Congratulations! You’ve made it to Korea, got settled into your new home and are about to step into your first class. Standing next to the whiteboard, you eagerly write your name for all to see and then it happens in rapid-fire succession.
“Where are you from?”
“How old are you?”
“Where do you live?”
“Do you know Korean?”
“Do you like spicy food?”
“What is your blood type?”
“Do you have a boy/girlfriend?”
“What kind of phone do you have?”
“Can I have your phone number?”
Wait. What was that last one?
“Teacher, can I have your phone number?”
While most of the previous questions are pretty standard and easily answered (okay, the blood type question may seem strange, too – but it really isn’t once you understand Korean culture), having students asking for your phone number usually throws many new teachers for a loop.
What would they need that for?
In most cases, students really don’t really need your phone number. They aren’t asking you for your phone number because they need it. They’re asking you for it because they like you.
In Korea, work is a high priority, since good paying jobs are scarce. In many families, one or both parents work five or six days a week and for very long hours. As a result, children are placed in academies to either learn or simply be watched over. Because of this, they really don’t have any adult role-models they can talk to or see on a regular basis aside from their teachers.
Connecting to you via obtaining your cell phone number is a way students are expressing their trust with you and that they like you.
Most English teachers don’t give out their number because they fear that students will call them endlessly. In my experience, that isn’t the case. Most of the students that have my number have never called or text messaged me. Those that have, usually send one or two messages after they first obtain the number, but never after that.
However, because we’ve shared numbers, I’ve been able to obtain a better rapport with students in class and with their parents. This relationship has made all the difference when teaching in Korea, since most students arrive to class with homework done and are eager to participate in all the activities.
So when a student next asks you for your phone number, consider giving it to them. It could make the difference in their life and make teaching in Korea, that much easier.