I remember feeling a wide range of emotions when I first arrived to teach English in Korea. I was overwhelmed by the culture, excited about the year ahead, and tired from all of the travel and jet lag. But most of all, I remember feeling nervous and anxious about teaching. I did not have much teaching experience and I was worried about getting in front of a bunch of students. The week of training at Chungdahm helped allay some of my fears by giving me some advice and some practice teaching sessions. However, it is impossible to tranform yourself into a teacher in just one week. So I still felt really nervous as my first day of actual teaching approached. Looking back, the first day was awkward, full of mistakes, and seemed to last forever. Today, I want to give you some tips on how you can survive your first day of teaching at Chungdahm. Hopefully, this advice will help your first day go a lot smoother than mine.
#1 Have a clear view of a clock
There are a lot of activities to get through during class and you have to be aware of the duration of each activity. After teaching for a while, you will have an internal clock and you will just know when to move on to the next activity. At the beginning though, time is hard to judge and it is best to have a clock available so you can keep track.
#2 Make a schedule
speaking of class activities, there is a lot to get through during the course of a class. It can be difficult to remember the schedule and flow of activities. To help me, I taped a schedule right next to my computer and I put one right next to the white board. If I forgot an activity or got lost in the lesson, I would quickly glance at the schedule and it would put me right back on track.
#3 Don't stress out about student names
There are so many to remember and they can often be so difficult to pronounce that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. A great way to help you is to give the students 5-10 minutes to come up with an English name (really encourage creativity here) and then let them make name tags for their desk. I do this with every class; I bring in extra paper and markers and stickers. I let the kids be as creative as possible, but the only rule is that they have to always have their name tag visible on their desk. Another benefit of this activity is that the students love it and it helps break the ice on the first day.
#4 Learn something about your students
On the topic of ice breakers, try to take the time to learn something about your students during the first day or spend some time doing a fun activity. Even though your class schedule will be full of activities and it will be hard to take more than 10 minutes to do this, it is still necessary if you want your students to open up and be more comfortable with you. I like to play "Simon Says" with my younger students or "2 lies, 1 truth" (students take turns making 3 statements about themselves, with one statement being true and the other two being lies.....the class has to guess what is true about that student).
#5 Establish rules
While you want that first class to have some fun and feel comfortable with you, it is still very important that you establish a firm set of rules during that first class. From day one, the students should be aware of the rules and these rules should be consistent and fair. It is always helpful to have the rules posted somewhere in the room in both English and Korean so that there is no confusion whatsoever.
These are a few things that I wish someone would have told me before my first day of class. The first day can be tough as an English teacher in Korea, but just remember, it will get easier and easier the longer you teach. I am always open to new teaching tips so let me know some other advice on how to survive your first day!
Adam Montgomery is a 25-year old teacher at the Chungdahm Branch on Jeju. He has been teaching in Korea for over a year. When he is not teaching, he enjoys exploring the wonders of Jeju and Korea.