Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sports Day!

For the past few weeks my students had telling me about their excitement for Sports Day.  My initial question of course was "what the heck is sports day?" Well, this week I got to experience it firsthand.  It turns out sports day is kind of like a field day in America, but WAY more intense.

There were three teams total, each team being made up of one girl and one boy class from each grade.  Throughout the day there were tons of events--ranging from relay races, to a soccer game, to basketball, to jump roping, to lots of other games that I had never even seen before. 

Most homeroom teachers spent the day with their classes cheering for their teams, but since I obviously don't have a homeroom class, I spent the day walking around and hanging out with all of the teams. 

One of the things I loved the most about this day was the CHEERING! This was not just ordinary cheering at a sporting event.  In America we will cheer, then wait a few minutes or wait for something important to happen before cheering again.  However, the students cheered ALL DAY long for their teams.  There were even some students who had been selected to lead the cheering. They stood in the front and danced around all day, leading cheer after cheer after cheer. I have no idea how these kids kept their enthusiasm all day long, especially since it was probably around 85 degrees all day and for the majority of the time the events were in the sun.

Leading the cheers. 

During tug of war.  Loved seeing the students come together to cheer for their team!

The cheer leaders

Another things I loved about this day was seeing the students have fun.  As you all know by now, my students pretty much never have time to escape the confines of the school walls.  This has been especially rare this semester during the mourning period following the ferry disaster.  
My first grade girls.  LOVE THEM!

More of my awesome first grade girls!

The fact that the students seldom have time to do anything besides study was evident by their unadulterated enthusiasm for EVERYTHING throughout the day.  It was a huge change from the tired, sluggish students I'm accustomed to seeing in the classroom.

I also loved seeing the students interact with each other.  One of the huge differences about the school I'm working at this year and any other American high school is that the students at this school aren't allowed to interact with members of the opposite sex.  Even though my school is co-ed, girls and boys are kept in separate classes and technically aren't supposed to even talk to each other.  Of course, there are some couples in the school, although I'm not sure when they really have time to hang out.  Dating is not really allowed by the school, but seriously....teenagers are teenagers.  The complete segregation of the sexes is one of the craziest things about teaching here for me.  

Anyway, on sports day, I actually got to see boys and girls interact on their teams.  Additionally, members of different grades actually interacted.  While in America it's totally normal for members of different grades to be friends with each other, this is definitely not the way it is in Korea.

Although many of the traditional Korea customs are becoming more relaxed these days, one way you can still see the importance of age is in the way students interact with each other.  Whenever my first grade students see a second or third grader, they have to bow to them. Many of my first graders have told me that this can really become stressful for them because if they forget to bow to a second or third grader it's considered really rude, so they always have to pay attention to who they're around.  Needless to say, students are ONLY friends with the other students in their own grade.  In fact, when I tell them that in America it's normal for students to be friends with people in other grades they're completely shocked and can't believe it.  

However, on sports day it felt like all the barriers were torn down, and the students showed tremendous support for each other, regardless of gender or grade.  For once, my students actually seemed like teenagers as I know them in America, and that quite refreshing to see....even if it was for just a day.

The only downside to Sports Day was that the events didn't end until 7 PM...and then naturally the students were expected to go to night study after.  When I entered my classes on Thursday just about every student was asleep.  Let's just say my classes on Thursday and Friday weren't productive because seriously, how could I expect them to focus on anything when they were that exhausted and sleep deprived?  It was games and movies for the win in my classes.

Overall, sports day was a great day for me to see a different side of my students.  I especially enjoyed hanging out with my favorite third grade girls who I hardly ever get to see these days.  Sports Day is a tradition in all Korean school from elementary school-high school, so I really enjoyed seeing this part of school culture and spending time with the kids I adore--especially since my time with them is winding down so quickly!

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