School Days

So, we have been in Korea for just over a month and we are getting very used to teaching and dealing with children. Next weekend we will go to Seoul for an EBY training day so I’m sure we will learn some teaching tips there.

Most children are absolute sweethearts and such a pleasure but a few are an absolute nightmare, so frustrating and make us want to scream. These tend to be teenage boys who aren’t interested in spending their time after school learning English. I have got better at handling them and generally have to control them by whacking them over the head with a book or pinching them (I was inspired by the Korean teachers here). I only do this with the older boys. The younger ones can also be challenging as they try to hide under the table when you teach and when you ask them to repeat an English word, the scream their lungs out. They are only studying phonics at the moment so they are still very new to English. With these students I just try keep calm and get through as much as I can. Dean has some interesting younger students who seem to be a bit “special”. They don’t let him see their work, go near them and they like to try hug and touch him (maybe because he is hairy?!). Dean’s method of discipline is making them write lines (I sometimes do this too, I don’t have too many discipline problems except for a few boys). This works for some of the older kids but definitely not for the younger ones. If you give a young kid lines, they suddenly all want paper and want to write out things, defeats the point a bit! We teach kids from 8 years to 16 years. I’m not sure which ages I prefer. Middle school students are sometimes very easy to teach because they can talk and enjoy interacting with you but some of the middle school students are so frustrating. It is like trying to suck blood from a stone when you teach them.

One of my favourite classes-they love to try speak English and we end up playing hangman every lesson.

The teaching itself is not very challenging. There is a set method for how we go about our teaching. This is followed by all the EBY franchises and does not leave much space for creativity and freedom. Sometimes this can be nice (because you don’t have to think) but other times a bit boring. To be honest, I don’t think the whole method how the students learn English is that great. It based a lot on memorizing and not understanding. The kids have to memorize long passages for speaking tests but ask them a question on the story and they normally have no clue unless they have learnt the answer. Dean and I are both trying to get our students to understand more and think instead of memorizing everything.

One of my classes working.

One of Dean's classes.

An example of the kind of thing we might teach a class (a younger class).

One of the pros to being a teacher is all the sweets and treats the students give us. Korean kids eat a STACK of sweets. We have been giving many different things from Churros to lollipops. I normally get given some kind of treat every day (me more than Dean ;) ). One little girl, Jessica, (who is so cute) brings me these weird Korean snacks every single Friday. In my opinion they are horrible (the kids are always eating them) but I don’t have the heart not take them so I graciously accept. I think by the end of the year I will have acquired a cupboard full of them.

Jessica and the weird snacks she brings me. I don't even know what they are made out of.

Another thing that we have learnt while teaching is that we have to watch our accents (and British spelling). Obviously Koreans learn American English and so they often find the way we say things wrong or funny. We end up having to say things with American accents (which I think is awkward). These are mainly words with the "a" sound like tomato, pass, grass etc. One boy gets angry with me when I say his name, "Grant", in my normal South African way. He doesn't realize I am talking to him unless I say his name with an American accent. The same goes for a girl Julie who corrects me every time and gets exhausted telling me how wrong I am! 

These girls are so sweet. The one in the stripy top is Julie :) 

A strange obsession in Korea is the Disney movie “Frozen”. It is a major craze right now and there is Frozen merchandise EVERYWHERE. Our teachers have “Let it Go” ringtones and we often hear our students (girls and boys) singing “Let it Go” or “Do you want to build a snowman?”. It really is very sweet. I have also been told a MILLION times that I look like Elsa .“Teacha, you Elsa.” This is the most bizarre thing because I bear no resemblance, go figure!

Kids can be wonderful and say some bizarre things. I need to try remember them or write them down. A few of the funny happenings in class:

  • When we started teaching, our favourite thing was to ask the students which country they thought we were from. They started with the obvious USA and Canada then moved onto places like Spain, Greece, Ukraine and even Kazakhstan. The always went on for ages naming all the countries they knew until one of them would say “Africa” (definitely not a country, but anyway). So I’d say yes I was from Africa, but where? And the only places they would come up with were Libya, Nigeria and Egypt. We would eventually have to say South Africa and only some of the students knew it (probably from the world cup).
  • “Teacha, your eyes moon”. My eyes might be “big” like a full moon but then their eyes are like a slither of moon. Dean had a similar experience when a boy said “Teacha, big eyes, big nose” to which he replied “You thiiiin eyes, small nose”. This lead to the rest of the class laughing and calling the boy Pikachu!
  • Last week I was using flash cards that had pictures of various people and children and I would show the students a card and they would have to make up a sentence like “He is my dad”, “She is my sister”, “He is my friend” etc. They definitely were a bit confused when a picture of a black man popped up and they all very proudly shouted “He is AFRICA”. I just couldn’t help laughing and didn’t even try to explain and correct them.
  • My one class of 11 year olds are very morbid and are completely obsessed with death and killing. On many occasions when teaching them various things and asking for examples I get some disturbing answers. When teaching them “Can I/can you” and “Must” their examples were “Can I kill Alex?”, “Can you die?” , “Can I eat Joanne?’, “I must Kill Dannie”, “Scott must die”, the list was endless. Just yesterday I was asking them where Scott was because he was late, to which a Dannie seriously replied “Scott die, Alex kill Scott.”
  • In another class we were looking at a various pictures and the students were saying what each picture was. When a picture of a robber carrying a sack came up and I asked them “what is he?”, one boy answered “he is Santa Claus’s grandfather.”

Children always make your day interesting and you never know what to expect!