The First Week as Carmen Teacher

Hello, class.

Hello, Carmen teacher.

This may be my third week in Korea and second week at my new job in Seoul, but it’s also my first official week of teaching classes here. I spent my first week getting acquainted with the staff, my co-teachers, and my desk in the English office. Truth be told, I spent a lot of time with my desk. But I am grateful that my co-teachers were giving me that extra week to prepare for my introduction class with the students and to settle in at my new apartment and get the official business matters in order.

Even so, by the end of Monday last week, I was itching to be in a classroom and to just have student interaction. The problem (or god-send, depending on the situation) of being Chinese and looking Korea apparently, is that the students aren’t too curious about me when I’m walking through the hallways. To them, I just look like any other female teacher in their school. But it makes all the difference the minute I say “hello” to them and they realize that I don’t know Korean. The complications that come from being Chinese is that the people here just assume that I’m Korean and therefore speak the language. Which is nice because I like that I can blend in. But sometimes it just makes it harder to interrupt someone to tell them, “I’m sorry. I don’t know Korean.”

Anyways, by the end of the first week, I was good friends with my computer – that’s all set in Korean, so that’s been fun to get acquainted with, especially with PowerPoint. I was also ready to go with my introduction PowerPoint presentation that I had completed by Wednesday. I had basically included:
Where did Carmen teacher come from?: to show students where Canada is in relation to Korea and the world.
– Information about Canada, its animals, Toronto, chil
– Rules of the classroom and rewards (stickers!)
of me as a child, graduation, friends, and students.
– Rules of the classroom and rewards (stickers!)
– Two lies and one truth. They learn that I have a younger sister, I’ve been to China, and that I’m learning to bake. The last of which I include my baking disaster anecdote and I’ve gotten really good at dramatizing this story for my students.
– What does Carmen teacher like? Allows me to know what their strong basis of English vocabulary is.
– Ask Carmen teacher! time
– “Stand Up If” game
– Name cards and photos of students with their name cards so I can attempt to learn all their names.

Monday, I had four Grade 4 classes and I was reminded of why I love to teach. I have missed being in the classroom and interacting with students. The Grade 4 students here are adorable, eager, enthusiastic, and fun. They’ve still got that touch of innocence, if you will. And while I was warned about how invasive some questions asked about me could be, I only received one recurrent question – “How old are you?” and I return with my standard, “I’m 25 years old in Korean age.”

Tuesday, I had two more Grade 4 classes – eager little students. Same question – “How old are you?” It wasn’t until the second Grade 4 class that a student asked me, “Do you have a boyfriend?” I guess Grade 4 students are not as “innocent” as I thought they were. My Grade 4 classes were then followed by two Grade 5 classes. As it was with a different co-teacher and my first Grade 5 experience, I ended up losing more time. I had assumed that my Grade 4 classes would run out of time since they had less English knowledge (supposedly) but maybe it’s because I feel that I can work more with the Grade 5 students that I forget that it doesn’t mean I actually have more time with them. Once again, “How old are you?” and this time I asked one class to guess. I got two guesses – 30 and 14. So, I guess if you average that out, you get 22 – which is pretty close to my age. And of course, your typical question about my relationship status. The students here only seem to be interested in those as opposed to what my native teacher friends get,

age, height, weight, single, married, favourite country/food/korean food, k-pop, korean women vs uk women, cost of my car, am i rich, do i have a daughter, whats sports do i like/play, favourite teams, can i handle spicy food, can i speak korean, do i think i’m handsome, when was my first kiss…

But I suppose he is a lot more “foreign” and exotic than I am, since he is British and looks the part of a foreign teacher.

Wednesday, Grade 5 students again plus my first Grade 6 class. And it went wonderfully. And I love Grade 6 students. But I say this because I have only ever had amazing experiences with Grade 6 students. I’ve been told by my mentor teachers back home and now my co-teacher here that I am getting the “good” Grade 6 year. So, all those horror stories about Grade 6 students? I don’t have any. And hopefully it stays that way. It’s still my favourite grade to teach at this moment.

Thursday is what I’m calling my Grade 6 day. I basically just have Grade 6 classes all day. Here, I’m seeing just how different the dynamics of a Grade 6 class can be. You see a lot more girl vs boy behaviour and some of the boys are a little more talkative in a smart-aleck sort of way. Nothing too out of order or that I can’t handle at the moment. And now, for once, during my “Ask Carmen teacher” time, I get more of a variety of questions – about whether I’m rich, whether I like K-pop, my ability to eat spicy food – on top of the standard, “How old are you?” and “Do you have a boyfriend?” It’s nice being able to converse with the students and to have more of a dialogue. Interesting moment of the morning: the principal walking in on my second Grade 6 class. I was completely unprepared to see him and didn’t know whether I should acknowledge him since I was in the middle of my activity with my students. My co-teacher thinks that he came in at a good time where the students were participating and the class was behaving quite well. So, I’m grateful for that.

Friday, my first classes with my new co-teacher which were interesting to say the least. But the classes went well even if I am completely exhausted by it. I ended up taking out an activity so that I’m not feeling rushed all the time.

It was a good week to start and I’m fairly confident when I say that I think it’s going to be a good year. I really like my school, my co-teachers, and my students. So, thus my year as Carmen teacher has officially started.