A Day in the Life of a TEFL Teacher

My day usually starts at a leisurely 10 o’clock with a bowl of Rice Krispies and a quick scan of BBC News; it’s finally sunny in England, and a school in Essex has banned triangular flapjacks because apparently they’re dangerous when kids throw them at other kids’ faces. Oh England. Then I drag myself, still bleary eyed, to the gym and after a quick shower and lunch I get ready and set off for work.

I’m late leaving for work, as always. I run for the bus, as always. I politely laugh at the bus driver’s joke about me running for the bus, as always. Whilst my journey to work is pretty standard, you can guarantee that once I arrive at school no two days are the same. That’s one of the best things about this job. Tears, laughter, singing, shouting, and even the occasional nosebleed, you never know what the day holds in store.

Work starts at 1.30pm with an hour to prepare our lessons for the afternoon, which we usually put to good use discussing last night’s episode of The Walking Dead or our plans for the weekend (even on Mondays!). Before we know it the kids are pouring out of the elevator in a flurry of Pokemon cards and sweet wrappers. The bell rings and classes begin.

To start the day I have a class of 7 year olds and a Disney-themed textbook, not quite sure who enjoys it more to be honest. They have only been learning English for 6 months but they are doing really well. Except for one. The windowlicker. Seriously, I wish I was kidding, I walked into the classroom a few weeks ago to find him actually licking the windows. Moving on…

Now for science class with my 8 year olds. We used to study Geography, but this term we’re on Science, which is probably for the best after that little mix up with the Nile and the Amazon. Today we’re studying push and pull forces and how things move. Have a slight accident involving a choo choo train and one of the kids’ front teeth. He’s fine though. It was wobbly anyway.

At 4 o’clock the first lot go home and the next influx of kids arrive. For me it’s my brand spanking new, so-cute-you-just-want-to-grab-their-cheeks-and-smush-them 5 year olds. They only started learning English 2 months ago so the lessons mostly revolve around practising the alphabet, singing Brown Bear and trips to the bathroom. While these classes can be quite challenging and require a lot of patience and mime skills, they are definitely the most fun and they are extremely rewarding. And did I mention how cute the kids are?

Half time nourishment arrives in the form of a box of Krispy Kremes and an orange juice. Korean parents are exceptionally generous and barely a week goes by without donuts, fruit, ice cream or coffee. Must do an extra 10 minutes in the gym tomorrow.

Next up are my favourites. I probably use that term too much but these are my favourite favourites. They’re 9 years old and they were my very first class when I arrived in Korea nearly 2 years ago. I walk in the classroom to lots of cuddles and after a thorough, sometimes brutal, evaluation of my hair and outfit choices of the day (fortunately it’s a thumbs up today!) we can get down to work.

Now it’s time for my class of five 14 year old middle school students. This is another of my favourite classes and I genuinely look forward to teaching them. They’ve been learning English for about 7 years and they’re really interested in Western culture, especially music, movies and Emma Stone. I’m barely through the door when they ask me if I’ve heard ‘the latest American song’ which turns out to be ‘Kiss Me’ by Sixpence None the Richer (released in 1997), before treating me to their best rendition.

My last class of the day is a torturous 50 minutes with a group of 16 year olds who are going through their quiet, moody stage and literally won’t even answer yes or no questions. Their attitude probably isn’t helped by the fact that this week we are studying the spread of deserts in Africa. Scintillating stuff. At 9 o’clock the bell goes, and not a moment too soon, and that’s it for another day. Home time!

You know you teach English in Korea when…

…despite having no kids of your own you still get called ‘mum‘ five times a day.

…hearing ‘nice to meet you‘ from kids you’ve been teaching for over a year makes you want to cry.

…’magic‘ becomes a valid answer to any question.

…most lessons resemble a game of charades, and you’re actually getting pretty good at it.

…you’ve given up trying to explain that dragons and unicorns aren’t real.

…you feel so proud when you hear a kid talking to their friends outside the classroom and they use an expression that you taught them.

…there’s always one child who was obviously allowed to choose his own name. In a classroom of Toms and Sophies, there’s Chocolate.

…you’ve perfected the ‘shut up and sit down‘ glare.

…you’ve given up caring when your students tell you that you’re having a bad hair day, that you’ve got dark circles or that you have ‘soju face‘.

…there is nothing more heartbreaking than planning what you think is an amazing lesson, only for it to fail. Spectacularly.

…when trying to explain some of the finer nuances of the English grammar to a bunch of 6 year olds you’re met with the same expressions as if you were teaching them the laws of astrophysics.

…every time you hear ‘so-so‘ in response to ‘how are you today?‘ a little part of you dies inside.

…your English actually starts to get worse.

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Year 2 in South Korea

I remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting in Frankie and Benny’s at Birmingham Airport tearfully saying goodbye to my parents over a lemon and lime. I assured them, and myself, that this would only be for one year, and it would fly by. My mum replied that we didn’t know how we’d feel in a years time, it might not be just one year, and that it was absolutely fine if it wasn’t. Still I insisted that it’d just be the one year.

Turns out mums really do know best. Who knew?

We recently decided to extend our stay in Korea for another year, and are in the processing of re-signing at our current schools. It was a surprisingly difficult decision to make actually, in some ways harder than deciding to come here in the first place. So far it has been over nine months since I last saw my wonderful and incredibly supportive family. I am counting down the sleeps until I go home for Christmas (161 to go!), and I miss each and every one of them like you wouldn’t believe.

