Korean teachers enjoy West Texas

February 16, 2010   

PLAINVIEW – After two weeks of experiencing life in West Texas “Astro Boy” and “Shelley” will soon be heading home.

The two Koreans were participants in the Fulbright teacher exchange program that brings Korean teachers to the United States each year to see how teachers here teach English. The Koreans used pseudonyms while in the states to make life easier on their host families and the people they interact with. Jinsung Kim chose the name Atom which is the Japanese and Korean name for the cartoon character Astro Boy. Kim thought it appropriate since he bears some resemblance to the animated youngster. Eun Mi Lee used the name Shelley while in the states.

Monday afternoon, the Koreans were honored guests at a luncheon at Wayland Baptist University’s School of Education. Dr. Linda Hutcherson, professor of education, served as coordinator for the program and played a vital role in bringing the Korean teachers to Plainview. While here, Kim lived with Dr. Charles Starnes, associate professor of business at Wayland, and his wife, Susie. He was mentored by Plainview High School English teacher, Sherri Neff.

Lee was a guest of John Elliott and his family. Elliott works in Wayland Learning Resources Center. Lee was mentored by Dee Ann Helton at Ash Sixth Grade.

During the luncheon, Kim shared some of his background and teaching experiences with the group. He said he learned a lot by spending time in Plainview, especially the use of idioms and colloquialisms that do not translate in Korean. Apparently, West Texans use a lot of expressions that simply don’t make sense to the rest of the world, but by the end of his time in Plainview, Kim could say “Howdy, y’all” as well as anyone.

Kim entertained the group with stories of Korean education and a stellar nun-chuck display that apparently was a huge hit among the high school students. While he learned a lot, he said there are some major differences between the Korean education system and the American education system. The first major difference that struck him as odd was that students here change classes while students at his high school remain in a classroom setting and the teachers move from room to room. He also said the amount of time spent at school is far less in the U.S. than in Korea. The high school where he teaches in Cheongju City serves three grades, equivalent to sophomores, junior and seniors in the U.S. The sophomore and juniors begin school around 8 a.m. and stay in school until 10 p.m. The seniors are in school from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. The students then spend more time studying outside of the classroom.

While this may seem excessive in U.S. standards, Kim explained that the competition for higher education is so fierce in Korea, that if students do not spend that amount of time in school and studying, they have no hope of going to college.

Kim and Lee returned to Austin on Tuesday where they will spend another four days at their host institution before returning to Korea on Saturday.