Teaching English to older kids is difficult at times. Teaching English to five year olds that barely know their native language presents an entirely new challenge. For those future teachers brave enough to embark on this journey then Chungdahm’s i-Garten is the perfect place for you. My name is Cody Hood and I have been teaching in Korea as part of ChungDahm's i-Garten program at the Seocho Bampo Branch for about 10 months now. Believe me when I tell you, I cried just as much as the toddlers did on their first day of school. Past the initial anxiety of crying children, my day-to-day life is seemingly a breeze. This blog’s goal is to give insight on how working in Chungdahm’s innovative new kindergarten has given me the opportunity of a lifetime.
So what exactly is i-Garten?
This new program is the starting point for its sister academies April and Chungdahm Institute. In this kindergarten, we stress that our students enjoy themselves, while still keeping in mind the importance of learning key skills in English. i-Garten currently consists of six different levels i-5, i6-1, i6-2, i7-1, i7-2, and i7-3. The first number represents the age and the second is the number of years the students have been immersed in the English language. One of the biggest obstacles for children at this age level is to leave the security of home. At i-Garten, we endeavor to make students feel like i-Garten is a second home.
i-Garten focuses on the three “I’s” Integration, Imagination, and Immersion. Our Integration approach to learning English consists of reading, writing, listening and speaking. We add blended learning where the students develop skills on a topic and play fun games related to the material. We often use multiple hands on activities or games with our Smartboards during class time. Additionally, students have learning tablets, which reinforce their learning at home. Imagination is a huge factor that separates us from other Korean kindergartens. We encourage students to appreciate other imaginative and classical works so that they could express their own thoughts and feelings through crafts, dramas, and other activities. Immersion simply means the sharing and exchange of other cultures and languages. Using topics and curriculum from across the world, i-Garten students are motivated to think globally. Alongside our tremendous energy, our hopes are to build our student’s enthusiasm.
How is your routine and weekly schedule?
Unlike April and Chungdahm, i-Garten’s working hours are completely different. Depending on which branch you work at the typical working hours are from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. It may sound like long hours to be surrounded by young students, but at Seocho’s branch we have an hour break time along with two ending hours of paid prep time. This year, I was overjoyed to teach the oldest learners, the i-7s.
9:00 A.M. - My day starts with getting to work 30 to 20 minutes early (depending on Gangman’s monsoon of employees all trying to catch the same bus) in order to consume much needed coffee and prepare materials for the day.
9:20 A.M. - Busses arrive and I am greeted with several high fives, hugs, and stories from students about what their parents cooked them for breakfast.
9:30 A.M. - Classes begin with the oldest and highest English leveled students, i-7-3, also known as my “Angels”. This group often asks if they can write in the present perfect tenses of why they have studied so hard for their weekly quizzes. We use April books such as Seed or Sprout depending on the level of the class until around lunchtime.
12:20 P.M.- I then have my break while our Korean co-teachers eat lunch and have recess with the students. Most of the time, break is cut short because of my inability to say “no” to puppy-dog-eyed children asking Cody Teacher to go play with them during recess.
1:20 P.M.- After recess is over I switch to the lowest level of seven year olds where depending on the day I teach more of the creative and crafting classes. Some of these subjects are The Classic where we analyze and appreciate classical compositions and artwork, Discover & Explore where we execute hands on science experiments, or Ucrea when we read stories about witches that teach them a variety of mathematical problem solving skills.
3:00 P.M.- After school classes begin, I teach the Drama and Speech classes. We also offer Taekwondo, Cooking, TESOL primary test prep, and Playfacto classes.
4:00 P.M.-I get more high fives, hugs, and stories from the students about what they want their parents to cook for supper. They catch the bus and I get a mandatory coffee.
4:00 P.M.- 6:00 P.M.- Consists of weekly meetings, seminars, decorating classrooms according to monthly themes, grading homework, writing report cards, and prepping for the following day. It also includes two to three cups of coffee.
Repeat- This is my typical day with the exception of once a month outsourced field trips (like the one pictured below), one in-house event, safety seminars, and delayed timing due to excessive amounts of laughter. We also get all holidays off including the two winter and summer week long breaks.
Is there anything else I need to before checking out the Aclipse Website and applying?
Starting with the very beginning of this yearlong adventure the training week was a lot less stressful compared to the intensity of April and Chungdahm. Although it still had its unique challenges it consisted more on being yourself. It was heavily weighted on the ability to improvise, as that is what you do on a daily basis. Especially at the beginning these student’s vocabularies are very limited. As an EFL teacher of such young learners you are constantly thinking of new innovative ways to describe vocabulary words such as around, freckles, or the reason why it is impolite to describe someone as fat. Yes, it is extremely challenging aiding these young learners at pivoting point in their lives, but it is 100% a rewarding process!
When they grow, you do too as person. You spend an entire year, 30 hours a week, with these bright, creative, optimistic sponges who are grasping information with you as the main source of how they will transcend into the world. These young strangers grow to become your new best friends. I have been through both dark days with them, as well as the best of days and I would not change that for the world. I suggest you all to reflect and see if you’re ready to apply to the most liberating, educating, and unparalleled experience of my life.