on teaching / by Shelby Robinson

The Kindergarten I teach at on Fridays. These little ones are Korean age 6, meaning they are four year olds!

Two of my fourth graders.

Before I came to Korea, I had a lot of expectations and thoughts about what my experience would be like. I thought I would teach casually, just here and there, and that I would be going on these big, grand adventures throughout Southeast Asia. I thought that teaching wouldn't really be a big part of my life. Or maybe, just too excited to make the leap, I didn't think about the teaching aspect at all. But like most expectations, I was wrong.

Teaching here is a big part of my life. I spend hours and hours Monday through Friday with my students. Laughing with them, being silly with them, teaching them how to correctly pronounce things like "change" and "finish" and "strange" because all of these words seem to have a magical 'y' on the end of them, but also getting really frustrated. Being a teacher takes loads of patience and energy. Especially being a teacher in a foreign country where your values and beliefs and working style differ drastically.

Often times, garnering the patience to teach young children exhausts every ounce of my energy. At first I would just speak as slowly as possible, and use a lot of hand motions, and some days with my little-little ones, I'd whip out the little Korean I know just to get them to turn their page. I even tried use the "you'll be so excited you learned another language" card to get them to pay attention, but I just got a lot of blank stares and "mulayos" (I don't know).

But now that I've reached the four-month mark, I've learned a few tricks to make my job easier. I've created competitions and games to gather (and keep) their attention. And most importantly, I've learned to not take teaching so seriously. I've learned that if we don't make it through 3-4 pages in our books today, that the world isn't going to end. I've learned that even if they learn just one word or phrase that day, my work is helping them. I've learned that if they enjoy coming into class and they have fun learning English, I have done my job. Because at the end of the day, being interested and excited to learn is the only way they will learn.

I am excited to see where the remaining eight months in my teaching journey takes me. It's comforting to know that with a little patience and acceptance, the hard and frustrating things gradually reach a place of ease and grace.

*Special shout-out to all of my past teachers~I have so much respect for you and think of you constantly.

*Roll over the images for captions. xx

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