Today we welcomed Hannah Grippo, our 5th and 6th grade teacher, to Open Forum. Miss Grippo shared her experiences teaching English in South Korea from 2015-2017. Miss Grippo has a long-time interest in South Korea. “My family is made up of first generation immigrants from South Korea.” She said. She also minored in Asian Studies at CCU.
Miss Grippo found that life and education are very different than in the US. All of the food was spicy, except for the chips, which were oddly sweet. She would sometimes have to wear goggles and a mask because of pollution from China. She was functionally illiterate because she could not read or write Korean. The education system was perhaps the most different of all.
Miss Grippo’s ESL students ranged in age from 4-14. They attended school year-round with up to 12-hour school days. She was filmed as she taught every day because Korean parents are very included in their children’s education. She taught in English with no Korean translator and had to come up with ways to communicate with the children. For example, some of her students were very interested in dinosaurs, so she brought dinosaur toys to class and used them to engage the students. A lot of the children were looking forward to being parents, so she brought in baby dolls and taught them how to hold babies.
Although she spent a lot of her time teaching the students, Miss Grippo also found other ways to engage in Korean life. She learned how to make Kimchi, a traditional Korean food made from spicy cabbage. She learned all about King Sejong, who invented the language of Korean, and how to honor the living and the dead on Chuseok. On weekends, Miss Grippo volunteered to help teach North Korean refugees. “How do you build trust across cultures?” she asked the students. “I know it sounds mushy, but the answer is love.”