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Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools – Part I

In Part I there are five topics that are covered,

1.  My co-teacher has low level English language skills

2.  My co-teacher doesn’t come to our scheduled classes

3.  My co-teacher refuses to translate when I ask them to during a class

4.  My co-teacher sits in the back of the classroom and does nothing

5.  My co-teacher leaves the classroom during the middle of a lesson—and (sometimes) doesn’t come back


Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools


Co-teaching in South Korean public schools began in 1992 with the Fulbright Scholars program (and possibly before that). Yet even after nearly 20 years of co-teaching there are still very little effective and practical national training programs; nor are there co-teaching manuals for Korean English teachers and native English teachers that specifically address the hard realities of co-teaching situations in schools (note: apparently there are manuals, but as of the publication of this article I have never seen a copy). This article attempts to identify the most common co-teaching issues, challenges, and problems that native English teachers face in public schools–and to suggest practical strategies to manage them. A preview of part three in this topic is provided where the focus is on native English teachers.

Part I – Korean English Co-Teacher Focus

1.  My co-teacher has low level English language skills

Strategy 1: Make sure to give your lesson plan materials (lesson plan, worksheets, etc.) to your KET (Korean English teacher) with as much time as possible for them to go over it. If they are motivated, they will go over all the language content and look up words they don’t know. They can also ask you questions and/or to explain whatever they aren’t sure of.

NOTE: This pre-supposes that the KET (Korean English teacher) does not have any cross-cultural issues/sensitivity to asking a younger, possibly unmarried, and lower social rank teacher to help them with lower level language skills. Make sure that you choose a place where there are no other Korean teachers or students around that might notice you are explaining things to your ‘senior’ (higher social rank).

Strategy 2: When making your lesson plans, write out a full script of what the Korean English teacher would have to say during key parts of a lesson in the classroom while teaching. For example, giving the instructions for a game or activity may be easy for YOU, but when you turn to your co-teacher and ask them to translate—they may not have taught the activity/game before, and will not know the instructions or activity/game concept and language learner procedure that they need to translate. By writing out a mini-script of what YOU will say it allows the KET to pre-plan and think about what THEY need to know how to say. It should go without saying that when you’re in the classroom and saying these instructions that you shouldn’t just reel off the instructions in their entirety . . . say one sentence and then allow the KET to translate.

NOTE: When I taught student-teachers at a national university of education, one of the courses I taught was “Classroom English.” Imagine having to learn, memorize, and practice using all of the different questions, commands, and expressions we as native English teachers automatically use without thinking. Scripting/writing out key parts of a lesson plan for your co-teacher is not a ‘waste of time’ or ‘stupid.’ Help your co-teacher in this way and you are helping yourself when co-teaching in the classroom!

Strategy 3: Write out key language for the lesson and classroom teacher talk in your power point slides. Most, if not all, Korean English teachers have better reading skills than speaking and listening skills. By writing out key language and teacher talk in your power point slides you facilitate your co-teacher being more able to follow your lead during a lesson and time in the classroom. Korean English teachers are human, and when a lesson/game/activity is new to them, it’s difficult to remember every point and detail and instruction. Help your KET out by having the English you may ask them to translate written out in your power point.

Strategy 4: Make building a positive and friendly relationship with them a priority. Go out for dinner with them and bond outside the school. The day before Chuseok begins, get them a small gift (it will mean a lot to them, and they will NOT be expecting it).  Occasionally bring small bags of fruit, or breads and other snacks into your office to share. Social bonds in Korea are made through sharing food and drink.

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If you would like to read the rest of this article you can see it here, Strategies for Managing Co-Teaching Issues, Challenges, and Problems in South Korean Public Schools – Part I