However, we only have two months left of our initial twelve month contract and I am nowhere near ready to say goodbye to this fascinating country and the experiences it is giving us. Every time I look at the BBC website I see various doom and gloom headlines, not only about the UK, but also about Europe, and I can’t help but wonder what we’d be coming home to.

Currently South Korea just has more for us; independence, a stable job, and good money combined with a good lifestyle. All of that compared to England’s measly offering of living with our parents (I love you Mum and Dad!), working in the village pub, breaking into my childhood piggybank just to fill my car with petrol and only going to the cinema when it’s Orange Wednesday? Sorry England, but Korea wins this round. Hands down.

TEFL Dinosaur Comics

I realise that there are several versions of this circling the internet at the moment, but here is Wonderland’s little contribution! Seeing as they’re penned by 12 and 13 year olds most of them centre around dinosaurs fighting, killing each other and just being stupid!

T-Rex: I am scared of many things but also others are scared of me!

I don’t know why!

T-Rex: Wow! It’s a lovely house!

T-Rex: This house is such small for me. But I want to get in!!

Utahraptor: He’s such bad!

T-Rex: I can’t get in!!!

Utahraptor: You are the one who scared my brother!?

T-Rex: Hugh?

Utahraptor: Go away you big moster!

T-Rex: Waaaa!

T-Rex: Yummy food over there!

People: Wow!

T-Rex: Black holl!

Utahraptor: Ice!!

Utahraptor: Ice beam!

Museum for 10 years

People: WOW!

T-Rex: There is a horrible human there in the house!

T-Rex: Oh gosh! It’s coming out! I’ll crash it!

T-Rex: I think it’s a bug?

Utahraptor: What’s that?!

T-Rex: Hmm?

Utahraptor: Wha…what’s that?

T-Rex: It’s a bug I think.

Utahraptor: Let me see. No! It’s just a toy!

T-Rex: Oh my! I think I’m crazy it’s not moving at all!!!

T-Rex: Nowadays I’m too fat so I’m fasting. But I’m hungry.

T-Rex: So I will eat human meats.

T-Rex: Hey you! Go out in here.

Utahraptor: Here is my territory.

T-Rex: Then fight!

1 hours after

T-Rex: Ha ha!

Utahraptor: Oh my god!

T-Rex: I am crazy monky dinosaur. I will destroy a village.

T-Rex: Ha ha! Grrr

T-Rex: Uga uga!

Utahraptor: Ha ha ha!

Person: Oh my god!

Utahraptor: Such a foolish

T-Rex: Who said me foolish?!

T-Rex: You?

Utahraptor: Yes!

T-Rex: You will go to universe!

Utahraptor: Please rivive me!

T-Rex: I don’t want to rivive you! Ha ha! Such a crazy

Utahraptor: A

T-Rex: I want to play with friends!

T-Rex: Hey! Let’s play together!

T-Rex: What! ….. you!

Utahraptor: No I don’t want to play with you!

T-Rex: Can you play with me?

Utahraptor: Yes I can.

T-Rex: Really? Okay.

Utahraptor: Now I have to go now.

T-Rex: Bye! Bye!

T-Rex: I will ditroy the house!

T-Rex: Hhm…and then I will eat the house!

T-Rex: Okay! Yeah!

Utahraptor: I want to do too!

Dinosaurs: Grahhh!

T-Rex: Let’s go together and distroyed the house!

Utahraptor: Ok! Let’s go!

T-Rex: Wow!

Girl is distroy the …

T-Rex: I want to destroyed the house.

T-Rex: Oh there is it.

T-Rex: Emm. Ha ha. I will destroyed the house.

Utahraptor: Oh no, my house (cry)

T-Rex: I will destroyed your house.

Utahraptor: Okay, but let’s play.

T-Rex: Ok. What kinds of play?

Utahraptor: Let’s play hiding. You find me okay.

For long time

T-Rex: Where are you? And where is the house. Oh, no.

T-Rex: HELLO

T-Rex: AKK

T-Rex: AKK!!!

T-Rex: I’m sorry

Utahraptor: AKK!

T-Rex: I’m sorry

Utahraptor: AKK!!

T-Rex: Why are you say AKK?

T-Rex: Yum! Yum! The candy is very sweet! Yum.

T-Rex: Oh no! Ouch! I think I eats so much candys!

T-Rex: Grrrr. Im very angry. I want to punch this house.

Utahraptor: Don’t do that!

T-Rex: Why! Im angry

Utahraptor: Look you do this and person is dangure

T-Rex: Ok! Thank you

There dinosaur

Dinosaur is scary

Dinosaur smash the house

Dinosaur is two

Dinosaur is fighting

Green dinosaur are win

There is a dinosaur

Dinosaur roared

Dinosaur was chasing a white dinosaur and he didn’t know he squash the house

And he was surprise

How dinosaur knows what is it!

And dinosaur squash a house one more time

T-Rex: I’m hungry.

T-Rex: There a prey.

House: Oh my god!

Utahraptor: Who are you?

T-Rex: I’m scary dinosaur.

Utahraptor: I’m super dinosaur!

T-Rex: Where is the prey?