I have been in South Korea for just about two weeks now, but it feels like I have been here for several months. This is probably due to a catalog of fresh experiences, though I am starting to get into a very loose routine. Some things that were challenging my first few days -ordering food, not offending people, buying trash bags- are now less challenging, and I have a network of people that I can go to with questions and for advice. Up to this point I have been doing teacher training at the school where I am working. This post will entail the Daegu experience as seen through the eyes of Mr. Daniel.
I am teaching at an English academy. Parents pay money to send their kids there because they want them to be worldly and know how to speak English fluently, or because they are unable to find a babysitter that won’t beat their children, which to the disappointment of many of my coworkers is strictly against Avalon policy. After spending an entire day in their regular school these kids then come to this academy several times a week. You don’t have to be a child psychologist to figure out that if children are pent up in a classroom environment to long they grow restless, tired, and down right violent (I refuse to give most of my students access to scissors). Adding to this, most of the students do not understand English very well. My greatest challenge in the classroom will be to try to get these Korean students to refrain from speaking Korean, and to maintain the comfortable rapport that I am trying to establish.
During my first week I sat in on classes and observed and took notes on other teachers. This is intended to be a way of seeing first-hand how teaching is done at Avalon and perhaps what you should avoid doing. Naturally the students were curious as to who I was and what I was doing, a grown adult, sitting in a play school sized chair in the back of the class. Sometimes the teacher would introduce me and what I was doing there and when they didn’t I used it as an opportunity to continue the suspenseful uncertainty and would sometimes put on a pair of sunglasses and cross my arms in a serious pose. My observation notes went from detailed critiques to complex doodles as I realized that the only person who was and who would ever be reading them was me. At the tail end of the week I became antsy and started interacting with the students more and assisting them with in-class assignments. Some of the time they just wanted to talk to me about where I was from or what I was like, but more often they would blurt out random things like, “Teacha gimme mahney”, or “Teacha what that bump” while pointing to their own neck (my Adam’s apple?).
This week I have been executing lesson plans in my coworkers’ classes. Basically, I have been doing the job of a regular teacher, but it is much different when you are only doing it on a temporary basis with a teacher in the room observing. I will be replacing Kirsty a very nice young Scottish woman. This means that not only will I assume all of her teaching duties, but I will also inherit the rest of her life in Korea. Her appliances, which I have been waiting for since I’ve been here (television, washer, refrigerator) will be mine, as well as her cell phone and presumably friends. When I have been coteaching in Kirsty’s classes I have made a point to try to get to know the students a little better because essentially they will be my students starting on Monday. I have been introducing myself while telling the class two things about me: “Hi I’m Daniel. I’m from New York and I like basketball.” I go around the class and ask them to tell me two things about themselves. Usually what happens is everyone copies the first person. If Angelina (all of the students have a designated English name) likes to read Harry Potter and does not like her sister you can bank on half of the class liking Harry Potter and not like their sister. When I tell the students I am from New York it generates a lot of excitement, as does showing them my passport. I found this out when I took it out of my pocket when I was searching for something to write with. You would have thought that my passport was a some kind of magical toy, and the last one of its kind. This kept them attentive and occupied for a good ten minutes.
On Monday the real fun starts.
Some notable quotes from students:
“My parents eat teachers.”
“You look like a monkey.”
“Avalon teachers are rich to drink soju.”
“KFC is like heaven.”
“Avalon burn to the ground with fire.”