My School

Korean Students Write the Darndest Things

Part of my job as a high school English teacher in South Korea involved giving out, and then correcting, weekly creative writing assignments. It quickly became one of my favorite parts of the experience, as it allowed my students to apply the language with more freedom and personality. It also helped me to get to know them in a more private way. From unintentionally funny remarks, to profound realizations, their writing was a joy to read.

Below is a small collection of some of my favorite excerpts. I’ve also taken the liberty of underscoring their messages with related images. Perhaps this could have been made into some sort of class project… Enjoy!

It’s not “goodbye.” It’s “안녕히 계세요.”

2-3 students

Goodbyes are always tough. But yesterday, during my last day as an English teacher at Ulsan Sports Science School, I experienced a whole new level of emotional farewells. Over the past year, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by wonderful coworkers and enthusiastic students, all of whom consistently went above and beyond with their generosity, kindness and sincerity to make me feel welcomed and cared for.

TREEt Others The Way You Want to Be TREEted

Not Just A TreeIt’s the classic golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. But in the East, it’s more like: treat elders and higher ranking officials the way you’d want to be treated if you were in their position, whatever it takes.

Whether it’s a matter of age or authority, hierarchy is of the utmost importance in Korea. At all times, younger or lower ranking people make concious efforts to show their superiors the proper amount of respect they deserve; from the way they introduce themselves to higher ranking people, to the way they acknowledge or address them, to the way they eat and drink with them–as well as…how they plant trees for them.

Age Ain’t Nothin But A Preference

Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. The host for this month is Rebecca Thering, and here‘s where you can read the rest of this month’s posts. I’ll be posting a new ESL-related article on my blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please contact Dean at, and he will let you know how you can start participating!

Blackout Poetry (Part 1)

This week I did a lesson on blackout poetry with my intermediate level high school students! Normally the project is done with texts from newspapers, magazines or novels, but I was worried about the vocabulary being too broad/out of reach. I wanted my students to focus on having fun, being creative, and playing with the language, rather than looking up/learning new words. So instead, I typed up a batch of their weekly English essays, omitted the names, and returned them for use with this assignment! Not only did this assure that the vocabulary was appropriate, it also made the assignment more personal and interesting!

Actions Speak Louder Than Language Barriers

Today I received a wonderful compliment from one of my high school students. To give some context to the essay snippet below: I teach at a public boarding school where the students stay on-campus 5 or 6 nights a week. Most of them are from the area, so they can easily go home on the weekend. But some, like the student in this story, have to travel 4+ hours one way by bus, so they don’t go home nearly as often. It’s hard on all of them, but especially so for those who only see their friends and family once every few weeks or months.

Student Writing Sample: Goals for the New School Year

What are your goals for the new school year? Think of two large, general goals and three small, specific goals. Tell me what those goals are improtant to you and what you will do to achieve them.

“Fighting!” is a common expression of encouragement in Korea.

It Takes A Village

Starting last week my school moved to its new, permanent location about 20 minutes outside the city. The campus is absolutely huge and beautifully tucked into the valley of some small mountains with a distant view of the ocean (pictures to come later)! However, it makes for a bit of a longer commute and especially for me, since I don’t have a car, a slightly more complicated journey to and from school.

How 20% of the School Day Got Me 100% Success

Presenting Their ProjectsThe leaders at Google believe that people are happier and more productive when they spend 20% of their time at work on a personal project, something that interests them, gets them fired up and invites the creative juices to flow. So, for part of Winter Camp 2015, I gave my students the opportunity to do just that! For two weeks they worked one hour each day on an independent project of their choice, and finished by presenting to their classmates. The only catch was that they had to use English in SOME WAY. From creative music videos to a detailed analysis of different educational systems arond the world, they produced some amazing work!

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