Teaching English in Korea Part II

Are you prepared to teach Adult classes?

Teaching English in Korea Part II

Last post I talked about how to manage and teach younger learners (Kindergarteners and elementary school) and adolescent (middle school to high school) students. I outlined some common issues with young ESL learners and offered various solutions to deal with the issues.In this post we will explore how to properly prepare for Adult classes and various challenges you may face teaching adults in Korea.

 If you are a recent graduate of any discipline you can find work in South Korea. Oftentimes, you need little to no experience. While this may sound like a perfect opportunity, it has its own set of problems and concerns. 

As I mentioned above teachers coming to South Korea usually have very little experience teaching. They read the forums, and have communicated with recruiters, or even had telephone interviews (Skype interviews are becoming more and more the norm as well). This creates a lot of ignorance on what one can expect when coming to South Korea. First while you do not need teaching experience to legally work in South Korea, having a background in education is a very nice thing to have.  This post will focus on a few things you may encounter in an adult class, along with suggestions that will help you properly prepare and teach adult classes.

Common Challenges:

The most important thing to remember is that adult students are ‘Autonomous Learner’. An Autonomous Learner; by definition is “one who solves problems or develops new ideas through thinking and functions with minimal external guidance”.

Adults usually enroll in ESL classes on their own unlike younger students who are usually studying English because of their parents. They have various personal reasons for wanting to learn English. For example; they have an interview, they may be relocating to an English speaking country or they may need English for their job or traveling.

In general adults are a less forgiving audience than younger learners. They take their studies seriously and expect the teacher to do the same. So please remember to always prepare for your classes and try not to ‘wing it’. If you are unprepared, go off track or deviate, they notice unlike younger students.

Also adult students already have a basic set of skills from their earlier education. Therefore, they have a better idea of why, what and how they want to study English. They also have a greater desire to learn and are more serious about learning. Although this is good, it can create problems at times. Some adult students especially the older students may try to ‘call the shots’. Encouraging students to make suggestions and give their input from time to time is a good idea but sometimes what students need (real needs) and what they ‘think’ they need (perceived needs) may vary significantly. As a teacher you need to be in control of your classroom. Listen to your students needs and incorporate it in your lesson plan. Your students will appreciate it. Teaching adults require finding the right balance between real needs and perceived needs.

Adult students are very different today, they are more tech savvy. They often try hard to keep up with current events (this is especially true for business English classes). Unlike in the past today adult students are more assertive, and more driven to learn English. This means that one of the most basic things an new fresh ESL instructor can do is: be aware of current events. Trending issues should be something that you keep abreast of continually. Events that are directly related to Korea take precedence. Just like when you were back in your native country you were aware of things that were going on, so now that you are here keep abreast of the local news.

These discussions not only improve communication and comprehension skills, but can help your students develop a deeper understanding and awareness of what’s happening in this constantly changing, digitally connected global community.

Many adults students are very busy. They may be married or have full time jobs etc. Due to their busy schedule they usually do not have much time to study outside the classroom. They take their ‘English class time’ very seriously. As a teacher you should prepare lessons that can help your students get ‘more bang for their buck’. Use the class time effectively and productively. Choose topics that your students can relate to and speak about without hesitation. Give your students maximum time to speak and practice.

Adults in general are more self-conscious and shy compared to younger students. Older Korean students may be hesitant to speak because they are afraid of making mistakes and losing face. The challenge for you as a teacher is to put those fears to rest and to encourage your students to try and not be afraid of making mistakes.

Some adult learners feel that they are making minimal to no progress. This is part of the frustration that comes with learning a new language at a later stage in life. They may feel disappointed. In this case you have to be patient. Explain to them that as they learn more and gain more confidence they will improve. Encourage your students not to give up!

Have your students review and practice new words, phrases and expressions they learn in class. Repetition is key to learning new words and phrases so keep practicing new words and expressions regularly in class.

Another problem with some adults is that they are set in their ways. Adults also have a more rigid learning style and may not fully adapt to a non-Korean teaching style. One way to overcome this is by helping your students become more comfortable and familiar with you and the other classmates. People tend to speak more freely when they are relaxed and not intimidated by their surroundings. A good way to achieve this is to hang out with your students. Go out for dinner with your class. It usually helps the students to open up faster and will make things easier in class. Once they get to know you and are more comfortable around you they will participate more.

Use different approaches while teaching. Mix it up! Use multimedia, newspaper articles, video clips, English songs etc to teach English. If the class is exciting students will pay more attention and retain more. Some students may have specific needs. Take time out to get to know your students and what they require. Include it in your lesson. You will be surprised with the results!

Remember, things will improve just give it time. As you gain more experience you will be able to anticipate the needs of your students and come up with strategies to cater to their needs. All you require is time and patience.

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