▲ Participants in the TALK program orientation in February. Photo courtesy TALK
While it is generally understood that legal jobs teaching English in Korea are available only to those who hold college degrees, that positions are full-time and that all contracts are for one year, the TALK Program run by the Korean Department of Education disproves all these assumptions. The program offers six-month contracts for part-time work teaching English in rural schools, with no diploma required. The short-term contracts mean that twice a year a new crop of TALK teachers arrive fresh-faced, enthusiastic and nervous about their new assignments. The TALK Orientation Program utilizes the experience and wisdom of long-term teachers to share their knowledge with the new recruits. For the latest intake of teachers on Jeju Island, the program lasted one week and began on Feb. 22.
Any hagwon teacher who has been thrown into a classroom after 30 hours or more on planes and in airports and told, “You’re a teacher. Just teach!” would envy the extensive and helpful orientation process for TALK teachers. The orientation included talks from residents of the island, both foreign and Korean, on a variety of topics. These were designed to help the teachers slot into life on Jeju Island, develop materials for the classroom, maintain control of students, make learning fun and effective and build good relation-ships with their Korean co-teachers. The 30 incoming teachers seemed to appreciate the efforts to help them ease into Jeju life.
On the opening day of the program, Jeju National University lecturer Jenie Hahn gave an extensive introduction to the myths and legends of Jeju. It was enlightening to both the Koreans in the audience and the foreign teachers from all over the world. The stories behind the sites of Jeju are rarely translated into English on signs at the tourist destinations, so the lecture prepared the listeners for when they set out to explore. The TALK program includes tours and activities once or twice each week to allow participants to enjoy the breadth of Jeju’s culture and beauty.
Long-term teacher Jessie Dishaw covered the social and sports activities and clubs on the island. She illuminated the fun places to hang out, where to meet other English speakers, and the variety of local groups the newcomers could join. She also discussed culture shock and how to be a polite and attentive guest while in Korea.
Josh Hutchison, a TALK teacher from Canada, was signing up for his second term. He said the benefits of the program, which include short working hours, hosted activities and the short contract, were attractive to foreign teachers. It is possible to extend for up to two years on the TALK program and he may do just that. “I'm having a good time,” he said.
The director of the program, Kang Seung Tae, said that the Korean government started the program as a way to help so-called Gyopo, second- and third-generation Koreans raised in other countries. The government wanted a way for them to come to Korea and work, and visit where their families are from. It also wanted to help support Korean families overseas. That was several years ago and the program has never attracted enough Gyopo to fill all the positions, so the remaining slots are open to people from all over the world.
Some TALK teachers stay with Korean families and many seemed interested in learning the Korean language. Although the program may not have attracted the teachers it first targeted, those who are here seem to be excited and ready to enjoy all Jeju has to offer while teaching their students well.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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