December Memories: Day 3

Cute Korean Second Graders
Most of the time my 2nd grade class are monsters but I can't deny how adorable
they are in matching polka dot coats and bows!

The School Festival

Yesterday marked my school’s bi-annual festival, which meant a day off from classes for me. Avid readers of this blog will know that I had been slated to perform the ‘Gangnam Style’ dance routine alongside students and some other female teachers but, as is traditional in Korea, last minute decisions were made by the powers that be and I was informed the day before that I would no longer be taking part. I was confused and (obviously) a tad relieved to have been excused from doing the “heeeeey, sexy lady” dance in front of 900 teenage boys, but also oddly put out, as if I had been deemed not good enough to perform…and believe you me, if the slightly mental cleaning lady was good enough then so was I. My worries were unfounded however, as I discovered later in the day…but more on that shortly.

Punishments: the Boring and the Brilliant

**Note: This post will not mention serious or physical punishments in schools**

Punishment in my school is as fickle and ever-changing as the fashions favoured by my co-teachers. Last semester they were all over a ‘lines’ type of thing where students had to fill an A4 sheet of tiny boxes with either English or Korean words, often whilst sitting outside the office and sometimes whilst holding themselves in an uncomfortable looking plank position. I think that this punishment is called ‘bekbeggi’, or something vaguely along those badly transliterated lines, and a few months ago I could not go one class without the co-teacher flapping squared paper menacingly in the students’ faces within ten minutes of the lesson beginning.

“What did you do for Chuseok?” “Errrrmmm…”

According to my students and co-teachers alike, this particular year is a pretty shitty one for national holidays as (apparently) the majority of them fall on a weekend meaning that we are not given the day off from school. My colleagues and I have gotten to a mutual stage of despair with our students at this point in the school year and have given up trying to appear professional in the face of such disappointments. I make it abundantly clear that I would offer up a digit or two to score a 7-class Thursday off and they reciprocate in kind by appearing to actively hate their entire school day. During the onslaught of Typhoon Sanba one of my fellow English teachers actually braved the apex of the storm on foot in order to get home an hour or so early. That’s proper dedication to slacking off, I felt like Employee of the Month sitting at my desk playing Spore and eating Doritos until it had passed.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Or: ‘Very Much Not A Lesson in Writing Original Titles’

It’s around the time of year for us EPIK-ers to decide whether or not we will resign our contracts and stay in Korea for another year, and I’m sure a lot of people are umming and ahhing about where their immediate future lies. For some people I imagine it’s a truly difficult decision, and would be for me too if there weren’t a few factors to influence me one way over another. I don’t intend to let this post turn into my usual ramble-o-rama, so allow me to make extensive use of bulletpoints. Please do bear in mind that these are the factors that influenced my decision only, if we were all the same everything would be horribly dull.

Reasons to Stay:

Taking One for the Team

There’s a considerable hoo hah surrounding my school’s annual festival at the moment, but I’ll be damned if I can understand most of it. The only solid fact I could gather so far is that it will be held in either October or November and will feature performances from staff and students. Everything else is a bloody mystery. Allow me to entertain you with tales of what has happened so far.

Love and Loathing in Korea

For some reason I haven’t been in the mood to write very much lately, which is probably down to the fact that my first ever Summer Camp is looming and therefore I have kicked into a frantic planning mode not helped by my school’s propensity for the last minute dumping of work onto the foreigner’s already overflowing lap.

Surprisingly, this is not a post in which I whinge about my school or about the upcoming non-stop english fest that is Carrie’s hastily cobbled together ‘Fun Fun English Camp’, but rather a homage to the old ‘Things I Do and Do Not Like About Korea’ chestnut. So without further ado, let us delve into the inner workings of my opinion gland** and see what’s cooking. For the sake of time, I have chosen to pay attention to the top and bottom four and disregard the rest…which is pretty much how the British education system works, now I come to think about it. Go England!

Those who can, teach. Those who can smile and nod, teach in Korea.

Having now been an EPIK teacher in Korea for a little over 3 months, I feel like I’ve gained enough insight into the life of a GET (Guest English Teacher) to throw my two cents in on the whole shebang. Before any lifers get on my back about 3 months being nothing at all, I am well aware of that but if I reserve judgement until I’ve been here for a year I’ll probably have forgotten what this profound feeling of realisation is like.

Sports Day

Sometimes something happens to you and you just can’t bring yourself to write about it straight away. Survivors of earthquakes, tsunamis plus a host of other natural and non-natural disasters often put off speaking of the event until long afterwards, preferring instead to put it to the back of their minds whilst they can lest it become as clear in the daylight hours as it is during sleep.

Kompliments and Konfidence

As I’m succeeding in getting little else done today, I have decided to throw my two cents in on a topic that I imagine concerns  the vast majority of women who make the move to Korea. Probably guys too, but screw it…they can find someone to write their own posts.

As most of you will know, Korea is a pretty much a homogeneous society. Obviously there are significant amount of foreigners here  but Western teachers (like myself) number only 20,000 in a country of over 48,000,000 and as I’ve mentioned before, it isn’t unusual for me to go a good few days without seeing another Western face. Usually when I do it’s because I’ve made an effort to meet up with friends after worrying about my waning ability to speak my own language.

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