Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

The Thoughtful Ones


In Korean the term for “thoughtful” is 생각형. Literally, it means “thinking (생각: senggak) type (형: hyeong). I think it’s a rather apt way to describe someone – the type of  person who thinks a  lot.

My favorite (though I shouldn’t have any) students tend to fall into two categories – the loud goofy ones, and the thoughtful ones. The loud goofy ones are easy to like – they get up in your face and make you notice them. It’s hard NOT to make an opinion of them, and they’re easy to recognize and have spur-of-the moment conversations with. The thoughtful ones are harder to get to know.

This isn’t to say that extroverted, loud, goofy students can’t be thoughtful – far from it. It’s how students choose to interact with me that defines whether I think of them as a goofball or a thoughtful student rather than their actual critical thinking ability. I’m going to perceive a student who approaches me to crack jokes all the time differently than a student who writes me detailed letters.

The thoughtful ones are wonderful, because your relationship with them, once you get to know them, never ends. The extroverted goofy ones move on, and that’s okay. They say hello when they see you, or not, and you say hello, or not, and that’s it. The thoughtful ones come to talk to you. They write you emails, and keep in touch through facebook or other social media. Through your conversations with them they grow, and you grow, and you grow together, and there’s nothing that compares to it – not a high-five from the loudest kid in school, or an entire class jumping up and down outside your window to say HELLO-SEE ME-I’M HERE-I’M SAYING HI-HELLO – because they see you as a person, and you see them as a person, and that’s a truly wonderful thing.

That’s why, given the choice, I’ll take my class of quiet thoughtful ones. The ones that sometimes are hard to teach because they aren’t as exuberantly participatory, and you sometimes wonder if they’re listening. I’ll take them and the look in their eyes created by thinking too much too late into the night, and the chicken-scratch they developed by writing too much and too quickly in any language they could; the softer voices, and the furrowed foreheads, and the ink stains, and the slightly-slumped shoulders, and I’ll gladly talk to any of them that will let me.

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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.