Glowsticks, Violins, and Cross-dressing: The School Festival

An annual tradition in middle and high schools in Korea is the school festival. In the morning, students turn their classrooms into carnival booths and food stalls to raise money for charity. In the afternoon, they showcase their talents in a concert. Our school festival was held on Christmas Eve, and it was one of the most memorable days I’ve had in Korea so far.

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Interview with a Student

Originally published by Reach the World, December 4, 2015

*Bo Seung is one of my most motivated students and one of the best English speakers in the school. He’s been involved with several Fulbright-related activities, including YDAC (debate conference) and the Fulbright English Program, during which I had my first teaching experiences during orientation. Here is a brief snapshot into his life.

Kang Bo Seung (English name, Bosely Kang) is one of the students I teach at Gimhae Jeil High School. He is in the second grade, or the equivalent of a junior in high school. Bo Seung loves learning about new places and cultures and hopes to travel to many places around the world.  I’ll write these responses from his perspective.

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Interview With a Teacher

 Originally published by Reach the World, November 13, 2015

*This is an interview with one of the non-English teachers who I teach once a week. She is one of my good friends at school.

Today, I interviewed one of the teachers at my high school about her family, her travels, and her life in Korea. She was so excited to introduce herself to American and Canadian students! We conducted most of the interview in English, but we also used some Korean and an on-line dictionary to help us out. The interview below has some minor edits for clarification.

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수능 Day: Or, the Korean SAT

November 12. My students’ hard work and exhausting hours of study culminate in this one day that, for many of them, will determine the course of their lives after high school.

Imagine the SAT on steroids. Eight hours of testing, five subjects (Korean, math, English, social studies/science/vocational, additional foreign language), and only one day a year when students can take the test. The one score that mainly determines college admissions. This is the sooneung (수능), or College Scholastic Aptitude Test in Korea.

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The Plight of the Korean Student

I walk into my first class every morning to see students with their heads on their desks, relishing those precious few minutes before the first period bell. Most of them will pick their heads up and go through the motions of doing their English assignments. Others, sometimes half of the class, will not stir.

I feel conflicted. Do I wake the student? I should, of course. But my class doesn’t count for a grade and the student looks like he hasn’t slept in days. Should I let him sleep? If I let one sleep, does that mean the rest of them can sleep? What do I do when half of my class has their heads down and refuses to do work?

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Fall Conference Updates

This weekend was the annual Fulbright ETA Fall Conference. The conference was held in Gyeongju, which is about an hour and a half north of Gimhae. Gyeongju served as the seat of the ancient Silla dynasty, and over the weekend I saw some of Korea’s most important historical sites and relics. All ETAs made the journey to this small, historic city for a full four days of discussions, workshops, and reunions.

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