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New Grounds

This week we moved to 1st grade. I’ve never needed a nap more in my life.

When I was teaching 6th grade, the students were relatively well behaved. Going from 6th to 4th grade seemed like such a huge jump at the time. The students paid less attention and were much more easily distracted.

Nothing could prepare me for the gap between 4th and 1st.

The children were certainly much more open and (dare I say it) cuter. The second I approached Tiffany, she took my hand and nuzzled her face against my palm. The rest of the class, she’d follow me and hug me, pulling at my arm to get my attention. Naturally, the smaller they get, the floofier they get. It wasn’t all sunshines and rainbows though.


Our first challenge came when we realized that the kids knew basically no English at all. Like the other two weeks, we started with names and introductions, things like “Hello, my name is _______” and “I like ______”. A couple minutes into the class, however, it was clear that our previous lesson plans wouldn’t work. Speaking in English garnered blank stares and wandering concentration. Teaching in front of the class seemed to be a signal for the kids to get out of their seats and run around. We ended up settling for a classroom where two of us teachers sat with two separate tables and gave them more focused coaching.

The first day switched from learning greetings to mastering colors. Even this was a struggle. What I’ve noticed is that as the kids get younger, their language tends to gravitate more towards Korean than their native tongue. In 6th grade, the Chinese speakers would often communicate using Chinese to each other and speak Korean when talking to their other friends. The same thing happened for a section of the Chinese 4th graders. However, some of the 4th graders had somewhat forgotten their Chinese and mostly chose to communicate in Korean. In 1st grade, this was true for most of the Chinese students.

This made this week’s lessons much more difficult. Since we split the teachers up, Brandon and I were at one table while Peining and Brock stayed at the other. I didn’t know any Korean, and Brandon’s is still in its growing stages. He was super helpful in communicating some of the basic phrases and instructions, but language nevertheless proved to be a prominent barrier.


As I think about this, I also realize that the same thing happened to me. Though Chinese, I was born and raised in the US. My parents use Chinese at home, but everywhere else, English is the only form of speech. As a result, my Chinese deteriorated. Now, I’ve reignited my interest in my first language and regret its loss. Looking at these students, I feel a similar sort of loss.

Baby Animals

Though teaching was much more difficult and controlling the kids became a full-time jobs, they were still really sweet! Alex was the tiniest child in the class and he definitely had the best English knowledge in the class. Unfortunately, he also was a little devil. It was like we were playing the game “The Floor is Lava”, but instead of the floor, his chair was the lava. His enthusiasm for the games we played was out the roof though, and I really appreciated his interest.

Tiffany was a sweetheart. She was extremely affectionate and would pull herself into my lap or back-hug me, always holding my hand and trying to get my attention. She also had a cold, which was unfortunate, but I haven’t gotten sick yet so I’m praying for my health to hold.

Mark could babble for hours in Chinese about Spiderman and snakes and superheroes. Even though he was the sturdiest kid and seemed a little aggressive if aggravated, I found it really easy to calm him down by just talking to him. He really really loves to talk. While we played our nature video, he couldn’t stop talking about the bird and how funny it was and how it’s eyes were blue and how it was a weird bird and why was it doing that is that bird real.

Jennifer retained little of the English that we taught, but she drew the most colorful little drawings and made me little rings and bracelets from paper scraps. Whenever I stuck my palm out, Olivia planted her face on it and it was the most adorable thing ever.

Even though this class was the most difficult, I really loved teaching them. I don’t think they learned wayyy too much, but I think they had fun and enjoyed our time with them! On to the next week!


-The Lotte Family Concert was amazingggg! The line-up was jam-packed and I saw groups that I never thought I would see in my life…Bangtan, Twice, Blackpink, Sunmi…. Also Kim Bum-soo was unexpectedly an amazing performer, he really knew how to hype up the crowd!

-I saw EXO up close and in person!!! I’m so happyyy (★^O^★)

-I also visited Blackpink’s pop-up store in Hongdae because they just came back (DDU-DU DDU-DU is a bop) and it was really cool and pink.

-Artbox has the cutest stationery! Why can’t the US relate? 🙁 I have bought so many unnecessary things here, I really need to stop spending money.

-Myeongdong is really nice and busy, the vibe here is great. The street food tastes delicious, and I finally got some fruit in this city. I have also confirmed that I don’t look Korean or Chinese. Whenever I walked by vendors, they would switch their language to English. The worker at Nature Republic was so shocked when I spoke to him in Mandarin that I think he put an extra-large amount of samples in my bag.


Brandon solving a Rubik’s Cube for the kids


Learning the Shape Song


Entrance to Myeongdong Artbox