Wol-pyung Middle School

18 09 2009

by Shauna Vo

Although it is my third week of school, I want to give you a brief synopsis of what teaching has been like in South Korea. As everyone has told us, Korea is dynamic.dynamic-korea-cropped We had a glimpse of that slogan at orientation, but have now had a gulp of Korea’s dynamics. On my first day of school, Claire Root, the teacher I replaced, came to school with me to show me around and to show me how things operate in the school. We had a teacher’s meeting the first day. Claire announced her farewell to the teachers, as I said my greetings. Then, first period was about to start, so Claire introduced me to the co-teacher for my first class. My first class was cancelled! That is when I figured that I needed to hold tight for this ride.

The next day, there were even more changes! About five new teachers and teacher’s assistants started their first day at Wol-pyung Middle School. English ZoneIn Korean schools, there is a teacher’s office, where all of the teachers go for their planning period. Teachers do not have their own classrooms like in the States.The students stay in one classroom and the teachers rotate to different classrooms. The teachers’ office is sort of a central area where teachers work and mingle. But, I no longer had a desk in the teachers’ office because there were so many new teachers that they didn’t have enough space. English Zone-couchesAnd because I am a special teacher and actually have my own classroom (the English Zone), another teacher and I were required to stay there. This is just another example of how Korea is dynamic and always changing.

Teaching has been such a rollercoaster. Some days the students will behave very well and other days the students will be rebels. My co-teachers are really good at helping me discipline my students. Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell if the students are acting up or if they are talking about the class material. Usually, they are acting up. Corporal punishment is very common in Korea. All of the teachers have a stick that they use to get the students’ attention by banging it on the desk. They also use it to discipline the students by hitting them on their shoulder to get them to stop talking or they take them to the hallway and smack their bottoms with it. Back in the states, this is looked down upon, as well as students talking while the teacher is speaking. But here in Korea, students keep talking while the teacher is speaking, so one way that really works for students is to punish them with the stick. I personally wouldn’t hit a student, but I don’t have a problem if the Korean teacher does it. It seems that in Korea, you must be more active and intimidating toward the students to gain respect.

Although, some students need this corporal punishment, most of the students do respect me and that is when teaching is very rewarding. I have some classes where the students are very well behaved and seem like they actually want to learn English.Pink Flower These are the times when I feel like I can make a difference in these kids’ lives.But, what is even more rewarding is when a student gives me a piece of candy, makes me a ring from pink paper into a flower or even says hello to me in the hallway. The good rewarding times surpass the exhausting times in teaching.


Our First Meal in Our New Hometown

18 09 2009

As we explored our neighborhood in the new downtown area of Ulsan, we were overwhelmed with the number of family restaurants. The smell of kimchi filled the streets of Korea as we walked to find a place to eat.

We found a restaurant that seemed like a “mom and pop” restaurant because two older women were cooking and two younger women, in their mid 30s, were eating and watching their toddlers play in the restaurant. bbulgogi-mom-popLike most Korean restaurants, we were required to take off our shoes. The tables were low to the ground and had a built-in grill. This was definitely a bulgogi restaurant. Bulgogi is thinly sliced beef and is traditionally grilled. In bulgogi restaurants, the server takes your order and brings back a serving of meat that you are expected to cook. As newcomers, we didn’t realize that we needed to cook our food and didn’t even know how to order our food because everything was written in Hangul. One of the mothers approached us and helped us order our food. Even though we didn’t speak Korean, you could immediately see the genuine interest of these two ladies because they wanted to help us. The older women brought the raw meat and banchan to our table. Banchan is what the Koreans call the side dishes, which include kimchi, peppers, pickled radish, spinach, pickled cucumbers, pickled bean sprouts, etc. bbulgogiWe just sat there for a moment because we didn’t know that we had to cook our own food, so one of the younger women came to our table and helped us cook. I told her that she was like our omoney, which means mother in Korean. Next, she took my metal chopsticks and reached over for some tofu and fed it to both of us! We realize that we have a lot to learn and we are very excited about learning more about the Korean culture.