Archive for the ‘teachers’ Category

Smoked Eel and Scandalous Gossip

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Yesterday I had my final English teacher 회식 (hweishik – dinner meeting). There were seventeen of us, fifteen Korean English teachers, the principal, and myself. We met at a restaurant and grilled delicious slices of eel while we chatted. I sat next to the principal, who had actually left his principal training in Chungcheongbukdo to come to my final dinner. We talked together as the other English teachers ogled (as they don’t normally hear me speak in Korean), and I told the principal that the faculty had tried very hard to make me feel at home at CPHS, and it was difficult for me to leave. He also expressed regret that I was leaving.

Fast forward to halfway through the meal. Due to the smoke from the eel and the poor circulation in the room, it looks like I’m constantly crying. An English teacher makes a joke about how the smoke is attracted to beauty, as the only teachers affected by it were the female teachers. The female teachers and I spent the next few minutes pretending to cry about how I was leaving.

Later on in the meal after one of my coworkers had yelled out that I was SO Korean for being able to answer simple questions in Korean, and how I should just stay in Korea forever, the principal looked at me and asked very directly  “Are there no handsome men in Korea?” I stuttered and stammered for a bit, and answered hesitantly “있어요 (there are).” All of the men chortled as the same coworker (Mr. K) loudly proclaimed “You should date one! How about Mr. C? He’s young and single! He’s the only single one! He’s very handsome, yes?”

Now apart from being super awkward, it is true. He is the only single teacher, and he’s not unattractive. The thing is, I’m actually dating someone right now – a Korean guy, not that the nationality matters to me – but there was no way I was telling my entire English faculty this. Only two of the teachers know that he exists, and only one (my rockstar co-teacher) has met him. So, I was stuck between the rock of telling all of the teachers that Mr. C was indeed attractive, and the hard place of telling them that I was dating a Korean guy, like they had recommended. I chose an awkward middle ground and made a noncommittal sound that vaguely sounded like I was agreeing


After a moment’s hesitation, probably due to my weird intelligible response, Mr. K continues.

“You can have a case like Rockstar Co-teacher!”

“What do you mean?”

“She is married to an American! You are American! You can marry a Korean guy!”

“… hahaha. eurghhhhhh.”

Thankfully after that they started ragging on someone else.

Teacher’s Outing

Monday, May 6th, 2013


Opening Doors

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Well. I started off my day by getting locked inside my apartment.

I honestly don’t know how it happened. Two other ETAs who were visiting Gwangju crashed at my apartment and when I left at 6 am to walk them to the bus stop we didn’t have any problems with the lock. However, after going back to sleep, waking up late, and rushing to throw on makeup and change clothes I somehow had locked myself in. My apartment’s pretty old, there’s no keypad lock and we didn’t get CCTV until this past semester, but I have two big intimidating locks. The bottom one I can lock with my key and the top one is a pretty secure deadbolt. The deadbolt was the one that wouldn’t budge.

I rattled the deadbolt back and forth and it was not moving at all. Starting to freak out a little because I teach first period, and thinking that maybe it was jammed, I slammed my shoulder against the door a few times, which did absolutely nothing because I’m really not that strong. I only succeeded in completely waking myself up. I attempted the lock for a few more minutes before calling my rockstar co-teacher and fully aware of how ridiculous a situation this was, told her that I’d probably be late because I was locked in my apartment.

“Wait. Locked inside your apartment?”
“Yeah. I can’t leave. The lock isn’t budging.”
“Um. Let me call someone.”

Of course as soon as I hang up, smooth as butter, the lock clicks open and I’m able to leave. I call my co-teacher, but I don’t get to her in time and she’s already informed Awesome Mr. Kim, who happens to be not only one of my co-teachers but also the second grade 부장 AND one of my neighbors. Upon arriving to school about ten minutes before my first class, we rush off to the second grade office and talk to Mr. Kim who proceeds to discuss the situation with me loudly and publicly. I decide to roll with it, with all of the second grade teachers listening in.

“Emily! You must have been so frightened.”
“Not frightened, just worried I would be late. If I was locked out maybe I’d be frightened, but I have heat and food inside my apartment so I would’ve been fine for a few days.”
“It’s a good thing you had a cellphone so you could call us. What would you have done if you didn’t have a cellphone?”
“I probably would’ve stood on my balcony and yelled for help until someone arrived.”

