So people have been a-clamoring to know what my daily life is like. Sorry, I suck at blogging. Without further ado, here is the super long blog post that will probably go into more detail than you care about:
I live in a homestay, i.e. I live with a family, and they’re all really nice! The father is the Ethics teacher
at Sapgyo High School and drives me to work every morning (we leave at 7:30 am, ugh). The mother is a a piano teacher at an academy, and she has started giving me piano lessons! Last but certainly not least, I have two homestay sisters who are honestly probbaly the best thing about my placement. Their names are 밀림 (Mil-lim) and 영림 (Young-lim), and they are in 3rd and 1st grade at Sapgyo High school. Cultural note: middle schools in Korea are 3 years long, so high schools in Korea are only 3 years. So a first grader is roughly equivalent to a sophmore and so on. Currently Mil-lim is finishing up studying for the University Entrance Exam (more on this in a later blog post), which is a big test that all of the high schoolers who want to go to college have to take, similar to our SAT but much more intense and important. As they are high schoolers I don’t see them very often, but when I do we have a lot of fun. My homestay parents speak very little english, so either I speak Korean, or my sisters translate. I try to speak Korean as much as I can because I want to learn and also because I feel guilty having my sisters have to translate.
On my first day at school (a Saturday when I was getting to know the school and not actually teaching) they asked me to give a speech in Korean to the entire student body. That was nerve wracking. It was super simple, along the lines of “Hello everyone it is nice to meet you. My name is Emily. I am from America, from Virginia which is below Washington. I am an English teacher. Thank you!” However the entire student body burst into applause after I said “hello” so I think I made a good impression ^_^. I’m the first native teacher Sapgyo HS has ever had, so I get a lot of what was referred to in Orientation as “rockstar status” – 9 weeks later students still yell at me, run down the hall just to say “hi,” make hearts with their hands, etc. More on this later.
The Korean school system is intense! There are classes M – F from 8 am – 5 pm and then on two Saturdays every month. Luckily I only teach on weekdays. On Monday – Friday most of the students (at least the college-bound ones) do self-study after school until 10 pm or midnight (including my two adorable host siblings, and then they go to school on Sunday and self-study from 8 am – 5 pm as well. I teach 12 classes total: 2 advanced, 2 high beginner, 8 beginner, 2 low beginner. The beginner classes are a bit of a challenge, as they don’t always understand what I’m saying, but I’m trying to do my best to teach them. To put things in perspective:
Taught my advanced class a lesson on protests and made them make up protest chants. Very extensive vocabulary, and good grammar, however don’t know how to use it all the time.
I teach my high beginners a harder version of my beginner lessons
Beginners get taught mostly grammar and vocab. Recent lessons have been “comparative and superlative adjectives” (thanks Josh! – you’re rad), “government words,” “singular vs plural” etc.
Low Beginners get a much easier version of the Beginner lesson. Some of my kids can’t read English, and two of my kids are completely illiterate (can’t read Korean). My most difficult (and thus my most rewarding) class is grade 1 class 6… it’s my lowest level and there are only 10 students in the class. When I come into class most days they’re asleep, but generally they’re really pumped up by the time I leave and they try SO hard.
Average class size is about 20, with my largest class at 30 and my smallest class at 10. I absolutely LOVE having smaller classes – it makes discipline much easier and I can give students individual attention.
I leave school between 3 and 4 everyday. I’m allowed to leave at 3, however depending on my teaching schedule and whether or not I miss the one bus that comes every 20 minutes, I leave at differen times everyday. That’s right, there’s one bus. I LITERALLY could not get lost going home unless I a) was on the wrong side of the street or b) got off the bus way too early. Bus takes about 30 minutes, and then every day M – F I have hapkido from 5:30 – 6:30. Hapkido is a “is a dynamic and eclectic Korean martial art. It is a form of self-defense that employs joint locks, techniques of other martial arts, as well as common primitive attacks. There is also the use of traditional weapons, including a sword, rope, nunchaku, cane, short stick, and staff (gun, bō) which vary in emphasis depending on the particular tradition examined.” It’s freaking awesome, I feel like Mulan. I am by no means great at it, but it’s a lot of fun and I have my yellow belt test on the 29th!
That’s generally my life right now. Sorry about the delay in updates.