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One of my co-teachers doesn't speak English
« on: July 09, 2019, 12:59:29 pm »
As the title says.  One of my co-teachers (3rd grade, elementary) doesn't speak English. She is a very kind person, but communication has been a big issue this semester.

Has anyone ever encountered this issue? How did you handle it? At this point, I've kinda just gone with the flow of things.

At the beginning of the semester, we sat down and I asked her what my role was to be in the classroom. She said that she would lead for the first three weeks to show me how she conducts the classes, and from then on I would lead everything. Fair.

She conducts her classes in 95% Korean. When the school year started, unlike other co-teachers, she didn't set out classroom rules. There's no reward system in place. Students are freely walking around the classroom, standing on their chairs, and not paying attention. She doesn't use the textbook, and says it's too low of a level for the students. Some classes, we played Hangman for 40 minutes straight. Come two weeks later, I start leading the lessons. I would send my lesson plans to her a few days in advance. When I arrived to those classes, she would have other games/lessons prepared. I would start teaching, and then the class would gradually shift back to her.

About a month into the semester, I asked her what she would like planned for next week's lesson. She insisted that she would plan the lesson, and I agreed. One week later, we arrive to class and she asked what I planned. Alright. Again, she insisted she would plan the next lesson. So on and so forth that we're now at the end of the semester. Every week I have pitched ideas/stories to tell the class. Each has been read on the messenger but with no reply. Plus, we can't discuss it in person because of the language barrier.

Essentially, when I'm in classes, I stand to the side. When we're doing activities and I try to go to help the students, they look up at me and turn away. If I'm ever to lead a part of the class, the students look at the Korean teacher and demand a translation immediately. I hate to use the word, but I dread going to these classes. Again, these lessons are 95% Korean.

As I've said before, I've sat down with her to discuss lesson plans and have given her ideas for lessons when she requests. All to no avail. Communication has been a big issue and I'm looking for advice so that the next semester (perhaps) will go a lil' more smoothly.


  • LIC
  • Super Waygook

    • 352

    • February 15, 2019, 04:39:00 pm
    • NE Hemisphere
Re: One of my co-teachers doesn't speak English
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2019, 02:45:23 pm »
Ride the wave man. Let the CT do all the work and you stand around looking handsome.



  • isitts
  • Explorer

    • 6

    • June 18, 2013, 02:53:00 pm
Re: One of my co-teachers doesn't speak English
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2019, 03:11:27 pm »
This is fairly similar to how one of my co-teaching experiences went as well. It eventually got better. It's possible she's just a little nervous to work with you. In my case, I was the first foreign teacher the school had had. So there wasn't that level of comfort that other teachers had who'd worked with foreign teachers before.

Ultimately, the more you can get along with her, the more likely you'll be able to contribute more in the classroom. She probably doesn't want to become irrelevant in her own classroom...and she shouldn't have to be. With my teacher, we eventually discussed what part of the lesson she would do and what part I would do. But it kind  of happened on its own.

That said, it's possible things won't change for you and you'll have to get used to this. But, since she had given you opportunities to lead the class, I think there is hope. Maybe just have lessons created in case she does give you future opportunities.


Re: One of my co-teachers doesn't speak English
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2019, 08:20:06 am »
You are not really in the classroom to teach. You are there to assist the Korean co-teacher. If she thinks you are best suited to stand there and do nothing then smile politely and do it. Don't take it personally. You could be a well qualified teacher with degrees coming out of your backside but we are in a system that operates without much foresight. I have been here about 5 years now and have had all sorts of different classroom environments.  I have had classrooms where I do everything and I have had other classes where the K- teacher does everything and all in between.  Do the best that you can do but as long as your coworkers treat you in a respectful way I wouldn't worry about any of the things that you have described. I'm guessing this is your first year in Korea?


  • bb459
  • Veteran

    • 125

    • March 02, 2019, 06:19:42 pm
    • South Korea
Re: One of my co-teachers doesn't speak English
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2019, 12:43:25 pm »
None of my co-teachers speak English. not a single one.
Get the app called  "Line"
have your co teacher get it too
there is an English translator "contact" you add as a contact.
you add that translator as a 3rd "person" in the group chat

when you text in English it will show up for your co teacher in korean
when your co teacher texts you in Korean it will show up for you in english

it helps


  • Aristocrat
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1843

    • November 10, 2014, 01:04:27 pm
Re: One of my co-teachers doesn't speak English
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2019, 02:26:46 pm »
Ride the wave man. Let the CT do all the work and you stand around looking handsome.



