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  • Writer's pictureLulu Johnson

Elementary vs. Secondary

Within the Fulbright South Korea ETA 2020-2021 program there were two options I had to select from to apply. Would I be applying to the elementary or secondary ETA position. The elementary position is to teach elementary students, whereas the secondary is teaching middle school to high school students. Originally, I had planned to apply for the secondary ETA position because there were more awards given to the secondary ETAs. Fulbright South Korea offered 80 ETA spots in total, but it was broken down to 20 ETA spots for elementary and 60 ETA spots for secondary during the 2020-2021 cycle year. I thought I had a better chance with the higher number of secondary ETA positions, and I thought I would work better with middle and high school students.

Background info: I applied through Iowa State University to be affiliated with them (even though I had already graduated from there) and Iowa State requires this interview process in which a panel will read, edit and comment on my Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statement essays. In my essays, I talked about how I was adopted, learned English, went through ESL class (English as a Second Language) and tutored elementary kids throughout my college years. During the interview process, one of my interviewers said I should consider switching from the secondary ETA position to the elementary ETA position as she felt I had a better shot at the elementary ETA position and felt I was a better fit for the elementary ETA position.

I really had to consider switching because if any of you know me, you know that I like kids well enough and find them cute but to manage a classroom full seemed a bit stressful. I can do short spurts of taking care of large group of kids, but the thought of having to control a room full of elementary kids for more than five minutes seemed daunting. I have baby sat kids before but typically for 3-6 hours and only with a max of three kids at one time and typically one kid tends to be old enough that they are self-sufficient and do not need a babysitter. It is kind of ironic that my career goal in life is to become a pediatric oncologist (child cancer doctor) but the thought of a crying kid terrifies me. I do not know what to do when a kid cry. Do I let the crying run its course, try, and comfort them or something else? I also do not know what to do when a kid misbehaves and will not listen to an adult. I am the type of person that avoids conflict as much as possible, even if it is a kid half my age. From previous tutoring experiences, I think some kids can tell that I lack assertiveness and will exploit this. In my head, I thought elementary students would be harder to control and teach, whereas middle/high school students would listen and behave better.

But after debating, and talking myself into it, I decided to switch my application to the elementary ETA position because I could provide insight to elementary kids who are just starting to learn a new language. I think in the end, this will be the best choice for me. I also believe it will force me to grow in ways that I would not have if I taught middle/high school kids. This is also a great stepping stone to see if I like working with kids!


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