Friday, March 9, 2012


Thank God It's Saturday.

My first week of classes went really well but I'm still happy for the weekend. My hours are from 2:30 to 8:45 Monday through Friday (though I get to leave an hour earlier on fridays!) and I teach anywhere from five to seven classes a day for 40 minutes each. Time thankfully goes by really quickly when teaching so the work days feel short.

The most challenging part is probably getting control of the kids -- some are better than others. This is a really wealthy area so some of the students can be a little spoiled. You'll see some of the kids running around in Armani or Ralph Lauren (brand name clothing here is probably 50% more than what it is in the states) while still acting how kids act. But there is a part of me that feels bad for how much they have to do.

Parents take their kids' education very seriously in Korea. It's estimated that they spend 20% of their salary just on their kid's education. The type of school (or Hogwan as it's called here) that I work at is an English institution where the students spend roughly an hour and a half at three days a week after their normal school day. Their day also most likely consists of piano/violin lessons, taekwondo, math tutoring, and speech class. So they wake up at 6 or 7am and don't get home until around 9pm. And then they still have to do homework.

Subsequently education is also very competitive and puts a lot of stress on the students. To make things worse the test to get into university occurs once a year and is taken very seriously. If a student is running late for the test, they can call the police who will come pick them up, divert traffic, and drop the kid off at the test. Airplanes are diverted around Seoul so the noise doesn't affect the test takers. This is viewed as being the test that these kids have been working towards their whole lives.

Most of the subway stations here have a protective casing between the train and the platform. It was marketed to be for safety for accidents but most people refer to them as the "suicide doors" because there is a spike in suicides right after the test and then another spike after the results are received. Someone was telling me a story of how someone was giving one-on-one tutoring for a young girl, maybe around 7 years old, in their classroom on the 8th floor. The guy looked out the window and saw a teenage girl sitting on the edge of a window in the building opposite to him, looking down and sobbing with a mass of papers in her hand. He covered the students's eyes so she wouldn't see the girl jump. Thankfully a friend of the girl's pulled her back into the building, as papers flew everywhere, so she didn't commit suicide, but the teacher asked his student why she thought the girl in the building wanted to kill herself.

She simply said "Oh I understand. She probably got a bad grade."

Education in the United States is certainly sub par and it's amazing how much the kids I teach really know about the world -- they're more intelligent than a lot of college students I've met -- but the intensity is unbelievable. There are some kids who do enjoy the business though and now a lot of schools got rid of having to go to class on Saturdays.

I'm just thankful I don't have to teach on Saturdays too.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Allie, It is so nice to see your posts and Pictures. We love you and think of you all the time. Be safe and have fun!!! Chris and Neal