EPIK Orientation Feb 2017: Days 3-6

Day 3 (continued)

After lunch we start lectures at 2.00PM on “After School Classes & Camps” and “EPIK duties and regulations.” While neither of these is exactly amazing, particularly the first lecture gives us some good ideas on the wide range of options we have for running After School Classes as well as the Winter and Summer English camps that we teach as part of our contract. These classes are required in many cases but unlike our regular class hours do not come pre-arranged with a built-in lesson plan or teacher’s  guide. So basically we’re on our own as teachers to come up with a complete curriculum including activities and objectives. For new teachers, I’m sure this seems quite daunting. For the seasoned of us, we know the giant amount of planning involved, and it still seems daunting. But to me it also seems fun, and  there’s a lot of freedom involved in being able to choose any topic and completely create your own classes around it.

EPIK duties and regulations is more of a mishmash of topics, only some of which fit the title. The lecturer is an EPIK coordinator and he shares information about what to expect in terms of housing, phone contracts, bills, getting around, etc. For me it’s mostly review. In fact nothing stands out in memory that would suggest it’s not review entirely.

After dinner we have our first “Survival Korean” class. We’re separated into classrooms based on level. As I’ve placed into advanced, I join a few other early students in a classroom with the luggage ballerino and the teacher I’ve seen taking everyone’s photo and video at the board. In the first class we play a couple games and practice speaking. My listening skills are good enough that I understand almost everything the teachers say, but the speaking abilities of some of the other students in the class surpass my own. But class is fun and the teachers are entertaining. Korean class is quick to become my new favorite class period.

When it ends at 8.30PM, I head straight back to my dorm room and I believe I immediately fall asleep. My roommate comes back just before curfew at midnight.

Day 4

Today is the first day of full lectures. Beyond sitting in class from 9.00AM to 8.30PM with breaks for meals, I could hardly tell you what I did. I do remember one particularly strange lecturer who lectured on “classroom management” who was a bit all over the place in terms of “this will work for sure but also it won’t work sometimes,” and who was probably having some kind of hot flash so asked us if he could turn the heater off and then stripped to his t-shirt which frequently rode up while he was gesturing and bared his belly or back to us. COME ON. Nobody wants that. He had a kind of full-of-himself attitude so he probably was thinking something like “oh, you’re welcome for that glorious gift” each time he felt a draft on his bared skin.

On the other hand there was also an absolutely fantastic lecture on “English Comprehension” by a lecturer named Charles Ko who spoke about how to make your English comprehensible to an EFL learner by stressing key words, pausing between units of thought, and other useful information that a native speaker with no background or training in teaching EFL would find difficult to consider or even come up with without some guidance.

We ended the day with our “Survival Korean” class. We played a game where we were shown photos of strange Korean things (for lack of a better phrase, excuse me) and we had to guess their name and use.

For example:


Though I knew what this was and its use, I couldn’t for the life of me remember its name. However, if you’re not Korean and haven’t lived here at all, you’d probably have no idea what this is, right?

It’s called a jook-boo-in, or 죽부인, which in English is “Bamboo Wife” and is used similarly to a body pillow. In the summer when it’s hot, instead of pulling your wife close to you for some bedtime snuggles, you can instead cuddle with one of these and fall asleep in cool peace.

The activity was a lot of fun and a good way to practice speaking in a natural way without feeling pressured to come up with topics on the spot, which is usually what happens to me when meeting with friends who tell me randomly to “speak Korean” without providing me with a topic of conversation….

Day 5

Field trip day. We were shuttled on a bus to a location about ten minutes away. Our class went to the Gongju National Museum first. What appeared to be a giant building housed only small exhibits; I was surprised to see that a lot of what was on display was replica and not original. However, I enjoy wandering museums and was able to have a few precious minutes to myself before colleagues caught up to me (and proceeded to zoom by).

We then boarded back up into the bus and shuttled to the Tomb of King Muryeong. A long long time ago the peninsula that is now South Korea as well as domain stretching up into the continent that is now North Korea, China, Manchuria, and Russia, was actually home to several different kingdoms. At the point in time that Muryeong was king there would have been Gogeoryeo in the north, Baekje in the west, Silla in the east and Gaya in the southeast. You may have heard of the “Three Kingdoms” of Korea because Gogeoryeo later became known as “Goryeo,” from which we get the name “Korea.”

Muryeong was the king of Baekje from 501-523. Baekje as a kingdom was very artistic and technologically advanced. They adopted and adapted Chinese style and custom into their art and tradition and Buddhism played a main role in its culture and art. The tomb of King Muryeong is one of the most intact royal tombs ever discovered  in Korea and was accidentally found during a draining of tombs 5 and 6 (out of the seven total) in 1971. While other tombs had been robbed during the Japanese occupation and otherwise damaged, the tomb of King Muryeong and his queen had been untouched since the bodies had been interred there in ~525 and is therefore effectively a time capsule. Literally thousands of artifacts  were found inside and since the tomb itself was intact much could be learned about Baekje tombs and both the parallels between and divergences from Yang Chinese style tombs made at the same time. From the tombs evidence of a new Korean style tomb could be found and a lot could be learnt about Baekje art and culture at the time.

While we couldn’t enter the tomb itself a replica tomb was available for exploration. We had a lovely tour guide as well for maximum educational value.

