In honor of the recent Mother’s Day holiday, I have decided to write a tribute to Korean Mothers. Koreans do not actually celebrate Mother’s Day. They have Parent’s Day on May 8th, Children’s Day on May 5th, and Buddha’s Birthday on the 8th day of the 4th month in the lunar year (which happens to be May 10th this year). So we have 3 major holidays within 6 days of each other. Parent’s Day is not celebrated very much but Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday are huge. We have both of those days off from school which is really nice.
It would be very difficult to understand what exactly we have to deal with as English teachers if you do not understand Korean mothers. Koreans are very competitive. Getting into a good middle school and high school are about as hard as getting into a good college in America. So the mothers push their children very aggressively to study and practice. Korean mothers brag a lot as well which makes life even more difficult. If one mother is bragging about how good their kid is, then the other mothers push their kids even harder. These poor children end up getting overworked because their mother does not want to look bad. From the mothers’ perspective, if their child does not turn out perfect than they are viewed poorly.
We have even had Koreans tell us that Korean mothers are insane, so I do not feel too bad about writing about them. Because the kids get pushed to study so much, they turn out to be pretty smart, well at least book smart (ranked 2nd in the world in education behind Norway of all countries). English is one of the 8 or 9 main subjects taught at Korean public schools so most children know some English. In fact, one of the test for determining how good of a high school they go to is an English test. So the parents push their kids to learn how to take that test. The only problem with that is that the students don’t actually learn how to communicate in English, only how to take a test. And the Korean government knows that is a problem, but they do not know how to change that.
Our hagwon is focused more on the conversation side of English than on the written side. The curriculum we use helps student listen to and speak English instead of just take a test in English. The curriculum works great if you can wait a little bit to see results. But Koreans want results immediately. So we have had the challenge of adapting the curriculum to fit the Korean’s craziness. So if you ever teach English in Korea than you can expect frequent visits from the mothers checking up on how their child is doing. It makes sense I suppose, but it can get frustrating.