Alumni Spotlight: Jody Toupin


Why did you decide to teach abroad with SMOE in Korea?

I decided to teach abroad with SMOE because I had spent my first year in Seoul, teaching in a private academy (hagwon). I enjoyed the hagwon experience because of the small class sizes, yet I wanted to try teaching in a public school setting in my second year. I went with SMOE because they are one of the only organizations that hire for the city of Seoul. SMOE hires through a number of recruiters who will help with the application process. I was a bit apprehensive going with SMOE, because when you apply you don't know what school or area that you will be placed. I found out what school I was placed in during the orientation which was a few weeks before the start of the school year. The public school system is great in that I had a long vacation (six weeks). I also had the chance to work with a Korean co-teacher who assisted with some of the behavior and translation if needed.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

My day to day activities included preparing and organizing my lessons. There is a curriculum that you can follow, although the school board encourages you to use your own materials. I taught oral English to grades 3-6. Most of my activities were expanding on the ideas in the book that they provide. I did a lot of activities that encouraged the students to practice speaking English. Many of the students are shy and really need to be positively reinforced to practice speaking. I taught alongside my Korean co-teacher in most lessons. He would use the book, and I would do more role plays, group activities, and pair work to reinforce the concepts in the book. I also played games, and used songs to encourage my students to practice English speaking. Going to class being prepared for the day was important in keeping the focus of the class. Being prepared also helped with keeping any misbehaving students to a minimum.

How has this experience impacted your future?

I decided to do a third year in a public school in Korea. I didn't stay with SMOE as I wanted to do some travelling in South East Asia before I did more teaching. I learned so much working in a public school both personally and professionally. I really enjoy teaching ESL and working abroad. I love learning about Korean culture and how Korean people live on a day to day basis. The experience in Korea has changed me because I'm much more open minded to different cultures and found a serious passion for travel. I've had the chance to travel on my vacations both in Korea and South East Asia. Although I've been back in my home country of Canada for the last few years, I've been thinking highly of going back abroad in the near future to teach ESL. Maybe Taiwan, or perhaps back to Korea.

Jody kept a blog of her adventures in Korea if you'd like to learn more about living and teaching in Korea.