Category Archives: teaching

The moral dilemmas i go through everyday at school

I made a student cry today.  She didn’t cry in front of me, but her friend later came to me in the office and told me about it.

I know it’s hard for them to ask me questions and admit that they don’t understand things.  It’s just the culture.  But these girls are so economically disadvantaged already that i feel obligated as their teacher to train them so they can become more responsible.  That way, they’ll at least have a chance at getting a job after they graduate.  There is so little disciplinary action in this school; the students are in very bad shape, both in terms of attitude and work ethic.  I don’t know how they are in other classes, but in my classes, they don’t listen.  For some reason, they think that if they can’t understand what i’m saying, they might as well ignore me and chit chat.  The ones who try ask the high-level students to translate, but most give up.  I don’t have a problem with them giving up.  That’s their right, and i can’t force them to learn if they don’t want to.  But when they talk, other students who want to try can’t hear me, and as a result, most of the class gets things wrong and loses points.  And i don’t give second chances, because they should know my rules already.

This student didn’t know my policy of never accepting late work because she either didn’t listen or didn’t understand but neglected to ask for clarification.  When i refused to accept her late timed writing, she quietly walked away.  It would be unfair for me to accept her work, because i’ve been refusing all late submissions.  When her friend came to plead with me to accept it, i took it and told her i’d correct it but that i’d have to give it a zero.  I later caved and gave the student who submitted her work late a letter explaining that i’ll only take 5 points off and that she shouldn’t take it personally, because i can’t veer from my rules if i’m to be fair to everybody.  I had to mull it over for a good hour, but i eventually decided that i’m not being too unfair because this class is a bit behind, and i did accept late work the first few weeks.

I want these kids to succeed.  I really do.  They want so many things in life—they tell me these things in their journals—and if no one helps them now to become responsible citizens, they’re never gonna get those things.  I don’t understand why the teachers here protect them so much.  These girls don’t need protection; they need training.  I feel like everyone here thinks God is the answer to everything.  ‘These girls might be irresponsible and unmotivated but God will somehow help them in the end, so let’s just pray.’  I wish somebody would cooperate with me.


Filed under culture, korea, teaching

A strange day

I’m gonna write a mid-day diary entry today, because i have all my second graders write journals, and i feel like writing one, too.  I can’t even remember the last time i wrote a diary entry just describing what i did for the day.

Is it possible to black out without having consumed any alcohol?  Because i think i did last night, and it was my first “blackout” ever.  I woke up at 1:30am, with the lights on and the window open.  I couldn’t remember how i ended up in bed, asleep.  I couldn’t remember what i did before i fell asleep.  All i remembered was being on Facebook around 1am.  After taking a minute to re-orient myself, i got out of bed and checked to see if i’d set an alarm, and i hadn’t.  I tried to finish correcting essays, but i was so tired i closed my eyes to rest a little bit.  It was my first time falling asleep in a chair.  I woke up again at 2:30 with the worst stomachache.  I think i ate spoiled yogurt.  You see, my local grocery store started stocking my favorite yogurt, but they don’t refrigerate it; they just stack it in front of the fridge case.  I didn’t think i should buy it, but i took the risk anyway because i really wanted that yogurt.  I’ll have to complain the next time i go.

So anyway, after a half-hour of torture, i took some Pepto Bismol, set my alarm for 4am, and passed out once again.  I slept through the alarm but somehow woke up in a panic at 6:47, with just enough time to get ready for school.  I had time to input Class 6’s journal grades, but there was no way i was going to finish correcting Class 3’s 2nd set of essays (i have Class 3 1st period and Class 6 2nd period on Fridays).  They submitted these essays a week ago, so i really wanted to give them back today.  Luckily, this class is somehow way ahead of the other classes (most classes wrote their 2nd essay in class today), so this doesn’t set them back in any way.  Besides, if i’d returned them today, they would have had to do rewrites over break.  So we had a relaxing lesson today writing and talking about Chuseok.  The girls had a good time, i wasn’t ordering them to shut up like i always am during timed writings, and their faces absolutely lit up when i gave them all letters as a Chuseok present.  My head co-teacher, who teaches that class with me, was pleased with the letter, too.  She later came to me, smiling and thanking me for it.  The letter was an excuse to have students learn my handwriting (i gave them each a handwritten copy and a typed copy), but it contained all the things that i’ve been wanting to tell them since starting teaching here.  I explained why i was so strict, stricter than probably any other teacher in this school, and i really hope they read it, because it was sincere.  Until now, i think my head co-t hated me a little bit for being so hard on them, but she told me today that she understands now why i teach this way.  So i’m glad that’s settled.

