In honor of the Chuseok Festival (and because a week off work is the only time I can blog), I’ve decided to do a series about my most amusing experiences while teaching English as a Second Language to Koreans. There had been formidable, stressful instances as well as “aw-inspiring” ones. (Yep, you read that right. No spelling or typographical errors there. I’m simply referring to moments when a student’s appreciation makes me go “awwww…”) I hope you have fun sharing in my experiences. Chuseok jal bo nae!
Chuseok Entry No. 1: Meeting “Jun Pyo’s mom”
Before the academy accepts students into the program, a level test is required. I was given a 30-minute notice that aside from the level test, I would also be doing a sample class to a parent. Uh-oh. Pressure, pressure. With 15 minutes left on the clock, I was informed that the parent is an English teacher in Seoul. As if that wasn’t enough pressure already, my manager added, “and by the way, she uses Treasures in tutoring her son.” Now, Macmillan McGraw-Hill’s Treasures is the academy’s topnotch program, so I instantly felt like my armpits were going to melt. That would mean she probably knows the Teacher’s Edition by heart, so nothing short of teaching it while doing a headstand would impress her. Squaring my shoulders, I told myself, “No pressure there. Here goes nothing…”
Enter virtual classroom. Before I could compose myself, omo comes in. In my anxiety, I didn’t notice that “Jun Pyo’s mom” wasn’t wearing a headset. We exchanged pleasantries. It was only then that I realized that my voice was echoing through the videoware. For the next 20 minutes, I made do with the technical issue by waiting for my voice to transmit completely before saying my next sentence. Aargh! In my head, these thoughts were running a marathon: 1. JunPyo’s mom probably thought I had quite a nerve calling myself an ESL teacher with what-would-seem-like broken English. 2. JunPyo’s mom might get offended and regard me as condescending, because I was speaking slow on her behalf as if she couldn’t understand complete sentences spoken at normal speed. AAAAAAAAHHHH! My eyes were flitting back and forth from the video stream on the upper left and the clock on the bottom right of the screen. I wasn’t sure if I was just hallucinating or was she really beginning to look agitated? In sum, it was the longest 20 minutes of my life. Suddenly, my boss’ voice came through the conference call, and he started addressing Jun Pyo’s mom in Korean. Whew. Never had Big Brother K’s voice (Note: I fondly call my boss Big Brother K, but that’s just between me and my other selves) sounded more musical than at that perfect moment. He told me in English that the level test (It did feel like a test, and I was the one undergoing it) was over. Apparently, the reason for the echo (that was making my life so difficult, I should add) was that she was using a microphone built into the webcam—AND her webcam was placed right next to her loudspeaker! As a result, there was no way we could continue with the class, and needless to say, I was saved by the mic.
We had the whole session recorded, so my baptism by fire into online ESL teaching is immortalized (unless somebody accidentally deletes it from the academy’s files *fingers crossed*). Today, I look back to the whole experience with laughter, and my swivel chair has earned the “Jan Di’s hot seat” title from some of my co-teachers. Such goes my rite of passage to a personalized Koreanovela.