I work at Chungdahm April, a branch that is meant for elementary school students. Those of you who teach older students may or may not be able to relate to all of these, but I’m sure some will ring a bell. To those who aren’t teaching yet, you will see once you come over to Korea just how similar the students are here to the ones at home. There may be some cultural differences, but in the end…kids will be kids!
1. The 'Perfect' Ones: No matter what you or even the other bad students in the class do or say…these kids will strive to be perfect! Sometimes, you just want to shake them to loosen them up a bit so they can relax more. These kids are the hardest working students and always want to do the best that they can. It’s important to remind that they are fantastic no matter what. Do everything in your power as a teacher to get them to laugh and have fun!
2. The Adorable Ones: These kids could possibly commit murder, and you would help cover for them. Like many things in Korea, they are just sensationally adorable. They say silly things in class that may not make sense, but you''ll end up giving them praise because they entertained the whole class. They are dressed to impress--always wearing the cutest outfits or the coolest clothes. Chances are they have a good sense of humor and playful personalities. I have to admit, these are my favorite.
3. The Funny Ones: Everyone loves a class clown, and Korea is no exception. These kids will have the other students crying with laughter, and though maybe we don’t want to, we may be joining in on this. You have to beware of these kids, because if they think you’re too easy, then they will take over the classroom with their ridiculous energy. As an ESL teacher, you gotta hold that kid down with an iron fist!
This shot taken by teacher Sydney Langford of a ChungDahm class at a Debate Competition shows just how silly the kids (and teachers) can be to lighten the mood during tough academics!
4. The Friend Ones: I can easily say that I have some students, though they are young, that I consider my 'little buddies'. It varies on their skill level, but you can actually talk to these kids, and they actually care about what your saying. I’ve got this little buddy named Terry, and he used to annoy me so much, but once we got used to each other, we could tease each other, share stories and makes jokes that we would both get. He actually remembers a lot of the things I tell him. Just because you are different ages and from different cultures, doesn’t mean you can’t understand each other. These students really help enhance the experience you have here.
5. The 'I don’t want to be here' kids: This student is international. We all know this student. Maybe we were once him or her, sitting at the back, staring out the window. My favorite thing to do to this kid is when someone says something, I’ll call on the student and say "Hey ____, do you agree?" and the answer is always "Huh? What? Why?" and I just smile, because I caught him not paying attention, and he (or she) knows it. Try everything in your power to engage this one, even if it makes you look silly. It will be worth it in the end.
6. The "I love you" ones: These ones (mostly girls) will actually say "I love you teacher!" I work with younger students, so I’m sure this is more rare with the older ones. Those three important words are so much more commonly used here, and it makes me think what life would be like if we said it more to our friends and loved ones back home. No matter how many times you hear it, it never stops making you feel good. Try to make these kids as happy as they make you, and it will make your class even better!
7. The PC Room Addicts: This will be almost all of your male students, and some of your female students. Terms like 'head shot' and names like Jym Raynor become very common. I don’t play Sudden Attack (no, I swear I don’t), but I probably know too much about these games. As used to this country as I am, I still think the PC room thing is weird. If you mention anything about 'pc room' or mention any kind of video game, you will immediately have their interest.
8. The Kids with the ‘Tudes: This student isn’t always the easiest to work with and can sometimes cause problems. Yeah, there will be one or two for you. They may be Korean and speak a different language, but the best way to get around these kids is to remember that they are human, they are kids and have the same interests as all the others, and even though they act tough, they have real feelings too. Try your best to reach out to this student. If you can get them to smile or give them a lot of praise, you can slowly build a better connection with them!
Laura Kavanagh is an East Coast girl at heart who graduated from the University of Toronto in Ontario. After a brief volunteer trip to South America, the idea of traveling with a purpose inspired her to get out into the world and make something of herself. Shortly after, Laura snagged a fabulous teaching position at ChungDahm April English through Aclipse. One year later, she is now Head Instructor and loving her life in Bucheon, South Korea. Laura is currently studying the Korean language, where she tries to learn three new words a day. Her favorite one? 'Chinja?!' meaning 'Really?!'
Check out her blog and Connect with her on Twitter. Any questions? Hit her up at firstname.lastname@example.org!