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This week we moved to another class: the 4th graders! The age difference between 6th grade and 4th grade could be identified by their choice in English names. While the older kids chose rather normal names (Ryan, Mark, Katherine), the younger children carried around name tags saying “Berry”, “Happy”, and even “Pig”.

As expected, the 4th graders on average were less proficient. However, again we saw a divide within the classroom. The most advanced group’s ability greatly surpassed that of the rest of the class (and even better than many of the 6th grader’s). We could hold a generally fluent conversation with Happy and Daniel, but this wasn’t possible with Charles or Ori.

All the students come from such different backgrounds. Happy told us that her grandparents are from Australia, which explains her good English. Most of the kids, however, were Chinese.

Irene and Sophie like Wanna One (and Park Jihoon) and, together with Happy, are always practicing K-Pop dances. They’re really good too; they actually plan out formation changes in addition to learning the moves, and it’s so cute! Along with some of the 3rd grade girls, they tried to drag us teachers into mastering Wanna One’s IPU, but we failed miserably. Charles plays Geometry Dash (if anyone remembers, it was this really popular phone game when I was in like 9th grade) and makes YouTube videos of him passing each level. He immediately pushed us to subscribe to his channel.

Ori is enamored with superheroes, and he even made a glove inspired by Thanos’s Infinity Gauntlet. Lily finds basically no food delicious. During our food lesson, we showed pictures of pizza, creamy mushroom soup, ice cream amongst others, and she didn’t like a single thing. We asked her what she liked to eat and she said “小吃” (“snacks”).

A lot of times, we feel like our teaching may not be sticking with the less capable speakers. Teaching in front of the class simply doesn’t work for them. Because they can’t understand the English, they end up just zoning out or focusing on something else. One on one tutoring with the kids is much more efficient. They’re not always interested to learn and sometimes find your persistence annoying, but if it gets some English stuck in those heads then it’d be worth it. It’s really heartening to see them remember what you taught the day before.

As the week came to a close, we again experienced a bittersweet goodbye. Although we will be seeing the kids around the school, there is a different level of connection that comes from being their personal teachers. During the last 40min period, we decided that learning could take a quick backseat to fun. We brought our class up to the 4th floor soccer field space and played musical chairs and soccer. Seeing our students smiling faces and goofy attitudes is the perfect final memory to a hard but rewarding week.

After class on Friday, we participated in our first Korean language class. We met our lovely teacher in the lobby of our hostel and began decoding the fascinating language that has surrounded us for the past three weeks. Our teacher was patient with our beginning struggles and resistant accents. Going forward, we will be having 1.5hr sessions twice a week, and we couldn’t be more excited.

As the weekend rolled around, it was time to continue exploring the city we now call home. Along with the general vaguely planned wandering, we decided to go to a night market on the Han River. We spent hours trying food trucks and hanging out amongst the crowds of happy friends enjoying the summer night. We even stumbled upon a climbing TV show competition. With the backdrop of a rainbow lit opera house, we sat, watched the water, and reveled in the opportunity we were able to experience together. I know this moment will stick as a defining memory when I reflect on my time in Korea.