The Substitute

Today, my morning was a little bit different than usual. One of my friends is taking some time off to visit family in Canada, so she asked me to cover for one of her morning classes. I said “sure” and she told me all I had to do was read some news articles with her students and discuss them afterwards. Cool, no problem.

I wasn’t ready for the incredibly enriching experience I found myself in.

The class was made up of five women: one about my age, the other four probably in their 30s or 40s. The first woman who came to class has actually been living in Australia for the past few years and was working as a welder! She recently quit her job to come home and study English, although she said she will probably go back to Australia soon.

The second woman to join was the one about my age. She was very shy and didn’t talk much. At 10 AM, we began reading our first article about prison inmates training dogs. Halfway through, a third (impeccably dressed) woman walked in. After she caught up, she couldn’t stop talking about it! She loved the idea and talked about how much she loved animals. She mentioned she grew up in the country and had dogs and chickens and goats. After her favorite cat died, though, she swore never to get another pet because it hurt too much.

At around 10:30, two other women joined. Our second article was about a little boy who saved his grandmother and Chihuahua from a burning house because he had learned to call the fire department because of a recent program at his school.

This led us to talking about education in both South Korea and America. I was very surprised to hear that most of the women do not like how much is expected from Korean students regarding academics. The woman from Australia had very strong opinions on the fact that children  are pushed so hard and go to bed so late. She thought that kids need more time to just be kids.

This was also coming after the most important day for students in Korea. Yesterday, November 12, high schoolers took their college entrance exams. This is taken so seriously that businesses are not allowed to open until the exams are finished and even planes have to be grounded or rerouted as to not distract testers.

After, we moved on to talking about technology. It was interesting to see the love/hate relationship. Some of the women really like how easy smartphones make it to find information and talk to family and friends, while others think that it’s too distracting and making us lazy. Their English was very good and we had a really insightful discussion.

They also began talking about how things were 20 and 30 years ago and how much has changed since then. One woman kept saying how the past is the past and we have to live in the present, and another asked her if she was a liberal. She said she was and proceeded to tell everyone how she constantly fights with her super conservative father-in-law. It was great.

Near the end of class, everyone asked me about where I’m from, how I’m liking Korea, etc. Naturally, we just ended up talking about food. They asked what my favorite Korean dishes were and if I like to cook.

It was a really fun class and I loved hearing so many different perspectives from Korean women. I never thought I would enjoy an adult class, but I had such an excellent morning!

Advertisements

I Promise to Listen to My Teacher

Children who do not respect their elders are dealt with very seriously here. In fact, judging by what I just witnessed at work, I would go so far as to say corporal punishment in schools is alive and well in Korea.

I had been having a very difficult class earlier this afternoon. Two of my students absolutely refused to pay attention or do any work. The same two students have been giving me trouble for the past few weeks. Today, though, I was very tired of them talking while I was talking, poking other students, not speaking any English (in English class, mind you!), and audibly laughing every time I wrote something on the board or had my back turned.

That was the last straw. I told both of them to stand up and that we were going for a walk downstairs. Immediately, the pleas of “sorry, teacher! Study!” came pouring out of their mouths. Nope. The head Korean teacher was going to deal with them. We walked downstairs and I handed them off to her. She was not amused.

I stood in shock as I watched what happened next. The head teacher balled her hand into a fist and punched them both in the side of the head. Hard.

My heart sank.

I was expecting a 100 lines of “I promise to listen to my teacher.” Or something. Anything, really. Just not that.

The head teacher asked me to return to class, where I drilled the rest of my students on verbs, nouns, and adjectives. Through the window, I could see my other two students standing outside the door with their arms raised above their heads while the head teacher yelled at them.

I wanted to cry.

After class, I returned to my desk where I began planning for some tests on Friday. A few minutes later, the students who had been punished came in to apologize. I thanked them for their apology and told them to be good next class.

I think I am mildly traumatized. Actually, genuinely distressed.

I really don’t know what else to write.

The Sass Attack

Sometimes, kids can be pretty funny. Today was one of those days.

During my first class of the afternoon, two of my students had arrived earlier than the rest of the class. One little boy had folded a paper airplane and was throwing it around the classroom. At one point, he threw it and it hit my other student, a precocious little girl whom I thoroughly enjoy teaching, in the arm. Without skipping a beat, she picked up the paper airplane and slowly turned around to face him while crushing it in her hand. Then, she threw it back at him, shouted something in Korean, and sat down at her desk, arms folded across her chest. Stunned, the little boy sat down and I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically.

