Thursday, June 23, 2011

School

This afternoon I was teaching my 1st grade class, and some Korean lady (not a teacher at the school) came and spoke Korean with Sam, then he said to me
"Class is over now. These kids are going on a field trip. And the next class is canceled because they'll be on the field trip too."
I said "Oh, ok."
He said "I knew you wouldn't care. I know you well. I don't care either. haha"
I think things like this happen partially because it is Korea and they do things last minute, and partially because I am the foreign teacher.

School in Korea is different than school in America. The kids are with their homeroom teachers from 9-1 or 2. They don't have all the same classes every day. I know they have math, Korean, science, music, art, PE, history, English, life skills...probably some others too. I'm not 100% sure what goes on during this time.

In between each class there is a 10 minute break. These 10 minutes are a free for all. Kids can go anywhere they want and do anything they want. Literally. I've had kids wrestling on the floor of my classroom. In the beginning I tried to stop this - naturally - but all the Korean teachers are fine with it so I have to be fine with it too. 

At lunch the homeroom teachers usually eat with their class in the cafeteria. The teacher has to check each student's tray before they can dump it to make sure they've eaten all their vegetables. Thank goodness they don't do that for me too. Then the kids have recess. It is totally unsupervised, and they can do whatever they want: play outside, run around the hallway, play in their classroom, play in someone else's classroom...it doesn't matter.

Then after school classes start. I mostly teach after school classes, and I think some of the homeroom teachers teach after school classes as well. The name is pretty misleading because I don't think anybody goes home. After school classes last until 4:30.

Now some of them go home, and some of them go to hogwan. Hogwans are mostly for middle and high school students, but some upper elementary kids go to them too. They're like another school, but I think they usually help kids focus on one or two subjects. They usually last until 10 at night.

There's a ton of pressure for these kids to be really academically successful. Last week one of my 4th grade boys came to my class crying because he didn't get a good grade on a test in a different class. One of my 6th grade girls was telling me how busy she was, and she doesn't know the word "stressed" but that's definitely what she was describing. Every single one of them has homework and studies every single night. Every other Saturday kids go to school from 9-12. Crazy. Korean students perform better on tests, but they have less of a childhood...

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