Before I left the USA, the one thing I was the most excited about was getting my placement.  I was constantly online searching all over Jeollanamdo (전라남도), trying to see what regions and cities there were, and what life was like there.  When I finally received my packet from Canadian Connections, I had been placed in my second choice: Boseong county (보성군)!

In hindsight, I’m actually very, very glad I ended up here and not Yeosu (여수), which was my first choice on my application.  Yeosu is a beautiful, larger costal town about a 75min drive from me, but nothing quite has the beauty and charm of a rural town in the Korean countryside.  Boseong county has a population of about 63,000, but the town of Boseong itself is only around 9,000-10,000.  It’s actually around the same size as my hometown of Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

Swung by the tea fields on a rainy day…You can imagine what it looks like on a sunny one!  Stunning.
In total, those 63,000 people are spread out over 256mi^2, or (663km^2), which means once you leave the towns, it’s relatively sparse.  Children have to be bused all over the region to attend school, and as a result, many schools have a very small number of students.  For us teachers, this often means teaching at more than one school.  This both cuts costs for the schools, since they split the cost of an English teacher among themselves, and makes it easier to ensure all students in the region are receiving English education with a native speaker.

In larger regions or bigger schools, there are plenty of teachers that are only at one school Monday through Friday.  Some teachers may only have two schools, and others have up to four depending on the needs of the area.  Personally, I have three: Hoecheon Elementary (회천 초등학교), Hoecheonseo (West) Elementary (회천서 초등학교), and DaHyang High School (다향 고등학교).  Hoecheon Elementary is my main school, and I teach kindergarten through 6th grade Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  On Thursdays I teach at the high school, which is within walking distance from my apartment, and on Fridays I go to Hoecheonseo.  I have a total of 22 individual classes, though some meet every other week.  My class sized range from tiny (two students in my 6th grade class at Hoecheonseo) to average (15-20 at the high school), and my students abilities vary widely as well.

My kindergarteners at Hoecheon Elementary (회천초등학교)
They already know how to work their angles for pictures!

My high school is a vocational high school, so in general their language level is very low.  They are learning local trades, so they don’t have much use for English and sometimes have difficulty finding motivation.  They are interested in foreign cultures and travel though, so I focus more on useful conversational phrases/vocabulary and fun topics.  My elementary students have a higher level of comprehension, but I still have a very wide range of abilities among the students of each class.  It’s important as a teacher to assess not only your students’ abilities, but also their learning styles to give them a variety of interesting ways to learn.  I have some that are very, very quiet, and others that are bursting with answers in class.  I try to mix up my activities so that all students are producing the language in some way, even if their ability is very low.

My 5th grade class at Hoecheon Elementary (회천초등학교)

I was initially concerned when I heard I would be teaching at three schools.  I’m new to teaching in general, and when you couple that with being in a foreign environment and having a fairly large language barrier, even one school can be overwhelming!  As it turns out, the workload is just fine and I’m really enjoying getting to know each of my students.  While all of my schools are different from one another, I love my coworkers and staff at each one.  I’m looking forward to making my classroom my own as I grow and develop my own teaching style.

I try to incorporate a creative activity for my English Club kids–seems like they don’t get too much of it during the week.
Here they had to create a bird using adjectives.  Some bird names include Chicken, Sad, Spacebird, and Ugly.

When I was younger, I always said I would never be a teacher because teaching “kids” would be nothing but tiresome and frustrating.  Now, I love going to work every day, and my kids and caring coworkers put such a smile on my face.  Even when my older students are being sassy or uncooperative, there’s always a cute swarm of kindergarteners around the corner to brighten my day.  It’s incredibly rewarding to see each student grow and learn, especially the older ones and those who have previously been struggling.  I look forward to sharing more about my kids and how they’ve progressed as the school year goes on!