UMF student Christopher Coleman is currently completing his student teaching in South Korea teaching secondary mathematics. Christopher was able to answer the following questions for us about his experience so far:
What made you choose South Korea?
-I chose South Korea because it was the most financially sound option. I knew I wanted to study abroad at some point in my college career, but as a result of me transferring schools and majors it turned out to be difficult. My last chance to study abroad was going to be during my student teaching. Now since Daegu International School is a sister school to Lee Academy in Lee, Maine, I am able to stay here and do my student teaching for the whole 16 weeks as opposed to 8 weeks abroad and 8 weeks at home (in order to have my Maine teaching certification). The fact I’m able to stay here for 16 weeks and be financially responsible at the same time made South Korea an easy decision and has allowed me to immerse myself in another culture.
What are you hoping to gain from this experience?
-Obviously I’m hoping to gain a lot of knowledge about teaching in general, this is the culmination of all that I’ve learned after all. Even though I’m in South Korea, I’m still teaching middle school and high school so not much has changed there. Although I’m really curious in how these students are different and what motivates them. Obviously a student in South Korea compared to a student in Maine is going to have loads of differences, but I’m constantly thinking about the similarities and how they are similar. That way if I do come back to Maine to teach, I can apply what I’ve learned here.
How has teaching in another country changed your viewpoint/philosophy of teaching in general?
-In Korea, the students are motivated constantly. Sometimes I need to help them focus, but for the most part they are doing their work and doing a great job with it. After high school they attend academies where they continue to study and often times go ahead of the material we are learning in class. So what motivates them has been the biggest question I’ve asked, and it’s simply that they want to get into a good American college. Every single one of them is college minded and wants to succeed, and most of them (8th and 9th graders) know exactly what they want to study. This seems to be the definition of determined and most of them have tons of determination. It has been a blessing because I’ve been able to go into some more advanced mathematical concepts and they’ve handled it fine and we’re ahead of the standards and things are going smoothly. I’ve been able to do some really awesome activities with them as a result of their level of understanding.
What challenges have you faced teaching in another country and how have you gotten past them?
-What motivates me as a teacher is that I want to be able to inspire students and have them appreciate math. It’s really easy to do here when almost every student already appreciates math and learning. This has been my biggest challenge, because my philosophy has always been to motivate students through the content and get them to appreciate math. When they already appreciate math, the question becomes “how can I get them to appreciate mathematics outside of school and academy?” It comes down to just getting them to have more fun in the classroom.
Thank you, Christopher, for sharing your experience with us. For more information about Mr. Coleman’s time in South Korea visit his blog to stay up to date with his adventure.