To the students who made my year

My last day of teaching was bittersweet. I was excited for S.E. Asia trip coming up, but sad to leave my students, knowing that I’d likely never see them again. 

Chan Ho is incredibly bright and even more kind.

One student, Chan Ho, was getting so excited to tell me something that he began to stutter. He couldn’t think of the English. Then finally he stops and says in a very serious tone, “Sarah Teacher, you are the Best English Teacher.” he pauses for dramatic effect, “Of..My…Life.” “Thank you, Chan Ho.”

Student Essay: “I will invent this!”


This unit was on special clothing such as firefighter’s flame resistant materials, atheletic compression clothing and NASA’s aerogel materials. The essay question: If you could invent any type of special clothing, what would you invent?

This student’s picture earned her an “A”. She must love juice.


One huuggee roll of 휴지



Being a teacher is rarely boring. This lovely student, who is always five minutes late to class, asked me to go the bathroom.

“Sam! Sam! Sam!” He yelled. Sam is short for “선생” which is teacher in Korean.

“Teacher,” I said strongly to correct him.

“Teacher, Hyoji??” He yelled as he pointed to nose. Knowing that 휴지 (pronounced like huegee) means tissue in English. I nodded reluctantly.  He ran off to the bathroom and came back with this giant roll of toilet paper. Now, that’s one huuggee roll of 휴지.


Student Essays: Are all boys the same? Girls and money.

After watching Susan Cain’s TED Talk “The power of introverts,” I gave my students an essay to discuss the points of Cain’s talk. Most of my students were able to touch on both the good and the bad about being an introvert.

Essay Question: Is being shy a good things or a bad thing?

One of my thirteen-year-old students, who is clever, quiet and tall, wrote this essay: “I think being shy is a bad thing…I like a girl, but I’m shy. I can’t speak ‘Do you want me?'”

photo 3

My students struggle to communicate with me for a number of reasons. Some students simply haven’t learned enough English to communicate while some students are shy like this boy. A majority of the students have little interest in learning English. They’re forced to go to English academy by their parents who are forced to send their kids to English academy because of their country’s unrealistic educational expectations.


I spend 40 minutes with the students twice a week, so over the past seven months I have been able to learn little things about each student—some more than others. My students’ homework assignment is a short essay worksheet twice a week. Through these essays, I learn the most about my students. I learn what makes them sad, what makes them happy, what they worry about and what they want. Some weeks they write the most simple sentences while others they write thoughtful essays often with loads of mistakes.

I love the mistake-ridden essay in which the students are trying to say something important even when they don’t know how. I am often reminded that my students are not just middle school kids—they’re people. So, I try week in and week out to treat them as so. Even when they make fart jokes or curse in English, I force myself to see them past the exhausted expressions on the students’ faces and see them as thoughtful, emotional, hardworking teenagers.