Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea



These days it seems like I’m disciplining my students more frequently than not. It’s that time of year, more than halfway through the semester where the students can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and a part of them seems to give up. They’ll snap out of it, but it’s not a fun time for them or for me. I’ve lectured almost every single one of my second grade classes, confiscated mirrors, had private talks with co-teachers and individual students, and made students stand – all of which would be par for the course at SGHS but unusual for me at CPHS. Whenever I start to get a little too discipline-happy, though, I think back to first grade.

I mean actual first grade, like, when I was in elementary school.

At least, I think it was first grade. Time plays tricks on your brain. All I know is that I was old enough to feel guilt, and young enough to think that the dreadful pit that was forming in my stomach would never go away. I don’t even remember what I did, I just remember my teacher becoming upset and then asking a few of the students to come to the back of the class and talk to her individually. I was literally saved by the bell, and so she asked us to talk to her tomorrow. I then resolved with all the strength in my chubby first grade body that I would never go to school again. I was sure however, that my mom wouldn’t agree.

Mom, by the way, has never heard this story. Sorry Mom.

I somehow managed to fake sick for two weeks. She even took me to the hospital  which was a big deal as my parents tend to wait until we’re on the side of dying before admitting that perhaps we need professional help. The doctors could find nothing terribly wrong, but I still complained that I felt woozy, and my stomach hurt, and I couldn’t bear to go to school feeling like this. That much of my deception was true – two weeks in I was still convinced that my wonderful teacher hated me, and I couldn’t imagine what would happen to me when I arrived back at school.

I don’t remember how my mom and I decided it was time to go back to school. Perhaps she coerced me, perhaps I volunteered, all I know is that after two weeks of faking an illness to avoid a teacher’s wrath, I went back to school. I spent the whole day unable to focus, just waiting for my teacher to look me directly in the eye and call me to the back of the classroom; it never happened. She had forgotten that she had wanted to talk to me two weeks earlier. Against all odds, I had managed to escape.

I try keep this experience in mind when I discipline students. While it’s necessary to keep a firm hand, if one of my students disappeared for two weeks that wouldn’t help anyone.

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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.