All-in-all it worked itself out, and it’s nice to know people care about me, but it was pretty embarrassing and I’m a bit concerned about the lock. Some school officials are heading over to look at it today. Thank goodness I just cleaned my apartment!

One thing I’ve been working on is connecting more with other teachers at school, and appearing approachable. I’m rather proud to say that I’ve been able to make pretty solid friends at school both within and outside of the English department. We don’t have very many female teachers, so the female teachers that we do have are very supportive of each other. Last semester three new young female teachers all the same time started working at CPHS, and all of them had pretty good English. One’s a German teacher, one’s a science teacher, and one’s a Korean teacher. I like them all, but the Korean teacher has been especially nice to me. We eat lunch together a lot, and speak half in English and half in Korean and help each other with our respective languages.

The Korean teacher told me in passing that she has a ping pong game against the Music teacher tomorrow. I assumed that she meant they were casually playing in our school’s auditorium/gym. Oh how wrong I was.

Apparently this is a legitimate thing at our school. The Korean teacher was approached by another teacher and told to try playing with the CPHS teacher’s ping pong team. She asked me if I wanted to go with her after lunch to see the ping pong room and I said sure, not really knowing what to expect.

In order to properly picture this, you have to understand the layout of the main school building. If you look at the main building from the soccer field, you’ll notice that the first floor is raised up. In order to get to the first floor hallway, you have to walk up a short set of stairs. The ground behind our school slopes down, which makes the difference between the ground and the first floor even greater. The area under the school, the “basement” (even though it’s not underground) is open except for a few supporting pillars here and there, and the ceiling is high enough that you can easily walk under it. Further towards the center of the building are some offices. Down there is where the printer’s office is, the female teacher’s lounge (which I found out about halfway through last year), the boy’s convenience store, and the ping pong room.

We wandered through the open hallway and opened one of the doors to the sound of plastic balls swishing back and forth. The pingpong room was divided into two by a sheer green curtain, against which ping pong balls were raining. There were two ping pong tables, one on each side of the curtain, and teachers dressed in athletic clothes playing ping pong. They all stopped, looked at us, laughed, and kept playing. Other than the music teacher who was trying but failing to keep the ball on the table, we were the only female teachers, and the only teachers under thirty five. Every single other teacher in there was was an older male teacher.

A teacher, one I’ve never talked to before, came over and asked in Korean if I wanted to play. I looked at him and stammered that I couldn’t play well. He handed me a paddle and showed me how to hold it. Now, I’ve played ping pong before and while I’m not great, I can hit the ball. With the new penhold grip he was teaching me, I could barely hit anything. He was lecturing me in Korean and moving me around while I was standing there laughing and trying to follow as best I could.

The bell that signaled the end of the lunch period rang, and I thanked him and said that I had to run because I had a class. He said goodbye, looked me dead in the eye and told me to come back tomorrow. Never mind the fact that tomorrow I actually don’t have to come to school because I have no classes, I’m coming to school specifically for ping pong. If doing ping pong with older male teachers that don’t speak a lick of English helps me bond with some of the teachers, then I’m going to do it.

It’s all about creating opportunities and opening doors.

School Personalities – Staff

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Hands down, my favorite thing about being a teacher, even above teaching, is being able to interact with so many people. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, but the reason I love teaching is because it’s about taking information and conveying it in a way that it will be understood. To do this successfully, you must know your own personality and your presentation strengths and weaknesses, and you must know and be able to work with the personalities of your students and your co-teachers. This is what I’ll miss most next year. I’m changing school so I’ll still be teaching, and I’m sure I’ll meet some really amazing people, but I’ll miss the students and teachers here. 

So without further ado, I give you brief glimpses into some of the personalities that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with at Sapgyo High School, given with nicknames or job titles so that I’m not breaching anyone’s privacy.


First there’s Mr. M. I actually am not sure what he teaches, but he sits next to me in the teacher’s office. He does not speak very much English and knows that I can speak some conversational Korean, but everyday pulls up google translate and asks me a question in English about how my weekend was or how I am feeling today. During the winter when I kept getting sick he tried to make an appointment for me to get a flu shot. One day he got upset at my host father because I had to walk up the hill in the rain to go to school. Everyday without fail he stops what he’s doing to say goodbye to me as I leave the office.

