An-nyeong-ha-se-yo, what adjectives to use?……………… It was cold, frustrating, agreeable, amusing, charming, cheerful, comfortable, delightful, energetic, friendly, funny, helpful, lively, splendid, witty and I was thankful and ultimately thoughtful about the days events.
I arrived (as I do!) at 7.35am, it was bloody freezing and a locked school and staffroom greeted me. Frustrated by the fact I had not yet had the opportunity to check the room I was due to deliver my first proper full ESL lesson in I went to sit in the canteen. I had been told (the day before) it was a morning class but before I could ask what exact time my “co-teacher” had vanished into the ether.
I had a bright idea check the luxurious male staff bogs/smoke room for signs of life. I clawed my way through the fog and …….. “an-nyeong-ha-se-yo”,
“teacher Gary you are locked!”
“Yes, I am locked out!”
“I get key, you go in!”…………….
“Gam-sa-hap-ni-da” (Thank you)
90 minutes later I discovered that the first class was in fact 12 noon, followed by lunch and another class at 1.00pm. I prepared to introduce myself, my likes/dislikes/hobbies and depending how much the students knew after 5 years of ESL instruction (5 hours per week), what I did last weekend. How wrong could I have been, the best laid plans o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley (often go awry). Now I cannot lie I had been told the level was low but I was teaching a High School Third Grade class of students 17 plus who may or may not proceed to university.
My co-teacher agreed to introduce me to the class but as she had not arrived 2 minutes before class started I made my way to the room, confident in my preparation and indispensable good humour. The greeting was generous, they (the students) were already there, seated in the ubiquitous rows that Korean teachers depend upon to create a manageable barrier between themselves and their students. I had in my wisdom decided against the “big stick” and oh yes I mean the big stick method of classroom control. I greeted the kids and whilst absorbing the barrage of immediate and testing questions I managed to attach my USB flash drive and waited for my perfect preparation to glorify itself on the very expensive plasma screen…………………….MM could have got to the Harrison cocking his leg on every lamppost before it would have appeared.
“Gary teacher, Mr. Gary, I go, I go I go”, I am glad he knew were to go as I didn’t, at this moment Dave Garrard and Ian McDonald could have been my Guardian Angels but alas not! He returned with three people, my very late co-teacher, one male and one female technician, how little did I know that the answer would be so simple. Of the 3 USB drives in the desktop box only one worked, it was situated at the back, under the teacher’s desk and to get access to it all teachers would be subjected to the deadly “dong chim”. Dong chim is roughly translated as “poop needle”, they put together two fingers like a gun and aim quite purposefully to stick them up your bum hole. You can investigate this staple of Korean culture if it takes your fancy at:
OK finally up and running, the rest of the two sessions were brilliant as the class was full of characters they were amusing, charming and cheerful, they made me feel extremely comfortable and at ease. The second class was just as delightful, they were energetic, friendly, funny and I have never met kids so wiling to be helpful, I was on cloud nine looking forward to a splendid year in Korea. Reflecting as we do and after a 10 minutes walk around the astro-pitch, I realised that despite the low, low-level of these kids they, as they are in the UK, have been let down by a system that throws money at education but so so much of it is wasted. Anyway I am on top form, motivated and determined to make sure that they do learn some English and that they all meet their potential. I forgot to mention that I think I have observed about 20 kids who are special needs and the system just absorbs them without making any special allowance for their needs or providing additional support.
On arriving home and after a 10 minute bout of sign language with the night-watchman, I found out they were coming to install a new gas meter between 6.30pm and 9.00pm. Another testament to what works in Korea is that they work hours to suit you when providing utility services. As witnessed by SDG and PDG they arrived promptly and completed the job in 10 minutes whilst we carried on Skypeing to Atmos and Georgie. Gam-sa-hap-ni-da and jal ja-yo (Thank you and goodnight).