I teach at a private school, or 학원. Private schools can be typically thought of as cram schools here. My Jungcheol Junior Academy is just one branch of a larger chain that is still only a small part of the massive 학원 ecosystem in South Korea. As many Koreans have told me, it is usually South Korean mothers who insist on lengthy private schooling following what is already a lengthy public school day. This is just an update, though, so I won't be going into serious discussion about education in South Korea.
How to describe my experience teaching elementary students? I think Will Ferrell, discussing the dance teams he coaches during his downtime, really nails it: "Anywhere from 4 to 50 kids. And just...a lot of energy, a lot of motion, a lot of fun, lot of high-fivin, and a lotta smiles." Well, sometimes. Fonzie-style double-thumbs-up and projected enthusiasm are a lot easier to fit into a classroom setting. But elementary schoolers are still a lot of fun. Especially for the first few weeks, I was a rockstar in the hallways. The students still greet me and bow most of the time, but there's a lot less screaming, which is nice. In class, I was somewhat lost my first few days. Even now, after absorbing the routine of my school's proprietary lessons, I sometimes confuse the class. I try to speak slowly, but this is probably how I sound to many students:
I work fairly hard for an English teacher here. I am at work by 1:30 and am on my feet from 3:00 until 9:30, which still gets pretty tiring. The last half of my day is spent teaching middle schoolers, who are, as we all know, different from elementary schoolers. One thing that has really amazed me about teaching classes of middle schoolers is that character of these classes (many of which have had the same students for a decade) seems so defined. For example, I have a dead silent class. This is what the class has grown into, and this is how the students act within the class. I have a creative, talkative class: my conversation class. I have your classic troublemaking class-by far my most difficult class. Overall, middle school may give me a nice range of class types but, as everyone told me beforehand, it is much more tiring than teaching elementary schoolers. What's more, a few of the students' days have been longer than mine by the time that they are at Jungcheol. Because of this, I am never quite sure whether my job is wholly ethical, but, now that I'm here, I do the very best I can.
I'm going to pepper this with pictures of my Christmas Day trip to Jeonju (a larger neighboring city) because I'm much better at talking about random observations than things that have actually happened to me. This first picture is of the terrifically ugly city hall. This building's design truly confuses me.
Many foreigners, in Korea and elsewhere, find themselves considering a very narrow set of options for other work once they feel that their stints as teachers have run their course. Assuming that you have saved enough money, purchasing or starting a hagwon is one of these options. But if remaining an employee is more your style, editing is a possibility. I imagine the required credentials for editing work are much more specialized than those help by the average teacher (i.e. did you higer education at all?). But they can't be this demanding. Really. There need to be more editors here. The Konglish is just out of control.
(There was this huge crowd arrayed around a few groups of b-boy (This is what they call themselves. I know.) street dancers. Fortunately for my reader, I was able to capture neither in this picture)
Facebook revealed a new feature in which you can look at your Year in Review, highlighting ten of the most important things by some random algorithm. This inspired me to make my own Year in Review, so here goes.
This year has probably been the best year of my life. Sure it's definitely been the hardest and still continues to do so, but it's been so successful in other aspects.
If there are two things that define 2012 for me, it's running and Breakthrough.
I started running near the end of last year, but I never really picked it up until this year. Despite having a really bad track season, I continued on during the summer (running every morning before Breakthrough). I posted good times for JV Cross Country, but my times for Varsity next year are going to have to improve big time (no pun intended). I've improved significantly after XC as well, running my best race (5 Miles in 30:22) on Thanksgiving Day. I'm starting to average 40 miles per week, and it looks like I'll probably max around this till the summer. But, running is now one of the aspects that define me especially publicly. This year has been the reason of that. On a side note, my original shoes ripped and I got a pair of Brooks PureFlow 2 today from Luke's Locker (best store ever, by the way). #BornToRun