So I’ve given you a glimpse into my new apartment. Now it’s time for me to get down to business and talk about the reason I moved to South Korea in the first place: to teach English as a second language.
I work at an elementary school located about 20 minutes away from my apartment; I can walk to work, or take the bus, but taking the bus only takes off about five minutes of commuting time, so I usually end up walking.
The school has about 1,200 students and 40 teachers. I teach grades 3-6; I have six classes for every grade level (seven classes for grade 5) and I see each class once a week; class sizes are around 30-35 students each and I have 25 classes total, so essentially, I have about 800 students. Needless to say, it’s going to be really hard to learn all of their names! On top of teaching 25 classes a week, I have to do a morning broadcast show on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays where I teach a 10 minute mini-English lesson that gets shown in every classroom. Also, I have to teach a Gifted Students class for 5th and 6th graders. Just my job alone is going to keep me extremely busy here!
A lot of people have asked me, “How do you teach the kids if you don’t know Korean?” Well, the way it works is I have a Korean co-teacher for every grade level who helps me teach by translating a lot of what I say for the kids. Actually, for grades 3 and 4, my co-teacher, Ye-ji, does most of the talking because the children can’t really understand a lot of English yet. But I still play games and sing songs with them, and when they’re supposed to be working on assignments in their books, I’ll go around and help them if they need it. For grade 5, my co-teacher, Claire, likes to do games and activities with the students, so this means I get to have fun and interact with them. For grade 6, my co-teacher, Yeon-hee, prefers to follow the book and have me be the main teacher, so I basically just ask her what she likes me to do and lead the class on my own. For my Gifted Students class, I am also the main teacher and must make up the lesson plans entirely on my own and find the materials. I do have a co-teacher for that class as well, so that’s helpful.
I know I’ve only been here for about two weeks now, but I have to say I am already in love with this job. I’ve always loved working with kids, but KOREAN kids are a real treat: they are ridiculously cute! From day one, they were so welcoming to me and showed so much excitement that I’m here to teach them English. Every day at work I am showered with waves, hugs, pictures, candy, little gifts, hand-holding, compliments, and “I love you, Gina teacher!” I could be having the worst morning ever, but then go into work and have my mood improved instantly. It’s such a great feeling to know that I matter so much to hundreds of little kids.
But it’s not just “working with kids” that’s so awesome. (I’ve worked in child care before where my main requirement was to basically make sure the kids didn’t kill themselves while their parents worked out on the elliptical rider for an hour.) It’s the fact that I am a teacher– I am their teacher and I am here to help them learn and be a positive role model for them. I get to develop relationships with these children over the next year and watch them grow. I get to work in a classroom where creativity and interaction are always welcome. I get to be my silly, quirky self which makes the kids laugh without fail.
My job as an English teacher is pretty rad, and I could definitely see myself doing this for a long, long time.