Katie Kasubick, Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to South Korea

Statement of Proposed Study

Katie Kasubick, South Korea

Teaching English to South Korean elementary school students will expand my knowledge as an educator and develop my interpersonal skills because I will adapt to a new learning environment. By teaching conversational English to young Korean students, I will be able to learn pedagogical techniques from my cooperating teacher, as the classroom management techniques and learning theories will be based on different cultural values. A global view of education will berth a greater respect for South Korean teaching methods and theories while sharpening the skills I will bring back to a United States classroom.

I am qualified to embark on such a journey because of my formal education, practical teaching experience, and willingness to transfer learned skills to a new culture. I studied methodological coursework to prepare me as an elementary teacher. Teaching students how to speak English is a part of teaching them language arts and, specifically, how to read. I elected to take additional coursework in reading; these concentration classes focus on teaching language arts, which encompasses reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and visual representation. The knowledge that I have acquired from my reading concentration classes makes me comfortable and confident that I would be able to successfully teach young South Korean students the English language. Looking back on my own foreign language experience in junior high and high school, I remember my French teacher using teaching techniques such as role playing, direct instruction, and recitation. Though there would be language differences, I think I have many skills that can be built upon because of my educational and personal backgrounds.

I have experienced multicultural diversity in the classroom. Having student-taught in the poor, urban school districts of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, I have seen firsthand the struggles that students face. In Philadelphia, I was able to understand how a language barrier—Spanish—helped and hindered personal student growth. The Spanish-speaking students, who were taught English as a Second Language [ESL] by a qualified instructor as well as taught by a regular classroom teacher, became easily frustrated due to a lack of instructional time. These students were intelligent, but simply could not understand their regular classroom teacher. Understanding and practicing a new language, English, held much hope for my fourth grade Philadelphia students. From that experience, I realized that open communication among teachers, students, support staff, and families is crucial. Learning English was a necessary task. Preserving their native language and recognizing that it added to my students’ personal identities was so important to their development. I think that it would be necessary for me to learn some of the Korean language and culture so that I could incorporate that language into my English classes. Students would be more comfortable learning a new language if the instruction wasn’t entirely unfamiliar.

Emergent literacy is essential to a child’s growth as a reader. I individually tutored two students, aged four and six, who were struggling with early literacy concepts. My four-year-old student, Halle, was beginning to develop phonemic awareness skills, associating the letter sounds with the letter. I was able to plan activities that encouraged her exploration of the alphabet. My six-year-old student, Sydnee, struggled and was frustrated with reading. Both students were unable to read because they had difficulties making the connection between the sounds of the letters and written letters. Identifying sounds and letters is an integral part of learning to read and being able to speak what one has read. Having tutored students one-on-one will help me teach English to second-language learners, as the Korean students could struggle with similar concepts.

I found new ways to challenge gifted learners while teaching at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Program this summer. My residents were smart and mature beyond their years, but still required the attention and concern that all children desire. Many girls came from an Asian descent, and I was able to glimpse how being raised in a home with different values and expectations influenced their interactions with others, as well as performances in the classroom.

I have been meeting with a Korean doctoral student who attends my university to further my understanding of the Korean culture. She has teaching experience in Korea and offers much insight about family expectations, a typical school day, and how I could be perceived as an American in a foreign country. She stressed how important it is for Korean students to learn and study English at a young age and role-play practical, common situations.

Upon returning to the United States, I plan to teach in an urban elementary school classroom to gain firsthand experience and knowledge from the school setting. I realize that the classroom is not the only area where learning occurs. Because of this, I want to work or volunteer with an agency, such as Head Start, which recognizes the importance of the family-student relationship, and obtain my master’s degree in family development/family studies.

Teaching in a South Korean elementary school will undoubtedly strengthen my teaching theories and techniques, as well as expose me to an additional way of thinking about education. As I solidify my views on education through my coursework, I think I need a bigger, global picture of teaching methods and ideas. Though I hope to learn some of the Korean language, my time spent in South Korea will focus on developing a greater understanding of another culture. I will be traveling to another country where I will take the role of the observer. I want to observe and participate in South Korean schools, a school system that has been very successful and is respected.

Read Katie's Curriculum Vitae