Interview With Brett Mandel, An American Teacher In South Korea
Brett Mandel has been teaching English with the EPIK program in South Korea. Here, he shares with us his experiences to date.
Thanks for joining us, Brett. Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Brett Mandel and I am an English native teaching English with EPIK in Gyeongju (경주), Gyeongsangbuk, South Korea. I just finished obtaining my teaching degree from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana to become a high school history teacher, and this is my first teaching job.
How have you enjoyed teaching in South Korea to date?
So far, my experiences teaching English in Korea have been absolutely phenomenal. I have been placed at two schools: Mohwa Elementary School (모화초등학교) and Youngji Elementary School (영지초등학교). I teach students from 1st grade to 6th grade, utilizing the course textbooks while implementing a variety of different games and activities to help students enjoy learning the materials. At both of my schools the students and teachers have been extremely welcoming and helpful should I have any questions. While I have only been teaching here for three months, I am already considering signing a second year to my contract.
What advice can you give to new teachers interested in teaching in South Korea?
There are a few pieces of advice that I would like to give to teachers interested in this program (or any program in South Korea):
– I know the application process can be rigorous. Stay on top of everything and stay organized.
– Learn a bit of the Korean language. I was fortunate to have some Korean survival lessons at the EPIK orientation, and am now able to say a few important things (such as hello/goodbye, ordering food, taking taxis, numbers, etc.)
– If your program has an orientation, make a lot of friends. If not, get out there and meet people! Most cities have Facebook groups for foreign teachers, and through this and my orientation, I was able to create groups of friends in different cities.
– Stay on top of everything and stay organized. Yeah, I’ll say it twice. It’s pretty important.
Can you tell us about a particularly powerful moment in your classroom?
During one of the fist weeks of school, I played a whiteboard game with my 2nd grade class at Youngji Elementary School. In order to win, students needed to work their way across the board, reciting the vocabulary words associated with a picture. When the two teams met in the middle, they played a game of rock, paper, scissors where the winner continued and the loser had to start over at their side of the board.
I thought the game went over alright, but later my co-teacher sent me a video of my students playing the game during their recess. They had drawn the pictures on the board themselves and were actually practicing English outside of their class time.
What are the positive and negative aspects of living in South Korea?
As for positives, I feel that this job is very well paying while not being all too demanding. I have not had to do too much work outside of school as I can get the mass majority of my planning done in school. If you like to travel, you will have ample opportunities to do so, and for the most part, the community is extremely welcoming.
As for negatives, be ready to get some looks while walking on the street, especially if you live in a smaller town or in a rural area. Another thing that I haven’t gotten used to is being on “Korea time”. What this means is that you may have your entire schedule changed one day, and find out 5 minutes before your first class starts. Just this week, my friend had to give a 10 minute speech to her coworkers on 5 minutes notice. Also, if you like good beer and whiskey like I do, you’re not going to be able to find what you want.
Have you had the opportunity to travel much in South Korea or in Asia?
Overall, I absolutely love my schools. The faculty always makes me feel welcome and the students put a smile on my face regardless of what mood I’m in.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
If you have any questions while going through the application process, do not hesitate to contact John Kellenberger. He helped me tremendously throughout my process.
Do you have any favorite blogs or websites about South Korea that you’d like to share with our readers?
Waygook have lessons and materials for every chapter of almost every book, as well as a lot of different materials for classes that do not follow a textbook.