Boldly Stepping Into The Future (Or Re-Applying for EPIK)

It has been an awfully long time since I posted on here. November, I believe, was the last time. When I left you last, I was undertaking my teacher training and stressed about work. Well, what has changed since then? Not a lot. I am still stressed. I am still in teacher training. But my future path may be different, dear reader. For I have made the decision to re-apply to go and teach in Korea with the EPIK Programme again. Those who read my sporadic blog posts will know that I miss Korea. I miss EFL. I miss basically everything about those glorious two years. So this should really come as no surprise.

Continue reading “Boldly Stepping Into The Future (Or Re-Applying for EPIK)”

Applying to EPIK #4 – The Interview.

So, you’ve applied to EPIK and heard back. You got an interview! Congratulations, you say to yourself. Until the pre-interview fear sets in. Well, hopefully this post is a little helpful at least. Now, it has been around twelve months since I had my interview. I don’t know if anything has changed, and having a memory worse than a goldfish means I have forgotten the specific questions I was asked. But I can remember general points.

First, I would suggest you get to know your application well. Some of the first questions I remember being asked were about my application and sections of it (my personal essay and lesson plan for example). I would suggest printing out a copy and having it on hand that day. Highlight anything you may think is important so you don’t waste time shifting through countless pages during the interview.

Second, a lot of the questions I was asked were about general teaching situations. Things like classroom management (What would you do if your had a class that was misbehaving?) and teaching skills (I don’t really remember any specifics). Going onto Google and getting some ideas for this section is important. I was lucky that I had volunteered at a school back in the UK and already had some idea of these points. As well as this, I was asked the final question “What would I do if I had trouble with a co-worker?” I didn’t find any information on the internet regarding this question and I wasn’t really expecting it. My advice: say you would talk to them about it and try to resolve it that way. Korean culture is a lot about “saving face” and going over their would just serve to embarrass them.

Three, get the time of your interview right. I miscalculated the time of my interview by an hour. Luckily, I was ready an hour early and so it was not the end of the world. But a miscalculation the other way could cost you an interview spot.

Apart from this, I would suggest be yourself. EPIK recruits a wide range of different people and pretending to be something you are not will get you no where in the long run. Try not to panic and get a good night of sleep. And good luck.

Sorry the post is short (and not packed with information) but I hope it helps.


Applying to EPIK #3: The Lesson Plan

So, I am finally posting another EPIK Application update. This one is to do with the lesson plan segment of the application. I did mean to post this a while back but have been pretty ill over the past few weeks (nasty cold, combined with allergies). I am not much better now but I have put this off for long enough. There isn’t much to say apart from this is the lesson plan that I submitted. Although I don’t plan like this here in Korea, this is what they were looking for. I had my Dad read mine over (he is a teacher himself) but I think as long as you have a good base idea, with a range of fun activities you will be fine. For example, my boys here love different types of English games (which I use to drill the language into them).
Good luck if you are applying and feel free to leave me questions if you have any. I will post another update about my life in general over the next day or so
TIME (40 mins total)
Once the students are all sat down, greet them by saying ‘Hello, class. I went to a restaurant yesterday. Can anyone tell me food they like to eat in a restaurant?’ As students suggest some different foods, use this as an opportunity to write them down on the board. This is a good opportunity to review how much the class learnt about food in the previous lesson. Encourage them to use the key expressions learnt.
After two minutes (or once students stop suggesting food. Whichever happens first) say to the students that today we will be looking at ordering food in a restaurant. Open up the PowerPoint presentation with the ‘Key Expressions’ slide on screen.
2 Minutes
2 minutes
Now that the ‘Key Expressions’ slide is open, you can introduce the key vocabulary for the lesson to the students.
If you have a co-teacher, they can help you with this. Have them ask ‘Can I help you, sir/madam’. Then, you can respond with the first of the lessons key phrases and show it on the board. If you have no co-teacher you can get one of the students to help you. Hand one of the students a ‘Menu Worksheet’ and explain you are going to do a short role play ask them ‘May I take your order?’ or ‘Can I help you, sir/madam?’ If the student says something basic, such as ‘Hamburger’ walk up to your desk, pretend to prepare a hamburger and drop it on the floor before serving it. The students should find this funny and it can show how simply barking out orders can be perceived as rude.
If the student says something more advanced (such as Can I have some/a hamburger?’) write it down on the board.
After this, hand out the worksheets for the lesson to the students and split them into three groups (numbered one to three).
3 minutes
3 minutes
For these activities, students will require the ‘Menu’ Worksheet, and the ‘Customer’ or ‘Waiter’ dialogue sheet, depending on the group they are in.
Activity One – Fill in the Blanks
This activity will use two PowerPoint slides. It will take the form of a ‘fill in the blanks’ exercise. When the first slide is opened, students will be presented with five sentences, with each missing some words. The sentences will appear later in the dialogue sheets and be based around the idea of ordering food in a restaurant.
The second slide will feature five sentences as well. These will be based around the second of the lesson’s ‘Key Expressions’, and will also feature on the dialogue sheet for the next activity. As above, it will be a ‘fill in the blanks’ activity.
In order to have their answer accepted, each student must say the whole sentence, with the blanks filled in. This activity will make students familiar with some of the dialogue they will be using in activity two.
Activity Two – Role Play
Students in the first group (number one) will play the waiters. Students in the other two groups will play the customers. The first group will use the ‘Waiter’ dialogue sheet and groups two and three will use the ‘Customer’ dialogue sheet. Students will have five minutes to read and learn as much of their ‘role-play’ as possible. After this they will have ten minutes to complete the rest of the activity.
Once the five minutes are up, the students in groups two and three will go and talk to as many of the students in group one as they can. For each waiter they visit, the students should try and use a different type of food. They should also use a range of expressions from the dialogue sheet for saying whether they enjoyed their meal. For each one they use, they can cross it off. The student(s) who uses the most will win a prize at the end of the class.
NOTE – When doing this activity, waiters should read the first part of their dialogue and wait for 30 seconds or so before reading the second section. This is made clear to the students on the worksheet.
5 minutes
5 minutes
5 minutes
10 minutes
For the final part of the session you should re-visit the ‘Key Expressions’ slide of the PowerPoint presentation. Before you open this up, ask the students if they can tell you what the ‘Key Expressions’ were for the lesson. If they get them right, say well done and bring up the ‘Key Expressions’ slide.
After this, you and the students should go through the dialogue from Activity Two once more, with you taking on the role of the waiter. Any student can put their hand up and say the next line. This will allow you to see how much they have learnt from doing the role playing activity.
Finally, congratulate the students on all their hard work in the lesson that day and let them know that you will be continuing more work on this topic in the next session.
1 minute
3 minutes
1 minute

