Christmas at a Hagwon in Korea

Its Christmas Eve, my first one in South Korea, first one away from my family and my first one at a hagwon here in Seoul.  I’ll leave out the administrative shortcomings in this post since Christmas is a day to be happy and celebrate the good times.  (don’t worry the anecdotes about how crazy my hagwon continues to be will come out in the next few days.)  We had a big party today (Tuesday) for Christmas Eve, no school on Christmas and a Christmas concert Thursday!

Today’s events were a ton of fun for the kids!  Our schedule which was overemphasized in Monday’s meeting changed at least twice without any warning but you’ve gotta be able to go with the flow in the states too right?  We started the day with a sentence on the board to get them in the spirit.  “Today is Christmas Eve!”  Normally I’d never use a word as big as Christmas but they all figured it out pretty easily.  When they finished they had some playtime and snack time as usual.

We were slated to go to Santa for presents after snack but my principal came to let us know we were starting late.  We practiced our concert routine and were about to start again when the phone rang.

Our Santa had a black and white Ramones t-shirt on beneath his baggy costume.  He smelled of cigarettes and reminded me of my last hangover.  Even so, the kids were super excited as he called each one up by name and gave them a present!  It was a really cute ceremony but after a few minutes they noticed his hair didn’t match the beard and the shirt kept popping out.  They kept saying “사기꾼 (sagiggun)” so I asked my coteacher what it meant, she laughed and “fake.”

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Well, they were onto our scheme but that didn’t seem to diminish their excitement.  I kept telling them it really was Santa but they didn’t believe me.  No matter; we finished up and went back to our classroom to unwrap the new gifts!  (parents dropped them off throughout the last few days so everyone got something they wanted)  This was such a fun time or everyone; if you’ve never had the chance to watch a bunch of little kids unwrap the exact thing they are hoping for fix that stat!

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School policy dictated that toys couldn’t actually be opened but they didn’t mind since we were able to distract them with an adorable craft!  Mary, my coteacher, had prepped a bunch of felt with their names and shaped it as a stocking.  All they really needed to do was “sew” some thread through pre-punched holes to secure both sides.  A few kids needed help getting started and we had all kinds of patterns in the stitching but they didn’t mind.  I passed out some school-bought treats before we stuffed each stocking.

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As we finished I realized we still had about 10 minutes before lunch.  I reminded them about the letters we wrote to Santa and I asked them if they wanted to write a Christmas letter to their parents too.  Luckily I was greeted with unanimous applause (they would have done it anyway but its always easier when they are into it!)  I wrote a sample on the board with them before we took down the stockings we made a few weeks ago.  They turned into adorable cards which I’m sure their parents will be excited to read.

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After lunch we had a full 2 hour block.  Normally I’d do centers with this kind of time but seeing as it was our Christmas party it was time to bring out the big guns.  We extended playtime while Mary helped me get all the snacks ready.

I was snapping some pictures when suddenly I noticed red Santa hats and capes were appearing on the students.  I don’t know where Mary got them from but they were ADORABLE!  We got the whole class together for a photo shoot and they even recorded a Merry Christmas video!

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They sat around and started stuffing their faces with an array of cookies, cakes, chips, candies and more.  While they ate we finished Snow White and I pulled up the animated How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  It was a huge hit!

By the time the cartoon finished we only had about 30 minutes of school left.  I thought about starting another movie but decided to start our Santa craft.  I knew it would take longer than 30 minutes but figured we could always finish it on Friday.

Sure enough it was home time before anyone even started gluing.  I paper-clipped everyone’s work together and off they went!

Afterschool today I had bookclub.  I told them I had a special surprise but first they needed to take a vocab quiz.  We had the best quiz yet with only 1 student getting one word wrong, the rest got 100%!  I guess those flashcards are finally working (or maybe they are finally studying).  Their surprise was Home Alone and we managed to watch it in full by keeping it on during snack/playtime!

I’m looking forward to hiking in Bukhansan on Christmas Day and Thursday we don’t go into work until 12:30 for the concert.  My students have been practicing a SANTA version of BINGO and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Each student has ridiculously cute costumes they’ll wear and I get to MC the second half of the show!

Merry Christmas to everyone back home.  Happy Holidays and thanks for reading!

What was your experience living abroad for the holidays?  How does this compare to Christmas celebrations at your school?

2 thoughts on “Christmas at a Hagwon in Korea

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