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Teaching ESL in Korea

The Kids arrival to school is a lot like Christmas morning. They’re all excited and expecting something.

I have an hour to prepare before class, which goes by way too fast after that first cup of coffee kicks in.

My school is a hagwon, which means a private school in Korea. We have ages between two and eight. Right now I’m teaching the two year olds, but they seem a little less than responsive.

The four year olds, well, I mostly just chase them around while I help them color. But let’s be honest, we color in every class.

Hey, coloring is helpful for their listening and fine motor skills. Besides, the most important thing is that they’re having fun.

And what would be a fun school without recess?

Because my school doesn’t have a proper jungle gym, we have the kids run around while assuring no one causes any major injuries. Between recess and class,  our school offers plenty of other extracurriculars including golf, ballet, violin, and my favorite, soccer.

According to my fellow teacher friends, having this many activities is rare. I consider this a privilege in my job and a fun opportunity to let someone else lead the children while I stay on the sidelines.

After a few hours of work and play, it becomes my hour off. Or something like that.

Our school chef prepares a daily meal of rice, soup and kimchi while I catch up on planning with or without distraction, and then it’s back to the classroom.

By now my job may look like all fun and games, but that’s all I have on tape. Yes, the children are cute, but Kindergarten is hard work. It’s a balance of engagement and enthusiasm. Persistence and patience. Focus and flexibility. A good teacher powers through and has fun with it.

But before I can say goodbye to my blooming buds, I have one last class until my day is done.

So in the end of my workday I’ll ask myself, “Do I love it?” ‘No.’

“But is it worth it?” ‘Absolutely’.

-JMM

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