Applying to EPIK #2 – That essay

So, I am not going to talk much in this post as I can’t offer you a lot of advice. I don’t know exactly what it was about my essay that got me an interview but they seemed to like it. I just addressed the points they asked for in the best way I could. I have posted it below for anyone to look at:

Why Korea? This is a question my friends and family have asked me on a daily basis since I announced my desire to teach there. I respond by saying that it would be a wonderful opportunity to experience a culture where old and new, tradition and progress sit side-by-side in harmony. Korea is the perfect example of how modernisation does not have to mean the abandonment of valued customs and teaching English in Korea would allow me to witness this on a daily basis.

But it is also a chance to do much more than this. I believe that contact with a native speaker of a language can make a positive difference when learning. I am currently teaching myself Korean, but with no help from a native speaker it is difficult to know how well I am doing or if I have made a mistake. By teaching English in Korea, I will not only get the chance to improve my own Korean skills but engage the students in my own language and customs. I also believe that by helping to improve their language skills, I will be helping to set my students up for a great and successful future. This is something I was able to experience first-hand whilst volunteering to help teach at a local school in the summer of 2012.

It was whilst volunteering here that I was able to develop my own education philosophies. I believe that no two students are the same and that everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds. By using a range of activities (books, games, role-playing or multi-media), students can be given the chance to engage with a subject and develop an interest in what they are learning. This makes the learning of something new much easier and helps the student want to learn. I also believe that a teacher should set an example for his or her students. A way of doing this in an English class could be to make English the ‘official language’ of the classroom. Just as I would learn Korean more easily from becoming completely immersed in the language, my students could learn much more English being surrounded by it in the lesson. As well as this, I believe that every teacher has responsibility for the future of the children that they teach and this is a something that I take extremely seriously. Finally, I believe that learning can and should continue outside of the classroom, whether through a club, camp or trip. This is something that I involved myself in, both at University and whilst I was volunteering at Bexhill High School. In this way, it can be made fun and more engaging for a student that might otherwise find it dull.

