4.1 Spring 2022

April 25, Impromptu review

Wendy attended a special training for Korean co-teachers last week and came back with a worry.

“We have to do an open class together but we don’t actually teach together,” she started. As you know by now, my main school is so big that I rotate to every homeroom and teach English to 20 separate classes every week. Legally my title is “assistant” so I’m supposed to be accompanied by either a co-teacher, or if that’s not possible, the homeroom teacher is supposed to be my co-teacher (I’m laughing).

“The trainer said that our case is the worst case,” she went on, and I had to wonder why the trainer had emphasized this problem over the much more legitimate concerns of foreign teachers. And in any case, it’s an open secret that unless you absolutely bomb your open class, you will get hired on the following year.

Still, Wendy was concerned.

“So if it’s okay, I think we should attend each other’s classes for a while.” We each have just one period where we can attend the other’s class, and considering that I have never seen an English class live, I agreed.

That agreement began today when Wendy attended my last fifth grade class of the day.

I arrived a few minutes early and the kids in the hallway ran up with extra energy.

“Teacher, my name is Minseo.”

“Teacher, my name is Mr. Pororo,” added a tan boy. Minseo pushed him in disgust. Pororo is a famous children’s cartoon character and you should be proud to know I, too, can name all the characters.

To be honest, Pororo kind of seems like a terrible friend.

I was a little nervous, to be honest, but carried on. I offered her the teacher’s chair behind the desk and there was a slight scuffle where she thought I was asking her to help when really I just wanted her to be comfortable. I never sit during class, instead opting to run back and forth clicking the mouse and pointing to the TV with my specially purchased, extra long cooking chopstick/pointer.

To calm my nerves, I didn’t really look at Wendy while I was running around, but as class went on I noticed that she seemed upset, almost stricken, at least what I could gather from the top half of her face.

This class was either going really well or really poorly.

I think I’m nervous about people’s input in this environment because it’s never a scheduled or expected input. In corporate, there are yearly reviews and occasional redirects from managers, but in school I never know when or how I’m going to receive feedback. Last year a teacher told me part of my class was boring. It hurt like hell to hear but you know what? She was, I hate to admit, absolutely right.

Now I’m stronger than ever! And willing to learn. If my critics are gentle.

So after the last activity where the kids walked around playing rock-paper-scissors and saying a dialogue, we did our customary air high five goodbye and I began packing up.

Wendy popped up beside me and I tensed for the verdict.

“Your class was… wonderful!” She said, wide-eyed.


“Really, it was amazing. Did you do any teaching before Korea?”

Does training interns count?

“I taught one on one to Chinese students online,” I said, recalling all my sweet Chinese babies I lost access to after China created strict new policies about non-Chinese teaching English.

“But no classroom teaching? Wow, you were born to be a teacher,” she surmised.

My little perfectionist heart glowed.

I also realized that just because someone says you’re skilled in an area does not mean you must pursue a career in that area. I enjoy math but my last corporate job taught me I have no interest in financial analyses. I can command a group of thirty twelve-year olds but I couldn’t stand the long, sitting, introverted hours of corporate. Though to be fair, leading a meeting with middle aged engineers is not much different than teaching elementary school….

Wendy invited me to her class on Thursday.

“To be honest I’m a little embarrassed now. I think I need to prepare more for the class…” She said.

Later, as she did some planks on a borrowed yoga mat behind the office couch, she told me that I was good enough to teach alone.

“Your job is technically ‘assistant’ so that’s why your salary is lower than a normal teacher’s salary. You should get experience and then look for a better job,” she reiterated, calling back to our conversation from awhile ago.

“But what kind of job?” I asked, genuinely curious. The job boards are littered with dime a dozen cram school positions but no private school or international school positions.

“Like alone, at a school.”

I mean, I already teach alone basically.

The competition between seasoned foreign teachers for true homeroom or subject positions is fierce. I just recently talked to someone working at a Busan international school who had five years of stateside experience plus a master’s degree plus special gifted certification. I am not going back to the US to teach just to get experience so that I can turn around and go back abroad.

“Just because someone has a master’s or PhD doesn’t mean they teach well,” she commented, in a way that suggested she had someone in mind.

But that certainly helps on the resume.

She soon went back to planking and I went to napping on the fifth grade English textbook.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: