Teaching in South Korea: What makes a good co-teacher?

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ESL Tate
I have been an ESL Teacher for more than 15 years and a Teacher trainer for the last three. Now I help new teachers start their journey traveling and teaching English abroad.
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Do you have a good co-teacher?

When you’re teaching in South Korea, your co-teacher is your lifeline. If you have a good co-teacher and you have a good relationship with them, your time in Korea will be fantastic. I am not saying it wouldn’t be without them but believe when I say it will be a lot less fun because your co-teacher, if they are not satisfied with your effort, can make you do pretty much whatever they want.

good co-teacher

They can make you attend events such as English contests that your students are not even participating in. They can ask you (in a way that you almost have to say yes to not look bad) to stay after school for extra lessons for your students. They can make you do lesson plans all by yourself and then when you turn them in they will say you did them wrong. In simplicity, they can make your life in Korea a lot more stressful than it needs to be. But enough about what your co-teacher can do to ruin your day and let’s get back to the real question.

What makes a good co-teacher?

I want to use my co-teacher as an example because I am very lucky to have her.

    • She always answers her phone

It seems like I needed my co-teacher for everything when I arrived in Korea. But that’s just the way things are because a lot of people don’t speak English that well to fully understand what a foreigner is saying. So I would call my co-teacher and viola, not only would she offer to come to where I was to help, she would help translate everything then when it’s all set and done, she would call me again to make sure I was happy with the results. I guess what I am saying is that, a good co-teacher is always helpful in any way they can.

    • She is understanding

She understands that I am a foreigner in Korea and as a result makes her best effort to make sure I am having a good time even when I am not in school. I really appreciate this quality about of my co-teacher. In return, I make sure whenever she needs me to correct something, talk to her for 30 minutes or so over coffee because she is a little self-conscious about her English and always wants to improve, I make sure I am there; let me say that again, I make sure I am there. She doesn’t ask for much; in fact, she only asks that I give my best effort. But since I am somewhat a perfectionist, I give more than the best effort of course. At the end of the day as long as she is happy, I am happy.

Everything is a give and take. And relationships are like that too. Thus one cannot be giving more than the other because when that imbalance happens, one side is not happy and problems fester.

    • She makes fun of me

I know this one is strange but I know why she makes fun of me. She likes me, or maybe she just likes making fun of me. In either case, we have a good time because I can make fun of her too and we laugh about it. Plus isn’t it true that when people make fun of you they like you? Well, I will keep telling myself that.

What I am saying is that, She is easy going in a very good way. Because of that, we have good chemistry and when we teacher together, we are unstoppable. The kids are entranced by like uncouth and crazy methods and they are bound by her strict yet approachable demeanor. She makes teaching fun.

    • She is passionate about teaching

She enjoys what she does and so does I. Everywhere I go with her it seems we always meet one of her past students and she is always so happy to see them and so are they to see them.

My co-teacher loves the English language. She struggles with it, she tries again, she gets me to help and we work through it together but one thing is certain, she never gives up and she passes on that tenacity to the students.

    • She is positive

She always tries to see the good even in a grim situation. When two girls got in a fight and she stormed down the hall to stop although she was upset with them and punished them, she went and gave them drinks as they stood outside in punishment then she turns to me and says, at least they didn’t poke each other’s eyes out. That day I promise I saw an S on her back.

    • She keeps me in the know

She does a very good job of letting me know when things are coming or what I need to turn in. I really appreciate this because one of the most frustrating things about teaching in Korea is not been kept in the loop and you have to scramble in the last minute to do something you could have done a week ago if you were told.

Good To Read: Expat in Korea: 6 Ways to Deal with the Communication Problem

Since we talk often and use messenger in the office to communicate when our offices changed, she does a good job of messaging me about a meeting or paperwork or student correction papers I need to pick up and when I need to give them back to the students. This is perhaps the most important thing a good teacher can do for you as a foreign teacher.

There are many qualities that make a good co-teacher. It will depend on your needs and personality to find a good balance with your co-teacher. But if you put in the effort to have a good relationship with them, like buying two coffees instead of one or just making a little time for them in your busy schedule, it goes a long way.

I was lucky to be paired with a wonderful lady who not only does her job but helps me do mine and more as well.

Co-teachers are the most important link we have with the rest of the staff in Korea so it is important that you have a good relationship with yours. Mine is great and that’s why I use her as a good example of a co-teacher. What is your co-teacher like?

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