Inside North Korea
One student’s thoughts on loving teaching.
Travelling is an adventure. Not only is it an exploration of new sights, smells, and tastes, but an experience with people and culture. My passion to travel started when I was young. My grandpa used to sit me down and tell me stories, and show me pictures of when he lived and worked in Kenya. I vividly remember picturing I was there too, taking part in a grand adventure. My focus for traveling changed once I became a Christian. Instead of going for my own benefit, I wanted to go out of love and service for others. After graduation I traveled for nearly two years to 12 different countries that were in some way affected by poverty. It was near the end of these travels I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Education at Trinity Western University.
This past summer I was presented with the opportunity to use my training in TESOL/TEFL and as an Educator inside Pyongyang, North Korea. I taught at an English summer camp for high school students. It is amazing that closed doors can become open when you have a degree and are simply willing to go.
My class was filled with 12 boys and 2 girls, ages 14 to 16. Being a beginner teacher I was nervous to first teach a class that was culturally different than my own, and second, significantly different in gender. I remember asking myself how am I to relate to 12 Korean boys?
The afternoon of my second day of teaching, we set up outside games and sports for the students. The boys loved soccer, and were very athletic so I knew they would have a great time. It was so foreign and exciting for these students to have a teacher that played soccer alongside them, who gave them high fives, shouts of encouragement, and laughed freely.
I was told later by another English teacher, who was in the school teaching a lesson at the time, that his adult students were bewildered by the sounds they were hearing from the field. The adult learners got out of their desks and went to the window to see their kids playing and laughing. They said to the English teacher, “We have never heard this sound before.”
It surprised me that laughter isn’t common at their school. It was amazing to be able to bond with my students on the playing field, and the classroom. Students learn a great deal more when you demonstrate genuine care, interest, and encouragement towards them and their work.
When our program was over and we were saying goodbye for the final time, my students gathered around me crying, expressing how I became much more than a teacher to them, I had become a close friend. After the goodbyes and tears, they ran after the bus grabbing our hands, asking us to never forget them, because they would never forget us.
As I think of them now my heart aches at the extent to how much I love and miss them. I gave part of my summer to practice using my skills of teaching. I did teach them English, but left with much more than just that. I left with a love and appreciation in my heart for the individuals I came to know. These children are beautiful, eager, and filled with hearts that have a desire to be loved. It was a privilege to teach and love them.