Big Bang Theory: A Teacher’s First Day on the Job

Coming to Korea provides, for many, a steep learning curve, not only because of its differences in culture and language, but because it is often their first opportunity ever to teach English to children. Most people will see this as a unique but exciting challenge, with plenty of ups and downs from day one. Like many teachers, I remember my first day at school not for what I taught but for what I learned.

I had been given three days of training the week before and, though not fully confident in my abilities, was comfortable enough with the foundation I had to work with. As this was my first chance to meet the kids, it was meant to be a casual lesson and a time for us to get to know each other. Yet, half-way through my first class, standing over 8 wide-eyed seven year-olds, I was already finding myself at a loss.

We had been doing introductions, with each kid telling me their name, age and what they liked and didn’t like. While, admittedly, I was having trouble remembering who was who, what stood out most to me were two simple words:

“So- Big Bang?” I asked again. This was the fourth student who’d told me they liked something called ‘Big Bang’, and I was beginning to question whether or not I was in a class of budding astronomers. Given their age, there wasn’t much hope in inquiring further about galaxies or the origin of the universe. I was struggling to find common ground and was already glancing at the clock, hoping for time to tick by faster. So, with eight pairs of brown eyes quizzically staring back at me, I just asked, “What is Big Bang?”

One student, immediately reaching into his bag for his mp3 player, quickly answered my question. As it turned out, Big Bang was the biggest pop group in the country at the time- the Korean equivalent to the Backstreet Boys, but perhaps even more popular. Beyond giving the students something to be passionate about, Big Bang also used a variety of colourful English expressions in many of their songs, all of which we were able to discuss and laugh about then and in later classes.

With time and effort, my skills improved, but much of that improvement was owed to the connections I made with the students at my school. Learning about Big Bang was just a small step in getting to know my students, but one that taught me a valuable lesson: getting to know them would not only be one of the most entertaining parts of my year in Korea, but also one of the most beneficial to my teaching.

I may have even left Korea with one or two Big Bang songs on my iPod.

Written by: Bruno Passos / Post Credit: Mitch Benvie