When I found out I would be working with a co-teacher I was very excited, but also wary. Some of my friends had told me stories about standing in the corner of the room, only being called upon by their co-teacher to say something a few times per class, doing none of their own planning, or just running a game for the last ten minutes of class. This can and does happen. In many other cultures it is important to be incredibly respectful to your elders and your superiors. It would be a terrible faux-pas to undermine an older (even if they are just a few years older) co-teacher. You must handle the situation with the utmost of tact or leave it as it is.
You could of course end up with the opposite, a co-teacher that leaves all of the planning and work for you and only jumps in to discipline or to give instructions. This is similar to teaching with home room teachers, but thankfully more consistent. Many people I know are happy with this arrangement, but find that their relationship with their co-teacher suffers from a lack of communication and respect. If this is the arrangement you want with your co-teacher, you should still try to have a happy relationship with them. You will be working with them every day, and if your co-teacher likes you, you may find that they go above and beyond to help you out.
I am incredibly fortunate that I have a co-teacher that happily shares the work with me. In the classroom I teach about 50 percent of each class. Our roles are so well defined that we know when one is done and the other should begin. The key to this kind of teaching relationship is communication. If you are using a text book this is really easy. You will have a pretty clear format to each lesson and many sections will be repeated. Once you understand what parts are yours, you barely need to talk about it before class begins.
Lesson Planning – EPIK Co-Teacher
If you aren’t using a textbook you can still have defined roles. One person does a phonics section, the next person introduces the key phrases. One person runs a test, the next person runs the game. If you don’t use a textbook, you will need to spend more time preparing together, but the potential for creative and interesting classes is much higher. It is best to have some fluidity in your roles. You should be able to jump in and give correct pronunciation or form when necessary, and you’re co-teacher should be able to interrupt you to explain when something is going over the students’ heads.
Your students benefit the most from this kind of relationship. The trick is to find a good balance between Korean and English in the classroom. The students shouldn’t be allowed to depend on Korean translations entirely, but should work to understand instructions in English first.
Regardless of how your classroom management is organized, teaching in a foreign country is a humbling and wonderful experience. The most important thing you can do is try to take everything in stride and build positive relationships with the people at your school.