Korea Epik Essay

Before I break down the EPIK Application process, if you are genuinely interested about teaching English in Korea through EPIK, I strongly advise you to check out the EPIK website:

http://www.epik.go.kr/index.do

All the information you need is there including information on the job eligibility, description, forms required, documents required and the entire procedure in applying for EPIK.

EPIK applications are open twice a year – the Spring term positions start in February and the Fall term positions start in August. EPIK begins accepting applications approximately 6 months before the start date. I would recommend you to start preparing your application at least 3 monthsbefore the date that EPIK begins accepting applications.

For example, I wanted to start teaching in South Korea in August 2014. EPIK began accepting applications in February 2014 and I began preparing my application in December 2013.

The initial application process involves sending your completed National EPIK Application Form to epikapplication@gmail.com by email with an attached photo and 2 scanned letters of recommendation. As I was hoping to be considered for a position in Seoul I also had to submit a completed Seoul Attachment Form. All application forms can be downloaded from the EPIK website.

When preparing for this first stage of the application process, you should definitely spend more time drafting your personal essay and lesson plan.

Personal Essay

The personal essay should between 500 – 800 words and address your ability to succeed as an ESL teacher in a public school in Korea. This section will be assessed by EPIK on your content, form, grammar and style.

In particular, EPIK is interested in 3 things:

1)    Your reasons for wanting to teach ESL in Korea

This is an easy issue to address. Simply ask yourself – what is your motivation behind wanting to teach English in Korea. Be frank with yourself but at the same time don’t simply write about how much you love Kpop. As discussed in my previous post, your overarching consideration should be why you want to teach.

Personally, I discussed my love for mentoring children and being able to share my passion for learning with others. I also discussed my fascination with the Korean culture.

2)    Your teaching philosophy

I found this issue difficult to address as I am not a teacher and have no experience in teaching. However, I drew on my previous work experience as caregiver for children with disabilities and discussed how that experience has shaped my teaching philosophy and method.

If you are in a similar position as me, simply reflect back on any work experiences or courses you have participated in which have involved you passing your knowledge onto others and talk about how that may have shaped your teaching philosophy.

If you have no such experience at all, a few suggested questions you could consider are:

  • What are your attitudes, values and belief about teaching and learning?
  • How would you like the students in your class to behave?
  • What would you like the atmosphere of your classroom to be like?
  • What methodology would you employ to foster the ideal atmosphere in your classroom?
  • How do you intend to engage the students?

3)    Your thoughts on encountering cultural differences

I spoke about how encountering cultural differences are inescapable and gave examples. I also discussed that being aware of cultural differences can go a long way in establishing your teaching style and maximising teaching and learning satisfaction.

Whilst I was a bit stumped on this section, in hindsight there were lots of others things I could have address. For example, I could of discussed instances where I have previously encountered cultural differences, how I addressed my previous experience with encountering cultural differences and how appreciating cultural differences may assist in building a stronger relationship with your co-teacher or diminish homesickness.

This is a personal essay so be honest with yourself when completing this section. Whilst there are no right or wrong answers think deeply as to whether the content in your personal essay are in line with the values or goals of the EPIK Program.

Lesson Plan

The lesson plan portion of your application is difficult if you have no teaching experience. At the time I was preparing my EPIK application, I had never even drafted a lesson plan before and initially relied on “Google” to give me some general understanding of how to prepare a lesson plan.

Coincidently, I was also half way through my online TEFL/TESOL course and happened to reach the topic about lesson plans which was a lot of help.

EPIK also provides a template and thorough information on how to prepare a lesson plan in their information booklet which can be found on their website.

TIPS on preparing your lesson plan:

1)     To begin with you should consider the unit title (theme) you wish to teach. For example weather, sports, countries etc.

My lesson plan was on the topic “animal body parts”. I initially wanted to prepare a lesson plan around the topic “animals” but as I began to draft the steps and procedures of my lesson plan, I felt that “animals” was too broad.

2)     Once that has been decided, ask yourself “What skills do you want your students to have at the end of your lesson?” This would form the objectives component of your lesson plan. Be specific with your objectives and don’t just write “to memorise different types of sporting activities.”

I had 3 objectives for my lesson plan. These were:

  • Read, write and pronounce 10 animal body parts.
  • Identify the animals which possess each of those body parts.
  • Construct simple sentences which describe animals with their body parts.

3)    Subheadings are extremely useful in assisting you with structuring your lesson plan. This may be as simple as “Introduction”, “Development” and “Conclusion”.

I wanted to be more succinct and chose to use more subheadings – “Warm-up/Review”,  “Introduction”,  “Presentation”, “Practice” and “Conclusion”.

4)    Add variety to your lesson plan. This shows you have the ability to think outside the box and can employ teaching methods outside simple lecturing. For example you may include activities such as showing a short film clip or organising games related to the learning objectives.

5)    Include additional material to supplement your lesson plan and make it stand out. Just make sure you keep your lesson plan within the 5 page limit.

I simply prepared a worksheet for the students to complete. I know other applicants chose to include a detailed power point so that is something you may wish to consider.

Letters of Recommendation

The letter of recommendation is another aspect of the application process which people often have a lot of questions about.

In my view, this is one of the more time consuming aspects of your application as it is purely dependent on when your referee is available to write and send you the letter of recommendation. Therefore, I strongly suggest you begin obtaining your letter of recommendation as soon as possible.

