This week marked the first week that we began teaching at Jiguchon International School, and boyyyy was it eventful.
I absolutely loved it.
Jiguchon is designed for the children of foreign immigrants, mostly migrant workers from China or Southeast Asia (though we also had some from Russia and even Honduras). Each week, we hold an English camp and teach the kids lessons on general vocabulary terms and common phrases used in America, and this week was our first week at the school.
I had a lot of concerns going into teaching. What if they don’t like our lessons? What if we don’t get along? This was exciting but also so so nerve-wracking…. Sixth grade would be the first grade to “endure” our teaching. Generally I liked interacting with younger children, and I feared that they may not take to me or vice versa. There was also the issue of me not being able to speak Korean. Many of the directors told us that a lot of the kids came from China, and my Chinese is passable, but we were still in Korea. Especially for the older kids, Korean stood as the main source of communication.
diving head first
I felt like we were going in blind. We didn’t really know the school well or the students, and we weren’t exactly sure what the school wanted us to teach. The preceding weekend saw us drafting lesson plans and going over behavior tips on how to deal with kids and how to tutor them. As we stepped through the doorway of the school, my anxiety spiked. Oh geez, this is really happening. All my “what ifs” started surfacing again, and Val didn’t seem to be doing too much better beside me, so at least I wasn’t alone in my nervousness.
The bout of hysterical squeals from the 6th grade girls when we walked into the classroom dissipated my fears. One glimpse of Brock, the only white guy in our group, set them off fangirling so hard that I struggled to stifle my laughter.
They’re still just kids, there’s no need to be apprehensive at all.
Connecting seemed much easier after that, and it was so much smoother than I thought it’d be. The girls are the sweetest little chickpeas ever. It’s funny that our class’s English abilities were straight up split by gender, with the girls in the two higher levels and the boys in the two lower levels. Because of this, the female half answers all of our questions eagerly and happily participate in all the activities that we plan out. For them, the English that we taught seemed like a breeze.
Katherine and Roy’s language skills were very advanced, and they could hold entire conversations with me in English. Most of the other girls spoke to a lesser extent, but they listened and understood our instructions quite well. I believe they could say more, but they probably felt nervous since their fluency wasn’t perfect. Angel provides an example of this; she acted as our translator, explaining our English directions in Korean to her classmates. This shows that she grasped the language well, but she still didn’t speak it to us as much. One of our new goals was to help coax that speech out of the kids.
The boys were a different story. Many of them barely got what we taught at the front of the class. Instead of engaging in our lessons, they opted to play games on their phones or talk to me or each other. It was a constant struggle to try and get them to pay attention. Ryan directed his fascination with America at me, and he’d ask me in Chinese about what the States were like (“What does American money look like, do you have any, how much yuan is it worth, can I see?” “I heard that in America everyone has guns and shoot each other, boom boom!”). It was pretty entertaining to see how the rest of the world viewed the US.
Clearly the reason why the boys didn’t follow our lessons is because they simply couldn’t keep up. We tried to speak exclusively in English, but they’d give you blank stares and awkward silences. I found that by speaking in a language they understood, it was much easier to get them to at least interact with me and express their own thoughts. Jack remained rather unresponsive whenever I tried to get him to say some English words. When I started up a conversation about American food in Chinese however, I learned that he’s never eaten half the stuff that we eat, doesn’t like bacon, and like half of the class, loves hamburgers.
Though English immersion may be helpful in learning the language, perhaps it doesn’t need to be our main goal. Maybe we can just…communicate. Connect. That’s why we’re here.
I was exploring Gwanghawmun Square when I bumped into a huge variety of demonstrations. There was this group waving huge Korean flags and marching down the street, led by a slowly moving truck with a man shouting through a speakerphone. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint their message since all the banners were in Korean. However, judging by the American flags mixed into the crowd and their age range, I surmised this was a conservative group who took a hard stance against North Korea and current President Moon Jae-in. Later encounters with some English posters (one criticizing President Moon’s policies and another with hearts around Trump’s face) cemented this idea. It was interesting to see the things that we had learned about come to life.
What was even more fascinating was running into counter-protesters. In front of King Sejong’s statue, another group held a gathering of speeches and performances. The audience hoisted large blue United Korea boards and pink peace signs. A group of nuns sat in the back with their own paraphernalia, cheering as the speaker raised his fist. Political activism is alive and burning, and it was heartening to witness this.
– I spent a lot of time exploring Seoul and it’s such an amazing city. There’s just so much to do, and the atmosphere of the city feels so safe!
-The street performances contain so much energy. I keep going back to Exit 9 at night to watch them, and now I know all the groups that regularly perform ＼（＾▽＾）／ (they’re cute)
-I did more shopping than I anticipated whoops. It’s harddd! For once, the clothes actually fit, and the skincare…. Maybe I’ll just splurge a little more….
-It just happened to be H.O.T.’s Tony’s birthday when we headed to SM Coex. His fans flocked at the entrance and waited for him to arrive for his birthday party, and we managed to catch a glimpse of him (ﾉ≧∀≦)ﾉ
Gangnam Style Statue in Gangnam
Inside Coex Mall
Playing Musical Chairs but with Shoes
Anti-Moon Jae-in Protests
Pro-United Korea Demonstration