The End of the Rockstar Teacher

Rockstar Teacher (n): A teacher who strolls into class convinced of their own importance and full of righteousness. Can often be seen playing games and aiming to become a friend rather than educator. Most easily identified by a lack of preparedness and over-reliance on games in the classroom.

Over the past number of weeks I have felt like a great teacher. My classes like me; we laugh and joke and cover the required pages in the textbook and then joke around some more. This felt like I was doing my job to the letter. Instructing English lessons was no problem at all.

Slowly, I began to feel like the Gene Simmons of English language teaching. No, I didn’t have the face make-up and I shan’t comment on the over large tongue, but I did feel like a rockstar. It was wonderful. I could rock into class and do the work set out by the text book, high-five some kids, and we would rock through the lessons.

However, I began to notice that the kids haven’t actually learned anything for this rockstar teacher. Sure, our textbooks are full of worked examples, but the kids were not equipped with the skills they needed to reproduce this on their own. At first, like many other teachers, I thought it was the students being unwilling to understand although that didn’t feel like the right answer.

The truth is that I was unwilling to understand my students’ difficulties, and no amount of high fives of laughs could cover up something like that. So I have decided to change my methods. I still hope to be a “fun teacher”, and the high fives are here to stay, but the poor attitude of “bad students” is being laid to rest.

This is the end of the rockstar teacher.


Apologies for the long absence readers, but I’ve been very busy trying to assimilate and not get snowed under at work. Not to mention that I’ve been off skiing, and bowing, and helping friends move house over the past few weekends! More on the skiing later when I put together a picture album of the snaps J took.


So You Want to Come to Korea Part 3: Public school vs. Private academy

Ok, so I know I said I’d have this here by the end of the weekend, but it’s the weekend somewhere right? Or is that it’s 5pm somewhere? I don’t know, and I doubt you care readers. You’re too eager to hear about the differences between working for a public school and a private academy (or hagwon as they are known).

Let’s begin.

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Culture Shot: Pepero Day

If you thought Valentine’s Day was a farce of a commercial holiday, then Korea will once again prove your Western assumptions wrong. Ladies and Gents, I present to you Pepero Day.

Pepero Day is the celebration of a Korean snack food of the same name. These snacks are bread sticks dipped in candy and come in a variety of flavors. They do not sound altogether appetizing, but let me tell you, I managed to put away a sizable amount yesterday…


These gifts came from my friends at Muay Thai. One guy even made the ones in the cellophane!

As Valentine’s Day has it’s roots in a celebration of a saint, it’s hard to criticize Hallmark et al. for cashing in on it’s Capitalist potential. Pepero Day on the other hand, has no such origin. Instead, it comes from a 1983 news story, in which two school girls exchanged Pepero in order to become tall and thin like the Pepero sticks. These superstitious, and wildly misguided, girls exchanged these gifts on November 11th, the date that looks most like Pepero sticks. To a simple reasoning, or a homeopath, this logic is sound and the trick should work. Sadly, it doesn’t. I woke this morning at the familiar 5′ 8.5″ (that half is very important to me), and I believe I may have even gained weight in the night!

From Christal

One student even took the time to personalize the box!

I digress, however. So seeing that this could be turned into an incredibly marketable phenomenon, the parent company had the day enshrined in the commercial calendar. Now, you can buy Pepero everything, from gift-sets to plush toys. According to Wikipedia the Pepero company make 50% of their annual sales on this day! Not that the same isn’t true for florists and their ilk back home on V-Day I’m sure.

As you can see in the pictures, everyone gets some Pepero on this day, from friends, form teachers, from students. It’s all very cute, which makes it even more Korean, as almost everything here is either cute or for couples, or in this case both!

So now you know folks, the rest of the world also have holidays as outrageous as Valentine’s Day! Gooooooooo Capitalism!!!!

The Rain in Sp….Korea

[NEMA] 3 days 1:30 like Secret Sunshine, sunshade, Gimhae, Busan rainfall alarm, humidity and flooding risk areas to evacuate, go out, please refrain attention to safety

What a wonderful way to start the day! An indecipherable message, from what I can only assume is some form of spy organization. Obviously, they work in some way akin to ISIS from FX’s Archer (as opposed to the unaffiliated, yet similarly initialized ISIS/ISIL of the Middle-East).

This came in at about 8AM this morning in the form of a text message. It’s not the first message of it’s kind, nor do I assume it’s the last. I mean spies always have to communicate right?

In actuality, the message was written in Korean, and it was the infamous Google Translate that resulted in this garbled smattering of warnings followed by negations of said warnings… I surmise the intended purpose was to warn me that it was going to bucket with rain this morning, and thus save me from the thorough soaking I was to receive.

Sodden as I was, I decided to cab it to work, where everyone else was also feeling the effects of the depleting vitamin D levels as a result of the rain. It was thus I found myself standing in class trying to convince the children that the “long O” sound does not make an “ow” sound, I very nearly resorted to the Henry Higgins method of pronunciation coaching just to ease my way into the day.


Overall, today has been somewhat of a damp one, but at least the weather is reinforcing what the kids so often tell me: “Korea has four seasons teacher”.

The Things We Miss

Leaving home can be a daunting prospect, especially when your final destination is almost as far away as you can get without being on the way back home again. There are hundreds of things you think to pack and bring, and things you know you’re gonna miss but can’t pack. But there are also things from home, the ephemera and trivial, that you miss just as much as they are as much “home” as the people.

The first, and probably most startlingly obvious, cause for homesickness is: the language. I cannot possibly explain quite what it is I miss here, perhaps just the familiarity of hearing a curious meld of Irish and English almost any time anyone opens their mouth. I even miss throwing in the cúpla focail (few words) This coming from me, who wouldn’t be classed as a Gaelgóir by any stretch of the imagination. Yet somehow, I do miss everything about hearing it and seeing road signs written in Irish and English.

This brings me to the next item on the ‘Things I Miss’ list: being able to read effortlessly. I have my kindle and some books for leisure reading, but when it comes to getting somewhere following signs, or figuring out what’s on sale in the supermarkets, I am prone to spending more than five minutes trying to decipher- first the 1+1 sign and then matching it to the intended product. Usually only to find that I do not in fact need two kilo bags of dried sardines. After all the stress of the shopping experience it’s time for a coffee in the nearest coffee shop.

10/10 would slurp

What a convenient segue! For the next thing I miss is chilling out in a café with some friends and about 7 cups of tea. They do have tea here, it’s not like I’ve moved to the moon, but it’s just not the same as a cuppa in my favorite coffee shop while discussing what happened last week at the silent disco in the Roisín Dubh.

Finally, the largest of the small things I miss is wandering around Galway city with no fixed plan or idea. Stopping in my favorite shops to chat to the cashiers while buying yet another Lego Minifigure (of which I have altogether too many already!), followed by lunch in one of my usual haunts. Who’d have expected to miss goujons and chips quite so much?

However, I know that these things only hold their magic so long as I am away, and the minute I leave Korea and return home, this imaginary Ireland I’ve created will be gone. Fractured into pieces and spread out over many days, punctuated by working a job I don’t like that pays just a little too little to fund the lifestyle I write about. In the end, I content myself with these thoughts and the ‘Expat-in-Korea’ life, following my boss’s mantra “Everyday enjoy your life!!”