Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea



It’s Monday. My feet are blistered from walking around Seoul this weekend. I’m drinking instant packet coffee-sugar. I think the first graders have a recorder test, because even just sitting in the teacher’s office far away from the homerooms I can hear strains of recorder floating through the windows, all conflicting with each other like some sort of gaggle of weird atonal plastic geese.

Mondays are weird. I only have two classes on Mondays and they’re 1st and 2nd period back-to-back. Today’s a giggly sort of day. In my first class (2.4, 2nd grade lower-level boys) the students had written on the board “Welcom Emily! Today let’s party!” I told them that, alas and alack, if only we could, but we had to study instead. However we could have an ENGLISH party. Crickets.

We studied “future tense” and I taught them how to make cootie-catchers (which I called fortune-tellers for the purpose of the lesson). I had the students write four sentences in English (today you will _____, tomorrow you will ____, next week and next month). It was super cute, because though my students honestly could not give a rat’s ass about English future tense, once they realized that we actually would be putting the sentences inside the fortune tellers, they worked their little butts off and finished their sentences!

In case you’ve never played with a fortune teller/cootie-catcher (sad, deprived little childhood) basically it’s a fun little origami thingamajig that tells your future. In Korea they call them 동 성 남 북 (North South East West) and instead of putting four colors on the outside flap they put the points of the compass. The students loved learning the American version, and then spent the rest of the class asking me how to spell certain colors so that they could do the fortune teller correctly [“TEACHER! HOW YOU SPELL PURPLE? P-u-r-p-l-e. AHHH thank you!], and without prompting went around to other students and told their fortunes entirely in English! I also had multiple boys call me over so that they could tell me my future. Apparently tomorrow I will accident, and next week I will die. Hmmm.

Also apparently one student is keeping a countdown of when I will leave. “Teacher, only 3 more classes yes?” “Yes I’m sorry” “Oh. Very sad.”

I had another class immediately afterwards, so I went over to 1.4 (1st grade co-ed intermediate, one of the two classes I’m doing my pen pal project with) a bit early because many of them like to chat before class. They didn’t see me come in so I snuck into the back where two boys were arm-wrestling and surrounded by a cheering mob. They got super excited and insisted on showing me their left-handed arm wrestling skills.

Creeper award of the day: one of my first grade advanced students bursts into 1.4’s homeroom right after the bell rings screaming

“teacher hiiiii!”
“Hi! How are you?”
“I’m also fine, thank you.”
He then, with absolutely no segue shouts out the name of my apartment complex and giggles
“uhhh how do you know that?” I then pretend to look freaked out, though I’m really not. Since there are so few foreigners in my county, almost everyone knows where I live (and I do mean everyone – the kids at my hapkido studio all know where I live too) because they’ve seen me walk in or out of my apartment complex.
“I am stalker.”

At least he’s honest?

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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.