Dear New EPIK Teachers

Dear New EPIK Teachers,

I think a lot of you will be walking into your schools to work for the first time on Monday. It wasn’t all that long ago that I did the same exact thing and to be perfectly honest I’ll be walking into school again on Monday with my own set or worries and concerns. Those things don’t go away, they just change shape.

Teaching isn’t something that you can ever really be prepared for. It’s a career built on human interaction and if there’s one thing in this world that you can never predict, it’s if a group of 35 middle schoolers are going to think something is cool or not. Kids are kids no matter what country you’re in so trust me even the teachers that have been doing this forever, even the Korean teachers at your school, will have similar worries and difficulties.

But walk into work on Monday knowing that you also have a lot to offer them. In some ways there are definitely advantages to being the foreign teacher. The kids will want to like you right off the bat. That’s huge! They will be curious about you and in the moments where they actually realize that you’re a human just like them there will be incredible opportunities for learning far beyond what the job description of “English teacher” might seem to entail.

Each of your situations will be vastly different and in the weeks and months to follow, meeting up with your friends to hear stories of the crazy things that happen at school will be what keeps you going through the hard moments. But for every hard thing, trust me, you will have so many funny and amazing stories to bring to the table at the end of every week.

If I could encourage you with two things it would be this.

The first, if you want to avoid walking into school with hundreds of children gawking at you on the first day, maybe get to school about a half hour early. That’ll save you a lot of discomfort. I wish I’d done that.

Second, don’t worry. Mind blowing I know. I bet you’ve never heard that before. But give me a chance here.

Don’t worry about the teaching part. Do your best, always try to improve upon your lessons, and they will get better. That’s how it works, no one is making life changing content for their kids right from the start. And none of your co-teachers will expect you to either.

Don’t worry about the kids. There will be some who push you but thankfully the overwhelming majority are truly lovely. Never in my life did I think I would love a group of 700 12-16 year olds as much as I do. The little ones will be over the moon for even just the littlest bit of attention and doting and the big ones will respond to mutual respect in a way that let’s us make relationships that I know will last after they graduate in February. The kids are the best part of this entire experience hands down. Don’t worry about them for one second.

Don’t worry about your hard classes. Yes there will be hard classes, and yes sometimes you will be left to fend for yourself. But please please please remember that it is not always a reflection of you. 99% of the time the Korean teachers are struggling with the exact same classes and students. My first year our grade three classes were like something out of a “first year teacher’s worst case scenarios” horror movie. But once I realized that the entire school, the teachers, administration, younger students, parents, everyone knew how bad they were, it made the job so much easier. You’re not alone in your struggles at school.

Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry. Let that be your mantra through these first few months. It will get easier I promise. This job is so many things but it is never boring. Love your students well, try to plan lessons that they will encourage them to see English as a fun tool that let’s them communicate with you and let all the hard stuff roll off you back.

Good luck on the first day! If any of you guys are reading this please comment below how the first day goes I’d love to hear your stories!!

Thanks as always for reading, I hope this finds you well!

2 thoughts on “Dear New EPIK Teachers

  1. Very well written! I miss my kids so much 😦 No matter how bad of a day I was having in Korea, my kids could always make me smile. Even the troublemakers.
    And just remember that EVERY teacher has started with little to no experience at some point in their life. They understand that it takes time to figure everything out. And a lot of the Korean teachers are super understanding of how hard it is for a foreigner to adjust to a new culture.

    Like

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