Friday, 9 November 2012

Trick or Treating, Korea-Style

By the end of October I’d spent several days doing teacher training in Jongro, Seoul, and had observed classes at my school for a day.  My first actual work day happened to coincide with Halloween, which meant I got to accompany most of the kindergarten kids (or “kindies” as we call them) during a trick or treat outing just outside the school.

Halloween is not a big thing in Korea.  People are aware of it in the same way that Western people are aware of, say, Chinese New Year, but it isn’t celebrated by the majority of the population.  However, some English language schools, including mine, don’t just aim to teach children English; they also want to immerse the children in aspects of Western culture.  After all, real fluency stems as much from familiarity with that language’s surrounding traditions and social mores as it does from simply acquiring new words and phrases.  Plus it’s a nice excuse to dress up as a zombie for a day.

Our classes are named after universities of the English-speaking world.  I teach Stanford, Toronto, Yale, Cornell, Cambridge and Columbia.  This is my Stanford class, who I teach at least once per day.  Their English is pretty rudimentary at the moment but they’re improving every day.  They’re also really freaking adorable (most of the time).
This is Justin, dressed up as a Wizard.
Kelly, Justin and James, posing as bunny, wizard and tank engine, respectively.
When James isn’t trying to grab hold of my tie and strangle me, he’s trying to grab whatever’s in my hands.  In this case: my camera.
We had the kids make their own cups for collecting trick or treat candy.  Here is Justin holding his cup whilst consuming a pre-collected “treat.”
Here is my co-teacher Lizzie trying to assemble some of the children in the school reception.
Heading out onto the street of Cheolsan, in Gwangmyeong.

The parents came to meet the kids on the other side of the road.
We gathered in the middle of Cheolsan where the kids collected sweets.

This little guy seemed to be missing out on all the action.
 Lizzie and one of her students posing for a photo.
This guy was fidgeting on the spot cause he needed to go to the bathroom.
My Korean co-teacher Clare helping the kids cross back to the school.

All in all, Halloween made for a pretty fun first day. My next few days at work were a lot more hectic and confusing, as I had to start actual lessons, feeling very underprepared despite my training and observations. I came in extra early most days so I could plan my lessons thoroughly. Sometimes the plans worked, other times I’d have to throw them out the window and improvise. I’m making a lot of mistakes but I guess it’s to be expected at this early stage. At least I’ve had no major disasters, and I can already feel things becoming less hectic as I get in the routine of things. And the more I work with my kids the more I grow to love them. Some of them are heart-wrenchingly adorable, not just in appearance but in the things they say and do. They are always giving me little gifts, like sweets or drawings, and I’ve already had a few say “I love Jimmy-teacher.” Those little moments of affection, however brief, always make up for any mischief that I have to deal with.

Overall, I don’t know yet if I truly love teaching, and it’s hard to tell if I’m even any good at it. The shifts are long and stressful and I am always exhausted by the end of the day. But I do know I love my students. Before I came here I wasn’t sure if I was a “kid person” but now I really feel that I am.

It’s early days yet, but as it stands I think I’ll probably complete my year’s contract. I might age five years in the process though.

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