Balance, I have found, is one of the hardest things to maintain in life.

On one hand, but on the other. How do I find a good medium?

Though I don’t think about it very often, and perhaps compared to others it’s not as bad, but I am a rather work-driven person.

The idea of having not working is so foreign that I cannot even consider it. When I came back from Korea, I immediately started teaching after only one and a half days. Never mind jetlag, never mind vacation. I had to work.

I want to work more on my writing, but how can I not teach as many hours as possible during the week?

So I fill my hours with teaching, and the rest with writing, and the next thing I know I’m exhausted and haven’t taken a break in weeks.

I love writing. It’s a huge passion. And I love teaching, too. But they’re work, no matter what I might think otherwise. And yet if I’m not teaching, then I should be writing. if I’m not writing during my free time, I’m wasting precious hours. I’m slacking off.

So where do I find a balance?

I’m still searching for it.

It’s all a state of mind, for me. I have to remember that I need breaks, too. I can’t work nonstop, even if I enjoy it. The exhaustion is crippling and unhealthy.

Moderation. Balance.

I’m working on it.


Those Awesome Classes

I think one of the best and most important parts of being a teacher is developing a good relationship with my students.

It’s hard sometimes, especially when they’re quiet or shy, but it’s always wonderful to see them break out of their shells, and begin to express themselves and interact with the others. And the teacher.

I like to joke around with my students. I want them to feel at ease, so that they can enjoy themselves while learning. I still find it a bit hard to balance fun and learning, but I’m working on it.

I think I’m really lucky that I get to work with really small classes. It helps create a more personal atmosphere that allows for a greater depth of teaching and sharing.

The class I taught today has only three students. They were pretty quiet before, but they’ve started interacting and chatting with each other. They’ve also started joking with me, and it has put everyone at ease. They still complain, of course, about the workload (I would too, if I were them), but I genuinely look forward to teaching their class. And I walk away with a spring in my step.

Now to start working on the uninspired students…


Some of my students are scared to approach new or open writing topics. They want to be guided through every single step. I’m trying to encourage more independent behaviour, but when they’re young, it’s a slow going process.

While helping them, I sometimes run into amusing situations.

One of my students didn’t know what to write about for the creative assignment. He didn’t like any of the prompts, and refused to work on his own.

So I tried to help him by asking questions.

Me: What do you like to do?
Student: Baseball
Me: So why don’t you write about your best baseball game?
Student: But I don’t know anything about baseball!
Me: Well, what is something you know a lot about?
Student: …. Baseball

It was really hard not to laugh. And I definitely saw one of the other students smother a laugh.

Well, in the end he wrote about baseball.


A World of Comings and Goings

One of the hardest things about working abroad is the rate at which people come and go.

There are 5 foreign teachers at my school, and so far the other 4 have all left, and been replaced by 4 more.

On one hand I’ve met 8 people, which is wonderful. They have been, for the most part, pretty cool.

On the other hand, I have had some very sad and teary goodbyes. One of which happened yesterday.

It’s rare to feel such a strong connection with someone in such a short amount of time, but it happened to me, and I’m so sad that they’re gone.

Now they live halfway across the world, and it seems like forever and a day until I’ll get to see them again. But I remind myself that I have formed a lifelong friendship, and this means that no matter where we are, we will find a way to meet again.

Sharing a friendship, a connection, is beautiful. Beautiful in the sorrow of parting, for it reminds us how much we cherish each other. And beautiful in the joy we feel in greeting them after so long. I am so lucky to have met the people I have, and that is what keeps me going in a life of comings and goings.

My Students, A Study, Part II

You’re bubbly and round. Roly Poly. Your neck likes to hide in the collared shirts you wear.

Your hair circles downwards, an upside down bowl on your head.

You think yourself a riot, and giggle yourself into hiccups. A cheerful boy with rosy cheeks. Eyes that are sparkling with excitement every day.

You are spoiled by your parents, and you always have to be the best, but nonetheless you are a good friend.

Your laugh is the purest I have ever heard. It contains undiluted joy. Such a sound clears the mind of all weight.

And then there’s that mischievous look you get when you want to be tickled. You begin to giggle before it even starts. You’ll giggle at the mere prospect of it.

And it brings such a smile to my face to see you do so. I hope you are always able to feel such joy so easily.

My Students, A Study

His eyebrows curl together in perpetual worry, though he is only 6 years old. His wide, black eyes stare up at me and the world.

