Don “Teacher”

So being in Korea on a F3(Spousal) visa means I can ‘earn income’.  I am only allowed to stay here as long as my wife has a teaching Visa.  Luckily living here is pretty cheap and we can manage just fine.  To that end, I also don’t want to get bored so I help out some hagwons(private schools) when they need someone to fill in for a few hours.  It is kinda fun too.

In a culture where respect for elders is ingrained in early childhood, children who don’t know you but need to speak with you might just use the Korean work for ‘teacher’ regardless if you are or not.  Also, because I am a foreigner and the bulk of foreigners that the kids see are English Teachers, they will usually call me ‘songsaneem’ (Korean for teacher).  Even more so the ones who my wife has taught that know me and they don’t know what else to call me.  Teacher is a good sign of respect.

For the most part, the volunteer work is easy (mainly because they have set books and it’s easy to follow them).  The other day there was a section to ‘Draw your teacher and talk about him.”  This is what I got(kinda got the RUN DMC look there):

From Korea Random 2012

Daily Image of Korea

I decided to add a random picture of Korea to my blog in between bigger posts. They will be complete random and give you more of an insight to what I see here.

This is a picture of the entrance to Helium Academy, an English Hogwan. Hogwan’s are private schools that typically teach English but there are many who teach other courses as well. These are all extra learning that kids go to after their regular school and typically till 10pm at night. There are a few that I have heard of that still go even later!

Helium Academy Hogwan
Helium Academy Hogwan

Teaching English in Korea

There are many times where most teachers simply want to scream, click their heels together and be back in their respective countries. They become frustrated by the lack of consistency, the seeming-lack of courtesy, the lack of language comprehension and the lack of consideration given to ESL teachers. Now that paints a pretty bleak picture but it is merely one side of the coin. The experience, the culture, the beauty and the sense of accomplishment that a teacher does eventually achieve plays a major balancing act and usually is the winner when it comes to deciding if you like it here or not.

Bharati’s school put on a performance of various English skits. Most were modified fables and stories to suit the number of students in each class. Her school is in the outskirts of her town. It really should be classified as ‘rural’ as the immediate area is surrounded by ‘low end businesses’, to put it politely. Small farms, what looks like scrap yards and a convenience store. Overall it looks like a part that has yet to be taken over by the urban sprawl. Maybe I’ll get pictures of it some other time.

In order to get to her school, Bharati normally takes this little ‘school bus’ (meaning something slightly bigger than a mini-van where 40 kids + her gets squeezed into). There is a public bus that runs ‘close’. Close meaning dropped off then a 20min walk. So with me going to see the performance we had to take the city bus. Short enough trip (45mins including the walk) but there was this cool little stream that ran beside the road we walked along.

It was neat to see some ducks but they were severely skittish.

What I really love about this country is the scenery. The landscape has real character, unlike southwestern Ontario. And the Hamilton ‘mountain’ is a real joke compared to something like this:

Nothing does wonder for the soul like a good scenery.

We arrived at the school and I got the customary tour and introductions to many people who understand I was Bharati’s “남편” (pronounced nom-peyong) husband. All the little girls kept saying I was ‘handsome’. The teachers were very polite and the principal smiled a lot (I don’t think he knows anything beyond hello and some other rudimentary English but I am sure he’s learning more each year).

Bharati has a very nice classroom, spacious and quite a number of computers for the kids.

Bharati’s room also includes the Library.

And here we have Bharati at her desk:

I’ve done the rest in an album slideshow, lest this post grow to 18 pages long :)

All-in-all, the kids did an amazing job. They were funny and many of them spoke incredibly clear. Bharati was also given to judge them with a sheet. The Korean culture is very big on academics (another point in the Korean favour as Canada doesn’t seem to care at all in comparison) and it was interesting to see one of the parent check out Bharati’s sheet and the scores she was giving each grade level. We got an invite for dinner from one parent, I am looking forward to that but also concerned that they will miss my strict ‘meatarian’ diet.