Our Nu Skoolz

Katie in italics
David in normal

Now you know about our arrival, our flats and Dave’s poor sense of direction so I think it’s time to tell you about the schools and our actual jobs, since that is meant to be the reason we are here (although it clearly isn’t!)

My journey to school is pretty easy. I have a 1 minute walk to the subway station, then a short subway ride followed by a 10 minute walk to school. I have taken to getting the 7:54 subway which means I’m always about 20 minutes early for school but I think it’s good to look keen and it gives me time to get in a cup of tea before I start the day. I have a desk in the staff room with my books and work laptop, and I’m at the end of the row, by the window, which means if I angle my laptop slightly I can sit and watch ER without anybody knowing...apart from when it’s so traumatic I can’t help but pull faces! So this desk is where I spend most of my time. I was told that I should probably stay in my classroom when I’m not teaching but I don’t really do that because I get lonely and am also less likely to do any work!

I am very lucky to have my own classroom though, as it means I can go in a set up my powerpoints etc before lessons start and I know exactly what technology I can use and how it works. I have a podium at the front of the class with a computer screen in it and this is then displayed on a TV behind me (which is touch screen!) so I don’t have to turn my back to the class to see what they are looking at. I have white boards rather than chalk boards and have decorated the front of the class with some Union Flag bunting.

Now I have set the scene, I will tell you about the kids. It’s an all boys middle school in a more industrial area of the city which means two things: My walk to school is along a pretty ugly factory-lined street; and the area is quite low income, meaning the kids are often from less well-off families. At home this would probably be reflected in their behaviour, and while I think it plays a role in their, generally low, ability their actual behaviour isn’t that bad...for the most part. The 1st graders are 11 years old and very cute. They are keen and well behaved and love repeating just about everything I say. I teach an after school class with the 10 best 1st graders and during this time I can teach what I want (rather than out of the text book) so I have been using Mr Bean to teach them about daily activities and opinions. They LOVE Mr Bean.

The 2nd and 3rd graders are nosier and generally if they repeat what I say it’s to mock me, rather than learn. If I actually ask them to repeat then about a quarter of the class will and the rest will stare at me with a look of disbelief, like I asked them to recite Shakespeare or something. Having said this, the good ones are attentive and I have some lunch time and morning classes with the best ones. For the 3rd graders I’m doing lunch time lessons based around music – different genres and how to talk about music. Yesterday I introduced them to Drum&Bass and the word “bangin” and then reggae and the word “chilled”. This is definitely the most fun lesson and hopefully it’ll go well throughout the year.

All in all I’m enjoying myself and it could definitely be a lot worse. The other teachers are really friendly so that is a massive bonus. The principle speaks brilliant English, and the vice is pretty good too. She really wants to improve so from time to time we’ll go for a walk and a talk so she can practice. The teacher in charge of looking after me is really lovely and so helpful. She’s done so much for me already and even invited me to her wedding! It’s on Saturday so I will be sure to tell you all about it next week. One of the best things about the staff is that almost every day we will be given snacks that someone has brought in. Usually it’s rice cakes or various sorts. Some are really yummy, others are just weird and occasionally they are actually unpleasant. Nevertheless it’s always a nice treat and last weekI brought in a big tray of muffins which went down a storm.

I was pretty nervous and a little intimidated on my first day at school. The nerves were normal but the intimidation was an unexpected surprise. I had to be introduced to the school in the main hall in front of everyone lucky enough to be a teacher, parent or student of Mora Middle School. All I had to do was bow and say, “nice to meet you” (in Korean of course). As they called my name to come up on stage, it would be a lie if I didn’t say that the hall erupted in a plethora of screams and shouts. The girls were screaming at me, the boys were shouting at me, the teachers were laughing at my awkwardness – everyone was making some sort of noise. I felt intimidated at first and then I felt like a rock star, on crack...so yeah, I felt like a rock star.

Through the noise, I could make out a few English phrases; “I love you!” and “handsome” being the most common. What was really surprising to me was that it wasn’t just the girls calling me handsome. Since the assembly, boys will happily come to my desk and say, “you are handsome” and then run off hand in hand with their guy friend. Korea is, by far, the most bromantic country I have ever seen. It makes Brokeback Mountain look like a BNP gay hate parade.

So in short, the teaching is going well and I’m having a lot of fun with the majority of my classes bar a few noisy grade 3 boys who I have just started giving punishments to. I still get screams when I enter classrooms from girls but I only get called handsome maybe 4/5 times a day now, so it’s slowing down :( However, my co-teacher is passed out on her desk, fast asleep, at 10am so I'm still feeling like a rock star!