“Imagination is Creativity” - this is the i-Garten slogan.
I’ve been working for Chungdahm Learning schools for nearly 5 years now. While I have a special place in my heart for the April Institute program, I made the switch to the i-Garten program to take on a new endeavor. I am far from regretting my decision. When people ask me how I’m liking i-Garten, here are the main things I rave about working at Daechi i-Garten:
1 Work Hours
While this varies by campus, my work hours are from 9am to 6pm. I have an hour break during the day. These hours sound pretty normal - they are. However, for the hagwon system, schools that cater to elementary students and older tend to have hours that run from 12pm-8pm or 2pm-10pm. While those hours are great for avoiding traffic and sleeping in, I am really enjoying getting off from work and seeing it’s still daytime. In the mornings, I just make sure to drink coffee and gain energy from my students. It wakes me up and I am good to go.
2 Strong Phonics Class Curriculum
The curriculum is well developed. The books, lessons, flow within the books make sense to me. There is clear organization and an easy to follow methodology of how to complete the delivery of the material. The phonic books have ample pages to practice and reinforce the phonics rule and vocabulary terms for the day. The sight words needed to understand the story that will follow in the reader books are also incorporated into the phonic books. The reader books' stories all have engaging and charming videos of the story for students to experience listening, reading and watching the story before delving into reading the stories together as a class. The students enjoy the story videos. I often hear students asking/demanding “One more time?!” after I introduce a new story video. Additionally, there are speaking books that correlate to the theme of the lesson. The speaking books don’t follow the phonics so closely, but to make it connect the theme and characters are from the reader books. It all still works well. The students follow along in their books and mark the answers that get covered as a class. The students take turns participating and interacting with the smartboard. The technology is great!
3 Singing & Dancing
My students are 7 year olds ( Korean age ). They are so young! That means they have short attention spans. They learn best by being entertained. There are a lot of songs! Some songs have dance routines to follow. Other songs require some choreography. I enjoy making the choreography to the i-Spring phonics songs with my students. We clap. We jump. We flap our arms like wings when portraying vocabulary terms, such as fly, hen, bird. My students love it! I hear their adorable voices singing or humming the songs learned in class during break time and recess. Moreover, i-Garten incorporates a lot of technology. For one subject called i-Story, there is a song and dance component. The i-Garten characters are Cooneo and Ronica - two cartoon racoons. Students perform a song and dance with the mascots through a software that displays the characters dancing with the students. It’s fun to teach students using so much Total Physical Response teaching.
4 Snacks & Lunch
A perk of working with kindergarten students is that they have two snack times and lunch. Thus, guess who gets food provided? I have two snack times and lunch provided, too. Having snacks and lunch provided at a fixed time is nice. It’s a good way to save money. You just have to like Korean food - yum. I have no qualms with that. That means rice, kimchi, a soup of the day, protein meat, and varied side dishes. I was often lazy to meal prep when working at my prior campus, so this setup is saving me time and money.
5 Birthday Events & Field Trips
We have monthly birthday events to celebrate all the students who had a birthday that month. The library area gets decorated with balloons, banners and there is a cake or birthday cupcakes laid out. All the students come out to sing happy birthday to their classmates. Students take class pictures with the birthday boys and girls. The students get a present from the school. Also, the birthday students receive handmade cards made by their teachers, which have been signed by all their classmates. The students have special birthday cupcakes for their afternoon snack time, too.
There are many months when there are field trips scheduled. Students come dressed in their i-Garten shirts and hats. These were Children’s Day gifts that were provided by the campus to students. As teachers we get the full-experience of wearing matching outfits with our students, riding on a school bus with them and enjoying experiencing new places and activities - all very picture worthy moments.
As fun as it all sounds, I always feel that I should stress that being a teacher ( especially a Kindergarten teacher ) takes a lot of energy, silliness, patience, understanding and real heart. Children are a gift. They deserve great teachers. Being a great teacher is not easy. However, it is as rewarding as it is challenging. It’s a very meaningful line of work. An i-Garten is a great place to experience teaching.
Giselle Moreno is from California, USA where she attended the University of California, Riverside. While a student, she always worked with international students and she decided to teach English abroad upon graduating during her third year of university. It was through the experiences of being an English tutor for international students that she felt really fulfilled. She found it particularly easy to get along with Korean students which is why she decided to pursue a teaching opportunity in Korea. She even attended Yonsei University in Seoul for a semester as a study abroad student and fell in love with the city. She is currently working at ChungDahm Learning’s April Daechi branch located in Gangnam, Seoul.