When you hear the word ‘TaLK’, you will recall its original meaning from the dictionary, but TaLK has a very different meaning. It is one of the government programs operated by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology and the National Institute for International Education.
How did I find out about TaLK? When I was twenty years old, my friend introduced me to a girl who was in her senior year. She was very busy with a lot of different activities. She spoke English very well, and she introduced me to TaLK. Right then, I knew I wanted to take part in something different from normal activities, so I went on the internet and found more information about TaLK.
‘Teach and Learn in Korea,’ known as the ‘TaLK’ program, is a unique scholarship opportunity for undergraduate foreigners and Koreans who are seeking a personal, professional and educational experience in Korea. This program, which began in April 2008, is designed to support public English education in the rural areas of Korea, where the access to higher quality educational resources is limited.
Co-Teaching is the most important thing in the TaLK program. In cases where the native teacher prepared the topic and lesson plan but it might be difficult for the Korean students to understand, the Korean university scholar will help children to communicate with native speakers. I was a TaLK scholar almost one year. I had a lot of experiences with my students that made me smile, cry and be proud of myself.
When everyday became routine as I got used to being a teacher, this event occurred in a 6th grade class. We spent time with students learning about directions. Tin prepared a game for learning directions that was easy and a lot of fun. At the beginning of the game, we started pleasantly with the student’s usual passionate participation. Suddenly, a boy who was usually very good and smart started to disrespect me. He said I favored the girls because I was a girl, so I gave a chance to the girls and it was unfair. I knew they were young and they pretended to divide girl and boy, but that was really a big shock to me because since I became a TaLK scholar, I always bragged about my cute and innocent children to my family and friends. I scolded this student, and as I pointed out his faults and talked about the basic manners in the TaLK class with whole class, I involuntarily cried. My emotion got the better of me. We had to make them go back to their classroom, and I cried like a child in front of Tin. At that time, he patted me on the back to comfort me, and he kept saying some words that I would never forget. These words still help me when children make things tough: “Just a bad day, bad day,” was what he told me.
My two co-teachers, Tin and Richard, are great guys and, of course, great co-teachers. This TaLK program is a good opportunity to foreign TaLK teachers as well as to me.
TIN DUC TRUONG (Washington D.C., USA)
TaLK has contributed to my personal growth tremendously. Every day in Korea was an adventure. I love being able to communicate to Koreans without using one word of Korean. I have helped a bus driver jumpstart his bus by just following his directions and nodding along and pretending like I understood him; I have taught kids family vocabulary by just dancing and gesturing in front of them. I love being able to be introspective as a Vietnamese American by examining Korean societies and comparing it to both of my own countries. Through TaLK, I have become much more globally competent. Packing up my belongings and moving to a country where I speak zero of the native language with a professional prospect of teaching English to children who will understand zero of the things I say was the best life decision I have ever made.
RICHARD IM (Boston, USA)
No two days are the same for a TaLK scholar. I may spend one day teaching comparatives and superlatives to fourth graders and another day singing "Rain, Rain, Go Away" with my kindergarten students. But it is precisely that thrill of walking into the classroom and knowing that I will be doing something new and different that challenges, excites, and motivates me every day. And at the end of the day, there is a moment for reflection: there were certainly times when I felt worn out and disappointed that a lesson had not gone according to plan, but as I learned from my mistakes, I began to feel and experience the unique satisfaction of knowing that I was truly making a difference in the lives of the young children that I have been entrusted to teach. Furthermore, as a Korean-American TaLK scholar, I was able to not only learn more about my heritage but also connect on a special level with my blessed Korean students, who have helped me to discover and admire a wonderful and fascinating culture that greatly differs from the one in which I've been raised. These past few months in the TaLK program have been illuminating and mind-blowing for me, and I can't help but continue to jump with excitement for what is to come.
Lastly, if I hadn’t had this practical experience in my life, I would never have known what I am ultimately good at, what I am meant to do. I’d also never understand the teacher’s point of view, including that of my parents, who are elementary school teachers. Since participating in the TaLK program, I have grown tremendously as a person. I can say it was a turning point in my life as it changed my outlook on my future careers. These special experiences will always hold a special meaning for me.
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