Training Week: Intense but Rewarding
The best way I can describe training week was that it was kind of like boot camp. You need your stamina! It’s an intense five days packed with information about Chungdahm and its curriculum. As a fresh college graduate completely new to classroom teaching, it felt a bit overwhelming at times, but by the end of the week, I felt somewhat accomplished and like I had a solid foundation going into my first week of teaching!
The view from the training center. You can see the mountains peeking out behind the apartment buildings!
On Monday, we had a short general welcome and orientation from one of the head trainers, and then we were put into the training groups that we stuck with for the rest of the week. From Tuesday to Thursday, the schedule was the same. From 8:30am-1:30pm, we would mock the previous day’s material and get feedback from our trainer, then go over the new material for the next day. It’s a long session, but you get plenty of 5-minute breaks. Then a very-needed hour break for lunch! Our training group would go out for lunch together, and we discovered this really great tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) place right down the street. In the afternoon, from 2:30-5:30pm, our training group reviewed the new material together and prepared for the next day’s mock.
Delicious tonkatsu for less than $8 and no tipping!
Friday was Judgment Day...just kidding. Most of us were anxious about our final evaluation, but it actually wasn’t so different from our regular mock sessions, and since our training group had prepared really well, we all passed!!! Of course we had to take a celebratory group pic.
WE DID IT!!!
Challenges and Support
What I found most challenging about training week was probably the sheer amount of information you get thrown at you - there’s the CDI curriculum and how to use the technology and classroom management. It’s a lot to keep track of and try to “perform” well on. But the trainers are all super understanding and as long as you’re putting in the effort, you’ll be okay. Another challenge was the physical intensity of training week - the days are pretty long, and jetlag makes the afternoon difficult. The Saturday after training, I slept for 12 hours straight!
But the good thing is, I felt surrounded by a bunch of great people to help me get through training. As previously mentioned, the trainers and HQ staff were all really supportive. During the afternoon prep sessions, they would walk around to give more teaching tips. Our trainer told us lots of student behavior cases that he had experienced and how we could deal with them. And it was so cool to meet the other trainees from all different backgrounds. Some people had taught for years in the U.S., like my hotel roommate, and had some great advice to share. Others were young newbies like me who were full of excitement. Our training group bonded a lot, since we spent so much time together and supported each other through the stress and anxiety. We still use our Kakaotalk group chat to talk about our experiences at different branches and figure out the very puzzling task of separating and throwing away trash in Korea.
How to Get Through Training Week
- Bring lots of snacks! You’ll definitely need them during the five hour morning sessions.
- Take the material seriously. It’s a lot to absorb at once, so you definitely want to pay close attention. Plus, it’ll be exactly what you teach your first term (levels might vary) so it’s in your best interest to know it thoroughly before you start teaching, which will also lessen your prep time.
- Pay attention to feedback. You’ll hear the trainers repeat this all week: “It’s not about being perfect. One week of training will not make you a great teacher. We just want to see potential and improvement.”
- Use your time outside training wisely. After 5:30pm, you’re off for the day, and it’s up to you how you use your time. I’m kind of Type A, and I was anxious about teaching for the first time, so I told myself I would hold off on going out at night until I had passed training. I would take an hour break in the hotel room, get dinner with my roommate, and then spend 2-3 hours at night going over the material and practicing for mocks the next day.
- Practice with other trainees! The best way to practice is to share ideas with other trainees and actually mock to each other. Rehearsing it to yourself in your head just isn’t the same.
- But make sure you give yourself a break! Don’t let the stress overwhelm you and make sure you take some time for yourself to relax every night. Go out for dinner with new friends! Maybe even sneak in a quick coin karaoke session!
- Remember that mocking and actually teaching are SUPER different. Mocking can feel really awkward and nerve wracking, whereas interacting with real kids in the classroom feels so much more natural.
Roommate’s first time trying the only KFC that is worth eating - Korean Fried Chicken.
Training was a challenging experience, but with the help of my roommate, my training group, and the trainers and HQ staff, it was very manageable! I can’t imagine how much more flustered and lost I would have been on my first day without training. And maybe I’m looking back with rose-colored glasses, but it was a week of a lot of fun experiences with new friends, too!
Shuang Guan is a Swarthmore College graduate (Math and Linguistics) from New Haven, CT. Thanks to kpop and kdramas, she decided to try out a summer language program in Seoul in 2015, and immediately fell in love with the vibrant energy of the city, the food, and the language. She then studied abroad at Yonsei University in 2018 for a semester, but wanted to try completely immersing herself in living and working in Seoul for a year, so she’s now back for the third time. Teaching English in Korea seemed like the perfect fit for her interests in Korean, traveling, working with kids, and applied linguistics. In her free time, she loves trying out different bakeries and de-stressing at noraebang. She is currently working at the Chungdahm Institute Songpa branch in Seoul.