Saturday, June 26, 2010

GEPIK Summer Plus Orientation: Part 2

Now that I had a chance to rest and digest what went on at the Orientation I can write about it.

First just understand that this program was for:
...is for renewed GEPIK teachers, as well as new teachers who have more than 3 years of teaching experience. The Plus Orientation content is different to GEPIK Orientation, and covers advance materials which will help experienced GEPIK teachers to improve their skills and abilities.
As is stated on the handout I received 24 hrs prior to leaving. Needless to say I was skeptical of what to expect from the "Plus"-ness of this ordeal. Therefore, today's post is going to be about the content. I will analyze the lectures we received and give critical feedback. 

The Facilities:
I am going to start with a look around the buildings so you can get an idea of where we spent our time. Teachers from around Gyeonggi-do were rounded up and brought to Anseong. This building is like a center for seminars and corporate training. In fact, while we were there other groups were in attendance for their own training.

The facilities were modern and clean. Classrooms were equipped with projectors, computers and speakers. The surrounding area was mountainous and quite lovely. Below are pictures of a training field.

After we got to the location we picked up our room keys and joined our groups. Since there were a lot of  us we were grouped by our area. For example, I was in the Yongin & Moran group.

There was no time to waste and after lunch we had scheduled three hours of lectures and workshops.

First Day Lectures & Workshops:
The lecture and workshop topics for day one were as followed:
  • Co-teaching Activities
  • Secrets to Becoming and Effective Teacher
  • Ice Breaking Time
*Keep in mind our lectures were meant for Elementary school teachers.

1st Lecture: Co-teaching Activities:
This was presented by two people, Yang Miran and Wesley Swan. They were a pair of actual teachers from an actual school here in Korea. So their lecture definitely showed that they knew their audience.

After reading the title of this lecture I expected it to be about co-teaching. Things like how to get along with your coteacher and methods to make coteaching work together. Instead, as I found out, it was more about activities that these two teachers use in their school. Of course, this kind of subject matter is okay; however, they could have tried to get the title on the point.

Their lecture was pretty good and fun to sit through. At first they talked a little bit about their school and work together. Then they had us join in on an activity they do with students of putting a story together in a group. That was pretty fun and a little clever.

Keep in mind that we were given a booklet for the 3 days and in inside were the lecture materials. Some of the activities they suggested sounded really useful to the classroom and relevant to our experience.

Examples:
  1. Activity: Conversation Survey: Students form two lines. Large classes can have a pair of two lines. Students ask each other various questions. Questions like: Where are you from? What do you do in your free time? Students move from one student to the next when the teacher yells "Next!". Teachers move around the lines to make sure English is spoken and behavior is proper. We played this at the Orientation and I found it to be fun and useful.
  2. Call Me!: Distribute a multiple choice quiz paper to each student in the group. (Each paper is meant for different levels) Assign points to each answer for each question. The group will add up the points. If each answer is correct, the point total will match the missing digits with the point total. If all the numbers are correct the instructors phone will ring. 

This lecture left me feeling interested in their games and pleased to see a team of teachers working together.


2nd Lecture: Secrets to Becoming and Effective Teacher:
This lecture was performed by a GEPIK coordinator who is of high ranking. I want to point out that there were several people in our group that were noisy and distracting in class. But this lecturer wouldn't take it and made sure to tell them to be quiet.

She started class by all of us turning to the page in the book that references her lecture. The first thing she wanted us to do was answer #1 in the booklet. The question was...

Why do you want to become a teacher?

I looked at the person sitting next to me and we both had a look of confusion. Weren't we already teachers? But we answered the question anyways. Mine was: 

Teaching children fulfills me and helps me find my place in the world.

I know it sounds a little cliche, but it was the only thing I could think of. At this point I was already starting to feel tired. 

So she gave a talk about this and other teachers shared their responses. She moved on to question number 2 about us listing our strengths and qualities that we have that can make a successful teacher. 

The following are a list of the main topics she covered:
  • Key Behaviors
  • Helping Behaviors
  • Skills that can help us work effectively
I found this lecture to be insightful and probably useful to me in the future. Though, to make it really meaningful I would have to look over these topics and really think about them towards my own teaching experience.

