Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

School Again


Well, I just smacked a kid in the face with a nerf ball because he didn’t understand the command “catch.”

Some background: In my class, if I don’t have a volunteer I throw a nerfball, well gently toss in theory, and whoever catches the nerfball has to speak. This led to students diving out of the way, even under tables or behind their friends to dodge the dreaded ball, so I made it a rule that whoever I THREW the ball to, or whoever’s desk or body it bounced off of, had to answer.

This was one of my male students in my advanced class so I assumed he could understand the command, or at the very least when he saw me throwing put up his hands to block the ball, but you know what they say about “assuming…” it makes you hit kids in the face with nerfballs. Of COURSE I should have explained “catch” or at the very least lightly thrown the ball to him before just chucking it at his face. Instead, I reasoned with myself, “the kid sees that I have a ball. He should be able to catch it.” Well, just because we have hands does not mean that we can all catch.  

Apparently I didn’t learn my lesson last time when on week three I hit my student Kirk Cobain in the face. At the very least I learned not to use a real tennis ball this time around.

To use a cliche (but this one is especially apt as I’m a teacher so it’s okay right?) a new school year is a blank slate and/or chalkboard. Any behavioral problems I had, or policies I set that I wished I could go back and change, I now can because not only is it a new academic year for old students who have all moved up a grade and now are lofty 2nd or 3rd graders, but I also have completely new students. However with this new blank slate comes new blank students that need to be pre-taught my expressions in order for them to be able to react accordingly. English is not their native language, and though they have been studying it for awhile they have never been taught a class fully in English. In order for them to know that they must respond to my “hello” with a “hello” in return I must teach it to them. In order for them to understand the phrase “repeat after me” I must teach it to them, and in order for me to know their actual English level I must gain their trust so that they’ll speak to me. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had new students that I forgot what it was like in the Fall, when I despaired that my students would ever want to talk to me.

This was my mistake, not the students. His inability to catch the nerfball this time around doesn’t mean he’s stupid, doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to catch, and maybe it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t understand the phrase “catch,” it just means that he’s unfamiliar with me and the classroom, and isn’t really expecting nerf balls to come flying at this face, ESPECIALLY in a Korean high school.
It’s my job to make him and all of my other new and old students used to me, and to pre-teach these concepts before he has to put them into practice

posted under School
One Comment to

“School Again”

  1. Avatar March 6th, 2011 at 6:34 am Dad Says:

    Em – What a Brilliant Idea of checking students to see if they understood the meaning of the word “catch” before you throw the nerf ball at them! – Love Dad.

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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.