• Sophia Rogers

The Australian and the Crazy Story Boxes

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

Throughout my career, I have worked in both the education sector, and the administrative/corporate industry. I have been actively involved in mental health charities for young people, and have seen first hand the stress that many youths are under in the modern world. I knew that whatever I did with my life, I wanted to be able to positively impact the lives of children and young people.

The decision to teach English came after I took a job as an English Tutor for migrants. I loved being able to create engaging and fun lessons, and connecting with people from different cultures and backgrounds. While I thoroughly enjoyed this role, I knew that I wanted to work with children, and so, I began researching positions online.

Honestly, I decided to move to Korea mostly because my partner is Korean, so really, it was the obvious choice. I began scouring through the listings on Dave’s ESL Cafe, joined Facebook groups advertising teaching jobs, and researched reputable recruiters about eight months before I anticipated applying for a teaching job in Korea. I have always been an over-planner - the type that makes colour-coded Google Spreadsheets about anything and everything.

I trawled through blog posts from others who had undertaken the EPIK Program or taken a position at a hagwon, and to be honest, I was left feeling pretty uncertain about whether I really wanted to teach in Korea after reading those posts. I read horror stories of companies that just wanted a ‘western face’ to fill positions and treated their employees poorly, those who didn't paying salaries on time (if at all), and those that had little to no care for the education of their students. Additionally, I felt discouraged when I found that many jobs specifically asked for English speakers with North American accents, and when I inquired whether I could still apply with my Australian accent, I was told that while I could still apply, I would be at a disadvantage.

I was starting to second guess my plans, until one day, when I stumbled across a job listing for Twinkle. The first thing that stuck out to me was that the post was written very authentically - nothing like the vague ‘four bullet point’ listings from many other companies. Literally, the tagline was “Tired of looking at the same old ads from McHagwons?” Yes. Yes I was.

And so again, this would’ve been mid-2018 - about six months before I’d planned to leave for Korea - which means I simply screenshotted the post, stuck in my spreadsheet (aptly titled ‘Jobs That I Want’), and planned to look back on it at a later date.

Fast forward to the last few months of 2018, and I was looking back through my spreadsheet, ready to apply. The job post from Twinkle was still the most appealing, and while they hadn’t posted a job listing for the new year, I took a chance, and simply shot through an email to one of the owners, Andrew, and asked if they might need a new teacher in 2019. And by some stroke of luck, they’d said they did.

From there, we arranged to speak on the phone. We had a long conversation in which we talked organically about our teaching philosophies and backgrounds. I found myself very appreciative of the honesty and passion with which Andrew spoke about Twinkle and their goals for the future. Most of all, I was excited to hear of his vision to make education in Korea fun and creative for children. Needless to say, I joined Twinkle Bundang a short while later.

When I become President... (Notice it's not "IF I become President - awesome)

Now, I’ve been working at Twinkle for almost seven months as a Fiction teacher. I teach all four skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking, through the use of novels, short stories, essays, plays, and even poetry. I love being able to share my passion for books with our students, and seeing them enjoy the different styles and genres we explore. It can be quite challenging for young children to find and analyse the ‘meaning’ of a text, but I am continuously being surprised - perhaps to the point where I shouldn’t be surprised - by our students’ insightful comments.

I’m really enjoying being able to create my own materials for my lessons, and this is one of the best parts about working at Twinkle. While the curriculum is set, we are given the freedom to write and design our own workbooks for each semester. It takes a lot of time and dedication - sure - but it’s a lot of fun, and allows us to be creative.

The Twinkle Detective School Manual and a curriculum workbook

In addition to the workbooks, two things I’ve enjoyed creating and that my students have loved here have been my summer class, ‘Twinkle Detective School’, and the very random and exciting, ‘Crazy Story Boxes.’ In the former, I wanted to teach our students how to make inferences from texts - like a detective makes inferences from evidence and clues. For the latter, students have to randomly select a ‘character’ card, and a ‘setting’ card, and make a wild story including both. For example, I read a great story yesterday about ‘A talking banana’ in ‘A House of Chocolate’ who became a chocolate-dipped banana after his house melted onto him in the sun, and so decided to become an astronaut. The children have so much fun creating stories with the help of these boxes, and some of the students who hated writing before, have become some of the most enthusiastic. I love tapping into a child's imagination and helping them translate their wonderful ideas onto paper.

Whilst I really do enjoy working as a teacher, it’s not an easy job. Sometimes a lesson or activity doesn’t go the way you planned, sometimes your grading can creep on you and seem endless, and sometimes your students are a bit crazy… Certainly, some days are exhausting, and I can at times feel overwhelmed by the load, but more often than not, I leave work feeling fulfilled, and gratified.

There are two things in particular that really make this job wonderful. Firstly, the children from our classes have such great energy and enthusiasm, and it always rubs off on me. Nothing is better than having students that are engaged in your lesson, and having a brilliant moment when I see them opening their eyes to a new concept, or a new way of thinking.

Secondly, I receive a lot of support from the Twinkle team. All of my coworkers are wonderfully passionate, down-to-earth, and friendly. Both the owners and the manager regularly check in and ask if we have any issues, and are open to feedback or suggestions from the teachers. I greatly appreciate being able to offer my own opinion and ideas, and feeling like I am being heard when an issue arises.

Teaching is a challenging yet incredibly rewarding profession, and I’ll always be grateful to Twinkle for bringing me on board to assist in changing the way we deliver education to the children here.


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