``Master teacher, I really appreciate your help. I have never had such a wonderful experience as reflecting on my own teaching and modifying it, which has renewed my pride and confidence as a teacher. You don't know how pleased I am, not so much as a teacher but as a helper or facilitator, and to see my students enjoy learning in my class."
This is the feedback I really enjoy hearing from co-teachers at school who ask me to assist them in working out their difficulties, how to motivate students to work harder and enjoy learning in class including how to teach students to learn autonomously, build up their knowledge and regain their self-esteem and pride as a teacher before students.
I said goodbye to my roommate, Kim Young-soo, a science teacher, after spending three weeks together to earn a certificate of qualification at the special training program for master teachers. About 400 attended the program at the Knowledge Economy Officials Training Institute in Cheonan.
In Korea, there are four types of certificates given for teacher qualification: second qualified teacher, first qualified teacher, vice principal, and principal. There are only two certificates of qualification for administrators (vice principal and principal), and no certificate of qualification for instructional expert after first qualified teacher.
After four years of the pilot program, the master teacher system made its formal debut last year. Those with more than 15 years of teaching experience can apply for the master teacher's certificate. This enables the master teachers to specialize in teaching and instruction, during a four-year term. They do not become vice principals and principals. They are free from class loads and receive some funding for research.
A master teacher is a teacher of other teachers. He or she acts as an educational consultant at schools and specializes in teaching and instruction through research, training and studying. The master teacher takes a leading role in enabling other teachers to open classes and reflect upon themselves as teachers and innovate their classes as professionals.
This motivates students to enjoy learning and to be able to build knowledge and learn autonomously with the help of their teacher as a helper or facilitator. One added responsibility is to support new teachers and contract-based inexperienced teachers.
The master teacher also acts as an advisor or counselor. He or she also arbitrates conflicts among teachers through negotiation.
So far no teacher could confide in others or ask for help. Now is the time when we have to create a new education culture whereby teachers can assist each other in all kinds of schoolwork through the new master teacher system.
It will play a key role in creating a new school culture. Under the system, teachers will work either as helpers or advisors for each other so that they become expert teachers through the facilitation of renovated and creative instruction and through assisting co-teachers to solve a variety of communication problems with students and parents.
Teachers will then become proud of their jobs as educators. Various types of school violence will disappear. Students will find their classes and school lives more enjoyable and satisfying. I hope that all education authorities concerned ― teachers, students, and parents ― will be proud of the role of the master teacher in promoting a better school culture.
The writer is an English teacher at Jeonnam Middle School in Gwangju. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.