I am completing my Fulbright Grant year as an English Teaching Assistant in South Korea. In this role, I teach conversational English to students and hold teachers’ workshops at Gwangyang High School, an all-boy’s school. Upon my arrival, I was quickly able to adjust to the school environment, feeling integrated with the other teachers and comfortable with the students. I applied specifically to Fulbright Korea because I wanted to gain greater insight into the country’s recent economic success and add diversity to my international experiences by immersing myself in an Asian culture with which I was not yet familiar.
I teach 16 classes a week. Each of these classes contains 32 to 40 students, which allows me to engage with over 500 students per week. Getting to know so many students is challenging, but I make a point of finding the time to interact individually with each of them. During my classes, I cover the listening and speaking sections of the students’ English textbook. I then supplement these sections with my own lessons that complement and expand upon the information conveyed by the book. The students’ English abilities vary widely. With this in mind, I tailor activities to each class environment to engage the weaker students while still challenging the strongest students. I also play a large part in designing the students’ English mid-term and final exams. In this role, I work with the other teachers and carefully write and review questions to accurately represent what the students are learning in class.
In addition to my classes for students, I also run three teachers’ workshops per week, two for teachers in the English Department and one for teachers in other departments. I have been very well accepted by the other teachers and they tell me that these workshops are valuable. The English teachers at my school also have varying degrees of English proficiency, and so during our workshop time, I conscientiously work to address each of their individual needs. For the English teachers’ workshop I prepare a variety of activities; I select articles for careful reading and discussion, we have worked through a business case study, and currently, I am leading an analysis and discussion of the novel The Giver by Lois Lowry. Along with English enhancement, the other main focus of these workshops is cultural exchange and as a result of our discussions, the other teachers and I have gained a nuanced understanding of each other’s backgrounds.