When we returned to the university, we had lunch and afterwards a series of “cultural activities.” First was craft time with Hanji, or Korean paper. Hanji is made out of mulberry tree fibre and is extremely strong. It can be made into an astounding variety of items including furniture such as stools and bookshelves. We didn’t aim that high with our craft, however, and settled for a prettily and traditionally decorated pencil case. The girl sitting next to me on the left, with whom I was sharing a bowl of paste, was incapable of waiting for directions from the teacher and kept grabbing all her pieces of hanji and trying to glue them on before we were given instructions, which was stressing me out. Then, one of the last pieces we had to put onto the pencil case was a circular piece of paper bearing a Korean traditional symbol. The girl on my right put it on before the instruction slide went onto the board showing rightway up, so she put it on sideways. Um. How can people expect to be teachers if they can’t even follow the directions of the teacher before them? Inquiring minds want to know.

After craft time we went upstairs to the auditorium. I knew this was Taekwondo hour and had previously joked about sitting it out (since we’d been informed that it was a voluntary activity), but when we entered the room and saw that not only was a taekowndo master in attendance but some of his students ranging from elementary to high school, I lost the will I had had to skip out. These kids are probably going to someday sit under the instruction of a teacher like me. I wouldn’t want to set an example for foreign teachers by being uninterested enough in a proud part of Korean culture to sit out. The kids had probably been excited to come here and interact with us as well. In other words, I’m a complete sucker for kids. I will go to great, great lengths to ensure they’re happy and comfortable, including making a complete fool out of myself.

Not many people know this unless they knew me back then but in middle and high school I actually played softball quite regularly. Thinking back, this is a mystery even to me. How did I survive that? Running laps? Throwing myself into harm’s way just to make an out? Weekends spent in 100+ degree weather being eaten alive by mosquitos in the outfield just for a tournamen

I’m just mentioning that as a fun fact because it actually has nothing to do with my athletic ability. Though I felt thoroughly self conscious and sufficiently ashamed when unable to do some of the jumps, my kicks weren’t half bad. I can admit that much. Actually, I will change that from a fun fact to a slightly relevant fact–even back in the day my hand-eye coordination was what allowed me to play centerfield in softball and occasionally score under par for certain holes on the golf course during my comical stint as a member of my high school’s JV golf team.

When taekwondo was over, I admit it, I was slightly sore. That should give you a clue as to how much muscle stretching / strenuous activity I engage in on a daily basis.

To end the day we had a section in our schedules labeled “networking time” which just turned out to be fancy talk for “get together with your lesson demo group.” I believe by this point we had actually already met once to do a basic overview of the lesson.

To make a long and somewhat painful story short(er), we butted heads. The lone New Zealander of our whole orientation group, who had been on the same bus as me going down from Incheon airport and who had spoken, loudly, the entire ride to the orientation venue, a few days earlier, was in my group and had a lot of ideas that I just didn’t agree with. And not just because of my personal teaching focuses, but because I thought she was straying a bit from the structure we’d just been taught to emulate. Throughout my entire history as a member of group projects, I always seem to be the only one to understand the rubric we’ll be graded on and to have any real aspirations of somehow adhering to it. So I get it, I can be overbearing and stubborn. But it’s for the grade entirely, and it’s not personal in any way. I feel most people my age would understand this. But I think I just rubbed Ms. New Zealand the wrong way. As I continued to counter her offers and disagree with her ideas she became more and more “whatever” and finally got up and told me, when I announced that I was going to do one last thing before heading to sleep, “well, if you have the energy to do that at this point that’s fine, but I…” and she left. Until then I hadn’t realized the meeting was over.

Our other group member was a somewhat timid but very nice Londoner who had never taught before. She would have an idea then second guess herself. I would tell her when I thought her idea fit with the outline but I would also tell her straight when I thought it would take too much time or would be repetitive or unnecessary. All in all I probably didn’t do wonders for her confidence level. But man just give me a task in which I have to earn a grade and it’s the grade on my mind, people. Not everything is about you.

Day 6

On day 6 we have another full day of lectures, including “Lesson Planning II” which takes place in a computer lab and which is actually more of a workshop in which the lecturer comes around and asks us all about our lesson plans and demo plans. We get a bill of clean health from him with some minor concerns about time management, but overall he likes how methodical the plan is in that each activity is building up to the last, which is free use of spontaneous English within the confine of an interview. My team members and I are working more smoothly together by now, as Ms. New Zealand has sort of taken a backseat in the lesson planning itself and has taken it upon herself to make graphics (using photoshop or whatever all that is) for all our handouts. I recognize the unfair distribution of work but I’m happy to do extra because it means that we’re going to perform to the rubric.

We have our last lecture on “Educational Magic,” in which a lecturer actually shows us how to use magic tricks in the classroom. However, some of his tricks are complete failures and his attitude is strange. When one of his tricks doesn’t work, he blames it on the audience volunteer. That completely turns me off to him. I find myself checking the time for the entire duration of the lesson.

We have our last Survival Korean class after dinner. Luggage ballerino has to teach the class by himself because our other teacher has to go take photos of the other classes. We play a group game of charades using phrases we’d learned last class about bodily symptoms to tell the doctor in case of illness. My Korean level is overall at a higher level than my teammates, but they choose me to be the first actor and there’s some difficulty guessing what I’m acting out. We come in last place. A tiff even occurs between two of my teammates because one of them didn’t pay attention and didn’t know how to play the game so lost us some valuable time and the other is annoyed about it.

We end the class by taking a series of group photos, some more flattering than others. I think it’s a shame that we’re only able to meet three times. To my surprise as I’m leaving the female teacher gives me a hug. I tell her I’ll live in Mapo-gu as she’s told the class she’ll move to Hongdae soon, and I ask if I can contact her later. I’m a part of the group on facebook so I ask if I could send her a message. She tells me I can go to the head office later and get her phone number, or facebook is okay. Since I don’t have a phone yet, I tell her I’ll contact her by facebook and am one of the first to leave the classroom.


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