My day begins at 1 p.m. My first class is "Debate," a class for adults where we discuss various topics to practice English conversation. My primary role is to keep the discussion going. We usually have a handout with a topic and questions regarding the topic. We are currently discussing "Money" with questions about bank accounts, gambling, debt, etc. I have around four to six students. One of my students, Danny, is leaving the class to return to university in Seoul. He invited me to dinner with his family a couple of weeks ago, and we had a going away lunch yesterday at a fried chicken restaurant. We have become friends, and he invited me to stay with him at his dorm on a weekend. The remainder of my class are mothers who practice English for their own edification. It has been very humbling to me to witness the Korean thirst for practicing a second language. I have really been studying Korean a lot harder lately. I can count, say thank you, bye, hello, ask how much for an item or service, and a lexicon of about fifteen words that are relevant my interests or needed for simple conversation. I also am attending a Language Exchange program on Tuesday nights. I met a Korean-American, SP (his name), who hosts the event for language practice, cultural exchange, and social networking. His story is very interesting: he was adopted at the age of five by an American family in New Hampshire. He grew up there and moved back to Korea after college. He calls the Americans "mom and dad" and told me he has some contact with his biological parents. He's a real nice guy, and we share many interests.
The rest of my day varies from Monday to Friday with 45 minute blocks. I have a break between classes if there is no class scheduled. I use this time to prepare for upcoming classes, read "Paradise Lost" to the mountains I can see from my window, or joke around with the director or kids not in class at the time. They have learned to give me "high-fives" quite well with the boys trying to slap it as hard as possible and the girls giggling to their friends. There are two other Korean teachers as well that teach the same classes. They primarily focus on grammar while I work on comprehension, conversation, and vocabulary. Lucy and Rina are the teachers' names. They are both around my age but my conversation is limited with them because of the language gap and their shyness. They laugh at me though when I dance on Fridays and make the boys do push-ups for bad behavior.
My kids are all sweethearts. Talking to other foreign teachers (waegooks) has helped me realize how fortunate I am to have such great kiddos and a wonderful boss. There are some horror stories out there. I have one particular class of boys that I have a lot of fun with: Jin, Peter, Steven, and Frank (I call him Frankie baby with a mobster accent). If we finish our lesson early, we talk about sports or they teach me Korean. I have to be careful repeating what they say because they think it's hilarious to try to get me to say something bad or profane. But they can never hold their giggles, so I usually have fair warning. But they are just mischievous boys and give me fruit and candy weekly in an odd sort of penance. The younger girls like to touch the hair on my arms because they are so hairy compared to their fathers, I suppose. They love my green eyes and blondish hair too. I grade their diaries at the end of the night, and I learn about some of the girls' self-image problems and such. I try to always compliment them when appropriate. Koreans tend towards vanity to a point that even makes a Hollywood-inundated American blush at times. But as a teacher, I try to help the girls be confident by giving them little nick names and always being friendly. The shy ones are hard to joke around with, but they like it that I try as long as I don't embarrass them in front of their peers.
As aforementioned, at the end of the night I grade diaries and perform "phone teaching." The diaries are often hilarious stories about their mothers scolding them, some delicious meal they had, or random thoughts that are priceless jewels of innocence. I always leave a note about whatever they chose to write about and put a sticker in the box where I write. One girl came to MJ, my boss, crying because Eric teacher (that's my name at school) didn't like her journal and didn't give her a sticker. The truth was that I simply forgot. I felt so bad that I gave her an entire page of stickers. So now she gives me a sticker at the end of class on my lesson plans and tells me good job. I guess the page of stickers came with a supervisor status as well.
Phone teaching is another part of my day where I get paid to make prank calls for 20 minutes or so. I don't literally prank anyone, but the hilarity is always present. The kids think it is the coolest thing in the world that Eric teacher called them to chat about their favorite animal in the zoo or what they had for dinner. I always end the session with a huge grin on my face and a story for the other teachers about one of the kid's answers or a parent yelling in the background that they should study harder if they don't know the answer. The kids yell back in Korean what they wanted to say in English and a five minute argument ensues with me on the other line patiently waiting. It can be quite entertaining.
We play games if we finish our lesson. The games are always more practice but they absolutely adore them. Hangman is the favorite, but we also play trivia basketball (if they get the answer right, they shoot a ball in the wastebasket), bingo, Simon Says, telephone, and "Stop the Bus" (a game where they write as many words as possible that begin with a letter I choose at the start of the game. When I yell 'stop the bus' they all fall out of their chairs and giggle on the floor. I know one of these days a kid is going to bust his lip or bruise her head, but I fear a revolt if I removed this part of the game). I bought a bag of candy for the kids too. They think Laffy Taffy is the greatest candy in the world because it's American. My little niece taught me an important lesson in bribery with candy, so I use the motivation often while encouraging toothbrushes.