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This week I was assigned a 1st grade classroom. My previous classes have been 6th and 4th, so this was the first time I would be dealing with very young children. As expected, this was a whole new experience. Crying, spitting, and screaming became my normal, but there was an enjoyment in all the mayhem. During this week, I wasn’t the traditional teacher but rather an older brother to eight unique and hilarious little people. Although that description may suggest that the kids didn’t learn anything, that was far from the case. By the end of the week, the kids could identify and name shapes as advanced as hexagons and trapezoids, give the English words for ten different fruits, name five animals, and say the alphabet. One student in particular had a deep interest in English. His English name was Simon, and he became my personal helper and friend during our time together. Every morning he would greet me with a special handshake we made together and then proceed to gather my group of students to play a geometry game that Peining and I created. Without Simon the classroom would have been far more dysfunctional.

As the week came to an end,  I reflected on the immense amount of work that teaching very young kids entails. You have to be a friend, teacher, and parent all while maintaining an unparalleled amount of energy. This realization has brought me to have the utmost respect for elementary school teachers all around the world. It is a difficult and somewhat overlooked job, but one that if done correctly, can start kids off on incredibly good paths. There was a moment during Thursday’s class when all of the students started screaming a single phrase, and all i wanted to do was visit my own first grade teacher and tell how amazing she is.

Once the weekend came around, I continued my excursions around the various districts of Seoul. I visited City Hall as well as a more more traditional area which does not allow English signs anywhere. In this traditional section, I waited in line and then tried a famous candy known as the “King’s Desert” or 16000 string honey. This food was a favorite among the ancient Korean kings and is the product of stretching and folding a piece of condensed honey. As I enjoyed the snack, the vendor was kind enough to show me how to make it as well as give me a brief history lesson on its origins. The whole experience was incredibly, and I’ll make sure to buy a box for my family before I leave.