Often on this blog I bang on about living in South Korea for a few years. This area of my life is even a bit vague to those who know me. I kinda just muttered something about ‘teaching English’ and dropped off the face of the earth for four years. I’m sure throughout the reading of this blog it will become very clear to you that I am not a qualified teacher in any way shape or form. In fact, when I first told people I would be working with kids, there were many incredulous looks shot my way. I went to South Korea on a wing and a prayer, armed with a drama degree and the ability to play under sheets pretending they were the ocean. Upon arrival in K-Town, I was handed my books and shoved into a glass-fronted classroom with twelve small children aged four.
The following is a very real account of my daily life as an ESL Teacher.*
Buses are pulling in, elevator buttons are being pushed, and kids are pounding up stairs ready to burst into the classroom with a cheerful ‘Good morning Mel Teacher!’ Mel Teacher, however, is at her child-sized desk holding a blue PowerAde to her head, cursing the day she decided it was ok to drink soju and do karaoke on a week night. If things are really dire, the desk isn’t even a consideration and Mel Teacher lies almost comatose on the Doremon play mat. A few months in, the kids are well used to this sight and come in and get right down to the business of putting away the contents of their teeny-tiny back bags with their freakishly small hands. Shoes come off- everyone must wear slippers inside and most kids end up sporting a generic version of Crocs. Poor children- they are far too young to know what fashion victims they are. Immediately, all the kids scrabble to play with the Morphun Blocks, which are actually far less fun than they sound, as there are not enough of them to go around. Inevitably, a fight ensues and Mel Teacher has to get up and bust out a very testy, ‘If you kids can’t share, then you’ll all get nuffin!’ Someone probably cries. Mel Teacher melts back into the mat.
FEEDING TIME AT THE ZOO
After a terse ten minutes of Clean Up Time, where Mel Teacher finds herself on her hands and knees picking up blocks because the tenth request of ‘You guuuuuuuuuuys..clean up,’ has failed, it’s Snack Time. Whilst the kids run to the bathroom to pretend to wash their hands and throw water at each other, Mel Teacher surveys the pickings. Snack Time is like Russian roulette- a bad day might see you served up gluggy pumpkin soup, a good day is a jam sandwich. An extra special day is cereal. On those days, Mel Teacher rations out the cereal to the children sparingly and then proceeds to partake in a full continental breakfast. Unluckily, today is pumpkin soup and an adorable child with glasses proclaims, ‘Me eat soup, me want to vomit.’ Mel Teacher feels a small sting of pride for contributing to the creation of such beautifully expressive children.
|Death by soup|
Without a backing track of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise and minus a black leather jacket, the real teaching begins and Mel Teacher proceeds to school these kids Dangerous Minds-style. It doesn’t matter that these kids come from the good part of Seoul, Mel Teacher will damn well teach them their ABC’s and inspire them to break free of their upper middle class shackles. Armed with a CD player and a horrid Americanised recording, a Phonics class begins.
Let’s learn the letter E! Eh-eh- elephant, chants the perky American announcer, her voice all sunshine and rainbows. She probably does yoga and makes fresh juices every morning whilst saving orphans.
Eh-eh- elephant, chant the kiddies.
Eh-eh-empty, Mel Teacher thinks. Just Like My Soul.
WORK IT OUT
Thankfully, gym time rolls around and everybody crams in the elevator to go down one flight of stairs. Mel Teacher is in charge of games again and being the original and diverse teacher she is, a game of ‘Statues’ is on the cards yet again. After about ten minutes, the game dies and the kids proceed to run amuck, throwing giant exercise balls at each other. One child is struck by a ball and although he is pronounced ok as ‘nothing is bleeding’, he is immediately carted off to the hospital by the Korean helper teacher.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
|No, we don't know what you're making us do either, Mel Teacher.|
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
Lunchtime offers a moment of peace as the children proceed to stuff their faces and talk to each other in Korean. They can only get away with this as Mel Teacher is back at her mini desk, very busy on Facebook looking at 154 photos of a mild acquaintance’s recent trip to Greece. Play time begins again and as the fog has just begun to lift inside Mel Teacher’s head, she decides to join in after a rare burst of energy. A game of ‘Broken Chair’ is begun. Children begin climbing up Mel Teacher, which is fine, as her legs are rather tree trunk-ish. Just when they get close enough for say, something like a hug, Mel Teacher collapses her legs so they tumble to the ground as she gleefully cries out in a sing song voice, ‘Broken Ch-aiiiiiiiir’ This is an original game invented by Mel Teacher and it’s a bloody crowd pleaser.
FEELING HOT HOT HOT
After lunch, there is more book learning to be done but Mel Teacher has decided to do arts and craft instead. With her hot glue gun warming up beside her, she shows the chilluns how to construct yet another toilet roll masterpiece. Ten minutes later, there is a line knee deep around her, filled with small children protesting that ‘Mel Teacher do it!’
Mel Teacher ends up making twelve toilet roll snowmen and burns three of her fingers with hot glue in the process.
I LOVE YOU, YOU LOVE ME
Home time is so close that Mel Teacher can taste it. The children are herded into another room for a 20 minute class conducted in Korean. Mel Teacher uses the time to text a friend asking if they want to meet up for beers later. The children return and it takes approximately six million years to zip everyone into their ridiculous amount of jacket wear. Mel Teacher pauses for a moment to reflect upon the fact that a certain child’s Burberry Jacket probably costs more that she gets paid for an entire month’s work. After a rushed Goodbye song in the style of Barney, Mel Teacher herds the children down the stairs to the buses, bag around her shoulder, ready to make a mad dash out the door when the principal is not looking so that she’s not asked to do any extra afternoon classes. One after work drink turns into two and before she knows it, she’s in her apartment at 2am, trying to make ramen noodles. The sun rises and a new day and hangover blooms.
*Probably not your average ESL Teacher