Before I came to my job I was a little intimidated at the idea of teaching teenagers.  Succumbing to the adage ‘teenagers are difficult’, I was uncertain about what lay in store. Jumping up and down in a Norebang, shouting down a microphone with one student “Don’t Stop Me NOW” while two other girls dance and whoop beneath rotating, coloured disco lights, was not what I expected.  Yet this was where Thursday afternoon found me, and it was damn good fun.

At some point I worried about breaking teacher / student protocol.  Then I realised that I don’t even know what that is here.  The students have respect for teachers – they bow and generally do what they’re told far more than their western counterparts.  However, paradoxically there seems to be less boundaries in some ways.  Students come in and out the teachers room without knocking, there’s not the same strict ‘safety rules’ about hugging and being in a one to one situation, and sometimes students invite you to the singing rooms.

One hypothesis for this difference is that, as Korean students get older and spend more and more time in school, it’s impossible for boundaries to exist in the same way as they do in British schools.  They spend so much time studying in high school – 14 hours is not unusual  – that teachers necessarily come to take on a parental role.  According to this thinking I guess I’m more like a big waygook (foreign) sister teacher.  By changing the chorus of R. Kelly’s not-quite-number-one hit to ‘We believe we can fly’ I like to think I was assuming both an educational and inspirational approach to this role…