On top of wanting to gain valuable experiences here, some of the teachers said difficulty finding jobs in the United States following the recent financial meltdown affected their decision to join the EPIK program.
Sengathi Lavanh, a 32-year-old architect from Dallas, Texas, is hoping to integrate his knowledge of design and urban planning into his conversational English classes. One possibility he's looking into is teaching Adobe Photoshop and other design programs to bring in more exciting elements to the classroom.
Unlike in private English-teaching institutions, teachers at EPIK are not required to stick to a rigid curriculum, but must work in a more proactive setting and provide ideas.
"I was thinking (of teaching) high school, because that'll probably be more effective," Lavanh said. "It'll give them an idea of what they want to do after high school."
Some teachers are permitted to be flexible, it's true, though there is the pressure to stick to the textbook even in secondary school. Because English education revolves entirely around exams, Korean English teachers often feel native speaker classes a waste of valuable preparation time, and will ask that these classes, too, incorporate the textbook. And not to be too cynical, but the native speaker's English class is probably the least important thing these high school students will encounter all year, and will have no bearing whatsoever on their career choices. Students spend their high school careers preparing for the college entrance examination in November of their final year, and event that will potentially chart the rest of their lives.
The headline says these teachers bring "diversity," and that's a point teachers should remember. It's very easy to overestimate our importance---hey, we're often the only ones in the whole school who actually know English---because English education here is far less about learning English and more about studying it. We're there to help the teachers find different ways of effectively incorporating communicative skills into their lessons, and maybe teach the students a thing or two as well. There are a lot of obstacles to effectively teaching "speaking" to groups of 36---practical obstacles as well as cultural---and native speaker English teachers often resign themselves to just trying to be educational and entertaining.