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Great Ways to Strengthen Relationships

with Your Coworkers and Your Students


Here are some simple and practical things you can do to
strengthen your Korean coworker and student relationships:
1. Take your job and your commitment to your school seriously.
Establish yourself as an essential, passionate, professional contributor to your school
community. If you consistently prove yourself as willing and capable, you will inevitably
earn the respect of even your most ardent detractors.

2. Share snacks and beverages with your coworkers during your free
time.
If the Korean-English language barrier is the great divider, then the mutual joy of eating is
the ultimate unifier. E.g. Serving coffee to your coworkers in the morning is an opportunity
to demonstrate humility, service, and reflects your sensitivity to Koreans’ deep respect for
elders. A shared coffee time is also a great starting point to nurture and develop
relationships with people inside and outside your department.

3. Ask your co-workers to help you learn Korean and offer to help them
learn English. (conversational, edit papers, etc.). Actually try to learn Korean! This
does wonders for your ability to relate and empathize with all Koreans, but especially your
students.

4. Every day make a point to say “HI!” to the students you pass in the
hallway.
Encourage your students to do them same. Although this is somewhat “out of the norm”
for most Korean teachers, this simple form of connecting communication can do wonders
for reducing students’ anxiety of foreign teachers.

5. Don’t argue with your coworkers or throw your hands in the air when they talk
to you about the problems of American beef, FTA, or the health benefits of Kim Chee (for
the 50th time).

All jokes aside, be aware of the cultural filter you and your Korean counterparts use to
judge what is important. An honest comparison will show you that perhaps your foreign
peers are not that “crazy” after all!

6. Eat with your coworkers at lunch time.


More opportunities to demonstrate cultural sensitivity, to build comradery, and often, to test
your sense of culinary adventure! Save your trips to MacDonalds or KFC for the
weekends!

7. Clean your classroom with your students.


A great way to encourage mentoring relationships with your students, through shared
service.
8. Find out what your students are interested in and learn from them.
E.g. Get your students to teach you a Korean pop song and try not to embarrass yourself
too much!

9. Participate with your students in a club activity that strikes your


interest.
(even better, start your own) Essentially, live out the maxim, “those who play together,
stay together.”

10. Establish a regular weekly meeting set aside for you, your
supervisor, and your co-teachers. Discuss weekly plans, school events, discuss
challenges, and of course, plan future classes. This is an excellent way to reduce foreign
teacher “Bali-wa” (last minute planning) anxiety and to introduce the teaching staff to
western modes of organization and office culture.

11. Request your co-teachers to give you a percentage of the overall


class mark for your classes. E.g. My class is worth 20% of the students overall
English Conversation (EC) mark. Tap into every Korean students motivational gold mine:
fear of losing marks!

12. Spend some time at your school’s “Majum” or local store.


This is where a good number of your students hang out at in between classes. This is a
great way to initiate and maintain positive relationships with your students.

13. Try to make a point to spend some time with your coworkers OUT of
school time.
(Jin-Jae Bang, Norae Bang, and copious amounts of Bek-ju and Soju optional!) Going for
a Saturday hike or Korean picnic is something we all can do.

14. Bow and Read (lots and often!).


Demonstrate an eagerness to understand Korean culture and customs –this
understanding is critical to harmonious cross-cultural relations (and will save you a load of
grief!) “What’s so good about Korea Maarten?” (Meijer, 2005) and “The Koreans:
Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies” (Breen, 2004) are two
informative and amusing starter guides to Korean culture and helpful antidotes to cross-
culture confusion. The Internet TESL journal (http://iteslj.org) has excellent articles on how
to connect with Asian students.

15. Marry a Korean! (optional!)


I will be choosing this option November 1st, 2008. Without
a doubt, dating and being engaged to a lovely Korean girl
has really made me appreciate and respect the Korean way
of life so much more…

Getting to know your Korean in-laws is the ultimate cross


cultural experience!
Looking at Things Conceptually
All of the activities above are based on the concept of the VED trust triangle.

The concept is simple:

If we develop a solid foundation of values and competency (VALUES) and we seek


opportunities of to share (DEMONSTRATION) these attributes with our students and co-
teachers (EXPOSURE) we should be able to establish relationships of increasing trust
and responsibility.

VED Trust Triangle