Workshop: Ice Breaking Time
For some reason the bus ride, plus having to use my brain at high speeds, and being around more foreigners than I ever have been... made me tired. So a workshop was what I needed.

Again I got confused about the contents when reading the title. Here I thought it was going to be an hour of ice-breaking games meant to get to know each other. Instead it was more about cultural differences and our input. Why didn't they name these things accurately is beyond me.

The class was presented by our group's specific coordinators. What they did was show us a PowerPoint Presentation with pictures of Korea that are major cultural shockers.

This included:
  • World Cup crowds vs. our country's team pride
  • Holiday traffic...why is it so crowded?
  • University Entrance Exam craziness & obsession
  • Ahjumma (older woman) fashion...such as wearing large visors outside...anything similar to our home country
Although this was fun and we shared our experiences and opinions I felt the time could have been used for something else. Instead, I feel we should have had more workshop orientated activities. If the topic were to tay about cultural differences we could have sat together in small groups and worked out how we have come to accept these differences and what we do when challenged by them.

*Keep in mind that after each class we were handed a short evaluation form.

After this was a short break time and then dinner. They served us inside the large auditorium a meal of Korean food, which was actually really delicious.

The other meals for the rest of the time were served in the cafeteria. They were all pretty much in the style of western food and tasted good.

After dinner were some mini workshops (learn Korean, Korean history, etc), however I was beat from it all and chose to go back to my room and rest for the day.
Let's move on to Day 2 Lectures and workshops.

Day 2 Lectures and Workshops:
Day 2 proved to be a day where there were some good and bad lectures. I must say that this was my first Orientation and so didn't really have much to base it on. I think the people who organized this found a good selection of lecturers but one bad mistake which I will talk about.

Lecture: Teaching Methodology
This was the first lecture of the day and was held in a large room. Immediately as the lecturer, Prof. Hong Sun-Mi, began talking I knew that she had little experience talking in front of a room full of Elementary Native Teachers.

I am critical of her speech for many reasons. Some of which are that her tone of voice was low and drone like, she hardly looked around the classroom, and when she wrote on the board she mostly looked at it and forgot about us. Hardly ever did she stop her speech to ask us our opinion or thoughts. Or even whether we understood what she was talking about.

Already, you can see, from the beginning she was not a powerful spokeswoman. What made matters worse was that her content was very dense and dry. I am going to share with you her content, but I want you to keep in mind that we are Elementary school teachers here in Korea. The following is taken from her materials given to us in the booklet.
  • Class objective: You can understand how Korean students think about Native teacher. (She covered this briefly in the beginning.) You can know how to improve your teaching speaking skills through discussion. You can learn how to improve students' speaking ability through discussion.
Let me stop here. She had the goal in mind that if she taught us about debate that we could use it in the classroom. However, she built her lecture without considering her audience. Throughout, it seemed she didn't know where we were coming from and what it is like to be a Native Teacher and teach English to students in public schools here. Her first fault was to slightly insult us with the following statements.
  • How Korean students think about native teachers? Advantages: The class is interesting and active. ... Disadvantages: Sometimes too speedy to understand. (I speak slowly in class and constantly check with my students if they understand me. Her statement assumes we all come in to class and speak our natural speed, which is completely wrong.) Often do not understand Korean culture. ( I got kind of pissed off at this. Yes we naturally can not understand Korean culture. But everyday I try my hardest to understand and accept the differences. Maybe I don't know or understand the cultural reasons behind the behavior of the students but that doesn't mean that I haven't gotten the hang of things within 2 years. I wonder if she realized she was speaking to the "Plus" audience who have been in Korea longer than 3 months and some of us have close relationships with Koreans. At this point, I knew her perspective was the typical "Us vs Them" approach.)
Looking at her points of reference on the booklet I can say she does have quality ideas. Like "Use more interesting fun and games." or "Present recent hot news". She wanted to give us ideas to help the kids speak more.

However, she doesn't know what it is like to have a class of 35 students who if prompted to speak at the same time, is a disaster.

Things fell apart when she got into teaching us about debate. Things became very technical and advanced. She gave us a graph and outline of how a debate works and should be played out with the students. But it wasn't practical to the age or size of our classes. Yes in the long run we can take her very technical schemes and adapt them to our class. However, wouldn't it have been more useful to present us with the idea of debate and then have us discuss how we can use it in our classrooms?

