Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

Suneung Woes


Yesterday was the test. Results were released this morning. Soon (if not already) they will release the test questions in the daily paper, and next Tuesday my 1st and 2nd grade students will all take a practice test… except it’s for a grade.

I was stopped outside of the teacher’s office by third grade students. I haven’t had very many chances to interact with the third graders because they’ve been so busy, but now that they’re done with their test they have much more free time. I try not to ask students how they’ve done on the test, as it can be a very sore point and a good score does not necessarially guarantee entrance into a good college, but these students brought it up without prodding.

“Teacher. Yesterday was test. Today I see score and” he lets out a sound of frustration “I am very angry. I am very upset.”
“Oh no! Why?”
“When I take it I thought ‘oh! Easy, easy, easy.’ But I get back my score…”
“Not good?”
“NO very not good. Very very bad.”
His friend expressed the same sentiment.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Will you take it again next year?”
The original speaker pauses, “I am thinking about it” while his friend violently shakes his head to say ‘no.’
“Well, now that you’re done with the test come talk to me, okay?”
“OKAY! Teacher I love you.”
“You don’t know me.”
“So you can’t love me.”
“… Okay Ms. Emily Teacher! I love you!”

Well, it’s good to know that 3rd grade boys are the same anywhere you go. In all seriousness though, talking to them made me very sad, because I don’t know how poorly they did. It could be them overreacting and not getting a perfect score, or it could be them scoring so badly that it’s possible that they won’t get into any of the colleges they applied for. I’m hoping it was the former, but I suspect the latter. There’s something terribly wrong with a system when kids as bright as these, ones that can come up to me and have a spur-of-the-moment conversation in English, feel depressed about their future at the age of 18.

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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.