Monday, September 17, 2007

Teachers and Students in Korea

One of the things I've noticed in classes now that I've had them for a few weeks is the amount of respect that students (haksang) have for their teachers (seonsang-nim) here. It's refreshing after living amid the typical US students, where it isn't uncommon for a group to sit in the back and snicker during lectures or openly and cynically contradict most of what the professor has to say in class. That's not to say that the same doesn't happen here at all, but the students very obviously have much more respect and appreciation for what the teachers are doing for them.

There are two most vivid examples that I've noticed so far from the Korean students in some of my classes. In one class, some of the students had arrived to the classroom before our professor. There was still notes written on the chalkboard from the previous class, so one of the boys went up and erased the entire board so it was clean for our professor when she came in. When we take breaks during our 2+ hour classes, many students go to the coffee machines or vending machines for a drink. More often than not, one of the students will buy an extra coffee or juice and leave it on the professor's desk on their way back into the classroom. In the US, that student would be considered a "kiss-up" or "teacher's pet." In Korea, though, it's just respectful. I like that.

Our teachers take care of us too, though. During language class on Monday, we spent only the first half in class. During the second hour, she took us on a field trip to the traditional village on campus where we have the art classes. She gave us a sort of tour, so I found out that the building in which we've been doing the classes is actually the husband's half of the home part of the village. There's also another half for the wife (since they would have had different duties... hers being to raise children, while he may have had to invite guests and such to his half). And then the second part of the village is actually a model of a school, almost identical to the one we visited on the bus tour (where Confucianist theory was taught).

We went down to a gazebo-like construct built over the pond in the garden area of the village. There, she taught us how to do the formal Korean bow that they do during the lunar new year and weddings.
The Girls' Version
This is actually the "easy" version of it... because you actually start standing up, and in this one you can move one of your legs to go down cross-legged like that. In the other version, you end up on your knees by going straight down, and its hard to do without falling completely over.

The Guys' Version

In both versions you start standing up and end standing up, and it's all very slow movements going down and back up. It was really interesting to get to learn how to do it, though, since I always hear about it and even saw an attempt at it by the Western bride and groom at the wedding. Now the real trick will be learning how to do that in the traditional Korean costume, the hanbok.

Seonsang-nim and her girls. :) (4 Chinese, 1 American, 1 Russian, and 1 Finnish)

After we did the bowing, we also played a board game that she'd brought. It reminded me a lot of the game "Sorry," with little pieces that moved around the board and which could be bumped back to the starting position if one of the other team's pieces landed on top of it. Instead of rolling die to determine the number of spaces to move, there are painted sticks that you throw. Different combinations mean different things. If we play again, I'll get a picture and be able to explain better. :)

The boys. (2 German, 1 Azerbaijani, 1 American, and 1 Austrian)


Christyna said...

That is pretty cool that the students are more respectful. The wedding was beautiful. I love how intricate everything is...even their buildings.

Pequeños Milagros said...

I'm glad that things are going well for you. It's weird, cuz I think we went to completely opposite cultures, with the exception of the kindness to professors thing, because people are very respectful here- even though we call them by their first names. Lol. I miss you like crazy!!! I love you!

cindy said...

hi..btw I'm Cindy..well I read your post and it seems you have a nice days there in since you've have done tour there why would you visit our country know Philippines has 7,107 islands and it's one of the most visited countries here in Asia..even though the country is facing a crisis the tourists spots that tourists are craving hard to get here was improved and preserved.. you would not be problematic because in terms of communication we are good enough to understand what the tourists says..Philippines was one in the New 7 Wonders for our own Banaue Rice Terraces that was originally built by Ifugaos living in Benguet..I hope you and your family will visit here.. I want to have a friend like can keep me in touch..cindy

Yerie said...

Hi Cristyna,
i am Yerie who is a Korean and lives in US. i saw your possitive views about Korea and i was happy to read your stories there. So far i have read some news articles about foreign professors or teachers. Some of them have negative view about Korea and they write some articles about Korean girls...blahblah... i am searching for Korean cultural pics for my class here. i don't teach Korean anymore, but there are some groups of students who need to know about Korean culture.
Have fun,

jenny said...

i really love your post especially the pictures...i love a filipina...korean people are very courteous and nice...i have friends from korea, both girls and boys...we've met in boracay and we still communicate through emails...i studied korean language but i just learn the easy/common words, i
i like their culture and especially their foods...i love kimchi, ramyon, kim, kimbap, everything...
you're so lucky to be there...