July Round-up: Part 1

July was a great month and we had many exciting times during the month. July saw a visit from my mum, our first trip to Seoul and an amazing holiday to Jeju island (more blog posts on Jeju to come soon).

As part of our teaching duties we had to go to Seoul to attend a day-long EBY Talking Club training course. This meant we had to leave Jeonju at 5:30am on a Saturday morning to catch an express bus to Seoul. Luckily one of Dean’s co-teachers also had to attend the training so she could show us the way. The training was at the EBY headquarters and there were only about 10 of us foreign teachers (from all around the country). It was very relaxed and just involved some Korean teachers giving talks on the syllabuses.  It was much better than I expected as we were given some good teaching tips and it definitely inspired me to try be a better teacher and make my lessons more exciting. Another nice thing about the training was that we got to speak to other foreign teachers who work for the same franchise and compare our schools. Most of the other teachers were American or Canadian. It seems Dean and I have a really good deal with the running of our school.  We kept the contacts of the other teachers and may meet up with them in the future if we are ever in their part of the country.

After our training we headed to Itaewon to stay at my dad’s friend, Paul’s, house. His whole family moved to Seoul and they have been there for 5 years. Itaewon is the foreigner area in Seoul and it is filled with many westerners, embassies and huge houses (the CEOS of Samsung and LG live there). It was so weird for us to be there and see westerner families walking in the streets as well as be in house that sort of resembled a typical South African house (it even had a garden).  Paul and his daughter Erin took us to the Seoul Club for dinner. We had delicious hamburgers, a first since our time in Korea. They then took us out to check out the bustling streets of Itaewon. The streets are lined with trendy bars, pubs and restaurants and they were full with people. We definitely saw the most foreigners and westerners we had seen ever in Korea. There seemed to be people from all around the world as we heard all sorts of accents and languages. We went to 2 pubs. One was the “Braai Republic”. A pub/restaurant started by a South African man. It serves all sorts of South African food. We were pleased to have some Savannahs, Castles, biltong and amazing Amarula cheesecake. Being in Itaewon kind of made us wish that we lived in Seoul. The place seems so alive and it’s really nice to not feel like such an outsider. I can’t wait to go back there.

Braai Republic- looks like home

The next day, Paul very kindly took us for a brief tour around Seoul. We visited Insadong, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, the old Olympic stadium before we had lunch in Gangnam and then headed back to Jeonju. I really enjoyed the weekend in Seoul and appreciated all the home comforts. The small things like being with dogs (Paul had 3), eating normal cheese and having Mexican food for lunch reminded me of home.

Girls wearing traditional Hanbok clothing in Insadong.

The main street of Insadaong. You can buy lovely trinkets, food and treats.

Dean and Paul watching the performance on how to make the delicious

Insadong traditional sweet Yong Su Yeom. Yong Su Yeom is a treat spun from fine threads of honey and it has a nutty filling.

Dongdaemun Design Plaze from the outside. Bizarre looking building. The inside looks weirdly futuristic.


In July we also had Market Day at our schools. This was a really fun day as we didn’t have to work and the kids had a great time. On Market Day the children get to spend “money” that they have earned for good behaviour, hard work etc on all sorts of treats. Dean and I were in charge of the snack rooms.  We also got spoilt with many treats and yummy food. I was given iced noodles for lunch, a really strange meal but quite refreshing. 

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!

First week of EBY Talking Club

Monday morning finally came around. Dean and I were pretty nervous because we didn’t really know what to expect. Seeming though we actually took this job on a whim without having received a signed contract from the director and not fully knowing what our responsibilities would be, we had our fingers crossed. Our director Joanna fetched us on Monday afternoon and took us to our schools. Dean’s school is about a 10 minute walk from our apartment and mine is just past his, about a 15 minute walk.

Dean's school. You can see the EBY Talking Club sign. 

Walk to school, up the hill. 

My school, you can see the EBY Talking Club sign on the side. 

Walk to my school. Luckily some shade!!

Both schools are the same Talking Club franchise, have the same director and run with the same system. Joanna showed us around the schools and explained briefly how the system works. We rotate around the 4 classrooms everyday so each day we teach a new group of students. It is quite refreshing to see different students everyday. It’s also good for the students because they all need as much exposure to speaking English as possible. The Talking Club ‘system’ was a bit complicated to get our heads around but we seem to have worked it out now. Our first week has been great. For me it mainly involved doing introductions and showing the kids a slide show about Cape Town, my home and my family. Most children have never heard of South Africa and they were in awe by all the pictures. After showing them pictures of my house and garden I was met by many gasps and “teacha, are you rich?” questions. Everyone here lives in taaaall apartments and apparently only like the CEOs of Samsung and Hyundai have swimming pools at their houses. Needless to say, all the kids want to come to South Africa!

The entrance to my school. Dean's looks the same.

Inside the school. It is quite small with only 4 small classrooms and a teachers office.

I get to wear these cool slippers when I get to work. Dean got started on teaching on day 2. His teachers are very keen and explained the whole system to him. Lucky for me because then he could tell me all about it. There are 3 Korean teachers at each school. Their English is ok and sometimes it can be difficult to get across what you are trying to say. It seems crazy because they are English teachers but they all seem to be able to teach grammar just fine.

Our hours are pretty great. We have to be at school at 1:20pm to start teaching at 2pm and we finish at 8pm. This is much less hours than typical hagwon (Korean ‘after school’ program) jobs which generally finish at 10pm and we still get paid the average salary. We also do minimal lesson planning and arriving at school at 1:20pm gives us plenty of time to prepare for the day. I've heard new teachers can spend up to 6hour preparing for each day so I’m pleased about this.

Another thing we did in our first week was visit the hospital for our health check. You need to have a health check within 30days of entering the country so that you can apply for your Alien Registration Card (which allows you to stay in the country). Joanna took us to one of the main hospitals in Jeonju one morning, Jesus Hospital. I was the BUSIEST hospital I have ever seen, people everywhere walking around in gowns. No wonder people in Korea live so long if they are always at the hospital getting checks. We had the most rigorous health check either one of us had ever had. And it was so efficient, all taking about an hour. The check involved: chest scan, blood test, ear test, eye test, urine test, blood pressure, height, weight etc, mouth examination. Joanna paid for both our tests, 100 000 Won (R1000), which was very kind of her. Directors do not normally pay for it. She is such a kind lady and has so far given us so many gifts and treats. We are so lucky to have such a great director.

With Joanna at Dunkin Donuts after the hospital :) All in all, the first week was enjoyable and we feel very lucky to have an awesome director and nice schools. I am looking forward to next week to start some proper teaching and get into a routine.