever comes first. Students can do many things to learn these sight words through stories, games etc. Word families should also be apart of that program. Scholastic and Spectrum are my favorite companies in providing books etc for this purpose. I can also provide you with other favorites upon request. Most can be bought in Korea. Also word families should be taught in the upper elementary levels. Students want more than anything to be able to talk to foreigners. This can be done by doing Surveys. A great book for this is “The Survey Says” 100 Surveys for Students to Conduct by John Cabot. It gives them a sense of pride and makes them want to continue learning. Yes, English is difficult but like all languages English is based on a timeline and rules. Once these rules are taught it makes it easier to comprehend why English is the way it is. I am including with this essay what I would teach in the ideal situation on the elementary level to build a foundation for the middle schools and above. But since most NT’s only assist and the curriculum in mandatory it makes it more difficult but not impossible.

Most after school programs are also difficult due to the different levels placed in one classroom. How I deal with that is to pair two lower level students with 3 higher level students so they can help them.

I have spent millions of won on my students in Korea. Many NT’s tell me I am crazy and maybe I am. But I love what I do and I love these kids. I believe that to teach English one must also live it. In Korea too much emphasis is based on the tests they take to enter college making English a dreaded and most hated subject among the Korean students.

This is why after years of language learning they still cannot speak it. That is sad. I teach English but I also teach hip hop and yoga (which teaches English words about movement and dance. It also builds confidence. I tell my students that hip hop, like English looks difficult but if you break it down and make it fun it is much easier. Also students in after-school programs need to be able to use English more with foreigners through doing surveys, eating in English restaurants and going where foreigners are.

because really after all the cultural and personal differences are put aside, are we really all that different? I don’t think so. We all want the same things, Love, Happiness and success for ourselves and our children.

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