“Why?” he loves to ask, and only relents when an adequate explanation has been given.   Already a critical thinker, and already a troublemaker. I feel sympathy for his future teachers, but I can’t help but love his rebellious ways. He will never be a follower. I want to see where he ends up in twenty years. I don’t doubt he will be great.

It has been almost a year since I started teaching him. I’ve seen his habits develop. His once messy writing has turned neat and precise. He used to finish his work as quickly as he could, and now he takes as much time as he can. He strives for perfection. He hates being rushed. And I want to give him all the time in the world, but the clock’s ticking hands bind my own.

His distinctive laugh has begun to grate the ears. No longer small and cuddly, he has slowly transformed. In less than one year, he will be in elementary school, and his first stage of evolution will be complete. But no matter how much he changes, he will always be my precious student. A curious little candle, being hurtled down a treacherous river. My only hope is that I have helped him build a sturdy enough boat.

Skin tone

Today my 8 year old students were talking about skin tone.

I’m not quite sure what they were saying, since they were speaking in korean and the only English words they said were “skin tone”, but apparently it’s a subject of great interest to four of my 8-year-old male students.

It must be spring

My students were very adamant about finding out whether or not I have a boyfriend. They even drew a picture to make sure I understood their question. They don’t know the term ‘boyfriend’.

They are also (unintentionally?) asking if I’m into polyandry.

Teacher, is men, love?

Teacher, is men, love-love?

Belch and gullet

We went on our monthly field trip today, and it was actually quite a good one, with animated sneezing and burping exhibits.

Sometimes the field trips are weird, and the kids get super bored, but they had lots of fun here.

It was a ‘play museum’ that was modelled after the digestive system.

I think the favourite exhibit was the nose that sneezed out coloured balls.

The translations were odd, such as ‘belch’ and ‘gullet’… rather difficult words for 6 year old kids, but most of it was in Korean anyway, so I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

There was a ballpit stomach, and it even talked about this:

I couldn't resist this photo

I couldn’t resist this photo

Then there was a bridge that led to the intestines. And what looked like pillow-shaped poo. It was probably coils of small intestines… but it really did look like poo…

Of course the kids found them hilarious.

Every kid wanted to do this

Every kid wanted to do this

Note that they are lying on ‘big intestines’.

They had fun, I had fun, and it was a great day.

You’re miserably sick? Excellent, please pass it on.

Koreans don’t seem to believe in sick days. My Korean coworker cracked a rib and still came in to work the very next day, and every day after that. Amazing.

As a foreign teacher here, I get three ‘sick’ days. Sick as in I’m dying in the hospital and can’t make it to work, sorry.

So basically every day I get a bunch of students who, being very young, have no sense of hygiene. They cough and sneeze and wipe their snotty hands all over me. They’re my precious students, but I don’t like how they come to school no matter how sick they are. I don’t believe that kindergarten students should be at school when they have fevers or can’t stop coughing long enough to say a full sentence.

Now I know the particular Hagwon where I teach is quite expensive, and the parents have to pay a lot of money for each class, but sometimes it still seems very unreasonable.

Today two of my students had fevers and were very sick, but had to go to class anyway. One was in Kindergarten, and the other was in grade 4.

When I had a fever growing up, I didn’t go to school. There are a few reasons for this.

1) Stress on the body, aka school, is not going to help you get better. Sleep will help you get better.

2) Nobody wants to get your germs. If you go to school sick, then it’s easy for most of the people around you to get sick too. Teacher included.

I can’t even count the number of times I wash my hands every day. It’s futile. I cannot evade the voracious appetite of vulturous viruses that circle the hallways and classrooms.

This is written as I am hacking out a lung and sniffing a black hole into existence.

The high cost of classes is not the only reason the parents may send their sick children to school (coupled with the intense desire to see their children succeed in English).

Maybe both parents work and there is no one at home during the day.

Maybe both parents happened to be busy that day with other plans that they could not cancel.

Maybe they couldn’t find a babysitter on such short notice.

Who knows.

But the fact that this is such a common occurence makes me wonder.

I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I let both of my sick students rest in class today. The fourth grade student, especially, is one of the best in the class. She was so obviously miserable that I walked to her desk, closed her book, and told her to just sleep.

I don’t understand the point of sending your child to school, when she can barely keep her eyes open and focus. It makes much more sense, to me, to let her stay home and rest, so that she can recover, and be fully able to catch up much sooner than she would if she strained her body by going to school.

I guess my views on this are very Westernized.

My students have my utmost sympathy.