**Originally posted January 2014** More on teaching in Korea here**
For the last two years people have been telling me what a great teacher I am, "one of the best foreign teachers I've ever worked with", but I often wondered how sincere these words were. Now, as my time in Korea is coming to an all-too-soon end I'm realizing that most of those statements were, in fact, heartfelt and I am a good teacher.
I've always seen my connection and interactions with students from one side of the glass, but over the last few days, I've been able to get a glimpse of the other side. I'm somewhat shocked by the number of students who have reached out to express their feelings towards my departure. I came across this article last week, which discusses the real impact teachers have on students and it really hit home with me. For those of you that don't want to click and read, here is a great excerpt from the article:
Your kindness. Your empathy. Your care and concern. They’ll remember that you took the time to listen. That you stopped to ask them how they were. How they really were. They’ll remember the personal stories you tell about your life: your home, your pets, your kids. They’ll remember your laugh. They’ll remember that you sat and talked with them while they ate their lunch.
**Originally written 3 years ago, I've now put in more hours in the classroom, touching the lives of more students. While crossing different countries these sentiments still stand, students may not always want to learn, and teaching can often be a thankless, difficult job, but there will always be at least one student who makes it all worth it**
Teaching English in another country is a unique and ever-changing experience, I remember being told from day 1 that there is no real way to prepare new teachers. For every incoming teacher, their city, school, co-workers and of course students are going to vary drastically. I strongly believe that it's a teachers attitude that is will determine how their career abroad unfolds. Coming in with a positive outlook, ready to take on any challenges or obstacles will help prepare them for success. Of course, there may be difficult moments full of challenging students, frustrating situations, and surprise schedule changes, ultimately making you want to throw in the towel, but the rewards are soon to follow. After spending close to two years in the classroom I'm happy to say that I've had a positive experience and wouldn't trade it for the world.
Last week Friday was our school festival so leading up to the event I decided to do a lesson on festivals around the world. I found some material on Waygook so I didn't have to do too much work (I'm lazy) and then at the end of class I thought it'd be fun to let the students create their own festivals. I let them work in groups with hopes that this would prompt them to actually do the activity - I have a few sloth students that like to pretend to be invisible and sleep through most of class. (although who can blame then, when they rarely get a chance to do so). I must say I got some interesting festivals in return..
Last week, while all of the grade 2 students enjoyed three days in Jeju, I was lucky enough to join grade one on a field trip to Mungyeong. I think I might have messed up because I was supposed to be going with one of my co-teachers and her class (1-2) but I got on the bus with the Math teacher and his class (1-7). It actually wasn't a mistake as much as it was intentional on my behalf. Class 1-2 was just playing games all day and 1-7 was going to a coal museum, riding rail cars and theeen playing games for the rest of the day. We started at the coal museum which I never really caught the name of. The kids basically ran through the museum part and moved on to the outdoor area where we proceeded to take pictures and play some old school games.
So yeah, learning to teach is a bit rough - but no one said there was no reward.
Last Wednesday the principal, 지경진 Ji gyeong gin asked what my favorite Korean food was and if I would like to go to dinner. I of course had no plans so yes, i'd love to go. The Chinese character teacher, 임동향 Im dong hyang and biology teacher 강병권 jang byeong gwon joined us for Galbi (korean bbq - again cooked at your table over hot coals) various side dishes, rice, and of course some Soju.
In the months before coming to Korea I'd have to say I was a lot more focused on how I would adjust to a new apartment, culture and language - the minor detail of becoming a teacher seems to have slipped my mind. The EPIK staff and lectures gave us some great material and resources to use for the classroom, however learning how to be a teacher is usually done over more than a weeks time span
I sometimes still wonder how I wound up in this role of teacher. I took the plunge to teach abroad in 2012, and four years later am confident that was one of the smartest decisions I've ever made.