Vignettes About Discontent

No, this post is not about any discontent that I might feel. It’s about the discontent I have observed in my students. At my school, I am in the unique position of being an outsider, a teacher who is closer in age to my students than most of my co-workers, and a person who speaks a different language. This combination of factors has led to some students feeling more confident about expressing their opinions, and especially their discontent about their school lives or other aspects of their lives in Korea. The stories below do not represent all students’ opinions, but they have given me a greater understanding of my students’ social or political perspectives and how they manifest in the EFL classroom. Continue reading “Vignettes About Discontent”


Similes and Metaphors

Continuing with my creative writing unit, I taught my students how to write similes and metaphors in English. Many of my students cannot write a complete sentence without the help of a template, so similes and metaphors were a form of “structured creativity” that would balance their need for a format and my goal of fostering creative thinking. Here are some of the best sentences from my students this week:

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Teaching Poetry

After midterms ended, I started a creative writing unit with my students. For the second grade students, I taught rhythm (using Robert Frost) and rhyme (using Dr. Seuss), while for the first grade students I taught a lesson about descriptive language. For both grades, I did an acrostic poetry assignment because it was the best way to adapt to higher level students who could use full sentences or purposeful enjambment, as well as lower level students who could just write single words.

I asked each student to write two poems: one about them and one about any topic they wanted. I was so impressed by the stories they told or emotions they expressed in such a short poem. It’s hard to believe they were written in a second language! Below are some of my favorite examples:

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Boseong Green Tea Fields

After our shark dive in Busan, my friends and I took a bus to the southwest province, Jeollanamdo, to visit the famous green tea fields at Boseong. We originally planned to spend the night in a jjimjilbang, or Korean sauna, but a quick Google search showed that there were none near the bus station of this tiny rural town. Instead, we spent the night at a motel in Suncheon and took the intercity bus to Boseong the next day.

Before coming to Korea, I didn’t enjoy drinking green tea. Although green tea-flavored foods (ice cream, cookies, bingsoo, etc.) are popular in Korea, coffee is usually the hot drink of choice. Because I don’t drink coffee, I usually drank green tea when the English teachers took a coffee break after lunch. With our everyday coffee/tea breaks last semester, I acquired a taste for Boseong’s specialty.

We arrived at the plantation around 9:30 and spent the morning walking around the fields. We ate green tea ice cream, drank hot tea, hiked through the fields, and learned about the different types of tea that were harvested.




The plantation wasn’t crowded because we were there so early, but by the time we left in the early afternoon, more tourists were swarming in. An hour to Suncheon and three more to Gimhae, and I was home.

Though I enjoyed the visit, I would have liked to have spent more time in other parts of the province too. Jeollanamdo is a far trip for me and more than twice as far for my friend who lives near the DMZ. If I didn’t have to be back in Gimhae that evening, I would have liked to have traveled a few hours north to see the bamboo festival in Damyang, too. So much to see, so little time!

Shark Diving in Busan

There I was, staring into the cold, dead eyes of the beast. Its mouth was slightly open, revealing rows upon rows of crooked teeth pointing in every direction. Hovering above me and moving as slowly as a blimp, the big fish looked with curiosity at the four strange creatures clad in all-black, with large metal tanks on their backs and masks obscuring their faces. Its gray pupils glancing ever-so-slightly in our direction, it decided it wanted a closer look.

Whoooooooosh. Our diving instructor took his spare regulator out of its pocket and blew a rush of bubbles into the shark’s face, deterring it from approaching us. I could almost see the shark wrinkling its nose as it changed course, its fins nearly brushing against my arm as it swam past me.

Motioning us to come forward, the dive instructor knelt on the ground of the tank and pointed to the sea life around us. My two friends and I watched in awe as the dozen sharks swam around us, a merry-go-round of flashing teeth.

Moby Dick has nothing on the Busan Aquarium.

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Breaking the News

Three girls rushed into the classroom for our club class. I was setting up the computer at my desk when I looked up to say hello.

“Teacher, when do you leave Korea?” asked Hyun Jeong, plopping down in a seat in front of my desk.

Chil-wol,” I answered. “July.”

“Oh. Why are you leaving?”

As casually as I could, I said the answer I had been rehearsing since my co-teacher asked me to stay another year. “I miss my family, and I want to see them again.”

“Oh, okay. When are you coming back?”

Uh oh. I paused. Another student, Ji Hye, saw my hesitation and asked in a small voice, “…Never?”

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“V” for Victory!: Celebrating from Afar

I’d like to take a break from posting about Korea to post about something else: the Villanova Wildcats won the NCAA Basketball Championship!

I admit, I didn’t care very much about basketball while I was an undergrad. I was laser-focused on my schoolwork, part-time jobs, and extra-curricular activities, so basketball was not a high priority. Toward the end of my senior year, I finally attended my first game in the Pavilion and watched several more games on TV. I generally dislike sports, so I was surprised to learn that I enjoyed watching my college team play.

My mom, however, is the real Nova basketball fan. She has texted me about the games and the players since the 2015-2016 season began. I heard players’ life stories over FaceTime and received live score updates over WhatsApp. I learned more about the Villanova Wildcats from my mother than from four years on campus. (Sorry,  guys. Falvey Memorial Library didn’t broadcast the games!).

For most of the fall and winter games this year, I slipped back into my usual apathy toward basketball. After all, I had so much to do and see in Korea! But since I’ve settled into a new semester and have (somewhat of) an idea of what I’m doing, I decided to follow March Madness again and fill out a bracket with some other Fulbrighters.  Korea is 13 hours ahead of the eastern US, so sometimes I would wake up early on Sunday morning to catch part of the weekend games. And when Nova kept winning, my interest kept growing.

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