South Korea / Teaching

Middle school is a roller coaster


This sign is deceptive. The kids don’t really have the ability to speak in English only.


All the classrooms on the English floor are named for countries where English is spoken. For some reason, more than half my students guessed I was from Canada.


My middle school.

My middle school.

Teaching at an all-boys middle school is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs.

Take a recent Friday for example. I taught five classes. My first class was grade 2 (eighth grade in U.S.), and they seem to be the worst behaved out of all the levels I teach. The students were very disruptive and so noisy that my co-teacher frequently got her big “teaching stick” out and banged it on a desk to scare the students.

At orientation, we learned all about maximizing student talk time and minimizing teacher talk time. To learn a language you must practice it. However, every time the students in this class are supposed to be in their “production” phase and do the activity, they go crazy with yelling, stealing shoes (all students change into indoor shoes at school, which are like Adidas sandals) grabbing one another, hitting one another, etc. Same-sex students are very touchy in general in Korea, so boys will put their arms around each other, link arms and do things that you wouldn’t see very often in the U.S.

My co-teacher spent about 20 minutes of the class out in the hall “disciplining” two students (more on this in a future post) while I did the best I could with the other 33.

My next period was with a different co-teacher and was for third grade (ninth grade in U.S.). Third grade and high school have typically been well-behaved, and I’ve enjoyed teaching those classes. Friday’s class was going fine too, and we were about 25 minutes into class and getting ready to play a game.

The co-teacher and I were at the front of the classroom counting to get the students in teams for the game, while the students sat in their seats and talked quietly. All of a sudden, a fight broke out. One student flew out of his chair and started hitting another student. Other students immediately jumped up, and my co-teacher and I ran to break up the fight.

Lucky for me and my pregnant co-teacher that a few students worked to pull the stronger student away from the fight and hold him for a few minutes to calm him down. My co-teacher then left with the two students, and I continued the class, which was fine once again.

One student told me, “Koreans fight too much. It’s so stupid. We know.” Another student said, “sorry teacher.”

Later, my co-teacher told me that the students said the fight was over a cell phone but that she didn’t believe them since a cell phone fight isn’t a very big problem.

Then my next three classes went great. Students were interested and enjoyed the games and activities I’d prepared. One student stayed after to help me carry the classroom supplies back to the teachers office. My afterschool class, which has been very challenging, was actually fun and several of the students are really warming up to me.

I’m just trying to enjoy the ride and prepare for the inevitable twists and turns of the middle school roller coaster.


6 thoughts on “Middle school is a roller coaster

  1. You’re doing a great job, Alli. It’s great to read all of your blog posts. Keep up the good work and thanks for taking us along for the (roller coaster) ride.

  2. I can’t believe there are 35 kids in a class!!! Is it normal to have small female teachers in the all-boys school? Sounded like Matthew is doing well in the all-girls school.

    • Yes, 35 is about 10 too many in my opinion. I have 28-31 in the other grades, and they split my high school classes into 2, so I only have 17 kids per class. That is like heaven!

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