Jessie McShane is an American English teacher living in Mokpo, South Korea. She graduated from the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota with a double major in Political Science and Justice & Peace Studies.
Earlier this year, KKOOM awarded Jessie 500,000 KRW (approx. $450 USD) to carry out a project to help kids learn English at GyeongAeWon, an orphanage in Mokpo. This is the project report she recently submitted.
Background. Fall/winter of 2012 I spent a majority of my free time volunteering at the Gyeong Ae Won Orphanage as the English coordinator and fundraiser in Mokpo, South Korea. I invested my time teaching, recruiting English teachers, and initiating fund raising events. While teaching I realized that the English program at the orphanage was lacking on substantial learning materials and could really use some English workbooks, textbooks, games, and activities to challenge and help the children learn. In January 2013 I sought out to find an organization that would take interest in my endeavors to help fund English and music materials to the Gyeong Ae Won Orphanage. My goals and objectives were to get every child at the orphanage a workbook and textbook that the English volunteers could use to help teach the kids. Books benefit each classroom by giving the classes structure which in turn is beneficial for the kids in getting the most out of their English classes. I also wanted to provide the kids with some fun English board games for english activities and learning resources such as Korean-English dictionaries.
I did some research and was so enthused when I came across an amazing organization by the name of KKOOM. I immediately contacted Aimee Jachym, President at KKOOM regarding my volunteer-led project in hopes to directly impact the lives of the kids at the orphanage. Aimee was more than helpful. She interviewed me and pointed me in the the right direction as far as how to get funding and the steps to take to accomplish my goals. After compiling all materials and submitting my request I was happily grated funding and excited to begin.
Project Implementation and Administration
The major administrative and day-to-day activities I experienced while carrying out this project ranged from communicating with all volunteers to see what materials were needed for their classes to meeting with workers and students in the orphanage to see which materials would best benefit them personally. While carrying out this project I had to recruit new volunteers and get them up to speed as far as the classes and level of the students. It was more difficult to do without books due to the fact that volunteers come and go once their contracts to teach English in Korea are complete and there are no materials that give us an idea of how advanced the students are and what they have already learned. Because of KKOOM we are able to ensure all classes teaching materials and teacher books which make the transition from volunteer to volunteer a lot more smooth and beneficial for the kids as they can pick up where they left off with the older volunteer. I’ve also implemented folders for each class that require volunteers to report on their classes. The new implementation requires volunteers to write down the date, number of students, materials used, and summarize learning objectives for that day. I find that this also helps with organizational issues and allows for a more structured class if a volunteer has a substitute for the day that needs to look back on what was taught the previous week.
Accomplishments and Challenges
One obstacle I ran into was underestimating the cost of workbooks and textbooks for the students. The foreign community in Mokpo learned of my project and before I knew it more and more individuals wanted to help out and get involved. English teachers were soon asking their schools if they had any materials they were going to get rid or that were no longer being used such as old games, materials like crayons, pencils, and markers, and any old books or notebooks. Soon the costs I had underestimated were made up by generous donations from the community.
Analysis and Interpretation
It’s been a few weeks since the classes have received new books. The teachers have filled out their new daily lesson summaries and so far I am getting nothing but positive feedback from volunteers and students at the orphanage. By providing books and various learning materials for the kids they are developing vital language skills. By giving each child their very own book to learn from learning suddenly becomes more enjoyable. The more enjoyable learning English is for the kids the more they will stick with it and successfully develop their language skills. I’ve found that, especially in the younger class, the more they are read to the greater their interest is in reading. By exposing them to the language and relating it to the context in their book they are able to absorb from the text which deepens their understanding for future encounters with that specific language.
All teachers have worked to expose children to proper grammar and phrasing skills. With the help of the English materials this goal is accomplished at a quicker pace, which in turn enhances the development of their written and spoken language skills. The books have also helped develop the children’s social skills. By giving them all a set page in the book we are forcing them to talk together as a group about what they see. I made sure to choose books that encourage kids to be more cooperative, share with others, and respect the natural environment.
I have already seen improvement in vocabulary and kids are able to use new words and new ways to use words that they already know. Book stimulate the imagination of the kids and helps foster natural curiosity, it increases their attention spans, and above all makes them excited to learn. And I have KKOOM to thank for all of that!
Overall this experience for me personally has been one of the most rewarding if not the most rewarding experiences abroad. I have really enjoyed collaborating with KKOOM, working with the kids, and spreading the word about your awesome organization.
Thanks again KKOOM! The kids at the orphanage and I are so grateful for all you’ve helped accomplish!