Tag Archives: teacher

Bad Day

Today was not a good day…

Last weekend, I was extended a job offer from a university near Seoul. The job is a good one – an English professor at a reputable school with great hours and lots of vacation time.

This afternoon, I got a call from the professor in charge of hiring. She told me that the administration office, is rescinding my job offer. Some of my teaching experience overlaps with the time during which I was studying for my master’s degree. According to a new law (or maybe school policy), the school cannot count both the experience and the education. “Since you earned your masters while teaching, only one can count, and you need both to meet our requirements.”

This is similar to what happened the last time I was offered a university job, only to have it rescinded at the last minute. They just keep moving the goal line.

I signed a form a couple days ago informing my current office of education that I won’t return next year. So now I have to start the job hunt over again. I’m starting to wonder if Korea’s even the right place for me. I need more university experience to get an entry-level university job.

It’s not the first (or second) time something like this has happened. I’m starting to think that I’m doomed to bad luck with my career.

Until next time.


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Drinking Games – A Great Learning Tool

Drinking games really can be a great teaching tool. In fact, they were a huge hit at all three summer camps at which I taught.

Students learning to play English flip-cup.

Alex, a teacher from the UK, is teaching students how to play English flip-cup.

A teacher from a nearby elementary school, with whom I worked at two summer camps, had the idea of playing flip-cup and beer-pong with the students. We substituted beer with juice and added English-speaking elements to the games. For example: during flip-cup, we wrote English words on the bottom of each cup so that the students had to make a sentence with each word before the next student could begin his or her turn. We added a bit of extra excitement by giving candy to the winners.

Our Korean co-teachers, who rarely even came to class (and never actually helped), got involved in these games. This surprising development made the games even more fun, because we had someone there to translate for us as the kids got excited and gave up on speaking English.

Teacher playing flip-cup with students.

A Korean co-teacher joining in a game of flip-cup.

In future camps, these games are definitely going to be a go-to. Do you know of any other fun adult games that can be easily transformed into educational games for kids? If you do, tell me about them in the comment section.

Until next time.


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Now I Write Plays

Nobody told me that “playwright” was part of my job description. I knew today would be busy because I have several extra classes on my schedule, but I had no idea what was in store for me.

About five minutes before first period started, one of my coteachers (the head of my department) approached me:

CT: Mr. Taft, I need your help. Can you help me write a play?
Me: I’ll be glad to help. Show me what you’ve got and I can edit.
CT: No….please write a play for the students to do at the talent show.
Me: You want me to write the whole thing?
CT: Yes. And you are a native speaker, so you should organize it, too.
Me: Ummmm…,.when do you expect this to be done? Also, can you give me any more information on what you want here?
CT: Well you don’t have much time, let’s read the script together at lunch today. I want to do The Shoemaker and the Elves.
Me: That’s not possible. I don’t even have a break before lunch.
CT: Ok, you can do the play this period. That’s almost an hour. Hurry up, this is important.

This is what he wants:

Sometimes I despise Korean work culture. Crazy, last-minute requests like this are the norm here. Every native English teacher has had a similar experience at least once or twice.

The talent show for which he wants me to write and organize this play will be held in two weeks. The show is an annual event at our school, so he has no excuse for coming to me this late.

But I can’t get too mad at my coteacher. This is just the way things work in Korea. It is completely acceptable to wait until the last second and throw your work on whichever poor bastard happens to be under you in the food chain.

I guess it’s time to get to work!

Until next time.


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You Know Vurjania?

I made a mistake…a big one. I know that I should never react to something that a student says, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Every day, a group of third and fourth grade girls surrounds me after lunch. The routine is the same every day. They spend about thirty seconds trying to communicate with me, get frustrated, and then spend the next minute or so feeling my arm hair and chattering in Korean. This never bothers me, because they’re nice kids and that age is super cute.

Yesterday morning, three members of the aforementioned group passed me in the hall. One of them said “teacher, you know Vurjania?” At first I thought it was a Korean word, so I said no. They all laughed and one girl said, “yes teacher! You know Vurjania!!!”

Me: No, I’m sorry. I don’t know.
Girls: Teacher, yes. Vurjania!!! (pronounced: burr-jan-ya)
Me: Is it a Korean word?
Me: Ohhhh. You mean lasagna? A food?
Me: Explain it to me. (a common exercise in class)
Girls: Boys are penis. Girls are VURJANIA!
Me: Ohhhh….uhhhh….well….hmmmm

That split second of shock was all it took. I’m fairly certain that they have no idea what either word means. All they know is that it freaks out the foreign teacher, and that’s fun.

I managed to avoid the group after lunch, but I knew the word was spreading when I walked into one of my fourth grade classes. A boy in the front row said, “Teacher, are you know Vurjania?” I didn’t react this time, but the damage was done – several kids laughed hysterically. I was too embarrassed to explain to my coteacher what was going on, so I’m worried about what might happen in today’s classes. Wish me luck!

Also, I’ll never look at lasagna again.

And I really love lasagna...

And I really love lasagna…

Until next time.


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New Vocab: Dick Fire

I screwed up while teaching third grade today. The Korean teacher stepped out of the room for a few minutes and I ran out of activities in the book, so I improvised. Since we were talking about birthdays, I decided to introduce some new vocab.

My mistake will probably jump out at native Korean speakers, but I completely missed it.


I find that the students enjoy teaching me Korean. Instead of just looking up the words I don’t know, I ask them to help me figure out the correct translation. For some reason, this energizes most classes. I think that it also gives them confidence to watch me struggle with Korean the way they do with English.

Today, I didn’t know the Korean word for candle. I found a picture of a birthday cake in the book, pointed to the candles, and they all began to say: “chot-bul” (촛불). To my ear, it sounded like “jot-bul” (좃불). This seemingly insignificant difference was anything but.

For the next minute or so, the kids giggled and pointed at the board. They recognized that I spelled the word wrong, but didn’t know how to communicate it to me.

When the teacher returned, she gasped and then began laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe. After she finally composed herself, she snapped a picture of the board and then told me that “dick fire” doesn’t really fit into our birthday theme for today. Oops….

Fortunately, she was a good sport about it and the kids weren’t old enough to grasp what had just happened. That’s why I’m writing this post from my work computer instead of the immigration office.

Until next time.


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