What a jam-packed, crazy, fun week! From exploring Incheon and Seoul, to juggling 9 classes, and getting to know all of my co-teachers there has been a lot to do. I honestly think the hardest part is trying to remember all of my students’ Korean names, especially because they laugh at me when I mispronounce them. Some of the sounds that are very distinct in Korean sound exactly the same to native English speakers. I have a class with a student named Chan Hoo and one named Chan Ho, and I absolutely cannot tell the difference between their pronunciations. In a different class I have a student name Seul, but when I try to pronounce her name I end up calling her a type of Korean beer. All of my students think my pronunciation is hilarious.
I am teaching a bunch of different subjects, ages, and skill levels. They range from a beginning English, kindergarten age class to a history class for fluent 7th graders. The variety is nice, but the classes with older kids are definitely my favorites. These classes can be a little less structured and the students are better able to have free discussion. I need to be much more strict with the younger students to keep the class in order. While Korean students as a whole are much more respectful of authority than American students, all kids have a lot of energy regardless of nationality. Korean students are sitting in class for hours on end, so their restlessness is understandable.
In Korea students are expected to be in school basically all day. I teach at a Hogwan, which is the Korean name for an afterschool academy. There are Hogwans for every subject, so students are going to science, math, english, music, and sports academies after a full day at their regular schools. They go to academies Monday through Saturday and use Sunday to catch up on homework. They have very little time to take a break, hang out with their friends, and just be kids. Korean work ethic is incredible, but it creates a high pressure environment with very little room for rest. On the first day of class one of my middle school students fell asleep within the first 60 seconds. (I’m going to choose to assume that she was tired, and not that I was boring.)
I’m still learning how to manage and prep for all of my different classes, but I’m really enjoying getting to know my students and learning more about Korea in the process.