Last week I hope I was able to explain what life at school is like for a foreign English teacher, so now I will try to give y’all an insight into my teaching life. Even though I taught English before, it was a completely different experience than teaching now. The best part about teaching in Korea, is the fact that you wear slippers all day inside the school! My feet have never felt better when working 8 hour shifts!!! The schools don’t use bells like in the US. Instead, they play a modern version of classical music at the beginning and end of class and it is a very jazzy tune. This is so much nicer than the harsh bell sound. Once the clock hits 4:30pm and it’s time to go home, you hear the most triumphant music, which always puts a smile on my face. There is no better way to finish your work than this!
In Korea, I teach the little munchkins that are between the ages of 7-11, which is very different than my previous students who were usually older than me. My third graders are just now starting to learn English, so basically they can’t understand a word I say. Sometime I feel that I’m just there to show them what a westerner looks like and then they repeat letters and basic sentences after me. There isn’t too much I can do with these classes but I try to encourage them as much as possible and get them interested in learning English. They might not-wait no, they definitely don’t have a clue whats going on, but they are absolutely adorable. I’m positive there is nothing cuter than a little munchkin bowing to me in the hallway. In the Korean culture, people of any age always bow when they greet someone who is older, so kids are constantly bowing to me in the hall. Next is 4th grade and these kids can be absolute terrors. I’m not kidding by saying each child has the energy level of 10 chihuahuas and then there are about 20 of them in each class. You don’t need to do the math to understand that these classes have a lot of energy and are exhausting. Thank goodness class is only 40 minutes! My 5th and 6th graders are great and I really enjoy those classes. I am able to communicate with these students better and one of my co-teachers lets me lead the classes, which of course I enjoy.
As I gain more experience in the classroom, I am quickly learning that teaching is more like having a rough lesson plan and then just winging it. Something will always go wrong and you will get a curveball thrown at you, so the best teachers have this ability to roll with it without the students having the slightest clue that anything is wrong. This new discovery has completely changed how I view my previous schooling and I wonder how often in class we ended up covering material that wasn’t even remotely related to the lesson plan for that day. The most recent example of this curveball was last Friday when the school had Parents’ Day. Since the parents come to observe class in the afternoon, they decided to start class for only 5th and 6th grade at 8:30 instead of 9. Luckily, I showed up to school at 8:25 so I had 5 minutes to prepare for this sudden change. However, my co teacher was running late this day and was not at school yet by the time all of my students were seated nicely in their seats. So I just started class like I usually do thinking she would arrive in the next few minutes…but she didn’t. Then, I decided to re-arrange the order of activities for the lesson. My co-teacher finally arrived during my activity and was then able to do the rest of the lesson and the students just thought she was in the teacher’s room the entire time. At the end of class, we had a few extra minutes so my co will put on some music and the kids like to sing while sitting in their desks. I thought, ok this is Friday so we gotta make this more exciting, so I started a rendition of classroom karaoke. There hasn’t been any official word yet, but I’m pretty sure I win the coolest teacher award!
After teaching all week, it was time to have some fun over the weekend! My first friend in Korea, Kelly, came to visit me this weekend and I’m pretty sure she had no idea what she was getting herself into… and she might not ever come back. oops. Kelly and I went with a group of friends on a hike. Now, I heard this was a very doable hike but it did have some parts that were difficult, but I have seen some of the pictures people took at the top and it was too gorgeous to miss out on. I felt this way but if you asked my friends, I’m not sure they felt the same.
As we were walking to the trailhead, a group of Koreans were taking a picture and I thought they were asking my friend to take a group pic of them. So of course, my friend gladly took the camera, but then one of the Koreans grabbed me and wanted me to be in their picture with them. I wasn’t sure what was going on at this point, but I thought sure I’ll take a picture with you. Then, they made the rest of my friends join the group picture haha. I guess we were their token waygooks(westerners) for the day.
Not sure if you can tell in this picture, but Koreans take their hiking attire very seriously. Usually I grab some workout clothes that kinda sorta match and don’t think twice. But NOOOO, these people have the newest line of jackets, backpacks, hats, pants, and boots from North Face or Arc’teryx or some other expensive company. We all felt very out of place as I’m sure you can see.
This hike was all stairs and stone and it was steep. We got very lucky that the weather was perfect for a hike and not rainy. For about 3.7km, we hiked our way up stones and actual stairs. The national park attached metal stairs into the mountain I guess to make the hike easier?
After hiking for about 2 hours, we finally reached the top!
At the top, we rested and ate our snacks. Another thing Koreans do when hiking is they bring full on meals with them. The different groups of hikers had 3 course lunches that they were eating at the top. And of course, we were all eating our snacks of granola bars and Pringles, and having some celebratory soju. Needless to say, we looked very out of place again. So if you are ever hiking in Korea, just know that you need brand new hiking attire and a gourmet meal to eat at the top! It took another 1 1/2 hours to get down. I think hiking down was more challenging because of the stone stairs and you had to be so careful with every step. By the time we made it to the bus stop, we were exhausted to say the least.
With all of this hard work over, it was time to enjoy a fun night out! None of us had eaten much throughout the day, so we went to get some big greasy burgers for dinner. And no night out in Korea is finished until you hit up the noraebang. I absolutely love this place and my karaoke skills are rapidly improving. Plus, I’ve already found MY song, which is the classic “Living on a prayer.” We really need to have these in the US because they are much more fun than karaoke at a bar with random strangers. This was an exciting and fun weekend, but I was incredibly tired and am still recovering.