First Taste of Teaching

Tuesday I taught my first class. And it didn’t shatter my confidence or scare me away from teaching forever. (Yeah!) I was pleasantly surprised by the way by my nervousness disappeared after a few minutes in front of the class, even though I mixed up the order of my lesson a bit. It was mid afternoon, and the class didn’t have much energy, but we made it. They made up scary stories and shared them with the class…and most ended with someone dying.

Two too-cool-for-school kids sat in the back and tried to sleep the whole time, and motivating them to participate – or at least stay awake – is probably the biggest improvement I need to make. Unlike some ETAs, I’ll be teaching the same class again next week. I don’t feel the immediate attachment to these kids that some ETAs do, but I’m glad I have another class to tailor my next lesson plan to their needs. In my evaluation, other suggestions included speaking more slowly – an adjustment for almost everyone who hasn’t taught ESL – and bringing more energy. (But to not be high energy if it isn’t natural…in which case I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.)

But I’ll admit, I felt like a legit teacher when the camp instructor told me my board work was good. The other big compliment he gave was how it was impressive that I didn’t use technology (except for showing part of Thriller as a hook). That was nice, but in the second lesson, we’re not allowed to use technology…and this time I’m struggling.

So far the most challenging part about teaching is coming up with my own unique lesson plans. After orientation, we’ll have access to an extensive library of lesson plans and materials, but right now I have to figure it out on my own.

Going to the beach! And getting back to work…


This past weekend we went on vacation! With everything going on this week, Donghae weekend seems well past us now, so this post will be more photo-heavy. The intent of this trip was to give us time to relax before Camp Fulbright begins, which I’ll get to later. Donghae/동해is a coastal city on the northeastern side of Korea.

While it was wonderful to get out of the marble mansion, it seems we didn’t get very far. Our hotel in Donghae is affiliated with Jungwon 대학교 and looked almost identical…but was fancier on the inside.

Donghae Grand Hotel

Donghae Grand Hotel

Jungwon University

Jungwon University





Upon arrival we had a very nice lunch (bibimbap) and then went straight to a Buddhism lecture. I felt absolutely awful for Cheon Mun스님 because I was nodding off the entire time. But afterwards we received wonderful refreshments (including cheese, which has been and will continue to be scarce). A lot of my high points seem to revolve around food.





We then visited Samhwasa/삼화사Temple, a Buddhist temple near our hotel. The 수님 never stopped us from taking pictures, and I took a lot, but avoided one section with the names of the deceased listed on the walls and on white lanterns. Amy came to mind.











That night, most of the ETAs hung out at the beach. There was a small concert there, with an energetic woman who could somehow run around in the sand, in heels, and two violinists.

At Donghae Grand Hotel, we had traditional Korean beds, which was a big surprise to my weekend roommates and I. I don’t know why it never even crossed my mind that we would be sleeping on mats on the floor. It wasn’t bad, and it seemed like most of us had fun trying something new.

Our room at Donghae

Our room at Donghae

Saturday I went hiking! It was a fairly easy trail, but I’m out of shape. The fresh air was wonderful, and it was actually much cooler on the mountain.


One area around the waterfall was labeled Dangerous – No Trespassing, but I didn’t take it seriously until a Korean man told me that three people had died there…so the ETAs swimming there should get out right away. Oops.




The rest of Saturday, we had lunch in town (bibimbap and pajeon), hung out at the beach, ate a nice dinner with Ms. Shim (삼겹살) :) and went back to the beach that night.




Sunday wasn’t exactly a break. After breakfast, we left Donghae, visited two historical sites on the way back, 오죽헌 (Ojukheon) and 성요장/Seongyojang, and hopped back on a bus for 4 more hours.









While I had a blast at Donghae, I definitely pushed myself to be out and around people the whole time. The introvert in me was exhausted.


Camp Fulbright Begins

Monday was the first day of Camp Fulbright, an intensive English summer camp for Korean kids. The purpose of the camp is two-fold: to provide an immersive English language environment for campers, and to provide us ETAs with a low stakes opportunity to practice teaching. Quite a few people this year have prior teaching experience (i.e. in other countries, Americorps, Peace Corps) but I have none.

This afternoon I teach my first class. The thought is daunting, but somehow still exciting. I am, after all, in Korea to teach. During the course of the 2-week camp, we’ll teach two classes and use original lesson plans in each. The theme of my first day is “I Dream,” and I ended up with a plan about nightmares and story-telling. At this point my biggest concerns are student energy/participation and timing. While I’m pretty sure I have too much material to cover in just 45 minutes, I’d rather have too much than too little.

Right now I’m blessed with a little free time, as Korean classes start late today. I’m trying not to stress and obsessively over-prepare. There’s always work to be doing and something to worry about here. Tonight our second lesson plan is due, and Wednesday we have to submit our placement preferences. Before I couldn’t wait to find out where I’ll be placed, but now I can’t believe it’s coming up already!

I’m finding that self-care is especially important right now, especially as recently I can feel myself slipping. Yesterday night I made it a point to get away from my lesson plan and go to our Bible study group, which was probably the smartest thing I’ve done in a while. We all agreed that there’s a lot of stress, anxiety and negativity going around, so today we’re trying to go one day (24 hours) without complaining. So far, so good!