Sunday, January 2, 2011

Katy's School: Surviving the World of High School Boys

Last time Danny told you a little bit about his school and now it is my turn. Even though Danny and I initially moved to Korea just to get the experience of living in a foreign country and traveling, teaching has become a big part of our lives here. Since neither of us had previous teaching experience, we weren't really sure what we were getting ourselves into and even though there have been some tough times, overall it has been a great experience. It has been interesting to see how differently they do things but I am starting to forget how different it is... "Wait, student's don't brush their teeth multiple times a day in America? Weird." Above is a picture of me teaching my "open class" which you have to do twice a year. The class is opened so other teachers or parents can come watch your class and evaluate you. It sounds scary but it's really not that bad.

Here is basically what happens in a normal class of mine: I first do a phrase of the day where I teach a slang word like "pound it, awesome, eat it, pick up line" and many others. It's fun to teach the students and then later here them using it when they speak. Then we teach the lesson about whatever the topic is that day: travel, habits, etc. (The boring stuff) THEN, I usually do a game. The students have so many other lecture classes a day, so I try to at least make my classes fun, and I've learned like many other teachers, that if you offer candy, the students will basically do anything for you! I like to use whiteboards for games and usually the most entertaining thing is when they get to choose their own team names. I've heard names such as "Penguins", "The Team of Father", the very creative "Team 5", or "Oops, Having a Baby (It may be Intended)". Obviously, I laugh everytime they make team names : )

Here are some pictures of my students. Above is my absolute FAVORITE class! They are really great guys who have a lot of fun but actually listen to me in class. (I will miss them) Actually, unlike Danny's school, most of my guys are really great. I only have 2 classes out of 12 that are really difficult so I feel very lucky. Like I said before, my school is the top high school in the area, so I think that's way the majority of my students are so good. Below are some other really nice students, who are also the trouble-makers, but you can't help but like them. From left to right there is Jagiya (which means honey in Korean), Obama, and Sponge Bob. They obviously got to choose their own names ; )

These are some of the guys from my favorite 1st grade class. Again, I think people have the idea that Asian students are perfect students, but that is far from the truth. Boys are boys so they like to do the same things as American students. I think it is funny that at the beginning of the year I thought they all looked the same: black hair, glasses, uniform, but now I can really see the difference is looks and personality in all of them. One kid, Kyle, has been a really fun student to get to know. He is one of those guys who wants to be one of the cool kids, but just isn't, and who has such a sweet personality. He wrote me a note for teachers day that I had to share:

I feel lucky to have formed a bond with some students so I will be really sad to say goodbye. These two guys are 3rd graders, and even though I don't teach them, they enjoyed coming to visit me every once in a while. The guy on the right I call "Stevie" because he likes to practice Stevie Wonder songs with me so I can help him with his pronounciation. When you teach, everyday is entertaining in some way.

Almost everything about the Korean school system is different than what I know in America, and that even includes lunch. It is almost "mandatory" to eat the lunch that the school provides in Korea. It would kind of be seen as rude if you don't want to eat their food so you have to get used to it quickly. Actually the healthiness and the quality of food is much better than an American cafeteria's so it's not that bad, but don't be expecting burgers and fries as an option.

You always get in the line and grab yourself a silver tray, chopsticks, and a spoon. The food that is always found on the menu is rice, kimchi, and some sort of soup. Other than that you will usually get various other dishes such as tofu, steamed seaweed, green onion pancake, spicy chicken, fruit salad, shrimp and fish salad, pork cutlet, and so much more.

Here is my tray after I filled it with a Korean lunch. From top right going clockwise you can see spicy pork in sauce, some sort of soup, rice with various greens to mix in, fried tofu with red pepper sauce, kimchi, and steamed sesame spinach. They also occasionally give you a little treat, and today it was a tiny bottled drink that I still don't know what the technical flavor is. Koreans think it is unhealthy to drink while you eat so if you get any liquid at all, it will be about the size of a shot glass.

I've actually started to enjoy lunch, and the fact that you get all of that food for about $2 a day is a pretty good deal if you ask me! Here's a view of the walk up to the school "restuarant" as my Coteacher likes to call it, and the dormitory... the horse kind of reminds me of my high school days at Lewis-Palmer... GO RANGERS... Woop, WOOP!

Here is a lovely view of my office. I think this will be the biggest office I will EVER have, and let's just say that those couches have given me a wonderful place to nap on the occasion. I am actually the only teacher who has their own office, and it's not because I am lucky, but actually because they didn't have room for me anywhere else. I am in an entirely different building than everyone else so it can get lonely, but for the most part I enjoy it.

Here is a picture of me and one of the English teachers in my school who I taught English to about twice a week in a teacher's class. His name is Chu and he is a character. At first I think he didn't really like me, but eventually I won him over by doing what I do best... teasing him. Who knew that these serious and sometimes intimidating Korean men melt as soon as you make them laugh? This picture was take then day I made tacos for some of the teachers. Tragically, Mexican food is not common in Korea so this was the first time that they had tried a taco! How did they survive without tacos?!

I think the most suprising blessing of this whole experience has definitely been the relationship I have built with my Coteacher, Mrs. Byeon. As a foreign teacher, you are automatically assigned a Korean teacher to help you with anything you need. These teachers can either been extremely helpful, which mine is, or not so involved which can make simple things like getting a cell phone or figuring out your school schedule quite difficult. Mrs. Byeon has honestly become like my Korean aunt. She is a believer, which gives us a great connection, and is always willing to help. She brings me vegetables from her garden all the time, she has taught me how to make Dakalbi, and she has taken Danny and I on family trips. I honestly think that Danny and I would have had a very different and not-as-great experience without her. Here I am with another teacher who I teach in my teacher's class, Mrs. Lee (on the left), Mrs. Byeon (in the middle), and me.

Well, that was a way-to-long post about my school, so I won't blame you aren't reading this part at the end. Overall, I have learned a lot through this experience, and I know that it has made me appreciate past teachers a lot more.
I guess in the end, the secret I have learned to being a good teacher is this: bribe people with candy and anybody will like you : ) Good luck to all of you who are forming the minds of the future!


  1. I raise my glass to all those who are shaping the minds of our future. And I raise my glass to you and your courage and sense of humor in a far away land.

  2. wow! Love the pictures from your school. I'm glad that our lunches look the same :D
    The team names are awesome, by the way. I think I might do that with my girls this year :D