Star Students- September

How was the first month of school, you ask?  Well after 6 weeks of teaching in Korea, I can tell you that kids are the same anywhere.  They will play tricks on each other, they will cheat when you’re not looking, and they will yell and whine almost constantly.  They will also give you winning smiles, work hard for your attention, and work their way into your heart.

I love teaching.  And I love the students.  Each and every one of them.  Sometimes.

I have saved up some funny stories to tell you about a few…

Every teacher has that kid who’s English name is Harry, and who refers to themselves as Harry Potter, and sometimes uses their pencil like a wand.  Only in Korea are thick glasses in style- just like Harry Potter’s.

In my youngest class, I have a boy who hums instead of speaking Korean.  Speaking Korean is not allowed, and he has to make noise when he tries to communicate.  Therefore, while he mimes what he wants, he hums.  For example, the other day, he held up his broken pencil and goes “duh dada DUH!”  Of course, I immediately understood that he wanted to go sharpen his pencil, but the added theme music was too much!  (The Star War’s Imperial March is also in his repertoire, which he hums to himself while doing his homework.)

I have one kid who can’t see, and doesn’t even try to hide it.  He shamelessly asks me to read what’s on the board several times so he can write it down… since he can’t see far enough to read the board 10 feet away.

One of my students started telling me about the watermelon with a face he drew while waiting for class to start.  I asked for his homework.  He said he drew the watermelon instead.

One little boy pretends to stab me with his pencil every time I come close.  The kicker is that he has to close one eye to do so.

Then there’s the whole class who gave me a nickname the very first day I taught them.  It’s started to spread through the whole school.  I guess I should find out what it means sooner rather than later.

Just this past week, I taught a story about hockey to an older, advanced group of students.  When you have trouble distinguishing between the pronunciation of an “f” and a “p” sound in English, hockey puck is not the greatest word to say repeatedly.

For a reward before the holiday weekend, I let some of the older kids play dodgeball for the last 10 minutes of class, as long as they spoke English while doing it.  The biggest classroom available is still quite small, and when you are a 15 year old boy, the ball takes a fraction of a second from the hand to the target.  One of the boys found a string, tied it around his waist, and yelled “Taikwondo!”  He started moving around the room in slow motion, chopping the air with his hands and throwing kicks.  Miraculously, he did not get hit by the ball.  The other team aimed for his teammate instead.  Everyone seems to enjoy free entertainment.

Kids will be kids, and although school is usually a loud environment, it’s a happy one.


No phone, no phone, I just want to be alone today.

On Sunday, I got myself a new toy.  A beautiful, black, ready-to-touch-all-over iPhone 5. 


For the last few weeks, I’ve been without a phone here in Korea.  Yes yes yes, being without a phone nowadays is preposterous unless you come from a third world country.  Even my parents thought it was unsafe for me to be without a phone, and I remember seeing them get their first phones and progress through the technology.  I remember being a teenager without a phone and how difficult, unsafe, and unfair I thought it was.  After I got my first phone as an 18th birthday present, I went a little crazy and got charged extra for all the text messages I sent, which weren’t included in my plan at all.  Imagine!  A cell phone plan without texting!  Talk about the Dark Ages. 


But here I’ve been, scraping by with no phone, and not even wifi available to connect with my ipod or computer.  Why?  Because I couldn’t sign up by myself.  I could have struggled through the language with my limited Korean skills and hopefully finding a store where someone speaks a little English.  But that wasn’t the problem.  The problem is that I don’t have the necessary documentation yet, meaning it hasn’t come in the mail.  As of yet, I can’t prove I’m a legal alien here.  The way of getting around this rule is to have a Korean person sign the contract for you, and just pay monthly like normal. I was going to wait until my paperwork went through, but it’s taking much longer than I was expecting.  So I went ahead and convinced a friend to help me out. 


In Korea, everywhere has wifi: coffee shops, restaurants, department stores, buses, and beauty shops.  You can even drop off your dead battery at a convenience store and they’ll charge it for you.  That’s because everyone is connected to their phones like a second brain, which is literally what a phone functions as for the average Korean.  Some people in the states have achieved this level of phone usage, but we still call them nerds, or at the very best techies.  This is the normal Korean person.  So it was extremely hard for them to understand that I didn’t have a phone, and I was still alive. 


Still, I thought I was perfectly fine without a phone. I’m not really one to update my facebook status every day, or even every week.  Every once in a while, I do like to add pictures or write a note to my friends and family at home.  I also like to stay up to date on email, even though most of it gets trashed right away.  And I’m not a big texter or caller either. But getting this phone was the best decision I’ve made since deciding to stay in Korea and switch my job to teaching English.  I new feel like I’m a part of the world again.  And I dare say my friends are enjoying being able to reach me too.


People don’t do things ahead of time anymore.  They don’t arrange their schedules in advance.  Sometimes, they don’t even set a meeting place or time, they just rely on their phones to help them meet up last minute.  Of course, this is not what I needed to happen.  I needed my friends to set up the next hangout date before we said goodbye.  But I ended up being alone and uninvited instead.  Not because my friends didn’t want to see me, they just couldn’t plan ahead like I needed.  I expected them to change from a “now” culture to a “when” culture.  “When can you grab coffee with me?” “How about Saturday? 8:00?” “Sure, want to hit up that new place by your house?”  “Yep.”  “Ok, see you then.”  That doesn’t happen anymore.  Intead, it’s “Hey, are you free?  I’m bored.  What to try that new coffee shop?”  “Sure, meet you there in 30?”  “Ok, can’t wait.”  Because I didn’t fit into this culture, I was left out. 


It’s also feels a lot less lonely when you can instantly message a friend or even check out the news at home.  And getting messages from friends doesn’t hurt either, because you know someone is thinking about you.