The Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) program is a national program sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Education. Accepted applicants are called TaLK scholars, and they are placed in a rural area of South Korea to teach after school English classes in an elementary school. Scholars teach a minimum of 15-hours a week in their local elementary school. The program recruits scholars from one of the seven major English-speaking countries – Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States.
TaLK scholars are given an educational scholarship to travel around Korea for either a six-month or one-year contract. Scholars teach in rural areas in order to support and improve the public elementary school educational system and boost English levels within the province. The program provides several benefits to ensure a comfortable living experience such as health insurance coverage, paid accommodations, round trip flight ticket allowance, and cultural experience field trips.
TaLK provides a three-week intensive orientation to teach new scholars various skills that are essential for teaching and living in Korea. The orientation comprised of workshops to develop skills in lesson planning and classroom management. Guest speakers are also on the agenda to impart survival tips for living in Korea, while past scholars are able to share their TaLK experiences. The orientation is a great learning environment as all of the new scholars develop a sense of camaraderie through learning together, building new connections and relationships, and exploring the many sides of Korea such as food, language, traditional music, and culture.
Hancheon Elementary School
I taught at Hancheon Elementary School. This school is a small school comprising of a total of 51 students from Kindergarten to the 6th Grade. It is located in the outskirts of town in the city of Hwasun-gun, which is a one hour bus ride away from the metropolitan city of Gwangju in the Jeollanam-do Province, which is where I lived.
TaLK Scholar Responsibilities & Work Term Stories
As a TaLK scholar, I was responsible for after school English classes. I also supported and supplemented the English curriculum classes by aiding the official English curriculum teacher through my after school class lessons. I prepared weekly lesson plans, teaching materials, and fun educational activities for my classes. I often tried to incorporate Western and Canadian culture to present another perspective to the students. For example, Peanut Butter and Jelly (PB&J) sandwiches and Easter Egg Hunts were some of the things I introduced to the students. These were a great hit, as it was something new and interesting. Sharing different perspectives to the students enabled them to learn about other countries and people.
Sticker Chart System
At the beginning of my work term, I established a class management system in the form of a Sticker Chart. The idea behind this was for students to receive stickers for class participation, attendance, and good behavior. The students could then exchange a certain number of stickers for a bag of goodies such as candy, a toy, or school supplies. In order to control and manage the class in a fun environment, I gave each class three chances to behave, and if they used up all three chances then every student in class would loose one sticker. The system was set up so that everyone was responsible for each other.
The Sticker Chart system worked for the most part because Korean culture is very hierarchal. The younger generation tended to be acquiescent and respectful towards the older generation. Hence, the sticker chart system was very effective with mixed classes, especially with my Grades 3 and 4 mix class where I have seven very energetic Grade 3 boys and nine disciplined Grade 4 girls.
Peanut Butter Jelly Time
Incorporating Western culture in my English classes was something I tried to do to educate the students about the outside world. One of the things I did was teach a lesson on foods and made PB&J sandwiches. The classic PB&J sandwich was a hit amongst everyone, from Kindergarten to Grade 6. The students munched on their delicious PB&Js while listening to the very catchy Peanut Butter Jelly Time song. The students asked for the song to be played repeatedly throughout the class. After that lesson, I even heard some students singing the tune in the hallways.
Easter Egg Hunt
Easter is celebrated very differently in Korea compared to how it is celebrated in Canada. In Canada, Easter is a public holiday, children play Easter egg hunt games, and they receive chocolate eggs in the form of Kinder Surprise eggs or Cadbury Mini Eggs. In Korea, they do not consider Easter a public holiday, but they do celebrate it by giving boiled eggs to one another. The difference between the two countries is quite interesting, so I designed a lesson plan about Canadian Easter. I had students hunt for paper eggs around the school grounds and then they exchanged them for some chocolates. The students really enjoyed the competitive hunt for eggs because an additional prize was given to the student who found the most eggs. The students found the concept of egg hunts quite fun, especially when they would receive chocolate.
My work term has sadly reached its end. The six -month contract was too short for my liking but I must continue on with my studies. I am sad to leave Korea as I greatly enjoyed my time with the school and the country itself. I have learned so much about myself and I have become more knowledgeable about Korea’s unique culture, language, music, and people. Living abroad has broadened my perspective not just about Korea but also about many countries, as I have met people from around the world during my co-op. The time I spent in Korea was priceless. I would recommend the TaLK program to anyone who wants to gain invaluable cultural experience and knowledge.
Beyond the Blog
Visit the International Co-op website to learn more about opportunities like Corina's.