Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tyler's School

When I first heard that the name of my school was "Busan Energy Science High School," I thought it sounded pretty intelligent - which was welcoming to be sure. Like most Hollywood films, however, the best parts of the film are in the previews. What the impressive sounding name is code for in Korean is "vocational" school, or rather the school that accepted the lowest performing middle school students. I was warned many times by my three co-teachers how difficult and "naughty" the students are. Apparently, many of the students have quite a bit of problems at home.
I have loved my school, however. If the students perform poorly in general, its because they have given up hope already. As one student from a "normal" high school approached me and said, "your students are bad." True, some do sleep in class and some do secretly smoke in the halls during lunch and some are rude in class. But when given just a little bit of confidence in a fun environment the kids are great.

Here is a picture of my classroom during 7th period - the last class of the day. As you can see, the students are ready to go home. This classroom is on the 5th floor of the 5 story school building. It is tucked up into a ravine of one of Busan's many mountains. Thus the school is surrounded by trees and, at 500 feet above the flatland offers a spectacular view of the city and the mountains across the flat lands.

A view of the city and the distance mountains surrounding Busan. It a great view but hiking up from the bottom has provided me with many sweaty mornings.

The deciduous and needle bearing trees on the mountain surrounding my school. Beyond this smaller mountain is a much larger set of mountains. One can actually hike from my school to my house in a beautiful 3-4 hour journey.
Below my room on the second floor is the staff office. When I am not teaching, this is where I spend my time. My desk is the one under the arrow. My best friend at the school, Park (the head of my department) sits to the left. One of my co-teachers sits directly in front of me.

My school office is pictured above. 

Park with his new perm, of which he "has had many."

My co-teacher Aimie has been indispensable in helping me with anything that I need (i.e. Internet set up, bank account, online banking, school ambassador for me, etc), and who has been very honest in answering all of my questions about Korean life and Korean people.
Park plays the saxophone and paints. He teaches painting and drawing at the school. He is well traveled, speaks decent English, and is full of knowledge. Sometimes we spend quite a bit of time talking when neither of us have class. Every day he and I eat lunch together.

After eating, it is customary for the men, but not usually women, to take one metal cup full of water, drink it in one gulp, and then put the cup away. After lunch we usually stroll out by the parking lot which overlooks the city, and talk about whatever. Usually another teacher or two will join us.
A very nice benefit to teaching at a vocational school is that a vast majority of the students will not go to a University, which basically means the pressure is off. So to say the least, the environment at my school is very relaxed. So much so that the previous English teacher spent his time watching movies up in the English room when he did not have class. While I find that to be slightly indecent, I do play table tennis everyday either 6th or 7th period, or sometimes both, when a group of fellow teachers.\

The ping pong room is pictured above. The woman in the picture is the Jang Ran who I first started playing with and continue to play with everyday. The man, Mr. Song, is one of my three co-teachers, and he has taken to joining us recently.

This is who I now call my Table Tennis Sensei, because he has taken a particular interest in helping me improve my ping pong playing - a relationship I think we both enjoy very much.
In fact, before I came the ping pong room was rarely used. It seems that Jang Ran and I have started a trend, for there are now 6 other teachers who have taken to playing ping pong everyday. And usually now a very large group of students come in and play as well.
After ping pong I pack up things, walk down the hill, and catch my bus. Depending on which route I choose to take, my trip home can either be 45 minutes of reading, relaxing, and little walking, or on nicer days I take a 20  minute ride and walk a couple of miles back home. In the morning time I always opt for the longer walk now b/c it takes so much less time to get to school.


  1. Hi Tyler
    Sounds like you are having some good life there:) Keep encouraging young fellows there. They will need much love and support. I am sure God sent you there with reason. Miss u~

  2. I am so proud of the man you have become...kinda brings a tear to my eye! ; )

    Your mom has been so good about forwarding your letters and link to your blog. Since I live vicariously through you two I love reading about and both of your experiences. I love you both!

    Michelle Beeman

  3. Hi Tyler and Natalie: I do love to hear about your new life and seeing the photographs. It sounds as if you are settling down and adjusting to the Korean environment. It looks really scenic, very beautiful.
    You have become a trend setter, with your natural ability and willingness to accept a challenge. Good luck with the ping-pong. That's great exercise. All is well here in the PNW were enjoying a wonderful Indian Summer. Love to you both. Nana