Last year I wrote a blog post about my life working, teaching, and living in Gwangju, South Korea. I taught in a Hagwon, an after school English academy. My hours were 1-10 and I taught small classes of very gifted students. If you’re interested in more information, I encourage you to read “A Day in the Life”. This year, I thought I would share a day in my new town of Gwangyang.
The Morning Routine
Nicole and I get up around 7 or 7:30 and prepare for the day. We leave a little after 8 and walk to our elementary school. The trip only takes about 10 minutes. It’s an easy walk. We’ll usually arrive at quarter to nine and start preparing for the day.
Nicole and I share a small office on the first floor with our 3 Korean coworkers. We each have a cubicle and a computer. It’s no different than an office in the US. There’s an electric kettle we can use to boil water for tea or instant coffee, a laminator, 3 printers, a coffee maker, a table and couch and a giant paper shredder labelled “Spy Killer”. After our coffee and/or tea, Nicole and I are tasked with turning on all the lights on our floor and opening every window on our floor. We’ve gotten pretty good at it. Nicole and I can blow through this in about 5 minutes. [divider_flat]
I should mention, Nicole and I don’t work specifically for the elementary school. Technically Nicole and I, and our 3 other coworkers, work for the Gwangyang Foreign Language Experience Center, also known as, Gwangyang English Town. English Town is a field trip center where students from all over Gwangyang County come to practice English in a hands-on Environment. The field trip center is divided into 5 different sections. These sections vary by semester but currently they are: airport, supermarket, broadcasting, bank, and sports. Students from 3 and 4th grade come one day out of the semester in Fall and in Spring, 5th and 6th graders come. Each day we see about 60 kids split 5 ways so classes are about 12 students apiece. All in all, Nicole and I end up seeing every 3-6th grader from our county over the course of the year.
We Run This English Town
After coffee and window opening, Nicole and I start English town. I help the Korean teachers seat the students in the auditorium then we give a short welcome presentation. We go over the different corners and introduce some vocabulary that the students might need for the day.
After the presentation, the students are divided into 5 groups. The groups cycle around English Town visiting the different corners and doing different activities. In the airport corner, students role play as passengers and security guards. In the supermarket, the students must find all of the ingredients on their shopping list. In the bank, students practice opening an account as a teller and as a customer. In the broadcast area, students report on the weather as an anchor and as a reporter.
The five groups visit each corner for 20 minutes an practice the role play a few times as well as some key vocabulary and maybe one or two games. It’s a lot of fun and the students get to use English in real world situations. Between each class students have 10 minutes of break time to get some water, talk with friends, or use the bathroom. At noon, the students gather in the auditorium for a game of Jeopardy. Each of the five groups takes turns answering questions from a Jeopardy powerpoint. At the end of the game, the group with the most points gets small chocolate biscuit.
The Weekly Haps
English Town is everyday except for Wednesday. On Wednesdays we teach first and second grade students at the elementary school connected to English town. We teach 4 classes; two first grade and two second grade, 40 minutes each. We swap classes so I’ll teach one class with my Korean coteacher then switch to Nicole’s class. At the same time, Nicole and her coteacher will teach a class then swap and teach the class I just taught. Sometimes these classes are cancelled if we have a lot of students and need to schedule a Wednesday English Town or if there is a school function like a performance or an exam.
Whether we have English Town or first and second grade classes, they all finish around 12:30pm. This gives us time to plan for first and second grade classes, plan winter or summer camps, or just catch up on reading. It’s a nice schedule and it’s allowed me time to work on personal projects such as this blog, learning HTML/CSS (more to come soon), and planning awesome vacations (also coming soon).
At around 5pm we go home each day. If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday I go to the gym with my friend Brendan and work out for about an hour. If it’s any other day I go home with Nicole and work on my blog or try to teach myself something new before we make dinner and settle in for the evening.
Life in Gwangyang
Teaching in Gwangyang this year is a very different experience. However, I much prefer it. My classes are shorter. I get to teach a wide variety of students. Each day and each class is different because my students are different. I also have a lot more vacation time, fewer classes, higher pay, and a larger apartment.