Minutes after, the rest of my class began to come in. One of my other female students skipped through a door carrying (and eating) a family size bag of potato sticks. She filled my hands with them, saying “teacher! teacher! is good!” I ate them. They were good.

I really like that class.

We also had a student bring in a box of sticky rice buns for the office; I’m assuming for the upcoming holiday of Chuseok. It was really sweet. The buns were filled with red bean paste, so they were literally quite sweet, as well.

Today’s pretty good so far!

First Day!

Today was my first day at school! I got to shadow one of the co-teachers, Nick, during his classes. There are a lot, but they only last 35 minutes each. There are plenty of breaks throughout the day for preparing lessons, as well. My school also has a planned curriculum and many different text books and work books. The American teacher whose place I’m taking (Peter) was really good at going through each class with me and gave me a general idea how to use the books and work through the lessons.

First day selfie!

First day selfie!

I’ll have students from beginner elementary level to more advanced middle school level. All the kids are very cute. From sitting in the back and observing, I got to see that some are really interested in learning English, while others are not. I guess that’s to be expected, though. Many of the students were willing to participate. Some were very shy, and there was only one I saw that was legitimately disruptive.

During the dinner break, Peter and I grabbed a snack and a coffee. There is a very prominent coffee culture here and there can be three, four, or five coffee shops right next to each other! It’s a wonder how they don’t put each other out of business. The one we went to was very nice. I ordered a frappuccino and actually watched the barista brew espresso to put in it. It was exponentially better than any frappuccino I’ve ever had at Starbucks – and probably with way less calories and preservatives.

We got back to the school and many of the teachers had to administer tests to their classes. I awkwardly sat by myself in the office for a while. The only thing I really didn’t like was that the native Korean teachers didn’t go out of there way at all to introduce themselves or talk to me or anything. It was mildly off-putting.

Regardless, I am excited to go back tomorrow. I’ll be on my own for my classes, so I guess I’m diving right in!

One Day

In less than 24 hours, I will boarding a plane in Newark, flying to San Francisco, hanging out a bit, and then flying to Incheon. From there, I will take the KTX train to Ulsan to begin my new journey as an English teacher.

I can’t believe how quickly the summer has flown by. Working, packing, seeing friends and family.

I am nervous. The only experience I have working with children is from doing a few educational art programs at my museum. I loved doing that, though, and I think it has helped to prepare me for this new endeavor.

I am excited. I never thought that my first apartment would be halfway around the world. I am going to be all alone in a country where I don’t even speak the language. I have been practicing a few words and phrases, but I know it will be completely overwhelming as soon as I step off the plane.

It’s kind of funny where life takes you. One day, you’re working two part time jobs in New Jersey. The next, you’re about to embark on an incredible journey that will absolutely be a life-changing experience.

I’m going to miss everyone here so much. However, I am rather looking forward to making new friends abroad. Definitely bringing some Jersey with me, though.

Ulsan, here I come. USA, see you in a year!

On the Bright Side…

I have officially completed my TEFL certificate! That’s 140 hours (professional), plus an additional 10 hours for one-on-one teaching.

The in-classroom part of the course was held in New York City, near Wall Street. There was a group of about 8 students, myself included, from all over the country: Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio. It was so great to see so many different people with the same goal assembled in one place.

Our teacher, Teresa Jacobs from i-to-i, was PHENOMENAL. She really embodied everything a TEFL teacher is supposed to be: enthusiastic, engaging, knowledgeable, helpful. The classes were long, 9 hours/day on both Saturday and Sunday, but it was totally worth it.

We did lots of lessons and drills and had opportunities to teach the class lessons we came up with ourselves. I feel like I acquired a lot of helpful information over the weekend and I met some really fantastic people, too!

It would be great to meet up with them if we’re all in Korea at the same time.

First SkimaTalk Lesson

I was very pleasantly surprised with my first SkimaTalk lesson tonight. My student was an older gentleman from Japan. We started out with some technical difficulties on my end which were quickly resolved.

After making our introductions, we jumped right into conversation! My student noticed on my profile that I studied art history, so we talked about Surrealism – including Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, and Gustave Moreau (an artist I wasn’t familiar with). We moved onto to movies and television and discussed The Lord of the Rings, The Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, and Once Upon a Time.

It was a really fun way to spend my first lesson and I hope this student books with me again!