It has been nearly 5 months since I arrived in Korea, 5 whole months! I can hardly believe it. And this weekend marks my first trip out of the country. I’ll be going to Japan, a dream I’ve had for over 10 years. I’ll write about that more when the time comes but for now, let’s go over what’s been going on. 5 months in Korea means almost 5 months as an English teacher. I started my job on the 28th of October, and as each week flies by I’m getting closer and closer to my 6 months here. I feel like I’ve grown as a teacher, I’ve had some moments that have warmed my heart or made me want to cry. It hasn’t been all wonderful though, there have been some rough times but ultimately I’m so glad I came here. I’ve wanted to do this for so long, and it’s so surreal to me that it is here.
So what I want to talk about is some of the things that are pretty unique to my job in Korea, or just being a foreign teacher in general. These will happen in many places but these are my experiences so far in regards to work. For one, at Christmas I talked about how my coworker and I had to take photos with every student… Well this happened again. It was a bit weirder this time though because we did this with brand new students. More on that later though.
I wanted to talk about work dinners. At my work, we have them twice a year; once at the end of “winter vacation” (January) and one at the end of “summer vacation” (August). They are the months that our schedule changes from 2-10 to 9:40-6:40. It’s a hard month for everyone, we have to be at work for 9 hours and we start our days with middle school kids. We work hard all month and our boss treats us to dinner at the end of the month (and lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). My boss is SO generous, he’s quiet and I don’t speak to him much but he treats all the staff very well. He continues to buy us lunch on Fridays, a bonus that few other people get. Our dinner plans came sort of last-minute, I had no idea until the day before we went but apparently so did everyone else . That’s fine with me, I rarely make plans after work. We ended up going to a Vietnamese styled shabu shabu restaurant. It was SO DELICIOUS! And I loved having another chance to chat and meet with my coworkers. Shabu Shabu is a Japanese dish that basically consists of veggies and thin sliced meats cooked in a broth. The Koreans have adopted a few styles. I’ve had two different types. Japanese style and Vietnamese. The Vietnamese style also added in rice paper to make rolls! My coworker said you kind of make a taco, it was really delicious. And the place had a big buffet too. I was certainly stuffed afterwards. Because Koreans tend to bond with drinking, there was beer and soju served during dinner. As well, the boss took us all to a bar called 700 Beer and bought a round and nachoes. Everyone cheers’d and we all chatted and bonded. At the dinner we discussed students and life in general. It was a good bonding experience, I really like my coworkers.
After the winter vacation was over, we started February. In February a lot of students take the month off of school and academy. There was a significant attendance drop because parents want the best for their kids but also they want to save money. So my classes changed a bit, and I was also told that I would be teaching some brand new students in March. February was a bit hectic because there was a big break in the month for Seolnal (lunar new year). And this was true, I was giving midterm speaking tests the whole second week of February for my MWF classes, and I still feel like I’m catching up. Ahh, what a life.
Going back to my new-new classes. They’re little kids! They just graduated kindergarten and the moms want to see what kind of teachers they will have. So my coworker approached me with this “demo lesson” that would be held in the last week of February. The idea of it didn’t seem too bad, I’d come to work at 11, leave at 12:30, come back for 2 (regular work day) and then leave early… Well, I was asked to come at 10am instead of 11 and then I ended up staying the whole of my shift… so it was a super long day but not without breaks. My boss also treated myself and the other foreign teacher to lunch, and then bought the staff, who came early, a coffee. And I got to go home an hour early for the rest of the week.
The demo lesson in itself was fun. My coworker and I couldn’t decide on what kind of lesson we wanted, we only wanted a short 20 minute lesson to show the parents our teaching styles and stuff… Well, we chose a lesson on colours. It went well enough and then the next step happened. My Korean coteacher went off to talk books and money to the new moms and then my foreign coteacher and I were left with the kids. Little did I know I’d be the only one teaching them in the future (I love all the kids who were at the demo lessons though!). We were given the task of making BALLOON ANIMALS for the kids. I’ve only ever received a balloon animal, I’ve never made one… but we sure did try. I’m pretty sure I scared one of my new girls because every time we touched a balloon she cowered in fear, and she also tried to leave the class. She must still like me because she always cheers “BRINY TEACHER!” When she sees me. They’re so cute when they’re not being horrible little monsters. (I’m kidding, sort of, they’re not all horrible.).
After the demon lesson, snack time, and then PICTURES WITH EACH OF THE NEW STUDENTS (again, why? I’m the least photogenic person I know ahh). We said bye-bye until the beginning of March. My coworker said they kept saying it was really fun, so I was happy. I am loving having these kids because it’s so awesome to be the foundation of their English learning. It’s difficult sometimes because they have very low English, but I’m rising to the challenge every day.
Kids are tough, but teachers are tougher. I’m learning that a lot. I have to deal with some really interesting characters in my classes, but I am happy to have some of the kids I do. I’m happy to be in all of their lives in some capacity and I hope I’m making somewhat of a change in them.. but that might be too much to ask. All I ask is that they listen and do their work, but they know I’m always up for a game of scattegories… Not hangman. Anymore. Ever. I accidentally made a well-endowed hangman by drawing his legs up too high and my one kid never lets me forget. HE SAYS IT EVERY CLASS.
Anyway, that’s all that’s new in the work front. Next month starts FINAL speaking tests for all my classes which is crazy because ahhh the semester just started. These months keep on flying by! I can’t believe it.
I’ll be posting about my recent outside of work life stuff later, but I hope you enjoyed this post for now!
Until next time,