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Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Saying Farewell To My Students

Teaching is a very rewarding occupation. Sure, there are times when you want to shoot yourself when you have mountains of marking and planning to do, or when your class is high on sugar and just won't listen. But in the end you do what you do for one reason only: the education and well being (that's a Korean phrase!) of your students.

When I completed my four month teaching practicum teaching a grade 7 middle school class in Canada, it was hard to say goodbye. After learning so much from these kids and spending so much time with them, you build strong student-teacher relationships. I will admit, something got into my eye on the last day when my class surprised me with a party, and I had a few tears flow well up. Let me repeat, something got into my eye, it probably was due to my seasonal allergies. Riiigghhhttt! ;)

Teaching English in South Korea has been another enjoyable and memorable experience for me. Usually, students have new teachers every two months. However, this time around due to some scheduling we had the SAME students for seven months! If you have a group of great kids, this is a dream. But if you have a class of sugar-addicts it can become a nightmare. I was lucky enough to have five good classes with some very hardworking students.

So when it came down to our final classes with each other, I surprised all five of my classes with a pizza and pop party! These families in Mokdong are of a different social class--they definitely have some extra income to spend. So their children are known to be very "needy" and some are even spoiled. The secret to throwing a successful pizza party is to not mention it at all--that way there are no expectations. All I told them was that I "forgot" to bring money and that I was very sorry. However, after we had covered the curriculum on the final day (*cough* games *cough*) pizza magically appeared with 30 minutes remaining in class! We all had a great time!

Here are some highlights from my various classes. This group of grade 5 students were a fantastic bunch. Some of the most hardworking and motivated students you will EVER see:

This class slowly dwindled from 14 to 8 (re-enrollment rates are huge at hagwons--you either ignore them or try to maintain your students by throwing out the monthly sales pitch--I concentrated on teaching). However, only 6 showed up on the last day (blame it on school camps, etc). If they knew pizza was on the menu they probably would have brought their friends too! Remember the pencil-sharpening-with-a-box-cutter tutorial? That was the work of Peter (formerly known as John--names change all the time), with his hands up in the background:

These students are in their third grade of middle school. Once they get to this level, they really start to feel the pressure before high school (look at John there, the big daddy-o as the only guy in the class!). About the pizzas, the company I hard ordered from threw in a "service (or ser-biss)" pepperoni pizza since I had ordered from them so many times! I gave that extra pizza to Devante's class next door!

Look at me, I'm Chinese Korean!

I was surprised to receive some random gifts from my students. Of course, you can always expect a Korean staple, "Choco pies" to clutter your desk. Oh yeah, don't forget the dark chocolate too:

This happens to your garbage can after "snack parties"...students compact the garbage with their shoes and eventually the thing will burst. Eat that, ajuma night cleaner!! ;)

Do you have any "farewell" stories to share? Come on, fill me in!


Benjamin Plouffe said...

Those 엄마손 (or eommason) cookies are my favorite!!!! I miss eating them but i think i can buy them in toronto. I need to look into this.

Vania said...

Nice story! I miss my teaching time! I was teacher in high school in Indonesia, I teached German. One day we had a small party. Each student brought the ingredients for "Kartoffelsalat" - Potato Salad and we ate together. Eventhough I am far away now, I still keep in touch with my students. Amazing, knowing that the time moves so fast! Do you still have contact with the kids?

Anonymous said...

Luckily, I don't have to say "farewell" to my brood. Just good-bye for my two week vacation. At a small hagwon, like the one I work at in a poor part of town, I've been with most of the same kids for a year.

It was bumpy at first as I wasn't like the carefree, Korean speaking native English speaker they had the previous year (much to the happiness of the owners), and a couple of kids quit because I was actually teaching them. Nowadays, most of my classes are in a real nice groove and we are accomplishing quite a bit more than when we first started classes together.

Also, I do worry when class size dips, but nearly all of it is out of my control. One of the Korean English teachers had a bit of a breakdown in class, and said some unfortunate things to the students which caused a group of great students to quit and for the owners to search for a new teacher.

I bet that teachers who teach in rural areas are even more connected to the kids who hang out after class. Here in the big city, they count their won and head down to the PC Room/Bang, to the soccer gym (no grassy fields here), or to buy their tuxedo clad pig ice cream as soon as class is over.

Anonymous said...

All farewells are sad I guess. Those kids are cute. Of course, Gdog is the best. Was it disappointing that only 6 came?

Gary said...

benjamin: those cookies are good, too bad I dropped mine on the floor! D'oh!

vania: Thanks for visiting! Yes, I have already received a few emails from my students! I guess that's a good way for them to practice their English!

john: have you tried the pig in a tuxedo ice cream? it's a real treat! :)

anonymous: I was not disappointed as I knew it was going to be random how many kids would show up. The next day would be the start of intensives for them!

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