However, it is important to remember that I will spend my time in Korea learning new things too. It is a country that is quite different from the one I have grown up in, but I firmly believe that cultural differences are only a problem if we let them become one. By involving myself in the local and school communities through clubs and events (for example, Taekwondo), I will be able to settle myself into life in Korea more easily. It is a way I can get to know my co-workers, students and neighbours. I believe that through shared interests, friendships can blossom even with a language barrier. I enjoy cooking and look upon the chance to visit Korea as a chance to not only expand my own cookery skills but leave a piece of my culture there after I have gone. I am already teaching myself Korean, which will make the hardest barrier I will face seem smaller. I first came across Korean culture when I looked at some modern Korean history whilst sitting my degree. It was studying this that made me believe that many Westerners have misconceptions about Korea and I see the chance to teach English there as an opportunity to learn about more Korean culture and then teach others about what I have seen and learnt. But most importantly, I believe that if I embrace this chance for the great opportunity it is, I will make new friends, have new experiences and be able to make a positive difference to the lives of my students.

I hope this is helpful for someone.

Check back soon for a food based blog post.

Applying to EPIK #1 – One small step for man…

So welcome, intrepid adventurer, to this post about the EPIK application process. If you are reading this, I assume you are aware I came to Korea with EPIK in the Fall 2013 intake, which means that one year ago I was in your shoes. That is to say, wanting to apply but frantically searching the internet for advice at the same time. I am going to begin with a disclaimer – this application will have a UK based bias. Other folks, most of this is general information. It is just some specific things (such as going to the embassy, tax information and that kind of thing) I can’t help you other folks on. US folks, there is a bunch of information out there for you (Shimmering Seoul always offers bloody good advice on this sort of thing and is extremely useful).

Now that is all over, let us begin. For the initial stages, you only need submit an application form and two scanned letters of recommendation. Seoul applicants, you also need to fill out the Seoul Attachment Form. We will start with a look at the application for itself. Having looked over it, I don’t think it is any different from the one they used when I applied. Page one is simple enough and just covers your general information such as name, DOB, gender and nationality. The only bits I will discuss are sections four and five.

Section Four – This part of the form covers Korean heritage and citizenship. The questions here are simple enough (Are you ethnically Korean and does the Korean government consider you to be a holder of Korean citizenship?). As far as I am aware, the only difference this makes to your application is the kind of visa you will apply for later on. I can’t be certain, as I am not ethnically Korean.

Section Five – This section is important. It covers the times you will be available for interview, as well as the way they can contact you for it. Skype is the preferred way of undertaking an interview and I don’t know anyone that didn’t undertake their interview this way. The best piece of advice I can offer here is be as flexible as possible. Yes, this might mean an early morning or late night interview (in fact, that is basically a guarantee). However obvious it seems, the more you are available the easier it will be for them to interview you. On my application, I listed every available time and had my interview around 1pm KST (which was early morning back home in the UK).

The next several pages mostly cover your educational and previous teaching experiences. As you are applying to EPIK, I will assume you are already undertaking a TEFL qualification (now a requirement for applicants). When I applied I was undertaking my TEFL course and had some voluntary teaching experience. List anything you have, even if it is only two weeks. You must also write list the contact information for your two references. I will talk about these letters later in this post.

Placement preference is up next and I would suggest doing some research about the different provinces and things. Many people want Seoul or a similar large city. However, I would say don’t discount the provinces and smaller cities. I live in Cheongju, which is the capital of Chungbuk province. And it is great. Well placed for travel within Korea (central), not too big or small, great travel links (30 minutes from Dajeon) and a range of activities within the province itself. The only downside is it has no coastline at all. But you are never very far from one. Everything else on these pages is self-explanatory. If you have any questions, just leave me a comment and I will do my best to help.

The medical assessment section is up next. My advice would be fill it out as honestly as possible, except maybe for the mental illness section. I know of people here who had certain issues but didn’t mention them on their application, as there is a lot of social stigma attached to them in Korea. I won’t go into that here but it will make the whole application much easier. Again, the next two pages are self-explanatory.

As for the lesson plan and personal essay, I will upload them in separate posts later on today.

The letters of recommendation – I used a lecturer from my university and a teacher at the school I volunteered at. The only real advice I can offer is make sure the person knows you well (though if you have teaching experience, it would be wise to use someone from their as a reference). Make sure they sign and date the letters. With my application, this wasn’t the case and it was missed in the first round. It was not a big deal but added to my stress as I had to re-gather them when I was also sorting out things like criminal record checks.

The Seoul form is something I didn’t fill out, as I applied for Chungbuk last time. The only issue I can see on it is regarding the schools. In Seoul, they are only hiring for elementary schools at the moment. I think this is due to a scaling down of the programme itself within Seoul and other metropolitan centres.

Well, this post has gone on a bit. Check back for the next post soon. And good luck if you are applying. You won’t regret it. Coming here has been a great experience for me.