Things Students Say While You’re Teaching in Korea

It all started with a simple bottle of orange juice. “Teacher, you like orange juice?!” The question came from an 11 year-old boy who always shows up to my hagwon classes bubbly and rosy cheeked.

“Well, yes. I’m drinking it because I like it.” He stared at me in awe and then walked away. The next class, he burst into laughter when he learned that I, too, have a favorite color and food. “Why is it funny?” I asked him.

“You’re Teacher, you have things you like!” He continued laughing and I continued being confused. It’s great, seriously. Seeing their minds open up to new things is definitely rewarding.

Foreigners are greeted with questions that could be called “the usual suspect.” For teachers, we’re often asked if we have a significant other; if we like kimchi and have we been to Seoul, Jeju or Busan. I get it, these are young minds we’re helping to mold while teaching abroad. Kids have likely asked crazy questions and have said silly things since the dawn of civilization.

These are certainly some of the best I’ve heard while living in Korea.

  • “Why do Korean women have [makes a flat motion at chest and butt] but we Korean men have [makes a round motion at butt]? It is not right!”
  • “Teacher! Why do you lock the door? I want to come in and look at you.”
  • “You’re name is Ashley? OH! TEACHER, ASHLEY RESTAURANT!!” (Promptly melts down about the American-style Korean buffet and unyielding hunger.)
  • “Teacher, wig?!” (The concept of flat-ironing curly hair straight notwithstanding.)
  • “Do you like air?”
  • (One student to another, while writing messages to me on the board) “No, NO! You don’t spell it like that. Teacher is pretty! She is P-R-T-T-Y.”
  • (Student to a coworker) “Teacher, do you have a girlfriend? No? Why is life so hard for you?”

Sometimes, there are a lot of tears and I don’t always understand. It isn’t because there is a language barrier, but because the reasons for the tears make little to no sense to me. I’ve grown more sympathetic, but I just don’t get crying over earning a 98%. That’s still awesome! Maybe I’ve been removed from the role of the ambitious student too long?!

~Ashley

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