Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dear Students,

I was asked by the English-language newspaper staff to write a letter to the students for their spring edition. I hate writing these things (sometimes). I decided to make it a blog entry. Enjoy:

I'm often asked by the students of Taegu Foreign Language High School what the differences are between Korean and American high schools. Having taught in both countries, I can honestly say that I'm still learning new things about the differences every day. However, I thought I'd prepare a list for you of some of the things that really surprised me when I first started teaching here:

1) Every student in a Korean class has the same schedule and the teachers come to the classroom. In America, students are all taking different levels of math, languages, and elective courses, so very rarely do you have all 7-8 classes with the same students all day. And teachers have their own classrooms where students come to them at the scheduled period, so teachers are there before the students and students are expected to be on time. You get in trouble if you show up after the bell rings in America.

2) Korean students have different classes every day, as their schedules are done weekly. American students have the same 7-8 subjects every day (sometimes split into 4 longer classes every other day) for a whole semester or year. So American students only have 7-8 teachers and they see them everyday.

3) Exams are a much bigger deal in Korea. Exams are still important in America, but teachers can and do use other ways to assess students (such as projects, essays, experiments, reports, or presentations). However, tests are only one small part of the equation.

4) Korean students spend a lot of time at school studying. I think this is partially because of the importance of the tests, as I described above. When American students finish their classes, they can go home to work on school assignments, work a volunteer or part-time job, or participate in extracurricular activities such as sports teams or clubs. This is all considered an important part of a well-rounded education and most American universities look for evidence that a student has participated in some activities outside of the school day.

5) Korean society is a lot more involved with education than American society is. That means parents here are less likely to expect their children to do chores or contribute to the running of the household, but they put more pressure on their students to perform in school. Generally, students here are more respectful of teachers without the teacher having to do anything to "earn" student respect.

That's just a brief summary that I noticed, as a teacher. Of course, many of my astute second-grade American culture students have observed that there are differences in the social lives of American students, such as prom and dating. I hope you learned a few things here, but if you ever have any questions, I welcome you to come ask me. I like curious students!

Diana E.

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