Not judging, but not everyone can handle this arrangement. Years ago, at a school I used to teach at, the CT had this arrangement. I'd sit back and let her go on, in Korean, waiting for the 2min of the lesson where I'd be called up to be a tape recorder... it felt incredibly demeaning and depressing. Fortunately, her open class came and the VP was less than thrilled with what he saw and I was given the reigns.

Here's some problems I've identified in your current arrangement and some ideas on how to fix them:

Problem/issue

- Your CT is terrified of losing face in front of her students by revealing her lack of English ability
  she'll go to great lengths to ensure that she's not put in a position to speak English, that
  includes teaching with you.

- I see this all the time, with HR teachers; by hiding the fact that the students are incredibly weak
  at English, thanks to her incompetence, it's less likely to draw attention, find it's way back to her
  and ruin her reputation.

- Related to the above point, her English is so bad that she doesn't even feel confident teaching
  the textbook, hence it's "too easy". It's a classic move by Korean elementary teachers.
  Remember, elementary school teachers are required to be able to teach in every subject and
  after years of useless English education at university and cheating through English tests, it's
  finally caught up. She likely majored to teach a different subject, but the VP and principal in
  their infinite wisdom, thought it best to make a Science teacher teach English.
  Typically, most Korean teaches simply pray and hope that they don't land up teaching English
  instead of actually making an effort to improve their English in preparation for the time that
  they might be called on to do it.

- Even a person who studied English for a day could do a lesson on hangman.

- The students are feeding off her nervous energy. The CT models that it's ok to avoid you and
  the students are simply following along.

Solution

- Split the periods into 2 X 20min classes and ask her to leave the room during your teaching
  time and you can leave the room during hers... As far as I can tell, this is the only arrangement
  to work with. Her English and/or confidence isn't going to improve overnight to the point that
  you can work effectively together.

- Keep things structured, the students will be nervous working with a new teacher and a
  predictable structure gives them a sense of security.

- Be consistent with your routine, rules and discipline

- Over time, they'll see you as an authority figure.

SuperDoodle23 claims we're not in the class to teach. I strongly disagree with this. Our contracts are ambiguous, meaning in reality, it comes down to what you allow yourself to become.

If you're happy flying across the world to be nothing more than a glorified caddie, then that's exactly what you'll become and what your co-workers will recognise you as. If you actively resist this position, put in effort and demonstrate competence and responsibility, nobody will question  your ability or role as the lead teacher in the class.


Re: One of my co-teachers doesn't speak English
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2019, 03:35:32 pm »
Our contracts are NOT ambiguous in any way. We are here to ASSIST the Korean teachers with their classes. We are not even supposed to be alone in the classroom with the students. Asking her to leave the classroom is probably not going to go over well at all.If the OP tries to run the show and if the Korean teacher feels threatened then the Korean teacher is going to demonstrate the pecking order to him really fast.


  • Aristocrat
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1843

    • November 10, 2014, 01:04:27 pm
Re: One of my co-teachers doesn't speak English
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2019, 05:31:42 pm »
Our contracts are NOT ambiguous in any way. We are here to ASSIST the Korean teachers with their classes. We are not even supposed to be alone in the classroom with the students. Asking her to leave the classroom is probably not going to go over well at all.If the OP tries to run the show and if the Korean teacher feels threatened then the Korean teacher is going to demonstrate the pecking order to him really fast.

Been "running the show" in every one of my classes and at every one of my schools for 4yrs, if anything my CTs are the assistants with occasional translating, keeping an eye on the class and helping the weaker students who can't keep up with the pace of the rest of the students. I've yet to witness anyone show me the pecking order. Korean teachers are also NOT meant to use Korean when teaching English, I've taught at a school were the only time I saw my CT was during lunch. After 5yrs, you should know that contracts don't really mean anything inside the classroom. If you want to keep your CT and your school happy, here's the secret:

MAKE THEIR LIVES EASIER, NOT MORE STRESSFUL

OP, my advice; talk to her in private and suggest splitting the lesson. Every teacher I've done this with has admitted to being weak in English and expressed nothing but relief after splitting the class. You split the class and bingo! Your CTs 40min lesson just became 20min and since you're not present during her "lessons", she can confidently teach "Itsu orn dah tehbooru" without fear of you correcting her in front of her students.


Re: One of my co-teachers doesn't speak English
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2019, 11:05:53 am »
"Itsu orn dah tehbooru"
Hahahaha. God that's funny