When I worked at Seoul English Village, I was just a Korean-looking person that taught English at SEV and spoke English extremely well, except with there were high school students and Russians. Then I became the cool teacher who spoke really good English (and knew some Russian to make the Russian kids behave) and could relate and understand the students. Pretty much the only time that I got mail from students was when there were high school students and Russian kids, other than those times, I had a very bare mailbox.
Fast forward to teaching at Singa Elementary School, random kids of all grades, even the grades that I don’t currently teach, or that I will even possibly teach, like to duck into the subject teachers’ office to yell ‘hello.’ And they usually repeat calling out ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ until I respond. And my fourth graders like to yell ‘Karen teacher’ as loud as they can and wave like maniacs until I answer back. Which makes all the older teachers that were here with the last NSET laugh, because the kids never were happy to see the old NSET, some even faked illness to avoid English class with him.
My 3rd/4th grade co-teacher told me the other day, that all her classes, her third grade English classes that she teaches by herself currently, the fourth grade English classes that we co-teach, and the sixth grade ethics classes that she teaches by herself, all tell her about me and whenever they’ve seen me walking around the neighborhood, etc. And apparently it’s a big deal that some of the kids live by my apartment complex and they’ve made sure to tell her about how close they live to me and other students as well.
I never knew that I was such a celebrity, I’m usually the strict, mean teacher, not the cool one that the kids get excited about seeing outside of class or living by.
So during the evenings or on Saturdays when the kids have a half-day of school, if I walk near the school, I can hear excited hellos and Karen teachers. Their parents almost always have this confused look on their faces, until their kids explain that their English teacher this year is a kyopo from the US. And after a small demonstration proving that I speak basically perfect English and I know things about the kids that only their English teacher would know, everything is all right in the world.
Last week my co-teachers and I had to explain to our students that I wasn’t going to teach them next semester, to which the majority of kids started to complain and say that they didn’t need or want a new English teacher and that I needed to stay and teach them. I tried to explain that it wouldn’t be fair if I only taught the fourth and sixth graders, that I needed to teach the third and fifth graders too. A couple of kids told me that the third and fifth graders didn’t need me, but that the fourth and sixth graders loved me and wanted me to stay. The very last class I had with my classes I had most of them sign a picture that I had taken of them, so I could have a memory of each class – and truthfully, I have so many students that I really only know five of them by name – and so I could actually have a record of their names. There was a lot of picture taking of me and lots of autographing…who knew I was so popular?