Our Man In South Korea
So Many Corn Dogs, So Little Time
Onchon Girls Middle School
Pusan City, South Korea
At the beginning of October, Korean students were studying into the early hours of the morning. They were busy trying to do that last bit of 'cramming' before test time. A student's grade comes from this test. There are no grades for homework, classroom, or attitude. This test is sink or swim! And the competition is fierce! Students have private teachers in English, Korean, math, etc... To go onto the next level of education (middle school to high school, or high school to university), a student must score in the top percentile. As they move up, the competition gets tougher. The American idea of an equal education for all students doesn't apply here. A great middle school means a great high school, and this means a great university and a great job! The same can be said for good, fair, and poor schools.
Onchon Girls Middle School is a great school. Our students are sharp and have many opportunities to learn that an average student doesn't have in Korea (i.e.: traveling overseas, private tutors, better teachers, etc...). Their parents are very interested in their children's future and are involved in trying to get them to the top. Onchon students have climbed to the top and are fighting to stay there. My job is to give them that little extra edge in English that will help them along the way. I sometimes feel guilty for working with such privileged children and struggle with my "American Idea" that all students should have the opportunity to speak with a goofy guy from Idaho. But I am not in the USA, and I cannot change Korea. The future for Korean Education includes "goofy guys from Idaho" in every classroom. Anyone interested? I am one of a handful of people who are working in Korean schools.
Back to this test subject... I was given 4 days vacation because I am not a certified Korean teacher and cannot actually grade students. Feeling left out of this whole fanfare, I decided to give you "Corn dog" readers a 10 Question Test on the "social-life" of a teacher at Onchon Girls Middle School. Don't fret too much! It's true and false... and you have a 50% chance of getting the question right.
Social Life of a Teacher
T/F 1. Teachers take naps on a bed in the teacher's room.
T/F 2. Beer is sometimes left in the fridge from the party the night
T/F 3. Students clean the school, no janitors.
T/F 4. Corporal punishment reminds students to follow rules.
T/F 5. The school birthday is a holiday and teachers go mountain
climbing, drinking, and dancing at the night club.
T/F 6. Students give beer to teachers at the school picnic.
T/F 7. In Home Economics class, sewing machine repair is a
longer unit than sex education.
T/F 8. Teacher's relax by shooting air pistols in the school's range.
T/F 9. Student's bow to you when they see you in the hall.
T/F 10. Corn dogs are served daily at lunch time.
*ANSWERS ARE AT THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER*
Korean Schools vs. American Schools
Here are some real noticeable differences between the two school systems. First, 55 students in a room and they don't change classes. Teachers rotate to different classrooms. Second, teachers desks are side by side in one large room. My neighbors are a home economics teacher on my left and a social studies teacher on my right. Third, parents never visit the school except to discuss a BIG problem with their child. Entering a school is done with so much respect that the parents look like a dog with its tail between its legs. Parents just don't stop by to see how things are going. Fourth, weekly announcements are done with students standing in military formation. It's quite a site to see 1500 students in uniform as they listen to the principal. These are not all the differences, but a few you would first notice upon entering the school.
Thanks to some Halloween decoration supplies from Pam Widmer and my sister, my students received an American cultural experience. My 3 "special classes", extra-curricular English with a goofy Idaho guy, carved pumpkins. The students really got into cleaning the "guts" out. One student unfortunately cut her hand and required 5 stitches. I feared my pumpkin-caper would be shut down, but instead I was told to continue. The student returned later in the day with a bandaged hand asking for her stickers and candy. Korean kids are tough! The students will probably never remember a lesson I taught, but they'll always remember Halloween.
Yes... I am from Idaho and seafood has always been a Skippers Platter or a Seafood Combo. Pusan's coastal location makes it a prime place to eat all those sea critters, alive and cooked. Sabrina and I ate live seafood one night with her brother. We selected fish out of the giant tank and carried it upstairs to be prepared into cold cuts. I have also eaten shrimp the size of lobster. These shrimp would have attacked me if they hadn't been fried. After spending so much time in land locked Idaho, I am enjoying the change in diet. Anyone for seafood?
I hope this brings you up to speed. Your letters are always appreciated, and that's all I ask in return for my Corn Dog Newsletter...so many corn dogs, so little time.
*Some people ask about the meaning of the title "So Many Corn Dogs, So Little Time". In Korea, corn dogs are sold almost everywhere. And I am a big fan of them. I have been seen eating 3 or 4 of them in one standing! Korean 'dogs' are good and greasy, sometimes cold in the middle, but always hit the little hunger spot in my belly. I carry a bottle of French Mustard with me to add that little extra touch. Koreans put on mayonnaise and ketchup. Yuck! I'm a true Corn Dog connoisseur! Anyone want a dog?
** The answers to the True/False Test are... ALL TRUE!