While teaching in English in South Korea my students have taught me countless things. I cannot even begin to recall the innumerable lessons that I have learned over the year and a half that I have been teaching in Korea. It seems like everyday I am learning something new about myself because of teaching and working with children. However, if pressed into coming up with a list of the most valuable lessons learned from my students, I think I could condense it down to eight comprehensive lessons. (Or at least I am going to try). So without further ado, here are the top eight things I have learned from my Korean students.
This one was a big lesson learned. If I hadn't learned to be more patient, I would not have lasted 6 months, not to mention a year and a half. At the beginning of my English teaching experience, I had to quickly adjust my expectations for my students because of their age and maturity levels. Losing my cool or being quick to anger was not going to be helpful to anybody.
2. Sense of humor
With this job teaching in Korea, you have to be able to laugh at yourself. If you are afraid to make a fool of yourself, the students won't ever open up to you and classes will be impersonal. I also know after working with so many Korean students what jokes they like to hear and what is going to make them laugh. I call my "go to jokes" because I know they will always get a laugh and will liven up a dead class.
3. Being Young at Heart
Teaching children forces you to get in touch with your inner child. Whenever I am lesson-planning, I have to stop and take a minute to think how to make this lesson more fun for a 10-year-old. Being around kids all day makes you break out of your adult thinking and mindset which is nice every once and awhile.
4. Understanding and Compassion
Similar to the first lesson, patience, having a greater compassion for the students and their lives will only make you a better teacher. Young Korean children have demanding schedules and tons of pressure placed on them....I try not to add to their problems.
5. Balance Between Fun and Strict
I really dislike disciplining children. It upsets me and upsets the student. On the other hand, if you never lay down the law, students will have a tendency to take advantage of you. It took me a few months but I finally settled on a nice balance of fun yet also maintaining structure and rules in the classroom. If I had never learned this lesson, my classes would have gotten completely out of control.
6. Putting On a Smile
There are days that I don't feel well and standing in front of a rowdy group of students is the last thing that I want to do. I now realize the importance of putting on a smile and performing even when I don't feel like it. I sometimes look at teaching as show business and you know the most important rule about show business....the show must always go on.
7. Korean Customs, Culture, History, Etc.
If you want to know something about Korea, just ask your students. They are an invaluable source of information and are eager to teach people about their country. In fact, that is one of my favorite things about teaching in Korea. After a year and a half, I really feel like I know the culture because of my students.
8. How to Be a Better Student
That's right...I said how to be a better student. I am going to be attending graduate school soon and I now have a greater understanding of what teachers want from students now that I have been on the other side of the relationship. I truly understand that there are no dumb questions, how much teachers appreciate participation, and how much it means to be attentive and possess a great attitude in class because I love the students who do all those things.
So that's the list. I really do feel confused somedays on who is the teacher and who is the student. That is the beauty of teaching English in Korea. Let me know some lessons that students have taught you or if you can relate to any of my lessons learned.