When I found out I would be working with a co-teacher I was very excited, but also wary. Some of my friends had told me stories about standing in the corner of the room, only being called upon by their co-teacher to say something a few times per class, just running a game for the last ten minutes of class, and doing none of the lesson planning.
This can and does happen, but only until you earn the trust of your EPIK co-teacher. In many other cultures, it is important to be incredibly respectful to your elders and your superiors. It would be a terrible faux-pas to undermine an older (even if they are just a few years older) co-teacher. You must handle the situation with the utmost tact or leave it as it is.
You could also end up with the opposite, a co-teacher that leaves all of the planning and work for you and only jumps in to discipline or to give instructions. This is similar to teaching with homeroom teachers, but thankfully more consistent. Many people I know are happy with this arrangement, but find that their relationship with their co-teacher suffers from a lack of communication and respect.
If you want to establish a healthy relationship with your EPIK co-teacher, you need to make an effort to fit in and seek their respect. After all, you are the guest in their country! You will be working with them every day, and if your co-teacher likes you, you may find that they go above and beyond to help you out. In my experience, I was incredibly fortunate to have a co-teacher that happily shared the work with me, splitting the teaching 50-50. Our roles were so well defined that we knew the cues to take over the class after the other was done. The key to this kind of teaching relationship is communication!
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Lesson Planning with Your EPIK Co-Teacher
If you are using a textbook this is really easy. You will have a pretty clear format for each lesson and many sections will be repeated. Once you understand what parts are yours, you barely need to talk about it before class begins. If you aren’t using a textbook you can still have defined roles. One person does a phonics section, the next person introduces the key phrases. One person runs a test, the next person runs the game. If you don’t use a textbook, you will need to spend more time preparing together, but the potential for creative and interesting classes is much higher.
It is best to have some fluidity in your roles. You should be able to jump in and give correct pronunciation or form when necessary, and you’re co-teacher should be able to interrupt you to explain when something is going over the students’ heads. Your students benefit the most from this kind of relationship. The trick is to find a good balance between Korean and English in the classroom. The students shouldn’t be allowed to depend on Korean translations entirely but should work to understand instructions in English first.
Regardless of how your classroom management is organized, teaching English abroad is a humbling and wonderful experience. The most important thing you can do is try to take everything in stride and build positive relationships with the people at your school.
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