September 16, 2010

Black Sandals and White Socks

This is my wonderful Middle School, where I spend most of my time during the week. Bugok Middle School is 30 minutes away from my apartment. I have to walk 10 mins to a bus stop and take the public bus 20 mins to my school. The commute was very intimidating at the beginning considering everything is in Korean and you pretty much just have to look out the window and press a button to open the door if you think your stop is coming up. However, I finally got the hang of it.

One thing that is amazing about schools in Korea is that they have a no shoe policy (well at least my school does). You can not wear your street shoes inside the school. All kids and teachers change into fake Adidas sandals with white athletic socks the second they get into the building. Their thought process is that they want everyone to be as comfortable as possible during work and they want to keep their school clean. So all the women wear heels to walk to work and change into slippers once they get there. Korea has got it right.

I teach every student in the school in a two week cycle. So that is 1,500 kids every two weeks that go through my classroom. Way too many names to remember. Every class I teach there is a Korean English teacher in the room with me, which I have found to be extremely helpful because the kids are fairly poor at English. One of my co-teachers told me Bugok is a poor middle school and the children who attend our school don't have enough money to go to private after school programs like many of the other children in this country. It is totally common for kids of all ages to go to their public school from 8:00am to 5:00 pm and then if you are wealthy, attend two to four private after school academies called Hagwons until 1:00 am. Koreans place the highest of importance on education and distill the most intense work ethic I have even seen on their children.

So far I have had an amazing experience teaching here. Everyday there is something strange and interesting that happens; making my life here NEVER boring or monotonous.

I mostly have to make up my lesson plans on my own and just cover a few key learnings from their English text books. During this two week cycle I decided to teach a lesson using a Justin Bieber song called Baby. Saying that the students love Justin Bieber is an understatment. They adore him. The girls scream every time his picture comes up on the powerpoint.

Sometimes I think he is more popular here than in the USA. I play the Baby music video and most of the kids already know all the lyrics; however, they can't understand me when I ask them "How was your weekend?" One example on how our pop culture has no borders.

Another thing I found interesting is that when I was playing the Baby music video Ludacris come on and raps for about 30 seconds. And every time Luda come onto screen all of the children burst out in laughter in unison. WHY???? I don't think I will ever know why Luda is hilarious to them.

Check out the Justin Bieber Baby video to see what all the hype is about!

Overall, these first few weeks teaching in Korea has been everything I have asked for: a huge challenge, rewarding work and something completely different. I am so happy to be here and excited to share more of my teaching stories as they unfold!

This is a picture of the student drawings right outside of my office. One Korean middle schooler decided to draw Oprah. (top right)

This is the picture that greets everyone who walks into the school, placed at the front door. A group of Korean students in uniform giving thumbs ups.

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