Tag Archives: teaching in korea

sweating it out.

21 Jun

It’s too early to turn the air conditioning on, said the principal. Today is only the first day of summer. Well, we’ve had 30 degree Celsius plus temperatures for the past 1.5 weeks. So.  I’m not sure June knows it’s too early. The students are barely capable of answering a question and I feel even worse standing there sweating in front of them all.

Luckily yesterday it was decided that after 10 am we’re allowed to turn the a/c on in our classrooms. I can just see the power going out from the sudden surge of every classroom turning it on.

Our office won’t be a cause of that however, because our air conditioner is broken. Our office is one of the warmest rooms in the school due to the 5 computers in a small space and lack of a cool breeze. I’m not used to this predicament! I have always had air conditioning at home and in my apartment I put it on as well. I have one window there, so there is no cross breeze to speak of. Basically the heat makes me feel pretty miserable. Headaches and the like. I even am drinking my 2 L of water every day at work. Doesn’t seem to matter. I don’t deal well with heat.

Basically I am biding my time here. The inevitable happened on Sunday and Jacob flew back to Canada. I’m not sure if it felt worse for me to come back here in February or if it was worse when he left, but it was pretty bad. It’s been two days now and I’m getting back into my routine. It’s a bit hard to go home after work to an empty apartment. And to make my own food and my own breakfast (!) and do the laundry :). He was a lovely roommate.

At this point I’m just looking towards the near future. The last day of school is July 15th. Less than 4 weeks away. Then after that it’s time for summer camp; just three weeks of working until noon. About 12 days after that (hopefully of some time off) I will be flying to San Francisco for 4 days before heading home. I’m so done with this life. I’ve been here for 10 months. I’ve had the experience I came for and then some. I’m bored with my job.  I’m tired and miss everyone back home. On the plus side the rainy season should be starting tomorrow. Not.

This post is what 30 degrees indoors will do to you.


Fire safety.

4 May

Just a quick post about what happened today.

Yesterday my co-teacher told me that we’d have a fire drill or something like that from 11:00-11:50 am, so I’d have to heard my grade 3s outside. I was uneasy about this but said ok. Today I was told that I just had to end the class at 11:00 and the homeroom teacher would come and take the kids outside. Good.

At around 10:00 am I looked out the window and noticed that the custodial staff had built a fairly large bonfire in the middle of the “field.” The “field” is just a sand/dirt covered area. Clearly this fire drill was serious.

At 11:00 am an announcement went over the PA (which lasted for about 30 minutes) which was about the drill and asking us to pretend it was real. I waited in the English office with my co-teachers for a few minutes before we headed out. All of the students were sitting about 50 feet away from the fire. They were talking and chatting, standing up etc. Their homeroom teachers were trying to control them, but how could they, when there was a raging bonfire in front of them?

Eventually, two grade 5 students walked up to the fire and were given fire extinguishers. After some sort of conversation, they eventually began to spray the bonfire with the extinguishers. The fire didn’t go out completely, and after a few minutes started to get bigger again.

I looked at my co-teachers. They smiled back and said “It didn’t seem to work, did it?” No, it didn’t.

Then we went back inside and taught fourth period. https://i2.wp.com/www.nmsu.edu/~safety/images/fire_meaney.gif


1 Oct

my mom has informed me that my relatives are wondering about what it’s actually like to teach in korea. some other people have been asking me that question as well, so i figured i might as well go about answering it.

teaching, for public school teachers, can be very easy. the curriculum is laid out. you only teach 22 classes a week (40 minutes for elementary, 45 for middle and 50 for high school). you have a co-teacher.

now all of these things can go horribly wrong. the curriculum can be lacking in many ways. although the textbook and accompanying cd rom are supposed to be all you need, pretty much all teachers adapt the materials and add to it. if you just stuck to the textbook then you’d probably only have about 20 minutes of teaching material, and some pretty bored students. we usually do certain parts of the textbook (which i think are a bit dry, but some of them are alright) and then change up the game/activity at the end. even this can be very easy to do. there are many websites dedicated to teaching at public schools in korea, which means that other teachers have published materials that they have made. of course, if you’re going to keep “borrowing” other peoples’ work, eventually you should put your own work up for grabs.

