The Chronicles of Hee Jeong and Liz-Teacher

Context: Hee Jeong is a 6th grade girl I’ve been teaching for one year and 49 days. She hates everything. Even EXO. 6th grade girls in Korea do not hate EXO.

August 26th, 2013: Hee Jeong and I meet in the 5th grade classroom. I say hello. No response from Hee Jeong.

August 27th, 2013 – April 2014: I say things. No response from Hee Jeong.

April 7th, 2014: Speaking tests are conducted. I discover that Hee Jeong can say words.

April 8th, 2014: Operation “Hee Jeong & Liz-Teacher BFFS4LYFE” commences.

April 2014 – June 2014: I greet Hee Jeong every time she enters my gaze. No response from Hee Jeong.

July 10th, 2014: Hee Jeong acknowledges my existence. She gives my new hairstyle a thumbs down.

July 14th, 2014: Hee Jeong says “hello” back to me.

July 14th, 2014 – September 2014: Hee Jeong responds to all of my greetings with “hello”.

September 22nd, 2014: Hee Jeong says “Hello” first.

October 14th, 2014: Hee Jeong yells my name from behind me, then runs up to me with her classmate and proceeds to ask me where I’m going before showing me the cool wrist bandage she obtained after jumping off a chair in gym class yesterday.

tumblr_m1no88p9XC1qia7lzI would extrapolate on how initiating a positive change in one child’s attitude is an irreplaceable feeling in a sometimes very depressing profession, and how doing so adds a distinct level of certainty in one’s ability as a teacher, but I have some “best friends forever” bracelets to make.


Regarding the Emphasis on Grammar in Korea’s English Education

A 4th grade student just invaded my office, handed me the workbook from her English academy and pointed to a question, wordless and looking at me expectantly. The question:

‘Alice has been having a rough week. After arriving home from another long day at her office, she put her purse down and thought, “I’m going to do something for myself.” She resolved to buy a new dress on Friday.’ Which sentence most closely matches the phrase “for myself”?
1. She made the cake by herself.
2. He needs to confront his boss himself.
3. She kept the secret to herself.
He himself gave the phone to her.

Allow me, a native speaker of English with a degree in English after studying English literature and grammar for four years, who once literally rewrote grammar guide The Elements of Style (thanks Mr. Thomas), to express my response to the aforementioned 10-year-old’s question in GIF form:




The reason I find this interesting – once I pointed to the answer, I looked at Surin and said:

“Surin, where is your hagwon?” (Hagwon is a private academy)

Her response:

“Teacher, what?”

tumblr_mcu172T2hj1rz5ioyo1_400Heechul knows my pain.

Just in case you were wondering if the ability to effectively understand and communicate in English is more important than the ability to solve university-level grammar questions that matter not a bit.

What the After School English Teacher is Teaching My Students: #2

Currently hanging in the after school classroom:

20140930_143042Artist: Lee Hoyeon, 12.

I mean, I’m proud that she’s using proper English while she’s getting sloshed. But between this and Taehyeon (12) asking Seungmin (12) if he liked Hite or Cass beer this morning, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that several of my elementary school students need an intervention.

It's this adult man right here.

Word to the Wise: Students and Candy

If you’re coming to Korea from a nation in which you can obtain Lemonheads, for the love of God, buy 92349 bags of them and pack them in your suitcase. Dedicate your carryon luggage to Lemonheads.

Turns out, they’re Korean kid kryptonite. (*Future hipster band name © Elizabeth Hall 2014)

This is the conversation that occurred between myself and six 5th grade boys as they followed me from the lunchroom and up four flights of stairs:

Jinseong: “Teacher candy! Lemon candy! Give us! Wait, no! Me! Only me candy!”
Me: “I only have a little of that candy. I can’t give you candy every time you want it.”
Hyunwoo: “Then – teacher! Buy more!”
Me: “I can’t! The candy is in America!”
Seonggyu: “Then teacher – go to America! Buy candy!”
Hyunwoo: “We go together! Let’s go!”
Me: “Tell you what. You bring me DBSK’s Shim Changmin, and I’ll give you that whole bag of candy. Plus 5 more.”

*Conversation in Korean persists while they work out who Shim Changmin is*

It's this adult man right here.

It’s this adult man in the mouse ears right here.

Junseong: “But Liz-teacher, that’s too hard! DBSK Shim Changmin…he’s very popular!” (Junseong spends a lot of time at a private academy)
Me: “So is my candy.”
All: “Ahhhhhhhhh! Okay okay!”
Hyeon: “Teacher! We go find Shim Changmin! Then DBSK, you, us…we..we all go to America! We go to America….AND BUY LEMON CANDY!”
All: “Yeah! Goodbye Liz-teacher!”

And then they scampered away, hopefully to spread the rumor throughout the school that Liz-teacher will trade Lemonheads for an introduction to Shim Changmin.

You'll be mine in no time, my pretty.

You’ll be mine in no time, my pretty.