…from listening to my host sister sing the same song on loop for two hours to write this post. She is relatively good at rapping, so it definitely hasn’t been as much of a strain as you’re probably thinking.
Things have been going really well in my homestay, and even though I only have three days of teaching under my belt, I can already tell I am much closer to “the hang of things” than I was a few short days ago. At this point, I can (finally) tell you a little about my typical schedule as it will be for the rest of the year.
I teach 25 different classes, and I teach about 325 students altogether. There are 10 homeroom classes which are not leveled and 15 classes which are divided into Advanced, Intermediate, and Beginner classes (or, as they’re directly translated from Korean, Deepening, Basics, and Supplemental classes. Take your pick). All students see me in both their homeroom class and their leveled class. I see one homeroom class each day and three leveled classes, meaning that I see each leveled course once a week and each homeroom class every other week. If you’re confused, then you might understand why I waited until a week after actually arriving in my placement to write this post.
I arrive at school every day around 8:30 and usually leave around 4:30 or 5. Since I only teach four out of the seven periods of the regular school day, I have a lot of downtime and I imagine that many a nap will be caught during the year. Lunch is always an exciting affair, as I might find the English teachers or I might not, in which case there’s always a lot of awkward smiling and head bobbing in sad attempts to sit-bow and paranoia that there is kimchi in my teeth.
I also have my classes split so that I teach one Advanced class, one Intermediate class, and one Beginner class each day, in that order most days. The range of levels is quite astounding, from people who can carry on full conversations at a pretty fast pace to people who can’t write their name in the English alphabet, so I go from speaking all English at the beginning of the day to speaking almost entirely in Korean in my last class of the day. Also, most of my classes are split by gender. All of the homeroom classes are split by gender, and the boys are classes 1 through 5 while the girls are 6 through 10. The other classes are divided by level within classes 1/2, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, and 9/10. So the only mixed-sex classes are my leveled 5/6 classes. They are very awkward and my students don’t really seem to like talking to people of the other sex. We will work on that.
I also start teaching a conversation club class starting next week, which will be held after school, to only 10 students. I’m excited to start working on this project and will keep everyone updated if it’s awesome like I hope it is. If not, this will be the last time I mention it. I also will start editing the English language newspaper and will start working with a club who writes and designs a magazine. Last semester’s included this gem:
So needless to say, this is going to be awesome. I’m excited to start with the clubs because this is the only chance I have to work with students outside of the school’s first grade, which is equivalent to a high school sophomore in the U.S. I know there are a lot of second graders (juniors) who do the conversation club and magazine, so it will be cool to meet students who I don’t have in class.
High school in Korea is a lot different from American high schools in a lot of ways other than the grade ranking system, too. It’s hard to make blanket statements since South Korean education is in such a transitional period right now, but I can certainly comment on differences between Bong (pronounced more like p-oh-ng instead of bong) Myeong and Graves. The first and most obvious difference is that kids stay there all day. Our day was 7:58 to 3:02, whereas at Bong Myeong, my host sister actually sleeps at the school dormitory most nights because she stays studying so late. Classes can last until as late as 10 p.m., and even the students who leave at the end of the regular day at 4:30 typically go to an academy and stay until 10 or later there.
Korean high schools also don’t keep toilet paper in the bathrooms, so you have to bring a personal roll. Not that that is terribly important, just noteworthy and I like to talk about bathrooms.
Another cool thing is that, more similar to college than high school, you can leave when you don’t have class. Since lunch is two hours long, students just kind of scatter at that time. The girls usually run off campus to grab a snack in lieu of cafeteria food, and the boys usually scarf down their food as quickly as possible to get outside to play sports during their free time. I haven’t joined because I am wearing nice clothes for the first week or so, but you better believe the first day I wear jeans, all bets are off. My co-teacher assures me the kids will like this. Personally I wasn’t thinking about that but whatever.
Also, Korean high schools don’t typically have janitors. Instead, they give the kids a class period off every now and then and have them clean. It’s way cooler and more humane than you would think.
Korean schools also don’t typically separate special needs students from normal classes like American schools do. This definitely has both good and bad points, but the kids I’ve seen interacting with special needs students also don’t treat them like American students would. I have not seen a single student laugh at or make fun of a special needs student; instead, I have seen them taking care of the special needs students–pushing the kid in the wheelchair when he needs help carrying something, filling out worksheets for the kid with Down Syndrome when he can’t do it, etc. It’s been really heartwarming, amidst the chaos that is eight hours of my every day now.
There are a lot of other things I could point out, but I need to get back to work memorizing 325 names. @.@ As such, I’ll end the post here with photos as usual. Let me know below if you have any questions or comments, and thanks for reading!
The last day of my Korean language class at Orientation. Bittersweet!
My KLC graduation diploma!
My friend Michael and me on the way to graduation~
Waiting to go into the Embassy in Seoul for our pool party!
My friend Esther and me at the pool party~
More friends! I have friends, I promise
Stopped by a free concert while in Seoul. Turned out to be the best decision ever. Saw Sistar and In Suni. And Kkum Kkum’s dad from The Return of Superman.
AND LEE SEUNG FREAKIN’ CHUL.
On the subway on the way to Yonsei~
My old Korean language building!
How my school’s principal and my co-teacher welcomed me to Cheongju!
How my host mother welcomed me to Cheongju LOL
My own bathroom 😀
Last day of Orientation. Miss these guys already!