of the little things

Here are some little things I’ve had to get used to as a Korean teacher.

–A “circle” means correct, not wrong. So when I go around to check their homework, I circle it in red pen if it is correct. In my neck of the woods, a circle around a question means wrong. But not here. So I still see their tests with a bunch of circles and I think ‘wow they must have sucked’ when really they got it all right.

–Similarly, I write up a little report on each student at the end of the day. If they did their homework I put a “0” which looks to me like a zero but to Korean teachers it means 100.

–At the beginning of every lesson, I write everyone’s name on the board and ask them how they feel today and draw a little happy/sad/hungry/sleepy next to their name. Some of them try to be smart and say “very very very very…” and I have to sit there and wait until they’re done. I taught them “huge” and “gigantic” to eliminate this problem but some of them still do it. Anyway, many of them say “so-so” which is funny because no one actually says that in English. We know what it means, but we just say “fine” or “good”. So there are a lot of “so-so’s” which I draw like this -_- because they are at a hagwan after 6 hours of school already.

–While I have red, blue, and black markers available to me, Director says to never write their names in red pen because this is very bad in Korean culture. I’ve done it a couple times by accident and the kids don’t seem to care so I think it’s more of a generation thing but still apparently I have to be careful.

–Rock Paper Scissors (or Rock Scissors Paper in Korea) solves everything. There’s no “best out of three” or “best out of five” no you get one chance and that one chance determines whether you get 30 billion or minus infinity points on my dart board game when you throw the ball on a line. It can be played with 3 people, 5 people, 12 people. You just keep going until someone loses. I’ve seen groups do this on variety shows where the stakes are much higher–like “who’s going to run into the ocean shirtless”. One rock, scissors, paper decides it, no questions asked, no redoes.

even extends to adulthood

–While corporal punishment may technically be banned, there is still the buuing buuing hammer to make up for it. I’ve seen it on variety shows where someone gets a question wrong and they are smashed on the head with the hammer and they always pretend it hurts but I wouldn’t really know. Anyway, every teacher is given a buuing buuing hammer to smack kids upside the head and I haven’t used it much because I don’t know how to incorporate it into education.

–I’ve always written my name on the board as “Mallory” when asking about everyone else as well. While they know my name, they always just call me “teacher”. The past couple of weeks I’ve asked them “what’s my name” whenever someone asks for me and they say “Mallory Teacher”. I was “Teacher Mal” in China so I thought it was no big deal. But when I was talking to New Korean Friend on the bus, he said that Korean students always call their teachers just “Teacher” with no first or last name at all out of respect. So I’ve stopped asking them what my name is and hopefully Mr. E will stop calling me “makkoli”


So those are some little things you didn’t know about teaching in Korea. Stay tuned for more.

Oh also; this was my walk to work this morning:

more cherry blossoms than when I took a wild bus ride to a forsaken island in the pouring rain

more cherry blossoms than when I took a wild bus ride to a forsaken island in the pouring rain


6 responses to “of the little things

  1. I think I’m probably the only person who knows what you’re referring to with playing rock scissors paper to see who will jump into the ocean shirtless


  2. Hey Mallory!!!! I look forward to reading your posts!!!! I LOVE keeping up with your life!!!!
    We miss you around here!!
    Keep the posts going!!!
    Love ya Bena


  3. Pingback: of orange ade and gluesticks | That One Time in Seoul·

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