you only teach 22 classes a week. that equals just under 15 hours of actual teaching time per week. that leaves you with 25 hours a week to prepare for your classes. each week i prepare a 5th and 6th grade lesson (with the help of my co-teachers), as well as two lessons for my beginning and intermediate teachers classes. i also prepared a grade 4 lesson a month ago, which i will teach up until november. this is because i only see the grade fours two times a semester. no comment on that one. once a month i do an english club, which is pretty easy to do. it’s 80 minutes long, so i have to think of a bunch of entertaining stuff for them to do for that time period, but it’s been fun so far. most public school english teachers will tell you that they are fantastic facebookers and very internet savvy. this is because you need to figure out just WHAT you’re going to do for about 20 hours a week. this week i actually was marking some grade 6 tests, which took up some time, but normally i really don’t have much to do. this is why if anyone asks me to help them with anything (really, anything) i do it. for example, i’m going to help with a reading/essay competition as well as a production of the wizard of oz. these things probably will take up extra time (but not really) but i’m getting paid anyway and it’s nice to just help out the other teachers who work harder than i do.

i have two co-teachers: mia and julia. i am extremely lucky because they are both really kind and helpful. mia is unable to be a caretaker to me (take me shopping, to the bank etc) due to some other responsibilities, but other co-workers have stepped in to take her place. sophie, who i’ve mentioned before, is my friend/nurse who takes care of my physical health and is my subway partner. on wednesday julia and i went to a beautiful buddhist temple near coex mall and out for dinner. christina has offered to teach me korean every monday during 5th period, and also bought me a bamboo flute because she teaches that to her students. so all in all, i am really quite blessed. other people complain about their schools and co-teachers, but i really have nothing bad to say at all. everyone is just about as kind and friendly as possible.

my students! i have over 700 students a week. i have 9 classes of grade 6 (~28 students per class), 9 classes of grade 5(~28 students per class) and 8 classes of grade 4s (~33 students per class). it’s a lot. the major problem with this is that i do not get to know my students. i literally don’t know a single one of their names. this is not for lack of trying! i ask some students for their names and then immediately forget them because my ear is not attuned to korean names AT ALL. i recognize all of their faces, and know which students are mine, but i couldn’t even tell you sometimes if they’re in grade 5 or 6. don’t even ask me what class.

my students are quite well behaved. they call me “teacher!” (always yelling it), “erika” or “miss a” as one student calls me. i told them they could call me “miss s” if they wanted and there is a k-pop group called “miss a” so…there you go. i don’t have a complaint about any of them, well except maybe the one who commented on my arm hair. i think he said “tal” or “chal” or something that sounds like that. i had heard before that it means hair, so i knew he was being a little brat. i did actually call him a brat but he doesn’t know what that means so it doesn’t matter anyway. i then proceeded to cover his face with his hood. this is allowed and acceptable in korea due to the fact that many teachers can be affectionate with their students. nothing funny, just hugging or poking or things like that. my co-workers are shocked when i tell them that this could lose them their job in north america. they really do enjoy being affectionate with the students and it’s pretty sweet to see.

other than that i’m pretty much fully accepted into the korean teaching circle. i go out for teacher dinners, i sit at the table in the office and eat snack (and then sit there while everyone talks in korean), i sit with the teachers at lunch. i’ve even gone to insadong with two of the wonderful younger teachers, juah and jini. i receive numerous portions of dduk or a very dense rice cake with beans in it. i even am going to sports day next saturday. yes, i know, it’s a saturday. and technically i’m not ever supposed to work on a weekend. it’s in my contract. however, often here your option is to complain and lose favour, or just suck it up and give off a good impression. so i’m going to sports day (it’s only until lunch) and then i get monday off (which is canadian thanksgiving). i think it’s actually going to be fun. i’m definitely bringing my camera to take pictures of my students running around like little monsters. i’ll post them, along with pictures of my school itself soon. promise.