I was born to teach. That’s the feeling I get each time I step into one of my English conversation classes. Two of my courses are at the introductory level. Most of my students are freshmen. I also teach a group of advanced English learners. Most of them are third- and fourth-year students. I take my time preparing for the lessons because it is important that the students learn something new each day and grow in confidence about their English-speaking abilities.
Korean schools teach English at the elementary and secondary level. (My husband tells me that he earned extra money a few years ago when he was asked to teach English to kindergarteners.) My students have studied English for several years. They’ve studied grammar and lots of other rules. However, many students are not strong when it comes to English conversation. Korean students in college now often have been taught English by Korean teachers. My university believes it’s important for students to learn English from native speakers.
The students are eager to learn. I use a lot of group exercises because I believe in strong interaction in the classroom. Younger students, such as freshmen and sophomores, seem to really enjoy participating in groups. Upperclassmen, on the other hand, seem to prefer to work alone. I nudge them into groups anyway.
Even before I taught my first class, I was struck at how respectful Korean students are. I’m still getting used to all of the bowing. Students might be running to class, but they’ll slow down and bow on the run! In my classes, students will go out of their way to assist me. In one class, someone always gets me a cold drink when it’s hot. In another class, a student will erase the board at the end of the session. I’ve also had a student offer to do copying for me so that I can continue teaching uninterrupted.
This is a school where girls walk across campus holding hands, while some boys can be seen with their arms around each other’s shoulders. The kids at this school — at least while they’re around adults — seem very humble. If they see my husband or me carrying a heavy package, they will insist upon carrying it for us. It’s almost like teaching in Disneyland. 🙂
There’s one thing, though, that I’m trying to understand. In a couple of my classes, I have girls who question me if I let a class out a little early. Usually, I do this because I want to make sure the students make it to the dining hall before it closes. We work hard during the class period, so I see no problem dismissing early. However, I have had girls in two different courses approach me after the session, informing me that the class is supposed to last until, say, 5:30 p.m. What if someone says something, they ask. Perhaps these young ladies are classic overachievers. I’m not sure what motivates them.
But I do know this: I like teaching in “Disneyland.”