On Wednesdays, I go to the Sunchang all-boys middle school in the morning to teach 3 classes, which are 45-minutes each. Each class has about 25 students. I have a different co-teacher for each class, but they just act as translators when help is needed.
My first 2 classes are 6th graders, which are unexpectedly very well-behaved. The 7th graders in my last class are a lot rowdier but still manageable, to my pleasant surprise. All the boys kept asking me, “Do you have boyfriend?” I’d reply that I didn’t have a boyfriend, and they’d all giggle and whisper to each other in Korean. I think I gained around 75 new boyfriends today :’)
Before starting school, I was warned by my peers that I should ask my co-teachers about any disabled students. The Korean culture doesn’t acknowledge most mental disabilities; things like depression and ADHD are dismissed as personality quirks. In my first class at the Sunchang middle school, there is a mentally-challenged student; it was pretty obvious. He is very small, and he just stared at me throughout the class period, smiling sweetly and rocking back and forth. The co-teacher told me that she usually gives him separate tasks with pictures to do.
In my second class, there was a child in a wheelchair who didn’t speak, but he could read and write (decently). He could accomplish the tasks that I gave to the rest of the class, just at a slower pace. My plan is to remain extra attentive to his abilities and test the waters going forward.
In my third class, I forgot to ask the co-teacher about any “special” children beforehand. My third class is the rowdy class of 7th graders; they like to push my buttons, but I push back to stay in charge. I thought that one student was being rebellious by having his friend do all of his writing tasks; they were giggling and having fun with it. I tried telling him sternly a few times that he needed to finish the tasks on his own. Eventually, my co-teacher pulled me aside and said that he has “some disabilities,” so I should let him and his friend work together as they do. I felt awful.
For lunch, I go back to the high school to eat and (supposedly) teach 2 afternoon classes. Today, Mr. Lee still wanted me to “take my time” again in the teachers’ lounge to get better, despite the fact that I’ve returned to perfect health already. No complaints – the break from all the chaos is nice.
I like the high school not only because I haven’t really done any work here yet, but also because the students are always so excited to see me. There are some outgoing jokesters who come up to me and say basic conversational sentences in English or tell me how pretty I am, and then they’ll go back to their groups of friends and giggle nervously. Everyone waves at me, smiles, and shyly giggles with their friends. It’s adorable =) I don’t think foreigners have the same kind of experience in the US, for the most part, so I certainly appreciate how kindly the Koreans treat me!
One of the most vibrant characters I’ve met in Korea teaches at the high school, and he loves trying to speak English with me, though his English never improves and sounds almost barbaric. I still don’t know what subject he teaches because I don’t understand anything he tries to say or charade about, but I always laugh at his kookiness. Today, he came into the teachers’ office and motioned to the door for about 2 minutes before I realized he was telling me to come with him.
He brought me up to another teachers’ lounge, where he introduced me to everyone and sat me down alongside him and a young girl named “Kelley” who acted as his translator. He started talking about going out in Sunchang together on a nice day: getting coffee, going to the cinema, going on a bike ride, going on a walk in the sun, and other random date-like activities. I don’t know what the culture of employment relationships is like here, so… yeah. Then, he started repeating something that sounded like “undie.”
The girl explained to me that he was saying “unnie,” and he wanted her to be my “older sister” in Korea. So, he was setting me up; it was just in a way I would have never anticipated. I highly appreciate the gesture and his good match-making skills. She is so sweet 🙂 Kelley and I exchanged Kakao IDs, and he said I should go back down and do more “Ingrish-ee.”