the Teacher becomes the Student

I should have known before I even started teaching.  My gram still talks about her teaching days and some of her old students.  I could have learned from her.  I could have learned that some kids find their way into your heart as you implore them day after day to do their homework and to stop making farting noises in class.  After 10 months of teaching in Korea, I’ve realized the individual personality of each kid has become my favorite part.

Friday was my last day as a teacher for a while.  I’ll be trying something new after catching up with the fam in the states.  But I won’t forget this year, and the students I taught- who taught me simultaneously.

Here’s the last of their wisdom:

Never be afraid to make a fart joke or a poop joke.  Even if you are the only 12 year old girl in a class full of boys.  Even if you are the only one laughing at the joke.

Never chew gum in a language class.  It makes it hard to pronounce difficult words clearly.  And you might choke while you’re thinking about what to say.

Repeat things that you hear often.  Such as “Wow, good job!” “Have a good weekend!” and “Let it go… let it go!”   Don’t worry about the appropriate time to say these things.  Also, try combining several together, like “Teacher, can I go to the water?”  or “Teacher, may I drink some bathroom?”

Don’t be afraid to fudge the rules a little.  Love almost rhymes with tub and rub.  I lub you too, students.

Try to relate things to make it easy to remember.  Food has so many compound words.  Pancake, meatball, cheesecake, milkshake.  Sunkist fits too, if your teacher isn’t paying attention.

Pick your nose in style.  Then, wait with your nose gold on your finger until its safe to sneak it into your mouth.  No matter how long you have to wait.

If you’re not sure if it’s a “C” or an “O”, just write the “C” with a really small opening.

Sometimes when you’re trying to talk, nodding your head in an exaggerated motion may help you get the words out.  Take a deep breath and start speaking when your head reaches the bottom of the nod.

Just because you’re not good at writing doesn’t mean you won’t shine when you’re belting out “Old MacDonald had a farm… EiEiOOOOOO!


Always look as cute as possible, even when all you have to show off is a hard-boiled, home decorated egg.

Last but not least, when someone corrects you, just go along with it.  For example, when you say “Teacher, me hungry” and are corrected- “Mickey, I’m hungry,”  just smile sweetly and say “Me too!”



New Hagwon Job!

I’ve lived in Korea for more than a year already.  I’ll be honest, there are some things I hate about Korea.  But there are some things I love too.  My relationship with Korea is one of those that everyone on the outside thinks is destined for collapse.   However, the people in the relationship know a secret- the differences are what has kept them together so far.  In this case, one person and a whole country.

Seeing as how I first came to Korea 15 months ago, I guess it’s about time I started keeping one of those public records of experience people call “blogs”.  I follow several people who regularly write about Korea and it’s culture, and it’s very interesting, not to mention life savingly helpful.  So maybe I feel a little guilty for all the “taking” I’ve done and no “giving.”  If only I believed in Karma…

I’m afraid I’m not an expert on Korean culture though.  Yes, I know 100% more than someone who has never been here, but I am by no means one of those committed expats who has built their whole life here. I can only give my perspective, share my emotions, and show my thought processes.  Penny for your thoughts if you disagree- I’m always up to learn- but I’m sharing my life, not a factual guidebook of Korea.  I welcome you along for the ride, not the proofreading.

Monday of last week was my first day teaching in a Korean academy (hagwon, 학원).  An academy is an afterschool school, where kids go to study something extra.  Maybe they want to be a scientist when they grow up, so they go to a science academy.  Maybe they want to be a engineer when they grow up so they go to a mathematics academy.  Maybe they want to be a businessperson, so they go to an… English academy.  Or maybe their parent’s just don’t want them to be the dumbest kid in school.  University entrance exams are really difficult in Korea, so high school kids don’t have lives.  They only study. Developing good studying habits starts at an early age.

I’m going to refer to my academy by it’s Korean name, hagwon (학원), since I’m not sure academy is the best English translation.  As far as I know, no English speaking country has such a thing.  At my hagwon, the kids start at a ripe old International Age of 6.

On my first day, I was greeted by a little boy yelling “NEW TEACHER, NEW TEACHER!” at the door of the teacher’s room.  I was christened with a nickname, which sounds like Caroro (I’ve looked, thinking this was a Korean word, but no luck… anyone?) and I had a student singing the Imperial March from Star Wars under his breath while he did his class work.

These kids are going to be a blast to teach this year.  If only I didn’t have to deal with a few catastrophic problems concerning my job and new home.