Korea: Second First Day of Classes

About a month ago I wrote about the first day of classes for the new school year in South Korea. It turns out I was wrong. Very wrong.

Yesterday was the first day of classes of the new school year. What I thought was the first day of classes turned out to be the last week of classes before the students all moved up a year. During that week I taught no classes as the students and teachers were preparing for the graduation assembly. Then it was time for Spring break, another two weeks off for the students.

Taking this a step further it means that, when March 2, 2011 rolled around for the official first day of classes, some of my students hadn’t attended an English class since before Christmas. In the two months that had elapsed I noted how much English had been lost across the board by my charges. Some attended Winter Camp but that was optional and meant to be more fun than serious study.

There’s a phrase I often use when describing language study, “use it or lose it.”

Most of the students have lost part of their English.

I arrived at school on the second wearing black dress pants, a blue button-up shirt and a shiny pink tie. It’s a good thing I randomly decided to opt for the formal look, as every other teacher was similarly decked out. And in Korea, my sparkly pink tie blends it, it doesn’t stand out at all.

My first class was scheduled for the second class, at 9:45AM. No problem, I’ve got my lesson planned prepared and I’m ready to go. My co-teacher informed me about and hour before I was to teach that the second class would… have a welcoming assembly.


This is the only class I’m supposed to teach the Second Grade (Korean 15 year olds) this week.  English is disposable in the northern farmlands of South Korea. Instead of learning English, there was the assembly, meeting the two new teachers, a few adults from the parents’ council attended and that was about it.

Now, after a two month break I’m expected to teach these teenagers English. And I will. Only I realize that I’m pretty much starting from scratch once more since most of these kids, much as I love them, can’t see why English should be a priority. It’s not their fault, but makes my job not harder… but more frustrating and my lessons more simplistic.

But still, finally, officially, I can say the school year has begun.

(And really, it makes more sense to start at the end of Winter than at the beginning of Fall.)


3 thoughts on “Korea: Second First Day of Classes

  1. What kind of things do most of these kids have in mind for the future? Will most of them go on too college? Do you use things such as American magazines and films to help you teach and garner an interest in english? Or maybe pen pals?

  2. If it is any consolation relearning goes much faster than learning something the first time. Even though you think you have lost most everything, the second time around the information sticks much more easily. It’s like learning on steroids which I find to be a blast.

    • I haven’t used pen pals. Most are sort of vague about what they want. They’re not 100% certain, they are after all only Grade 7 – 9. I use youtube a fair amount, North American magazines are very expensive in Korea.

      And they’re relearning it faster I can nearly see the wheels turning over in their heads during the refresher lesson. As a whole they’re much more eager to learn than last year’s school – which was solely the fault of the now graduated class.

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