I teach at Cheongsan Middle School, a small school about 5-minute bus ride out of Jeongok, the town we are based in (blog on our town to follow). The school is in a small rural village of Gungpyeong about 1km from Sarah’s main school. Surrounded by farms, I get the beautiful smell of a beef cattle (and their shit) welcoming me at the front gate every morning. Something to look forward to, come summer.
The school has 74 students pretty evenly split across the three grades. Middle School in Korea has three grades; equivalent to years 7 through to 9 in Australia. I have my own English room (see pics) and teach alongside Kim So Yeong, a first-year teacher from Suwon (a city south of Seoul).
Students, like in Australia, start the day in a ‘home-room’ where they get all the important info for the day and schedule changes, of which there are many. For most subjects, students stay in that room with specialist teachers coming to them. A few select subjects are held in specialised rooms, English included. Their home-rooms also seem to be the main place they hang out between classes. It is not uncommon to see them watching LOL, Starcraft or K-Pop videos on the smart TV’s in the breaks.
Middle School students take English four times a week, with those needing a bit of help having additional after school classes twice a week. The English level varies a lot, though I am told that the overall level is low when compared to the average Korean student. This I guess, is to be expected considering the rural nature of the area. This being said I have several students who have spectacular English and really push themselves to get better every day.
My school has a very strong focus on music, with pretty much every student in the school playing an instrument. Twice a week for 2 periods they have speciality teachers come in. At this time I flee to the safety of the teacher’s office to save my ears. They are also currently building an orchestra hall on the school grounds.
Sarah’s Schools (x2).
My main school is Gungpyeong Elementary. The school has around 75 students from kindy to grade 6. I teach there 3 days a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
There is no English room at this school, so my desk is in the library and I go to each of the classes homerooms for their lessons. The grades 3s and 4s have 1, 40-minute lesson with me a week and the grade 5s and 6s have 1 double (80 minutes) lesson a week.
I have no dedicated English co-teacher at this school, instead, I co-teach with each of the homeroom teachers; 3 out of the 4 have great English and 1, the grade 6 teacher, has very little. I was initially worried about this class as to how it would go, but so far is one of my favourites! Especially when he brings chocolates to the class 😀
I also have ‘after-school’ classes here as well to make up my contracted 22 hours per week. I have the grade 1s and 2s three times a week and the grade 3s and 4s twice a week. The after-school classes start straight after lunch, so around 1pm. I have a full range of what we do in these classes and since the English levels are pretty much beginner – the basics are what we do! These are by far my most challenging classes as I have no co-teacher there to translate so there’s a lot of examples and demonstrating. With my grades 3s/4s, we even do a bit of google translating to help us get over the line.
Bonus fact about Gungpyeong, there is a Prince’s tomb at the back of the school! It even gets a mention on the local tourists’ maps, however, I am yet to see anyone visit, or even anyone in the school even mention it.
The second school I teach at is Baekuyi Elementary school. Baekuyi is a further 5 minutes away on the same bus Chris and I catch to school. I teach there on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The school has 73 students, ranging from kindy to grade 6.
At Baekuyi, I have a Korean English co-teacher, Dahye who is lovely and we have an English room where the students come to us. We see the grades 3s and 4s twice a week for their 40-minute lessons and the grade 5s and 6s for their double lessons also twice a week. I don’t have any after-school classes at this stage as apparently, they weren’t aware I was coming to teach there until 2 days before I arrived so didn’t plan for any- nice to know Koreans also get Korean surprises!
The kids also have chosen their English names for these classes, which has resulted in some awesome results! Some of the kids already had English names from English academy (which they attend after school), however, those who did not, were given a full range as to what they are called for the year. Some honourable mentions include:
- In grade 3 my favourite name is B-corn (who started off with popcorn). There is also Berry and Joro.
- In grade 4 I have King, Zeus, Greece, Balloon and God. And Steve.
- Grade 5 there is Crocodile, Angelina and Owl;
- Grade 6: Subak (which translates to watermelon in Korean), Bob, Eddie and OTM (which is his Korean name’s initials, and did consider Tom when I explained the shuffle of letters, however OTM it is!)
One of the things I love about this school is the music that’s played between in each class. There is even a full song with is played for the end of lunch. Baekuyi has a great reputation for their music program, so it only seems fitting! However, over the last week, air conditioning has been fitted into the classrooms which has unfortunately resulted in the sound system not working- hopefully, this can be fixed!