If you have the slightest inkling that you want to apply for the EPIK Program then start requesting your letter of recommendation NOW. Your letter of recommendation has a 2 year expiration date from when it is issued.

Please note EPIK only requires you to initially scan and send a copy of the letter of recommendation to them. It is only after you have passed the interview do they request an original of the letter of recommendation.

EPIK requires 2 letter of recommendation preferably from a professional source. This means the letter of recommendation should not come from your family members, friends of colleagues. I obtained my letter of recommendation from one of my previous employer and my previous law lecturer at university.

The letter of recommendation must:

  • Be in Korean or English.
  • Include the applicant’s full first and last name.
  • Include dates of employment in YYYY/MM – YYYY/MM format.
  • Include the exact location of the school, institute or company.
  • State the average number of hours worked per week.
  • State the relationship to the applicant.
  • Should contain the referees’ position title, company address, contact information, phone number and email address.
  • Any additional relevant information.
  • Not be older than 2 years.
  • Signed by the referee in ink signature.
  • Be printed on the referees’ company letter head or if that is not possible the letter should have a business card attached.

You will note there is A LOT of criteria for your letter of recommendation. Please ensure when you touch base with your referee to request your letter of recommendation you advise them of all the above criteria. This would help you avoid any delay to your EPIK application process as well as the need to hassle your referee for a revised letter of recommendation.

TIP: Ask for at least 3 copies of the original letter of recommendation (all with ink signature) from each referee. Always good to have extra on hand in case you lose one in the mail.

On 2 February 2014 (the day after they began accepting applications) I emailed my initial application to EPIK.

On 3 February 2014 I received confirmation from EPIK that they had received my initial application and that my application would not be processed until the last week of March. At that time, we would be notified as to whether we have been invited for an interview which begins on 1 April 2014.

On 25 March 2014, I received an email from EPIK advising I had passed the first selection phase and invited me to participate in an interview via Skype (webcam).

When friends and the people I meet daily ask me why I want to teach in Korea, I say it is because I love Korean culture and I love to teach, so why not go teach English in Korea? When I was younger, I took martial arts lessons in Tae Kwon Do where the instructors introduced Korean language and culture and soon my love for the country grew. Throughout high school and college, my interest in Korea expanded from not only martial arts and language but to other aspects including food, history, traditions, entertainment and more, albeit never having visited there. I have spent much time researching little things about Korea, places, foods, and old stories to use in my creative writing. I imagine that having only visited Europe and Mexico, that I will undergo culture shock. However, I view myself as an open-minded individual and will eagerly adapt to Korean life. I am excited to learn and invest myself in Korean culture.

To teach in South Korea is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, to learn more about Korean culture and traditions, as well as doing what I love: teaching English. I recently graduated from Western State College of Colorado with a Bachelor's degree in English while taking courses in grammar and education. I graduated within three years. Along with being a teacher's assistant in my Do Jang or martial arts school, my college courses often required of me to assist my peers in writing essays as well as being a teacher's aid for the mandatory English course and Film as Literature. I am now currently taking a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification course complimented with grammar from Norwood English. I am looking forward to learning from the Korean teachers and working with them.

In my experiences with the students at my Do Jang and college, I thoroughly enjoyed breaking down the aspects of essays and sitting down with them and talking with them on how to improve. Many of the reviews that students gave me said that I was helpful and they better understand writing and feel confident in pursuing papers and communicating what they want to say. I may be a wonderful teacher at writing, but I also know that writing isn't the only way to learn English or the most important. I want to encourage students with their speaking so that they may be able to communicate well and with confidence.

Throughout college, speaking and leading discussions were required. In a text and writing driven major, English, we learned to adapt our arguments and the subjects we covered into games, debates, and presentations. From these experiences I learned techniques that helped me not be afraid of speaking and to not be afraid of making mistakes. In learning that Korea students may suffer loss of face due to errors, I hope to encourage and help them understand their mistakes and that it is a normal part of the learning process.

Before entering college, I was a quiet student who had trouble speaking in front of large groups. I also had troubles with learning Spanish. I was in an accelerated program, the International Baccalaureate Programe. Spanish thoroughly escaped me and over the course of four years, three different teachers pummeled five levels of Spanish into my brain and by the end we were expected to speak a fluent Spanish dialect (Mexico or Madrid) as if we lived there. I learned that they way my high school teachers that they were teaching language improperly and only sought to get through all the selected texts without actually ensuring the students were learning anything. Little to no speaking and mostly writing was covered in these courses. Having told my TEFL teacher this, he stated, "Your experience as a language learner should be helpful to you as a teacher. You should at least be able to empathize with your students and the problems they face." Not only do I wish to ensure the students are learning, I want to make sure that the students are not left behind. However, I understand that meeting the needs of individual students is difficult and hope that covering all learning styles will help the learning process. I find myself to be an extremely patient individual and believe this will help the students warm up to me as well as not feel threatened.

Also in my experience in the IB Programe, the classes were neither fun nor interesting. I hope to make sure that the students learning English are enjoying it and do not find the classes threatening. I want to encourage students to learn English in a fun, safe, educational, and happy environment. I want to help students speak English with confidence and motivate them through games, role-playing, multimedia, fun and enjoyable activities as well as with reduced stress. While I believe that English should be taught by example and learning is best completed through natural processes, it is important to nurture the student's interest. Learning English should not be difficult, but fun. I hear that students in Korea are far more attentive and hardworking and I am excited to help them with their English.

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