A new school year: new teachers, new classes and the power of english names

Don't be fooled by the cute faces, "Candy" and "Candice" know how to play a new foreign teacher like a fiddle

March in Korea is much like September in the U.S.  New classes, new students, new curriculum; a new school year! Just like the U.S except last Friday you were in grade 2 and now, Monday, you’re in grade 3.  No summer break, no reading list, just the weekend and wham bam your days are changed.  This week has been hectic. Hectic is actually an understatement. Different students at different levels, thrown into my classroom at different times, with only an explanation of “Marchie is new schedule” are how my days have been spent.

I understand changes, they happen every month, but what I don’t understand is: did they not know this was coming? All day the Korean teachers run past saying “Today crazy” and shake their heads, overwhelmed and frantic.

If the new school year wasn’t enough, the new foreign teacher Alex, from Chicago arrived Monday morning. I sympathized while peeking in on his classroom where 5 Korean 7 year olds were schooling him, instead of the other way around. Running amuck while 6’2 Alex sat awkwardly Indian Style on the ground and half shouted, half laughed random commands they either couldn’t understand or just ignored.  The main focus of their attention was Alex’s facial hair and adams apple, never mind the lesson: coloring and gluing an alphabet house.

It’s strange to think I was just in that place 5 months ago (minus the attention for Caucasian male features).  Nervous, overwhelmed, jet lagged and completely out of my comfort zone.  I remember my first class where they put me in an empty classroom with 4 out of control 7 year olds and told me to color monkey-coloring pages with them. I sat there in disbelief while these boys jumped off tables, cart wheeled through the classroom and rolled on the ground kicking and karate chopping one another.  I remember thinking “What am I doing here?”

It’s been a long 5 months of learning random Korean discipline terms, rolling with the punches and constantly laughing at myself to control, or at least sort of control children of another language.  I will do my best to help Alex ease into this completely humorous and foreign job, all the while, thanking God it’s no longer my first week. Every day is a new day and “winging it” is definitely part of this teacher’s lesson plan.

One benefit of the week was being able to “English name” all my students. This will make discipline and my life as a foreign teacher a lot easier. I believe the students should pick their own, but I’ve been given the power and have enjoyed every minute of it.  My 6-year-old class consists of 8: Robin (after Robin Hood), Ruby, Jimmy, Layla, Emma (she didn’t like Grace because her sister kept calling her Grass), Aura (not my choice) Candy (not my choice) and Candice (only because she wanted Candy and I don’t need two stripper names under my belt). This will be my main class and they will be quite the handful.

When I asked my once a week, 15 year old if she wanted an English name, she let me list a bunch then insisted: “Can I have a boy’s name?” I immediately typed in gender-neutral names and we compromised on Jean.

English naming is one perk of the job that has saved me during this week of chaos.  I’m just hoping the power of naming children won’t go to my head and I get lazy when naming my own, someday.


One thought on “A new school year: new teachers, new classes and the power of english names

  1. I love naming children! I named an Emma, a Luke, and a Hans the other day. My British coworker thinks I ought to give out some more Englishy names though. Edmund anyone?

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