Homeroom Community – Paid to Play

As I grow more comfortable and confident in my role as a teacher-trainer and office member, I’ve begun to appreciate the more fun aspects of work.  Never in my life did I foresee a job where I would bowl, shoot pool, sing karaoke, and picnic with the learners I teach.  And yet here I sit three months into my tenure claiming all of the above.

These activities take two forms – Homeroom Community (HC), and Social and Culture Nights.

Homeroom Communities go down on Thursday afternoons.  Each week, native instructors recommend three to five activities.  A broad swathe of possibilities come forth – baking, yoga, karaoke, board games, movies, and hikes among many others.  Trainees then choose the activities they want.  And we do them.  Together.

But sometimes we teachers prefer dinner out as well :).

These community activities present unique opportunities for trainees and instructors to interact beyond the bounds of classrooms and curricula.  We can cut loose, relieve stress, have some fun, and learn about each other.

For example, three trainees joined my first homeroom activity – the coin singing room.  Korean karaoke is a longtime pastime of mine, and I never imagined it would constitute part of my job duties.

Claps, whoops, and amazement ensue as trainees and I swap songs outside our native languages.  They belt out a song in English, I rip off a track in Korean, and we all delete a bit of stress.  It also leads to funny (albeit embarrassing) conversations.

SUSAN – “Ian, you only sing girl-group songs.”

GABBY – “Yeah, I notice that too.”

IAN – “Uh… I mean…”

HELEN – “Yeah, don’t you sing boy-group songs too?”

IAN – “You know…I like the beats and…I don’t watch the videos…I just-”

Cheeks go red.

GABBY – “It’s okay.  You’re a young single guy.”


After karaoke, I  found great joy in bowling – an activity I‘ve done for both HC and Social Night.  The best part about bowling is it’s fun if you’re good and fun if you suck.  It’s even more fun when you all suck evenly.

Not even a rousing bowling game can tear me from technology >_<.

Speaking of suck…

Even car rides to these activities provide ample opportunities for laughter and learning.


Ian and trainees bob their heads to an English-language pop song while cruising down Yeosu streets.

CAR STEREO: Camper.  Suck it! ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬

JENNY:  Yeah, suck it!

HELEN:  Ian, what does ‘suck it’ mean?

“Let me look that up and get back to you.”

One co-worker described HC as an opportunity to “teach the trainees something without them realizing we are teaching them.”

For example, I once observed a co-worker explain how English speakers use the phrase “that’s crazy” as a discourse marker.

“It’s basically an empty statement that means you heard what was said but have no meaningful comment or question.  In fact, you could use a handful of phrases on the phone to carry a conversation without listening to a word the other person says.”

“Oh?… Uh-huh… Really?… Yeah?… Wow… That’s crazy!… Right?”


“And then we racked up the balls.” “Uh-huh?”  “But we had to put the eight-ball in the middle.” “Wow, that’s crazy.”  “And then she taught us how to alternate the stripes and solids in the triangle.” “No way?”

Of all the Homeroom Communities I’ve had the pleasure of leading, the picnic in Dolsan Park was by far the best.  It proved a most pleasant surprise as I entered the afternoon with the lowest expectations.  On the whiteboard, I simply wrote:

Explore Dolsan Park.

But four trainees signed up and off we went.

From the second we ascended the hill, fun ensued. We made jokes, took in views, snapped photos (so many photos…), and even held an impromptu picnic in the main plaza while an elderly Korean man crooned trot and ballad classics.

One trainee had us rolling with her ever-bubbling nostalgia.

Looking out on a view of Downtown Yeosu…

“Oh, I’ve been here.”

Appreciating a memorial sculpture…

“Oh my God, this place is so familiar.  I’ve been here.”

Sitting in the Yeosu Cable Car Plaza…

“Wow, I remember this place. I’ve been here too.”

Little did I know that she and her boyfriend committed to a serious relationship in this very park.  He waited until they were “trapped” in a cable car high above Yeosu Harbor to propose their relationship.

No wonder her nostalgia spoke so strongly.  They married this past month – one day before she jetted off to England for five weeks of overseas training.


It’s gotta be illegal to have this much fun at work.

I love teaching.  I love classtime.  I’m present, awake, and focused.

But embracing opportunities to learn and connect outside the confines of Room 210 has been the greatest surprise of this job. I’ve hiked, sung, shot pool, bowled, and danced with a crowd of bored Korean housewives on vacation.

I’ve had countless experiences I could never envision as a high school instructor.  There’s something special about being able to socialize with “students” as social equals and enjoy some laughs and fun times during working hours.

I already cannot wait until next spring.  Picnics, rooftop parties, go-karts, and cafes await.

But in the meantime, may the good times roll, may the memories accumulate, and may the present moment provide all I need :).


A loaded photo album belies a full heart.


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