Friday, September 11, 2009

Time to teach!

Wow, where do I begin. I'll start with work. The name of the school that I teach at is JM English School. This is a private English school (called hagwons in Korea) that has 8 foreign teachers, including me, teaching English to kids between the ages of 4 and 15. Walking into the place, one might think that its a pre-school because of the friendly looking animals painted all over the walls. The building is 5 stories and is considered a pretty large hagwon for Korea. Ms. Lee is the director, not Mr. Moon, like I may have mentioned to some people. When I arrived at my apartment the first day, I asked Mr. Moon if he is the director, to which he replied yes. I brought a gift with me, a box of taffy my sister helped me purchase right before the flight, but Mr. Moon set it down and left it at my apartment! The reason? Ms. Lee showed up and I instantly realized she's the person in charge.

My schedule (as of yesterday, its changed every day I've been here) is 11:00am to 8:00pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday and 10:00am to 7:00pm Tuesday and Thursday. I have two kindergarten classes, in which the kids are 5 years old (which is 4 years old if we use the western system. A child is considered to be a year old on the day they're born). The other four classes are kids that are 9 and 10 years old. Most of them are pretty well behaved but there are a few little brats that are spoiled and won't take direction from me. Now, I don't really have much experience with kids, so I'm not sure what works and its been a learning experience this past week. One thing I have figured out is a carrot and sticks approach can work, in the form of rewarding kids with stars next to their name on the whiteboard if they answer my questions and stay in their seats. Get five stars on the board, and you'll get a star from me in your folder. Get 25 stars in your folder, you'll be rewarded with a prize (prizes have yet to be found by yours truly, I need ideas. Stickers wont do here, maybe pencils? What do kids like that won't empty out my wallet?)

Some of the kids are really cute though. One of the four year old girls, Dorothy, just looks at me when I ask her "What is this? (pointing to a picture of a table)". I tell her the answer, which she promptly recites, but then looks away with a cute smile, overcome by her shyness. On one of the days, she started crying out of nowhere. Fortunately, one of the Korean co-teachers was in the classroom and took her out in the hallway. Turns out, she simply had to go pee. After her return, the little girl came up to me and gave my leg a big hug. It was a kodak moment, I couldn't help but smile. I'll take a picture with these kids later and post them here.

When some of the boys misbehave, I simply erase one of their stars on the whiteboard and that works most of the time. Its backfired a few times, in the form of crying, not responding to me, or getting mad and hitting their heads on the table. Its a freaking star on the board kid! When the 10 year olds get crazy and don't listen, I just raise my voice (I've only had to do this once) and the terror quiets them down. All in all, the vast majority are well behaved and like me. The most common question I've gotten from the kids is "Teacher! Teacher! How many centimeters are you?" When I tell them my height, their reactions are hilarious. Its like the answer is the most amazing thing they've ever heard.

The other foreign teachers have been very helpful in trying to figure out how to teach. It's been difficult understanding the director because of her English abilities, which aren't what I've been used to, but I'll have to make do. One of the guys is from Virginia, another guy from Niagra Falls, Canada, a girl from Ottawa, a girl from Toronto, two sisters from Pennsylvania, and a guy from Seattle that went to SPU. All of us graduated from college recently and everyone is pretty cool.

I've hung out with the other teachers almost every day. I went to a baseball game last weekend, which are more fun than Mariners games back home. The stadium is divided in two, with each side cheering for their team. There is a platform on either side with cheerleaders leading the crowd with cheers, but they're not like in the US. The entire crowd cheers and sings along with the cheerleaders, which are led by a guy with a whistle and four girls. It really gets you into the game and makes it more interesting to watch.

Last note. I have a cell phone and you can text me! The number, to text from the US, is 011-82-10-5784-0637.


  1. Hi! I am just about to accept a teaching position at JM english school myself! I'd love to chat with you more about your experience if I can!

    1. Hey! I just got an offer from JM also. If you can share your experience with me I would really appreciate it!

      - Rubeena