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English Class with Korean 4th Graders (English As a Second Language)

English As a Second Language, or “teaching English”, is many things to many people. It exists on many levels ranging from a travel ticket to a serious career choice. Most people look at it as a way to have an extended stay in a place they’ve always wanted to visit. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, I think it’s a valid reason, and many recruiters and schools know this. Some of them will market their positions to cater to this angle.

Others, however, have approached it much differently. They are highly qualified teachers whose plan is to be part of a bigger picture in international schools or specialized private schools. They teach in subject-specific roles. If they do teach English, they need to be English majors with experience often times. Some become department heads, others, principals. These types of roles are not for the majority of “teach English” people out there.

To cross over from one side to the other is no simple task. It means meeting some serious requirements and having specialized experience, depending on the school.

When I first started teaching in Korea I knew right away that I wanted to both teach abroad for a long time, and to improve my options for the future. I got a TESOL certification as this is essentially industry standard now. The only thing about TESOL certifications that is changing is how they are obtained; that is, online versus in-class.

As I filtered through the endless supply of job ads, I also realized that in order to qualify for more complex, better paying jobs, I needed to get a teaching license. So, that’s exactly what I did. I spent 2013 and the beginning of 2014 completing a state-required course to become a Florida certified teacher. This also included flying back home to sit for three exams. The subject endorsement on my license is ESOL K-12 which is a specialization in teaching English as a second language, or English for Speakers of Other Languages.

During this course I learned many things about teaching as a profession and how to be an effective teacher. This was really great for me, only I now had to apply the concepts to my own classes. Seeing that English teachers in Korea are often limited in their involvement, I had to look for places I could use what I had learned.

The clearest way for me to apply what I learned was in the area of classroom management. How to bring structure to a classroom and make classes effective. It was a process of trial and error, but after four and a half years I feel like I’m starting to develop a stride in what I’m doing in class.

As I plan for my next steps in teaching abroad, I am trying to bridge the gap between being the common traveler-teacher and a serious career-minded professional someday. Some of my recent job hunting endeavors required teaching examples, either fabricated or actual video of classes being taught. That is what brought me to filming one of my 4th grade classes. If only I had video of when I started, you would be able to see what I see. A vast difference in the quality of my classes from using distinct techniques I learned in my courses.

It’s easy to focus on our shortcomings and mistakes. I try to look at the improvements I’ve made as encouragement and a way to guide my future growth.


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