Then there’s Mr.K. He’s one of my co-teachers, and by far my favorite one. He rarely skips class and in class he only ever translates things into Korean after receiving my permission, preferring to just repeat the question in simplified English, or with a different grammar form. About two months ago he gave me a box of instant coffee, telling me that I looked tired, and then without fail every two weeks after that he’s given me a new box of coffee, telling me that he thought of me when he was at the grocery store with his wife. Recently he’s also been throwing in random ginseng energy drinks, and vitamin C drinks as well.

There’s the short, Korean language teacher. She’s probably the oldest teacher at our school and also by far the shortest, but dresses like she’s in her thirties and wears pencil skirts and dresses, and her teaching slippers are five-inch platforms. She’s still shorter than me, though I wear flats. She always explains Korean grammar points to me in slow and clear Korean when we’re brushing our teeth in the bathroom after lunch. The students love her.

There’s the photography PE teacher. Oh man, what can I say about the PE teacher? We haven’t talked recently, but at the beginning of the year he took me, my host sister, his daughter, and my host dad on a trip to a traditional pottery village in Hongseong, where he basically recreated a photo studio (he had a light and everything!), made me sit in front of a pot and pretend to make it, and took numerous pictures of me. The next day he came to school with a giant framed photograph of me leaning over a pot and told me that it had to stay on my desk all day. All the other teachers came to a consensus and told me I looked like the Mona Lisa. During our faculty volleyball game every time he served the ball he would look directly at me and say “Emily” and then spike the ball as hard as he could at me. Gotta love the man.

There’s my host father. Words cannot describe how amazing my host father is. The first time I met him he was wearing a pink tank top and hadn’t cut his hair recently, so it looked like a curly afro. He has a good English vocabulary but not a whole lot of grammar, so every time he wants to say that he is good at something he says “good driver.” Example – when he wants to say that he is good at drinking alcohol (which he says everytime he drinks) he says ”I, alcohol drinking. Good driver.”

There’s the office worker who no matter what time of day it is yells “GOOD MORNING, EMILY” everytime he sees me.

There’s the Home EC teacher who makes homemade deok for the whole office, and last semester invited me to come to her class and learn how to embroider a pillowcase with other Sapgyo students. She wasn’t lying when she said her class was one of the students’ favorites – she’s a good, steady teacher and it was hilarious watching my rough-and-tumble male students who are quick to tackle each other in the halls silently threading their needles with pink thread. It was also hilarious seeing their panic as I asked them for help, or what I should do next.

There’s the music teacher who is giving me danso lessons. She always talks to me in English, but it sometimes comes out a little strange. For example, the first time I wore a particular dress she exclaimed “oh Emily! SHORT SLEEVE!” but then proceeded to tell me in Korean that it looked very nice, and why hadn’t I worn it sooner? Every single morning she makes sure I’m adequately caffeinated by asking if I would like some coffee.

There’s the woman who works in the office, who smiles whenever I come in to do my laminating, and always tells me I should come in more often and we should chat.

There’s my non-English co-teacher. I am supposed to have an English co-teacher for each class, but for two of my classes I have a computer science teacher who can speak some English. She knows that she has minimal English but she’s not afraid to admit it, so she always sits at a desk and does all of the activities and plays all of the games with the class.

There’s the male Korean language teacher who has the most beautiful speaking voice. We have a teacher’s meeting every Monday and Thursday which I generally tune out because the Korean is too high level for me to understand, but when he starts to speak I listen, because his pacing, intonation, and tone of voice is just lovely. The first day I came to Sapgyo High School he had my co-teacher tell me that he couldn’t speak English but another teacher told him I liked to bake, and he does too, and so he made me muffins, and then he gave me a basket full of muffins. Ever since then, some mornings I find muffins on my desk.

There’s the singing PE teacher who likes to randomly burst into song as he walks around school. He has a good voice. In the winter it started to snow and he sang a Korean song about snow, then coerced me into standing up and singing “Let it Snow” in front of the entire teacher’s office.

There’s the Vice Principal who loves photography who will randomly call me over to his desk, so that he can show me a picture of a flower that he took, or a picture of his new grandchild.


There’s so many more that I can’t even begin to detail, or I haven’t gotten to know well enough. Everyday I find out something new about these wonderful people I work with. One teacher’s daughter speaks fluent English and volunteered in England for a year. One teacher volunteers to translate letters of thanks from English into Korean for families who have given to charity. One was in the military for six years before coming here. I was worried because I was the youngest teacher at my school, the first foreign teacher, and one of the only female teachers, but they really have welcomed me with open arms and tried to make me feel comfortable.

<3 Sapgyo.