Today the ETAs went on site visits to elementary and high schools across Korea. I was in the group that shadowed David, a current ETA at Gongju Sa-Dae-Bu High School, and sat in on a few of his classes. During the day, we met the school principal and a few of David’s co-teachers, and we also ate lunch with the students in the cafeteria. It’s hard to believe that this will be me in a few short weeks!
Like in America, it is common for Korean high schools to be all girls or all boys. But even coed schools in Korea often have their classes separated by gender. Such was the case at David’s school. The ETAs in my group shadowed two of his female-only classes. Each class had a different lesson, but both were equally fun and successful for the students.
The first class was all about debate and critical thinking. The week before, David had shown his class an episode of the American TV show Lost, which they loved. For today’s lesson, he created a scenario in which the students would have to survive on a deserted island. He gave his students a list of ten items (water, emergency provisions, a small mirror, tarp, etc.) and asked them to rank the items in order of importance for getting rescued and surviving on the island. The students worked in groups to determine their ranking, and then debated with each other about which items would be most useful. At the end of the class period, David compared the class’s ranking to the U.S. Coast Guard’s ranking of most important items for rescue and survival. I appreciated how David included U.S. pop culture, the students’ interests, and elements of debate in his lesson.
For his more advanced class, David created a lesson about beauty standards and insecurities, showing videos and sharing stories that prove how different beauty standards are across the world while also proving that it is universal problem, especially for women. The students discussed some of their own insecurities, and then wrote kind messages to each other about what made everyone beautiful.
While the students worked on their activity, David played “That’s What Makes You Beautiful,” a song by the British band One Direction. As soon as the lyrics started, the girls started singing along, knowing every word by heart. It was a strange moment that melded cultures: an American teacher, a British song, and Korean students. I have never thought much about how far-reaching pop culture can be and how it can serve in bridging gaps between nations. I suppose the same is true for K-Pop in America!
The students’ English skills were so impressive–I know my Korean will not be nearly as good as their English by the end of my grant year. David also told us that his school was one of the best in Korea and not representative of most Fulbright placements. But I am eager to learn more about my future school and how I can best serve my students and community.
Korean class starts tomorrow – Advanced Beginner, here I come!