Teaching Kindergarten in Korea – my words of wisdom

Teaching Kindergarten is possibly the most exhausting thing you can do. My school teaches Korean age 3 to Korean age 7 and after 4 years, I almost don’t know what silence is. Between the crying, the talking, the shouting, the laughing, the sheer activity, it’s always go, go, go.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years*;

1. K.I.S.S.- Keep it simple, stupid!

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It’s a marathon, not a race. Set small goals for every class and work on simple things. Use the same words and phrases until they can use them correctly and then change it up. Little by little, they’ll make great progress and enjoy doing so because they won’t be under preassure.

2. It’s all about being organised.

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They might only be 6 but they will eat you alive if you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to know what lesson you’re giving, what games you’ll play, what songs you’ll sing and you have to have all your materials walking in the door.
If you’re new to teaching, make a lesson plan and follow it.
Also, have lots of activities ready. They have zero attention span so changing lots is the key.
3. Have a routine.
Try to structure your classes the same so that the students know what to expect. Have a proper introduction, main class and conclusion.
Introduction is probably the most challenging. How do you get them to sit down, stay quiet and listen? You can try a few chants;
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My personal favourite is “what sound does sh make? sh sh sh”
Once they’re sitting quietly, do your hello song and things like day, date weather, basic things to get them concentrating.. There are loads of Hello songs on youtube. Choose two or three so that they don’t get bored singing the same song every day. Make sure to have actions so that they have something to do.  I sing the theme tune to Happy Days for days of the week and although they claim to hate it, they can all sing it.
4. Be familiar with what is expected in terms of discipline.
Korea is so sensitive when it comes to disciplining children.  Every school should have guidelines on what to do if a child is unruly. Whatever you do, follow up on threats, don’t make idle promises. If you give them three warnings, outline in advance what the consequences will be and sometimes positive reinforcement works. For example, I have a little boy who is a bit energetic in class. At first, I went for being cross with him but after a while I literally showered him with love. Every little thing he did well, I praised him to the high heavens. Now he’s one of my best. Doesn’t always work, but something to think about.
5. Always shake it up a bit.
Every few weeks, do something different. Sing a new hello song or introduce new chants, make up new games or whatever. It keeps the students interested and keeps you from getting bored.
6. Games will save you……..so will props
Students LOVE to play games. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and anything you call a game is a game.
Some games I use;
Matching game (flashcards)
Find the card (flashcards)
Spell the word ( board and a marker race)
Ball games like Donkey
Fly swatters (beating the words that I call out)
Hangman
Scrabble letter games
Musical words (dance around until the music stops and then find the word I call out)
Sorting games
Dice games (throw a 6 means name 6 words of a category)
Props are also a great way of gaining interest in what you’re doing. Just putting flashcards in a container and making a big fuss of opening it is all they need to pay attention.
7. Knowing that your plan will always go out the window when you step into the classroom.
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No matter how great you are, something always happens that throws your plan off. A child gets sick on the desk, pees on the floor, a fight happens, whatever. Just go with the flow in the most organised fashion possible and if all goes to all, every child LOVES to draw a picture!
If you have any questions about anything, just let me know!
* All opinions are mine. I’m in no way an expert on teaching, these are just some things I’ve learned!

5 things I’ve learned from 5 years in Korea

It’s been five years since I first stepped off the plane in Incheon but in reality, I can recall the details of that day like it were yesterday. I remember the intensity of the heat, the terror of being driven on the “wrong” side, the clothes I was wearing, everything. When I look back now, I can see how my experience here has molded me into the person I am now, how Korea has challenged me to think differently and how the people I’ve met have influenced my thinking in a new way.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way;

1. People will always be people, no matter where they’re from. When you travel, you become aware of how different nationalities have stereotypes, the Irish like to drink, Americans are loud and annoying etc. Living in Korea, you meet people from many different countries around the world.  Stereotypes don’t hold with individuals. Not every Irish person likes to drink, not every American is loud. Every country has the  energetic, hard working, beautiful individuals as well as the annoying, rude jerks.

2. You can always find help. Moving to a new country, on your own is a daunting task. You consistently think in “What if’s”. What if I get sick? What if I get hurt? What if, what if, what if. I have a friend who just spent a month in Cambodia, alone for 3 weeks of that. During those 3 weeks, a family member died in her home country and she fainted after catching her finger in the hostel door. During these trying times, it was the kindness of strangers that got her through. It’s the same living here. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve injured myself or gotten lost or needed some form of help and despite the fact that at the beginning my Korean wasn’t great, I have always received help.

I should also point out that your friends are your family here. I’ve seen so many situations where a group of friends have rallied around to help someone who they possibly met only a few months earlier. A good, core group of friends can never be underestimated.

3. You can become the person you want to be, not the person society dictates you should be.  When you live in your home country, there is a certain pressure to live the life that the society dictates for you. Moving to a new country changes that. You start from scratch. New job, new apartment, new life, new friends and new you. Nobody knows you, nobody has expectations of you and it’s up to you to do a much or as little with that as you want.

4. Comparisons are not worth it. It’s swings and roundabouts.  I have a certain life in Korea. For me, it’s a great life. I travel a few times a year, I have been fortunate to meet great people and have great opportunities given to me. Then, I hear about some friend or other back home who just got married or had a baby or built a house and I can’t help but compare our lives. But, comparisons are useless because our lives our different. There’s no life better or worse than the next, they’re just different. I gave up my life in Ireland for my life in Korea and yes I’ve given up certain things but I’ve gained others so it’s all swings and roundabouts.

5. You find yourself capable of so much more than you thought possible. When you move abroad, you’re on your own.  At the beginning, so many things catch you. The first time I got an electricity bill in Korea, I had no idea what to do with it. I didn’t know how often it came, where to pay it, nothing.Something so simple that I wouldn’t give two seconds thought to in Ireland

It’s the same with language and making a life for yourself. Being forced into a situation makes you think differently and react differently to situations and you become a more mature, capable version of yourself. Five years ago, when I landed in Incheon, I would never have thought that I’d be capable of being the chair of the Irish Association in Korea, but I am. A positive consequence of  living and travelling in Asia is that it has forced me to use every skill I possess get by.

 

My first weekend in Korea……

 

1st weekend

 

Me these days………..

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