Hello again! So sorry to my three readers that I have not update in some time. As far as comments show, I have three special readers, Mom, Aunt Gail, and Colleen 🙂 And a shout out to Nicole who also left a comment before. Thank you all for the motivation to keep my monthly update.. ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ (that is text laughing in Korean) sounds like K sound kkkkkkk
This week at the haba hagwon nightmare of an institution, I call my job, we had parent observations. After a little post on facebook about this said experience, a traveling friend I met last year, Chris put it perfectly ‘That is the day I realized I will never be able to teach in Korea again.’
It is a tramatizing experience. The homeroom teacher of the class or a Korean English teacher, and myself, with 8-11 kids depending on the class and their parents, grandparents, and housemaids snuggled into one little classroom. Oh how darling this week was. Due to the extreme hangover look in this photo, I treated myself to some ladies’ night at the local bar (free drinks 10-12 for ladies) after this was all said and done. Tuesday had 1 and 1/2 hours of observing and Thursday was 2 hours straight. 4 classes, 30 minutes each. My cousin Justin asked for an explanation of why I recently commented about the Korean school system vs. the American school system. I’m sure you can find this on your local google page, but I think I will try to make a more personal experience for him and those others interested.
I work at a private school in Korea. I attended public school my entire life in America. Korean private schools are also called hagwons, academies, etc. My school has children 3-7 which is Korean age (1 year older than American age, when you are born you are one, and everyone turns a year older when it is a new year, nothing in Korea makes sense, trust me, just bare with me). So the children are technically 2-6 years old. The school day begins at 8:40 when the first bus load of students arrive and the latest stay till 6 pm. This is also a kindergarten, so I guess it would be more considered full time daycare for the 2 year old class. I do not teach the 2 year olds, but I do teach 3-6 years old, daily. The school is entirely taught in Korean. There are 10 teachers plus me. There are also two assistants for the younger classes, one in the 2 year old, and one in the 3 year olds. The biggest class is 13 students. So there are roughly 55 students in the school. It is definitely a small school and more of a homey type for the children, or that is what the idea is I suppose.
This week for parent observations I got to see first hand how ridiculous the hagwon title is. Parents pay a minimum of 700,000 korean won and a maximum of 1,000,000 won per month for their children. That is easily converted to USD as 1 million won is $904.00. For the two weeks prior to the parents coming, my boss watched every class I taught tweeking and changing just about everything I thought I was going to be doing for the parents. We had to make obnoxiously large posters and display boards for games and activities we had to do to make it appear like the students were having a ridiculously fun time. We had to be extremely cheerful, loud, and happy the entire time. We were not allowed to directly discipline students, remind them not to speak Korean, or do anything they would see as negative, like we are usually told to do during normal class time. I created correography to many songs and stories that we read. I wish I had pictures. I even made little headbands with different animals on each for the students to wear and participate in one of the stories. Farmer and the Carrot. A story about a farmer trying to pull up a huge carrot from the ground so called all his animals for help. And one by one they came up and helped the farmer (me) pull up a huge carrot. Then while the parents were here, we gave them some real carrot to eat when we pulled it up. These kids are 5. It was cute, everyone loved it, crowd pleaser, yadda yadda. We also did songs and dances like itsy bitsy spider, I’m a little teapot, and those are the only popular ones you would know of. Our cirriculum is made entirely of stories, songs, chants, poems, and action activities. It is good way to learn English, have students memorize stories and songs and dances for two months and bam move up to next level whether they are on track or not, right? Wrong!
I was never a fan of school as a kid. As I grew older I remember trying to avoid it at all costs some days. I am pretty clueless and I will be the first one to admit, how the American school system operates. I do know that many people like myself come to Korea with the intention of gaining experience and going home to America, Canada, and other English speaking countries and find that there is such a huge difference, Korea is not technically ‘teaching.’ I am aware of that. For some reason also, I was always the kid to say ‘When I grow up I want to be a teacher.’ Probably had something to do with the fact that I idolized my older cousin Kirsten and she is probably a fantastic teacher. I do not think that is the path the big man up there had for me. I am okay with that, unfortunately my career path did not come with a Plan B. So that is something I need to figure out.
Korean schools make me laugh. Parents pay a shit ton (excuse me) of money for a ridiculous puppeteer show. I have had my picture taken numerous times, been interviewed, classes filmed, recorded. I have been published in multiple magazines, a newspaper, and various publications. My PICTURE is the most important part of my job. Thanks for the blonde hair pats it’s really working to my advantage this year. Baaahaha.
I knew what it was like when I applied and they required a picture and skype interview to make sure I was really the person I said I was. Only in Korea (asia).
I’ll end with this. I recently attended this Stand-up Comedy night in Gangnam (yes Gangnam is a real place). It is basically a bunch of expats like myself poking fun at the world around us, Korea and Koreans to be exact. This one guy put it quite well. He said something along the lines of, If you look around and see a 6 year old wearing heels and ask why is there a 6 year old wearing heels. You replace Why with of course and everything will make much more sense. Of course there is a 6 year old wearing heels. Only in Korea.
Much love xoxo
p.s. I’m staying another year 🙂