I start most of my classes with an introduction to the day: What day is it today? What day was it yesterday? How is the weather today?…you get the idea. So when I flipped the classroom calendar to May my kids were quick to fill me in on the most important day of the month. Children’s Day (어린이날) is celebrated every May 5 and became a public holiday in 1975. The day is meant to “esteem the personalities of children and plan for their happiness” (Wikipedia), although what I gathered from my students was: presents, presents and more presents. Parents and grandparents give gifts to their children and spend time with them either at home or on an excursion of sorts (zoo, museum, movies, mall, etc).
This year Children’s Day fell on a Saturday, so sadly there was no day off to enjoy, but we still found time to celebrate in school. My principal informed us we were to have a “special day” and left the teachers to party plan. Because we have two different groups of students, some come M/W/F and others T/TH, we had one party on Thursday and one on Friday. I decided that Musical Chairs would be an active (Please don’t get too loud, too rowdy or hurt!), competitive (Don’t cry if you get out first and please don’t cheat!) and overall fun (Please dance! Please dance! Please dance?) game…and it was… after a few “practice” rounds. We also played a calm game of ‘Simon Says’ to throw in some English conversation and let the kids calm down after dancing around a room of chairs. Lastly, each student was gifted a cute program t-shirt and a gigantic bowl of snacks and a juice box. Solid party.
Secretary Clinton’s Message on Republic of Korea’s Children’s Day (2010)
May 4, 2010
On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I offer warm wishes to all the boys and girls of Korea on Children’s Day. On this holiday, Korean families celebrate the joys of childhood and family life. This is also an opportunity to reaffirm the strong commitment that both our countries share to promoting childhood health, safety and education, and to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to live up to his or her full God-given potential.
Many thousands of American children from military families have lived in Korea over the last six decades, and thousands of Korean children have attended school in the United States. Our two countries are stronger and closer because of the cultural understanding and unique perspectives that these children will always carry with them. (seoul.usembassy.gov)
Most other academic days are highly structured and filled with reading, writing and speaking English, so it was nice to let loose and experience my students enjoying the party. I struggle with the fact that Korean children have little time to be kids. They are up each morning for school and then shuffle from one Hagwon (private academy – I work at one) to another (sometimes until 10pm) and then head home to finish homework and sleep before the next day. Although I wish my students had more time to play with imaginary friends and be “bored”, I wouldn’t be here teaching in a Hagwon if this was the case. I do feel for my kids when they answer my “How are you today?” with a “I’m tired teacher.” but all I can do is acknowledge their creative answer (anything other than “I’m fine thanks and you?” is considered praiseworthy), move on, try to keep the class animated and make sure no eyelids droop.
It was a pretty successful Children’s Day: the sweaty and exhausted kiddos headed home with gifts and thoughts of more to come on Saturday, and I was left with the memory of some of the funniest/cutest kids I know showing off their dance moves to Jamiroquai’s ‘Canned Heat’ – priceless. 🙂