Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

Goodbyes Part 5: Friday- Oh Captain, my Captain.


This morning Mr. M gave me a replica of a famous Baekje dynasty era incense burner as a going away present. Yesterday he told me that he was sad that I was leaving, and he thinks of me like a daughter. He is super sweet.

Today was difficult. Is difficult, really, because though I’ve finished my classes I’m not done with my goodbyes. Today is also my last day at hapkido.

I taught class 1.2 in the morning (low-level, 1st grade, all boys, approximately 25 students). They’re good kids, and they try reasonably hard, but I don’t have a super strong bond with them as a class. The class I was really fretting about teaching was class 2.1, during third period.

Class 2.1 (advanced, 2nd grade, co-ed, approximately 30 students) is the first class I really got to know student’s individually in, because the students in my lunchtime conversation club were all from this class. I don’t even know what to say about this class – they’re amazing. I’ve rarely had discipline problems, and normally it’s just that they’re too high energy and won’t stop chatting or shouting out English answers. This class has IMYSM(e), most of my pop-song contest girls, my host sister, and it seems like every person in there is a character. I knew they would be the hardest to say goodbye to.

I’ve always put a disproportionate amount of work into 2.1’s class compared to the other classes. I write one lesson plan for most of my low levels, one for the two intermediates (though sometimes the intermediates do the lower level lesson), but class 2.1 always gets its own lesson, and I normally only use that lesson plan one time. It’s not that I don’t work hard on the other lesson plans, it’s just that I spend a few hours on one lesson plan that I can use for four or five different classes, but then spend the same amount of time on the lesson plan that I’m only going to teach to 2.1. However, there’s no other class at the school that’s really anywhere near their level – their speaking and comprehension is really good, and they’re so motivated and so enthusiastic that I haven’t wanted to just teach them a more difficult version of the intermediate lesson and lesson planning for them has actually been a joy. I tried my hardest to make lessons for them challenging, but enjoyable and ultimately useful. In class we wrote poetry, made up protest chants, and debated the ethics of who should be left behind in a burning building. Every class was speaking intensive.

I knew that this was going to be the hardest class for me to say goodbye to, and also I think the class that has grown the most attached to me as well. This class I normally teach in the English room instead of their homeroom, but 10:30 rolled around and no one was in the classroom. A student came up, got me, and told me to come to their homeroom instead. I got there a bit too early and came through the back, so they weren’t ready, but they had written phrases all over the board (my personal favorites being “I love you – and I’m a girl!” and the Korean words for “adjective” and “noun” written the way I normally say them – i.e. wrong). They had also made a chocopie cake topped with a candle made of paper that they asked me to blow out.





At the end of class, the students started standing on their desks and chairs, and then one of them (“Changyeonce” as the other students call her – “Chang” being the first half of her name, and “yeonce” being a reference to how she’s like Beyonce. She’s a member of my pop-song group) screamed “Oh Captain, my Captain,” a reference to Dead Poet’s Society. I can’t tell you how moving that was, especially if they think that I’m on par with the teacher in that movie.  Most of the students stayed after to talk to me even after the bell for the next class had rung, meaning as a class they were late for gym, and I got attacked by individual students hugging me, telling me not to cry, one of them crying herself, and wishing me good luck. They also gave me two pieces of paper decorated with messages in Korean and English from all of the students in class 2.1.

I then ran to the bathroom and burst into tears right before I got there.


posted under Cute Stories, School
5 Comments to

“Goodbyes Part 5: Friday- Oh Captain, my Captain.”

  1. Avatar July 16th, 2011 at 1:41 am Amy Says:

    The memories you’ll take from this experience will last a lifetime! I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and hope that you continue as you continue your journey teaching English in Korea. Your stories are funny, heartwarming, genuine portrayals of kids in high school (it seems there is a common thread with teenagers!). You should truly consider publishing this blog in printed format for incoming Fulbright teachers. I think you’ve incorporated some very innovative lesson plans into your teaching. Anyway, now I have to go get a Kleenex…

  2. Avatar July 16th, 2011 at 10:19 pm epotosky Says:

    Don’t worry I will definitely keep blogging! I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads this, but I like having it for my own record. Sometimes it seems like my life is so strange that it couldn’t actually have happened, haha. I’m sure next year the tone of the blog will be different because I will be at an academic high school but no matter where you go kids are kids, so I’m sure I’ll have some great stories. Anyway, thank you for reading :).

  3. Avatar July 17th, 2011 at 9:29 am Amy Says:

    Well, I’m really happy I happened across your blog. Not only is it a good read (I’m surprised there aren’t more comments posted!), it has given me greater insight into the differences in, not only cultures, but in the education system. (I teach community college level classes). And, as a mom with a son who is about to embark on his amazing adventure, I like to feel a connection to wherever he is and whatever he’s doing. You are all amazing young adults!

  4. Avatar July 18th, 2011 at 1:54 am Mom Says:


    Your blogs are truly amazing and educational! We applauded you that you have successfully made it with the Fulbright program for one year. We are so proud of you and the achievements you had accomplished this whole year!

    We can hardly wait until tomorrow and cannot believe you are finally coming home and staying with us for a few weeks before you fly back to S. Korea in August. We cannot wait to see you at the airport… This makes me cry!!!! So excited!!!

    We love you,

    Mom and family

  5. Avatar November 8th, 2012 at 8:22 pm Em in Asia! » Blog Archive » On Rice Cakes, Traditional Rice Taffy, and Hot 6 Says:

    […] Suneung. I also hope he did well. So did all of the students who stood on their desks and shouted OH CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN, all of the students in class 2.2 of SGHS I did the pen pal exchange with, the girls in my club […]

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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.