Teaching, Learning and Acting

The lesson of the day is emotions. I’m hoping to add a few more complex emotions to my students’ repertoires (like furious or gloomy) and point out grammatical differences. Yes, the main character from Inside Out is “Joy” but you can’t “be joy.” You have to use “joyful.” The activity I’ve chosen is a good one – we learned it during a Conference workshop and I came across it again while browsing through lesson plans online – but I’m already worried. It involves acting.

The premise of the activity is this: students would receive a sentence, create an emotional spectrum for it, and then act it out in groups. A spectrum for “I love you” might go something like Neutral –>Friendly –>Like –> Really Like –> Love –> Crazy Love. I don’t remember how “crazy love” came about, but it made for a good acting challenge.   Ideally, this would be a really fun, light lesson. But it involves acting.

My high school girls are shy. Not quiet-in-class shy (they’re almost always chatty), but an as-soon-as-I-ask-who-wants-to-share-their-answer-the-room-goes-silent kind of shy. I inform a group that they’ll have to present their work and they often seem genuinely shocked. Sometimes they outright refuse. I think that’s also a respect issue. But Korean teachers have told me often enough that their actions are simply products of the Korean education system. “They aren’t good at speaking English.” “They just want to sit and listen (or sleep).” “They’re not used of speaking in class.” And here I was trying to get them to try acting.

It’s easy to become discouraged when you’re faced with a sea of blank faces, some refusing to participate, some perhaps not understanding how to. But I learned the value of silence as a Writing Center consultant, and I’m relearning it as a teacher. It seems to me that a certain amount of bullheadedness is also required. When faced with a stubborn student, I need to portray an equal amount of stubbornness – preferably called determination. But when faced with this stubborn student, there’s always a reason behind their refusal, anything from simple shyness to feeling under-prepared. I still remember how scary it was to speak up in high school French class, and that was in a culture that encouraged students to be active participants in their learning. So after a show of determination, a teacher needs empathy. As I get to know my students, I’m learning to make the right concessions. Maybe they need a little more time. Maybe they need to stand in front of the class with a friend for moral support. Maybe they really do need to be pushed.

I find my students are often incredibly true to their word. If a group insists on going third instead of second, I only need to remind them when it’s their turn and with grudging and nervous hearts, they’ll trudge up to the front of the room. Even to try a bit of acting.


Why hasn’t this happened to me in America?

In the first class back, I started off my second grade classes with a brief game of hangman to warm up. The phrase I gave them was something that happened to me during break.

_     _ _ _   _ _   _ _ !

They typically started out with “a”.

_     _ a _   _ _   _ _ !


Then it was usually “I”.

I     _ a _   _ _   _ _ !


Surprisingly most classes guessed the letters almost exactly in order.

I     _ a s   _ _   _ _ !


I     w a s   _ _   _ _ !


I     w a s   o _   _ _ !


I     w a s   o n   _ _ !


At this point, some classes got it, while others were completely baffled. Have you figured it out yet?

I     w a s   o n   T V !


“Aww, TV?” Some classes exclaimed, feeling like it had been a trick and not yet realizing or remembering that this statement was about me. I emphasized, “Really, I was on TV!” It still only clicked for everyone when I told them the name of the program I was on: 생생정보. “Oooh! Really? Really?? Why?”

Pretty good hook for class right?

This wasn’t my first time on Korean TV. During the Fulbright Korea orientation, a film crew visited my Korean language and Taekwondo classes. I could point out the side of my head in one or two scenes. This year I made a slightly longer cameo in an advertisement for the Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival, clearly waving and displaying my catch. But this time I got serious. I think someone is finally recognizing my talent. If all goes well, I’ll be kissing teaching goodbye and become a foreign star in Korea. But I can’t take credit alone; I was filmed with Arria and her friend visiting from the US. I’m not sure they have the extensive TV experience I do, though.

The program we were on is, literally translated, something like “New New Information” or “New Interesting Information.” I can’t identify any clear thread that connects everything in the show, but it seems to just feature interesting places or people around Korea. I’ve seen segments on anything from super cheap restaurants to a halmoni (grandmother) who dances around in street markets wearing bright, often sequined clothing. That one was interesting, although I didn’t quite understand what was going on.

The segment in which we were featured was about a guesthouse in Gamcheon Cultural Village. The host is a photographer and studied design in Australia. Arria and I were both surprised to find a guest house in the middle of this village, but all three of us genuinely agreed that it’d be a cool place to stay. Of course, for the program, we were expected to rave about how great the house and the host seemed. It felt very awkward.

So why and how were we scouted to have our beautiful faces on television? Pure luck? Looking too obviously foreign? We may never know. But on to the backstory!

Right as we had decided to leave the village to get lunch, three people popped up, one of them holding a small camera. Nothing too fancy-looking. They exclaimed in short bursts of English that they were filming, something about a house, and when we looked at each other uncertainly, they promised it would only take 10 minutes. Putting on an attitude you often need to wear in a foreign country, we decided, why not?

In addition to a tour of the quaint guesthouse – since the host had studied design, he’d renovated much of the house himself – we tried on hanboks, traditional Korean dresses, for an impromptu photo shoot! Okay, in actuality, it was a staged photoshoot for the TV program, but we got a few real photos out of it too! It was my first time wearing a hanbok.

After finding out when our segment would air (March 2nd) and making sure we got the name of the program right, they said their thanks and we all said our awkward goodbyes.

To get to the guesthouse, you’ll have to take the main entrance into the cultural village, where there are lots of food stands and souvenir stands clustered together. Walk a little ways in and you’ll eventually come across this shop on your left.


Take the alley in this picture, going down the stairs and turning right. In a few minutes you should see a white house with a sign like this:


I don’t have any contact information or have any idea how to reserve the house, but that’s where it is!

That host sure got a lot of advertising out of this.