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Protected: Encouragement and discipline in the classroom

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Filed under korea, teaching

Sometimes i love my girls

Student:  Sensitive tongue…
[I type it in.]
Student:  [in Korean to a classmate] You know, can taste food well…
Me:  Oh, i thought you meant for kissing!
Student:  Oh, no, no, no, not me!  I’m not like that!  <turns away and hides her face>

I teach at an all girls’ Christian mission high school.  My 2nd graders’ first essay topic is men (or women, if that is their sexual preference).

The co-teacher was absent in class 2-2.  Here’s the list of brainstorming ideas they suggested for a men-themed essay:

type (ideal type)
body – six pack, foot size, shoulder span, waist size, horse muscle [apparently it refers to thighs], Adam’s apple, tight bum, chest hair (none preferred), leg hair (none preferred)
face – size
personality – heart, humorous, honest, kind, generous
skinship [the Konglish term for physical intimacy]
friendship (how many friends? relationship with friends)
relationship with women?
manners, chivalry [my suggestion]
driving skills
height (tall?) – leg length
hair – how much?

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Filed under student quotes, teaching

Dedicated to my SMOE friends

Think about this for a second:  there are 258 of us planted in every corner of Seoul, all doing the same thing:  teaching English in public schools.  We’re like a formidable army, and we’ve got our bases covered.  I’m continually mesmerized and inspired by this thought, and it’s what keeps me going when things get tough in my neck of the woods.  Because i know there’s someone in this city who’s going through the same things i am.

Other than the bland food and lectures, i think i enjoyed our orientation way more than i should have.  I learned something new during my time there:  i get along better with a slightly older crowd.  I disliked the majority of the people at my university, except those in a graduate level course i took in my last semester.  I’m one of the youngest in our bunch, and before i got to orientation, i was a bit concerned that i wouldn’t be able to talk to you guys, but what do you know, i’ve never had an easier time talking to people.

So i’m taking this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to those of you who have either made me smile or laugh (or both!) at KHU and continue to do so now.  I knew the journey would be difficult, but what i didn’t know was that i’d have so many wonderful people with me on it.

Good luck to you all, and remember that i’m smack dab in the middle of Seoul (Yongsan-gu) if you ever need me.

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Filed under seoul, teaching

“I want to be an unforgettable teacher.”

It’s official:  i’m going to be a Guest English Teacher at a public school in Seoul starting September.  All i can say is, i am beyond excited.  I even watched Master of Study to learn about public schools in Seoul and the Korean educational system and culture in general.  It moved my heart and inspired me to be the best teacher i can be—“an unforgettable teacher.”  At first, i thought that was a rather self-centered, ego-inflated way of looking at things.  But then i realized that teachers who really care can’t help but want their students to care in return.  Teachers are human, too.

My main reason for going is to take a year or two “off” from where i am right now and focus on myself.  I want to be free from all restrictions (or as much as i can manage abroad, away from home) and just do anything my heart desires.  I probably shouldn’t have picked Seoul because i know even more people there who will bother me and take away my time, but i wanted to go someplace familiar and where i spoke the language fluently.

By time “off,” i certainly don’t mean that i won’t be taking my time there seriously.  There are two projects that i will have to take very seriously, the first one being obvious:  my job.  It has always been my dream to teach, and though i don’t think of ESL education in particular as a long-term endeavor for me, i do enjoy parsing and teaching language and believe that knowing English is an important asset.  However, i am hoping that i’ll be able to teach my students more than just the English language.  I hope to allow them to discover a lifelong joy of learning–and in themselves, self-worth–and i’m sure i’ll have a lot to learn from them as well.

My second project will be to familiarize myself with as many of the great philosophers and their works as possible.  I plan on going to grad school for Philosophy in a few years, and i feel that i am not quite up to par as those with a B.A. in the subject.  And so, i’ve begun collecting books to bring with me to Seoul to study in my free time.  Please leave suggestions if you have any, especially for ancient philosophy.

I’ll be leaving August 9th.


Filed under announcements, career, teaching