Monday, July 30, 2012

A Great Teacher

The way that the language program during Orientation is set up is that you and your classmates (10 in my class total) have a teacher for the first two hours of instruction and then they switch out and the class has a new teacher for the other two hours.  Both of my teachers are really great and really try their best to get us to understand what is going on.

Lately, I have been struggling to keep up the intense pace of the class (it is about 2 semesters worth crammed into 6ish weeks) and it has been terribly frustrating.  As you saw from my last post, I am not exactly the top pupil in my class.  We have quizzes every Monday and I felt more prepared for this one than I have all my other ones so far.  I set my alarm an hour early so I could make sure that I got breakfast and get a bit of last-minute studying in before I could go. 

What I did not realize is that in the process of changing my alarm, I accidentally turned it off entirely.  I woke up to an OC knocking on my door at 10:00, an hour into class and I missed the quiz.  To say that this soured my mood is an extreme understatement.  I immediately thought the worst thoughts.  Will I be able to take the quiz?  How will I catch up missing a whole hour of class?  Will san-sang-neem(teacher) think I am disrespecting him and his class?  The thought of being removed from the program due to poor Korean grades even crossed my mind.  I threw on some clothes over my pajamas and got to class as fast as I could.

After class, I was feeling as down as I have ever been in Korea.  I couldn't believe that I missed my quiz.  I wanted to go to the supplementary talks in the afternoon but I was just in too horrible of a mood to get much out of them so I studied my Korean outside by the track.  This whole situation just summed up my feelings about Korean classes and how I felt so far in over my head and incompetent.  The language seemed like this huge barricade between me and the rest of my grant year.  Later in the afternoon, I learned that my teacher was going to allow me to take the quiz after all.  That in itself was a huge relief, but I still have to do well on it regardless.

I took it this evening with my homeroom/first teacher carefully watching over me and keeping the time.  He reminded me a few times to read the questions and answers carefully and was trying to help the best he could without giving me answers.  I don't know how well I did...I will find out tomorrow.  But I turned it in and we started to pack up.  He asked me where I was going and, of course, I said office hours because 1.) I was mandated to go and 2.) I really needed to review what I missed/everything else.  Then I gave him a thing of candy and an apology letter for being late to his class (in my best Korean!  But a small English one on the bottom of the page).  It is customary to give gifts and I felt like I really needed to since he let me take the quiz. 

Then he told me, in English, (he almost never uses English in class!!  Only for the most important points) to keep fighting and that I was a good student.  Those few words have easily been the most powerful and inspiring words I have heard at Orientation so far.  Just hours ago, I was at my all time low in Korea and was just so down because of the classes and my inability to grasp this language.  It was just really nice to hear that he and the other teachers can see how much work I am putting in, even if the results are few and seemingly insignificant.  It has given me the drive to push myself to try harder and put more hours into learning and studying.  This is something that I must remember for when I am teaching my own classes.  A teacher must always acknowledge the efforts of his or her students, even those who don't seem to make much progress, because it will mean the world to them.  Even if my teacher isn't able to get me to understand all of the grammar points and vocabulary terms, he has done something even better; He has shown me and my classmates how to be a great teacher.


  1. The Korean teachers here are awesome. This is such a great story, and I love the ending message. Very true. Keep fighting! You can do it!

  2. Aw Ben.. You are doing great!! It's a hard language to learn... and like you said, you're learning 2 semesters worth in 2 months (not even). Since you ARE working really hard, they're bound to notice - don't worry! You'll be fine :)

  3. What a great lesson and story. So blessed to have been shown this at such a low time. What a great inspiration he must be. Keep plugging away - it may be like some other things that one day, the light bulb turns on and you will wonder why you struggled before. I've had many of those moments in my life.
    Keep on truckin'! We're behind you all the way!

  4. That's one of instances that will serve you twenty years from now. Just keep getting up. These little blips will just make you better. We're proud of you.

  5. Keep your chin up, Ben! You got this. And hey, this little blog post was already really inspirational in and of itself. I think that picking up pearls of wisdom like this are more important for being a teacher than grades or lesson plans, anyway. 화이팅!