Into my third week and I haven’t died yet. . . .

After two weeks of teaching, I can say that this is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. Okay, so dramatic start, but honestly, teaching is extremely difficult. These kids. I swear. My second week and a half have passed similarly to my first week – there have been ups and downs. One particular down was that last Tuesday, I lost total control of my 1st period 2nd grade boys class. They made me feel so degraded; like no one listened and my co-teacher didn’t step in to help much because she thinks I’m supposed to do the discipline. Honestly, she’s the only one of my 8 co-teachers that believes and it’s for my rowdiest class, so I was feeling pretty blue about this whole situation for the past week.

During orientation, EPIK made sure to tell us that everything is random. You could get a co-teacher that sleeps in the back and doesn’t pay attention; You could get a coteacher who micromanages everything and lectures the whole period; You just have no idea how they’re going to act with you. I have lucked out in that respect. Since I’m in middle school, I teach completely alone and can create my own lesson plans with no input from my co-teachers. Most of my friends in elementary school actually teach the class with their co-teacher and don’t have a say in how the lesson goes. In this respect, I am very lucky. All of my co-teachers are in the room and do the discipline and classroom management aspect of my teaching. Honestly, it’s really nice. But, after only 3 weeks, I can tell that the students don’t see me as an authority figure and it’s been really depressing coming to this conclusion. I know I’m new, but it sucks to be in front of a classroom and feel this way.


Okay, so enough depressing stuff. Because honestly, teaching is not that bad. But, Emily, it sounds like you hate it! That’s not true. I don’t hate it. AT ALL. It has been SO long since I’ve felt a challenge like this in my life. By the time I left Half Price Books, I was not challenged and I am realizing now that I have never felt this way before about a job. When I started at HPB, I immediately felt comfortable; like I was made for that job. Teaching. Is. Not. That. Way. AT ALL. I feel like everyday, I wake up dreading the day, but powering through, and then feeling so much satisfaction at the end of the day that I get home wondering why I woke up dreading it. It’s a bizarre sensation.

And now enough reflection! I finally took pictures of my classrooms and my schools!!

Above is my main school, Munsu Middle School, in the Mugeodong neighborhood of the Namgu district in Ulsan. It is only a ten minute walk away from my apartment, so I can wake up about 40 minutes later than when I wake up for my second school. I have almost 30 students in every class I teach at Munsu, so it feels pretty cramped in my room. I need to come up with more games that gets them out of their desks because it’s like they’re all sitting on top of each other. The English classroom is much more spacious at my second school. . .

To get to Wolpyeong Middle School, I have to take a 25 or minute bus into the heart of Namgu district. My class size is about 25 per class and the facilities are a bit newer and more spacious. The kids don’t feel like they’re sitting on top of each other. I also have a Smartboard!! (It’s the kind of board that you tap and it progresses to the next Powerpoint slide – SUPER nifty!!)

Last week was really hard on Tuesday, but on Thursday, things turned around. Remember in the last post when I talked about the 2-2 boys and how they were just awful?? Well, I had my first class with the 2-1 (this is the reminder that 2nd graders = 8th grade, and 1st graders = 7th grade) boys where I taught from the textbook (I “taught” my introduction the week before) and it was a disaster. The boys could not understand what I was asking them to do. I had to explain to them the concept of “month,” “laugh,” and a few other words that they should already know in English. After the disastrous class, I talked to my main co-teacher at that school, Sae Byeol, and she restated the fact that the 2nd graders at Wolpyeong are really difficult and low-level (I was thinking of the 2-2 boys) and said she’d get back to me about how to handle it. I was worried that I was teaching too hard and she reassured me that it was appropriate for the 2nd grade level. I had taught it to the girls later and realized that she was right. (I just love girls!!!! ❤ ❤ ) After lunch, my other 2nd grade boys class was canceled, so I had a whole afternoon to lesson plan which was so nice. When I got back to the teacher’s room at the end of the day, there was a schedule sitting on my desk and I noticed that it was different than the schedule I had been following for my current classes. Sae Byeol told me she talked to the Vice Principal about the 3nd grade boys being too low level for an English teacher and that the 1st grade boys were really excited about taking classes from me. The VP switched it!! So now, instead of teaching all the 2nd graders, I’m only teaching the 2nd grade girls and all the 1st graders, instead of just the 1st grade girls. I am so happy for this switch!! I just had no idea how I was going to approach the 2nd grade boys’ classes with the knowledge they just had no idea what I was talking about. So, the next day, with the 2-2 class, we just watched Toy Story and they were perfect angels. Funny how that works. Also, another class was canceled, so Thursday and Friday were like my favorite days of all time. It’s the little things.

Hmm what else about school can I say????

  • Lunches are pretty good, actually – Wednesday at Munsu is “American” food day, so there’s always cake. It makes me so happy. And yes, I broke my diet to have cake. I spend my Munsu lunches in silence and my Wolpyeong lunches surrounded by teachers trying to speak to me in the tiny amounts of English they know with one of my co-teachers translating if necessary.
  • There are 2 girls at Munsu that are so clingy and it’s adorable.
  • Yes, I have spotted a super hot teacher at Wolpyeong. And he’s a gym teacher. All young, male teachers seem to be gym teachers. I’m trying to slyly ask my co-teachers about certain teachers. It’s pretty ridiculous.
  • Korean children are not supervised during their ten minute breaks between classes. They come into my classroom and create a huge ruckus. Well, the boys do. At this point, I’m not sure if I should tell them to shut up or not.
  • Korean teachers keep offering me sweets and whenever I don’t take a milk or juice, one of them always inevitably brings me one. It’s very rude in Korea to not accept food, so I always take it. At Wolpyeong, the teacher who sits next me offered me an instant coffee. I took a packet, not intending to make it, and my co-teacher saw and came over and dragged me to the hot water. She showed me how to make instant coffee, so I drank the super sugary “French style” coffee. I have broken my no sugar and no caffeine rule many times over at this point. I am telling myself it’s okay as long as it’s very rare and I don’t offend anyone.
  • Since Thursday is Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), one of the teachers at Munsu brought everyone gift boxes and mine is a huge box of laver, or seaweed. I honestly just have no idea what to do with all the seaweed.
  • It’s really hard to come up with inspiration for lessons. I have a lot of trouble formulating my thoughts and deciding what I want the kids to do. I am hoping I get better and faster soon, but it takes me forever still to make a proper lesson.
  • Today, lesson’s were only 35 minutes, and the last lesson I taught was only 25 minutes! So it was interesting trying to squeeze 45 minutes worth of a lesson into that amount of time.
  • The kids in my classes who know English really well already are little scamps and one in particular is really bad because his dad is from New York and he has a “I’m super cool” complex. Today, he kept shouting out, “He’s doing graffiti!” while we watched the textbook animation of the kid doing a wall mural. And he’ll shout out more obscure English words randomly. Also today, he said to me, “I wish we were learning the British English. 80% of kids only know American English.” I was like Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa and said to him, “Well, I’m sorry for being American, but you’re just gonna have to get over it.” He is going to cause me problems, I just know it.


That’s all I have to say about teaching for now.

Here are pictures of my neighborhood.

So these pictures were all taken within a mile of my apartment. Now you know where I live and what I get to look at all the time.

These pictures are from Samsandong, or Ulsan’s downtown, and where I spend most of my weekends.

So that’s the downtown. Not something I see everyday, but I do get there at least once a week. At 8:30 or so last night (9/12/16), I was sitting in a coffee shop in Samsandong when the worst earthquake to hit South Korea hit, so this area will always be so special. Or you know. Just a downtown like any other downtown.


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