The dreaded open class. The day that gives most public school teachers nightmares from the minute they sign their contract. If you decide to teach at a public school in Korea, 40 minutes of your year will be spent with all eyes on you as the principal, visiting teachers and, in some cases, the parents of your students, come to evaluate your class and scrutinise your worthiness as a teacher. It’s a day not to be taken lightly if you value your job in Korea. The result of your open class will determine whether or not you will be able to continue working in the public school system. No pressure!
I had my open class 2 weeks ago and, although I was really nervous beforehand, when I started teaching my nerves disappeared and I left feeling satisfied with how my class went. The principal came along to mine plus 2 foreign teachers from nearby schools with their Korean co-workers. There wasn’t actually too much pressure riding on my class since my plan is to leave public school in September. But, still, having a great class was really important to me. I take a lot of pride in every lesson that I teach and even though I might not want to be a teacher forever, I do currently have an impact on my students’ education, so I think that I should try to do the best job I can while I’m here. Running an absolute shit show on the day of my open class definitely was not an option for me. I wanted to prove both to myself and everyone watching that I’m more than capable of doing my job.
For anyone with an open class coming up soon- don’t stress! Whether you want to rock your open class for personal reasons like I did, or you are looking to renew your contract, these are my top tips on how to have the best, and most stress-free, open class!
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
This is a given, but I’m going to put it here anyway. Preparation is the absolute key! Dedicate a bit of time to brainstorming ideas for activities that will engage your students. Create a beautiful and original PPT- don’t be lazy and download something from the internet. Plan exactly what you want your co-worker to know and when (I’ll talk about this in a bit more detail later.) I planned exactly what I was going to do from the moment the bell went to the end of the class. It might seem a bit OCD to make a minute by minute plan for your class, but it will help you avoid potential hiccups and ensure your class runs smoothly.
Learn your Student’s Names
Let’s be honest, as a public school teacher, it’s pretty unlikely that you are going to know every student’s name. There are so many students to teach and you might only see each class once a week, so it can be difficult to get to know everyone. However, for your open class, I recommend that you try and remember every student in your assigned class’s name. You don’t want to be standing at the front of the class like, “hey, you guy, over there with the black hair.” Let’s be honest, that’s not going to fly! If you take a bit of time to memorise everyone’s names, the Korean teachers watching will be really impressed, and probably touched, that you have taken the time and made the effort to remember all of the students’ Korean names. It will make your students feel pretty special too. Don’t worry if your Korean pronunciation isn’t great- it’ll give them a few chuckles and lighten the mood a bit.
To get started, ask their homeroom teacher for a name list a few weeks before, and practice using their names the weeks leading up to their class. If you have never said their name before, they might be pretty shocked to hear you say it on the day of the open class, so get them used to hearing you using their name a few weeks before. It could also be helpful to make a seating plan, but bare in mind that sometimes your co-worker might change students’ seats without consulting you. For my open class, I used the lollipop stick method which worked really well for me. Find a method that works well for you.
Nail your Behaviour Management Technique
I really can’t stress enough how much having a good behaviour management technique has helped improved my classes. To get my kids back into the zone when they are acting up (usually play fighting, or arguing over pencils), I shout out a number, and the students do the action to match that number. For example 1 = hands on head, 2 = hands on shoulders, 3= hands by sides and 4 = heads on the table. I’ve been doing this for quite a while now, and it works like a charm every time. If you don’t have a decent behaviour management technique, start establishing one with your students a week or 2 before your open class- give them time to get used to it. It will definitely pay dividends on the day.
Keep it Simple
The absolute last thing that you want to do on the day is to confuse the life out of your students. While you might want to impress everyone with your amazing imagination and make something completely new that no one has ever done before, chances are it’s going to be difficult to explain to your students. If you work in an elementary school, like I do, your open class is only 40 minutes long. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel in that time. Stick to activities that they are familiar with. You’ll spend less time having to explain game rules, and more time actually getting on with the activity and practicing English together. Plus, no one who is watching needs to know that you play that game on a monthly basis- for all they know it’s your first time playing it and you’re just a complete natural at communicating with your students!
Dress the Part
Koreans take appearance very seriously, and while I don’t always agree with how much importance they place on it, I do think you should make the effort to look professional and presentable on your open class day. Guys, wear a suit. Girls, wear a smart dress or a smart blouse with a skirt or dress trousers. I wore a dress with a blaser on top and wore my formal, heeled slippers rather than my usual flat fluffy ones. And yes, I do own both formal and casual slippers- indoor shoes are a big deal here! My male co-worker wore a suit. You wouldn’t go to an interview wearing jeans and a t-shirt, so you really shouldn’t wear that on your open class day either.
Communicate with Your Co-Worker
It’s your open class, but your co-worker will make it a million times easier for you…… If you utilise them properly! Explain to them exactly what you are going to do and make sure that they understand all of the activities. Chances are that they will have to translate for you at some point, so it’s essential that they know the score. Let them know how much you want them involved and exactly when their cues are. You really don’t want to be tripping up over each other throughout the lesson. I asked my co-worker not to translate everything I said as I don’t like my students being too dependent on Korean translation, but asked him to help manage behaviour and double-check their understanding of the activities. That was my personal preference, but it’s up to you how much you want them involved.
No one wants to see a grumpy teacher and they especially don’t want to see a grumpy English teacher. Kids are so shy to speak English, so it’s important that you come off as open, warm and welcoming. Chances are that a lot of the people watching aren’t going to understand a lot of what you’re saying since English isn’t their first language. But smiling is universal. So remember to smile and show everyone what a lovely English teacher you are!
I hope these tips are for some people who have their open class coming up soon! As always, I love to hear what you guys have to say, so leave me a comment and let me know if you have any other tips to add to my list! 🙂 xx
If you’re interested in teaching English in abroad, but need an extra bit of persuasion, check out my post about why I think you should definitely consider it!