My School, Teaching English

I’m Special, SPECIAL! So Special, SPECIAL!

My school (the white one in the middle).

My school (the white one in the middle).

Let me start by saying that my school is special. Yes, I know that in my last post I said that everyone’s journey through EPIK is unique, thus everyone’s school is “special.” And that’s true. I stand by that. But mine is reallllllly special/unusual. And I don’t mean that to sound braggy, but it’s kinda true. Here’s why.

I teach at the Ulsan Sports Science Middle and High School. What the heck is that, you ask? It’s one of just a few schools in the entire country for gifted, pre-professional athletes. Crazy, right? I’m teaching English to future Olympians and world champions!

When I arrived in August, the school had only existed for one semester. It’s basically brand new. So new, in fact, that the actual campus won’t be completed until January 2015! The building I’m currently working in is just a temporary site. At the end of this semester, there will be a big move to the new, permanent grounds. Once that happens, students will stay overnight in on-campus dormitories during the week and return home on the weekends. Right now they are housed at a make-shift hotel, and a bus transports them to and from school each day.

My future school, which will be completed this fall! We move into it in February 2015.

My future school, which will be completed this fall! We move into it in February 2015.

I’m sure you’re wondering, ‘Is that really necessary?’ Well, when you look at their daily schedule, the answer is undeniably, ‘yes.’ Monday through Friday, students wake up at 6:00 AM and are driven into school by 6:30 AM. For the next hour they have a training and conditioning session. Breakfast is served at 7:40 AM. The first class of the day starts at 8:40 AM and is followed by three more one-hour periods. This is the “academic” portion of the day (classes in history, science, math, Korean, English, etc). Lunch is from 12:30-1:40 PM. From 1:40-6:00 PM students attend sport-specific training sessions and have a small amount of time to do homework. Dinner is served from 6:00-7:00 PM. After that, the most skilled athletes have additional training time until 9:30 PM. I’m not sure what the other kids do. Everyone is back at the “dorm” by 10:00 PM and lights have to be out shortly thereafter. Then they wake up and do it all over again. Or at least, they do it all over again.

Ulsan Sports Science Middle and High School.

Ulsan Sports Science Middle and High School.

On the weekends, sometimes students travel for competitions (interesting sidenote: the top performing athletes recently went to Singapore for a week as part of an exchange program they started with a sports school there). Other students spend their Saturdays and Sundays going to private schools for additional study time (called “hagwon”), or have even more training sessions. The sports they focus on include: taekwondo, judo, boxing, track and field, modern triathlon, shooting, archery, gymnastics, wrestling, swimming and canoeing (still haven’t figured out what they mean by that last one…do they really mean…canoeing?). They also frequently play soccer, basketball, badminton and dodgeball.

For this semester, I teach 2 middle school classes once a week with 20 students each, 2 high school classes once a week with 25 students each, another advanced-English high school class twice a week, and 3 different sections of adult classes for the school staff, teachers and coaches twice a week (each with no more than 11 students per class). Over the next few years, enrollment will gradually increase, which means next semester I will start taking on more teaching hours.

My middle school classroom!

My middle school classroom!

While there are many unique aspects to teaching at this school, perhaps the most fun “class” I teach every week is with the high-level-English students. It’s called “Sports Activity” class. And by that I mean, “play sports with the students and get them to use English as much as possible in a casual, engaging, sports-based way.” In my three weeks of teaching here, so far I’ve played badminton, dodgeball and soccer!

And top of all of this awesomeness, my co-teacher is phenomenal, the staff has been overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming, and the students seem to like me. I could go on and on about all the nice things they’ve done, but I’ll save all those stories for another day. Instead I’ll wrap things up with a little shout-out to the Big Man Upstairs and my parents’ genes for giving me a fair amount of athletic ability and a growing passion for sports! I’m going to need all the physical aptitude and hand-eye coordination I can get this year, so I’m glad I’m not starting from scratch!

*Disclaimer* If I came off as obnoxious or overly braggy in this post, I’m sorry. I’m just excited about where I work!




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