Korean teachers share with WBU students

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University’s Division of Education students got a special treat Wednesday afternoon as a pair of Korean English teachers visited the classrooms and shared about their teaching experiences in Korea.

Vivianna Kim and Sabina Lee of the American Studies Institute for Korean Secondary School Teachers of English Fulbright Program are spending two weeks in Plainview, shadowing teachers at Estacado Junior High and Plainview High School. As part of the Fulbright program, they have already spent a month at the University of Texas. On Wednesday, they visited Dr. Yvonne La Mar’s education class and shared the similarities and differences of teaching English in the different cultures.

Lee, who has taught high school for more than 20 years in Korea, said English is a required subject. However, they are not teaching how to speak the language fluently. She said Korean students focus on reading the language. Kim said one reason they wanted to take part in the program was to learn to speak English more fluently.

The two said there are many similarities in the way the schools function, but there are some noticeable differences. Kim said that while teachers here have classes of approximately 20 students, her classes in Korea currently have about 36. Her school also has home room periods at the beginning and end of each school day where the teachers check attendance. She said they have to do it at the end of the day because, “some of them run away during classes.”

Academics are stressed heavily in Korea. Students are able to attend school all day long and many hire private tutors or go to private schools to take classes late at night. The teachers said academics are very competitive in Korea. The unemployment rate is low, so in order to get a better job, students must go to the best schools and best colleges. The only way to qualify for the best schools is to do well on the college entrance exams. They said Korean students are passionate about studying.

While teachers are generally highly respected in Korean society, they still have some of the same problems teachers in the states face – discipline. Teachers in Korea are expected to handle the discipline themselves, but there are times that parents feel their children can do no wrong. But there are ways to get their point across. Lee said making students do 100 push-ups during class typically curbs a students’ desire to use profanity.

While the education is similar, the teachers have been particularly impressed by one aspect of American culture – food!

“Housewives here must be very happy to have good husbands and good restaurants,” Kim, who was celebrating her 19th wedding anniversary on Wednesday, said explaining that in Korea, the wife is expected not only to work, but to prepare all the meals for the family as well. Going out to eat or having the husband fix a meal is unheard of, although Lee admitted that her husband does help out by fixing rice and other food on occasion.

“This must be heaven for housewives,” Kim said.

The teachers will spend another week in Plainview.