Teaching presentations at Korea Post

5 09 2012

This is my last week teaching at KEOTI, the training arm for Korea Post.

To hear KEOTI employees tell it, Korea Post is esteemed throughout Asia for their leadership in postal logistics. So KEOTI employees host international postal workers here in Cheonan and visit Thailand and other Asian countries to attend postal conferences. Guess what the common language is for postal workers throughout Asia?

Yesterday capped a day-and-a-half of teaching employees how to present in English, which reminded me of my project manager’s favorite motto,

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

We plowed through nine 50-minute classes, including Making Introductions, Presenting Visual Data, Closing & Summarizing and everything in between.

Not all of my activities scored, but after watching Oppa Gangnam Style and Pusan Vacance, my students used their Comparing & Contrasting language well:

  • In contrast to Gangam Style, which features choreographed dancing, Pusan Vacance features people freestyle dancing.”
  • Similarly, Gangnam Style and Pusan Vacance both have simple rhythms.” And my favorite:
  • Unlike Oppa Gangnam Style, which features sexy Korean women, Pusan Vacance features sexy non-Korean women.”


The prospect of teaching 25 students intimidated me initially, but we ended up having only ~12 students per class. I wonder if my feedback last week impacted which employees were able to attend class this week.

Mr. Yu, the head of HR, told me the goal of last week’s pronunciation class was to identify which students would be selected for professional development, including travel abroad. “Do not share your feedback with students,” he said.

Well, my students came to our pronunciation class ready to learn. They believed our class was professional development. I felt torn about how candidly to comment on students’ English proficiency. Sigh.

So last week, in two-hour increments, I taught 10 groups of students how to improve their pronunciation. How much do you think we can augment a lifetime of speech patterns in two hours? Not much, right?

So instead of making any difference, we identified which areas students needed to improve, I gave them exercises to improve their “arrs”, “ells” and “thes,” and we sang The Beatles. Not one student balked at standing up to sing All My Loving. It’s hard to overstate how deeply singing is ingrained in the culture here.

This Friday, I’ll return to KEOTI to watch my students present in English.
I hope I’ve taught them something useful.

Sometimes I question whether corporate camps are a waste of time for students. The class length is contracted, and students often don’t have a system in place to continue speaking in English once class ends, whether with a native speaker or a not-so-shy Korean friend.

But I’m here to save money not the world, and KEOTI was comfortable.

The staff’s been gracious.

I was given a dorm room and a cafeteria card and was able to use the company gym.

loaners @the KEOTI gym

Most important, my students were interactive and unique.

During the game Four Truths, One Lie*, my student EunKyoung told the class:

“Sometimes I want to be a butterfly.
I’d like to resemble a wild flower.
My favorite person is King Sejong.
I work in e-learning.
I don’t like swimming.*”

What a beautiful mind.

Eunkyoung is 51, directs e-learning for KEOTI and has received the second highest award from the President of Korea for her contributions to business. She also wants to be a butterfly.

Perhaps because Korea Post is a government agency and the training arm for every post office on the peninsula, we had a mix of men and women, ages and job functions in class. Everyone is unique, I’m reminded, even in a Confucian, 98.2% Korean society.

meta: post office inside Korea Post

Moon fish

21 03 2012

I asked Hyeon Jin to give me one word to describe herself, and she picked moon.

I’m glad I didn’t make the mistake of asking for another word.

Hyeon Jin told me she dreamt of living on the moon, because she doesn’t like sleeping in a bed. On the moon, she will sleep on the moon floor and be able to fly. Her mother and aunts will live on the moon, and I can live there too. We will all eat moon bread and moon fish, but not earth fish which Hyeon Jin hates. On the moon, Hyeon Jin will wear heavy in-line skates to skate across. We won’t need airplanes, which take much money. We will fly.

Hyeon Jin told me this story as if she were describing what she ate for lunch.

Combined with her boyish haircut, orange specs, lanky frame and chapped lips, she is the most captivating person on the planet.

Tonight was my first experience teaching English to a 5th grader. I could not have imagined this sweet experience. For all the time I wasted worrying over running out of material, Hyeon Jin filled our 90 minutes with her questions and vivid responses.

I’m exhausted but wanted to share this name with you before I went to bed:
Yi Hyeon Jin.
We will see it again in 10 years, maybe less.

Job searching in Seoul–don’t try this at home

6 03 2012

“Are you single?”
“What kind of alcohol do you like?”
“Next time we can all go out for a drink.” The recruiter waved his hand at himself, his female boss across the room and me.

I said, “I have a boyfriend. He lives in the States,” and “who doesn’t drink alcohol in Korea?”

You would be amazed at the personal questions recruiters will ask you.

During my first interview yesterday, the female recruiter said, “I saw the year you were born. You look much better in person.” (???)

As an applicant, you’ll be asked questions about your age, race, family, marriage, children, and maybe liquor likes too. To apply for a teaching job in Korea, you have to submit both a photo and your date-of-birth.

I’m looking for part-time tutoring work this week to save enough money to see said boyfriend this summer and take the next level of Korean here in the fall.

So after sending my resume out through worknplay and korea4home, and meeting with four recruiters, this is what I learned.

Recruiters may try to shoehorn you into a job.
When I showed up for an interview today, the recruiter said, “you start Thursday.”

I don’t know if this is a seal-the-deal ploy by recruiters in need of teachers, or if this is a cultural gap. In the US, applying for a job doesn’t mean you’ll take it.
There’s usually, you know, an interview first.

Pay rates also range from 32,000W/hour from age-incredulous recruiter to 50,000W/hour from aspiring drinking buddy. Shop around.

Some recruiters require employment contracts. Some don’t.

And Americans who look like Koreans get paid less as teachers.
I don’t care if you did grow up in Irvine, California.

F4 visas are for gyopos or Korean-born Americans.
F2 visas are for non-Koreans, usually those who’ve married Koreans.
Where teaching jobs are concerned, F2 visas > F4 visas because an F4 holder likely looks KOREAN, and an F2 holder likely looks…blonde.
This difference shows up in your paystub as ~$5 – $10 / hour.

Two recruiters confirmed this hierarchy to me, and a third recruiter said he’d still submit my resume for F2 openings, since I don’t look Korean.

Did I mention Korea is the most homogenous country on the planet?