A Little Taste of Teaching English in Korea(no contract required)

by Mike on April 17, 2012

I had the opportunity to visit a middle school in Busan, South Korea thanks to my good friend Leanne who’s teaching English there.  The plan was for me to talk a little about my life in the United States to 5th and 6th grade students.  Leanne and her co-teacher thought it would be beneficial for their students to know why it’s important to learn English and to get a perspective of from a Korean-American.

Teaching English in Korea


My day started at 8 AM where I met Leanne at a predetermined location to go to her school together via public bus.  Upon entering the school grounds, I was promptly greeted by some of Leanne’s students.  One particular student, named Paul immediately asked how old I was.  To someone unaccustomed to Korea, this sounds outright rude, but it’s not an uncommon question to be confronted with upon meeting someone.  It’s just the culture.

Another cultural difference to note, upon entering the school, everyone is required to take their shoes off and change into slippers. This is why Leanne is rocking some slippers in my videos.  It’s not because she likes wearing them everywhere, it just customary to wear your “inside shoes” while roaming about the classroom and hallways of the school.

Leanne showed me around her classroom after I was rocking a pair  of loaner slippers from the shoe closest at the main entrance of the school.  Sorry dudes, I don’t have pictures.

Leanne then took me the broadcast room where the student president does his morning announcements.  Leanne gave the student president the nickname “Obama,”after the leader of the free world.  The exact reason why Leanne coined this nickname for the student is eluding me at this moment.

And it was at this time I was introduced to Leanne’s co-teacher Mr. Kim.

Teaching English in Korea

Broadcast room In Korean School

After the morning announcements, I was set to talk to my first class.  The power point presentation I prepared didn’t operate as smoothly as I wanted because it was a google docs file downloaded to a MS powerpoint file.  After we switched classrooms, we were able to use the google docs file directly from the web.


During a dinner conversation with Leanne prior to visiting the school, I told her about an idea I had for a slide that I wanted to include, but I didn’t think it would be appropriate because the idea was conjured up during another conversation with an Asian purely for my amusement.

When I told Leanne the idea, she loved it.  I’m mean like laughing out load and thought it would be a great exercise for a bunch of rowdy students.

So I added a slide to include an activity for the students to pronounce a three-syllable word correctly.  Now to any native Westners, the word wouldn’t the least bit challenging, however to native Asian speakers, the word can be quite challenging.

The details of the activity was as follows: the students had the opportunity to hear the word spoken correctly.  Then each student would be given an opportunity to say the word.  The student who properly pronounced the word would receive an award in the form of a Snickers bar.

Now, you’re probably wondering what this three-syllabul word might be.

The word that the students had to properly pronounce was “McFlurry.”  The “F” and the “L” are challenging to native asian speakers because the sounds resonate more from the throat versus the tongue.  For those that are unaware of what a “McFlurry” is, google it, or better yet, go to the nearest McDonalds and order one – you won’t be disappointed.


Here’s a video show casing the contest:


Leanne has a special way of getting the students attention if at any point they were distracted.  Every time I replay this video, I can’t help myself but to imagine the students reaction if this were the equivalent classroom in the United States.  The prototypical reaction that jumps to my mind are: who is this teacher? Is she for real?

I repeated my same power point slides for the five classes they have lined up for me.  To be honest, the five classes went by fairly quickly – before I knew it was almost lunchtime.  I had my little taste of teaching English in Korea all thanks to Leanners!  <- This isn’t a typo, it’s her new nickname.

Teaching English in Korea

Picture of some of Leanne's students, Leanne, and I

Big thanks to Mr. Kim for translating for me and Leanne for keeping the class in line as seen in the aforementioned video.

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