She finally started engaging with us by asking us for debate topics so that we could have a mini-one in class. One person suggested something but then I put my hand up.

She came over to me with the mic and I let it out, however in a peaceful way. I told her that I appreciate that she wants us to have more discussion in class and that we should use debate. I told her that we all have been to college and have learned what debate is. I said it might be more practical to have a discussion about how to use debate in the classroom. I told her that I have a hard time seeing how to use her method (she suggested we split the class up in to 2 groups) since we have 35 students per class and two groups mean about 15 kids each.

After I spoke she seemed a little frazzled and went back to the podium. A few people in the audience clapped for me and said, "Yea!". She tried to carry on with her thing but realized what I said was becoming the interest of other people. So she asked us what we thought we could do, she also made a comment that she didn't know we had 35 students per class. Again another pointer that she didn't know her audience.

Thankfully another person in the audience got up and talked about how he has done something similar in his classes but how he had to make it very simple.

She went back to the black board and tried to scheme out for us a plan of how to do this with our class. But again she just mumbled at the board and sort of looked at us. Other members spoke up and told her that they were too having a hard time finding how to use her topic for our classes. But a few spoke up to talk about how it could be possible.

It ended with us just keeping our mouths shut in hopes it would be over soon.

The last day of Orientation we were asked about our opinion of the classes and the same kind of disappoint was raised about this class. One lady, however, expressed how she felt it was good for us and wants to see similar types of "college-level" material. I suppose that is possible but if so I would hope the lecturer would really consider their audience before coming in.

Lecture: Using Games in the EFL Classroom
 The next lecture was a breath of fresh air. Mr. Tory S. Thorkelson started the class with a clear and loud voice and a topic that we all were familiar with. Plus throughout the class we actually played some of the games he brought with him. Also he was a seasoned English teacher here in Korea and so knew what worked and didn't, and why.

One of the interesting aspects of his speech was his attempt to distinguish games from activities. This was a good puzzler and kept me thinking. He said that games are more rigid and follow strict rules, whereas activities can be adapted and changed. Certainly something to think about more.

One example of the games he presented us was:
  • Draw and Say: Simple game (which I have used before) where one student has a picture and another has a blank paper. One tells the other what they see while the other draws. They compare afterwards.
As you can see I enjoyed this lecture and his ideas on motivating students and what games are best for our classroom.

Workshop: Group Discussion & Sharing Ideas
Thankfully a workshop was scheduled as the last 3 hr activity, for it came after lunch time. This class was an example of what they should add more of next time. A place where we can share ideas and talk about what works. Sure it is one thing to exchange a worksheet or class plan online but to discuss face to face with what we do in class makes it a whole lot more encouraging.

The scheme of this workshop was that we were put into small groups. We were given a large peice of white paper that was divided into four parts. Each paper had a lesson topic and the four parts related to learning English. (Reading, writing, speaking and listening). For 10 minutes each group brainstormed and wrote down their ideas for the topic.

It was fun, I have to say, and was interesting to see what other people came up with. Most of the topics were based on actual lessons from our curriculum. Therefore we had actual tested activities under our belt for these things.

Unfortunately my group was a bit of a mess. I was put in a group with 3 other men, one of which was a bit nutty. For example, he wouldn't stop talking about off topic ideas and he also kept on flirting with me. I tried my best to lead the group and get the work done. One member kept on walking out to get coffee or picked up his phone to respond to a text. This same member hardly gave any input. It made me feel like I do a lot of hard work and thinking while he can just get by. Anyways we were suppose to come up with one final lesson plan but since the other guy kept on talking it never happened.

Conclusion:
As you can see the lectures and workshops were peppered with good and bad points throughout. I can't really say whether they were really geared towards us "Plus" folks. I think if they had more workshop orientated activities it would have been, since we have so much experience already.

In addition, no where were we ever informed about upcoming 2011 changes to our curriculum and contracts. There is a lot brewing underneath the surface, which I will talk about in the future. It would have been great to be brought up to speed about these things and ask for our opinion. However, as much as I wanted this to happen my expectations were very low. 

We will see if anything that was presented to me will come in handy when I am back at school. In the next series I will highlight a fun activity I experienced and tell you the secret to Orientation. ;)

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