Superstars. We are like superstars in Korea! Well, Randy is more of a celebrity than I am because I look like everyone here. He gets the stares and the random “I love you” from strangers. When we are walking together, you can imagine what people are thinking. They’re not used to seeing an interracial couple because it’s just not that diverse here. But, they seem to accept it, especially because Randy is so friendly and likes to say hello and be very respectful to the elders. Koreans usually respond positively.
But, nonetheless, I still have that celebrity status at my school. Most students are very friendly and respectful that I come from a different country and try very hard to understand me and they try to speak English as much as they can. Other students don’t care as much and some are just rotten; these students are usually troublemakers anyway.
Though, sometimes students will mistake me for a Korean teacher and say “anyounhasayo” (hello in Korean) and bow, but then they realize that it’s me and I just hear them giggle and say “hello” quickly. Teachers expect students to greet them by bowing and saying hello.
Hallowin Day. Last week we celebrated Halloween, which isn’t a big holiday here in Korea. They call it “Hallowin Day.” Although they sell Halloween costumes and decorations in some stores, not everyone celebrates it. It is more known among students who go to hagwons (private schools). They usually put on a big Halloween party or make a really scary haunted house for the students. But, I tried my best to cater to all 750 students in one week. I decorated my classroom with bats, ghosts, witches, black cats, etc. I played Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at the beginning of class and then played a trick or treat game. They had to pick a piece of paper from a box and on that piece of paper were tricks, such as “howl like a wolf,” “fly on a broom like a witch” or “dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.” Once the performed the ‘trick,’ they could get a treat. It was very amusing to me and my co-teacher!
Frustration and Encouragement. With that said, our class is supposed to be the ‘fun’ class. So, sometimes it is hard to get students to pay attention. Teaching is different for everyone. But for me, it’s easier to have my co-teacher in class because they are really good at disciplining the kids. Sometimes they don’t understand what I am saying, so I think that is why they don’t listen. But on the other hand, they could very well know what I am saying and just don’t listen. I’ve found a couple of things that work well for me when the co-teacher isn’t in the class. I just stand there and glare at the students really hard to let them know that I am angry. I will also make them write sentences for the whole class period. How a teacher disciplines the students really depends on his or her personality.
Other than some of the frustrating and exhausting times, teaching in Korea has been very rewarding, especially when some students really want to learn more about you and try to speak English. And as we are learning more Korean, it’s becoming easier to communicate with our students and coworkers and therefore, forming long-lasting relationships, or at least making Korea more enjoyable each day.