Miso Kim introduced her lesson on the Korean language to students at Keller Middle School by telling them the meaning of her name.
“Miso means smile in Korean, so when you see me, I want you to smile,” Kim told eighth-graders in Stephanie Thiele’s class last Monday.
Kim, a high school English teacher from Jeju Island, South Korea, found plenty of reasons to smile during her two-week visit to the Keller area.
Kim was one of 14 educators visiting Keller schools as part of the Fulbright American Studies Institute for Korean Secondary School Teachers of English.
The program is conducted annually by the Texas International Education Consortium (TIEC), a group of Texas universities working together to improve global education.
The visiting teachers learned about American education practices and culture and shared with students and KISD staff about Korean schools and culture. Eleven KISD campuses hosted the foreign educators while faculty and community members provided host homes.
During her cultural presentation, Kim talked briefly about Jeju Island (known for its beautiful beaches and tangerine orchards), the popular spicy cabbage dish kimchi and famous Koreans like “Gangnam Style” rapper Psy and figure skater Kim Yu-Na.
She spent most of the session giving the students a quick lesson in writing a few words in the Korean “Hangul” alphabet.
Kim also talked about South Korean schools. High school students typically stay at school from 7:30 a.m. until about 10 p.m. every day, having lunch and dinner in the cafeteria. Elementary students leave earlier in the evening but usually have music lessons at night. In middle and high schools, students stay in one room while teachers move from class to class. Everyone removes their shoes and puts on slippers when they arrive. Students also clean the building as part of their school day.
Keller Middle School students enjoyed learning about the country, culture and language, asking Kim and fellow teacher Ha Rim “Jane” Kim a lot of questions during presentations.
“I thought it was really good because we got to see an insider’s view, not just a travel video,” said Alex Shah, an eighth-grader.
Kim said she enjoyed spending time with American students. Americans tend to be more talkative and willing to share opinions and answer questions than Korean teens, she said.
“I like how students are willing to answer questions even if they don’t know the right answer,” she said. “Korean students don’t speak up as much even if they know the answer.”
She also noted that American students and teachers work hard at school, going over a lot of information during their shorter school day.
The teachers and their host families were cramming a lot of activities into their stay.
Kim said she enjoyed seeing the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, the Kimball Art Museum, Bass Hall, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the mall. Her favorite types of food while in Texas were Tex-Mex and barbecue.
Robyn Baker, a KISD diagnostician, said that hosting Kim and two other Korean teachers has been a wonderful experience.
“I signed up as a courtesy, but we’ve gained so much,” Baker said. “They’ve opened up the whole world to our family.”
Kim McCollum, math teacher and mentor to Miso Kim, said, “It sparked my interest and made me think, ‘when do I get to go over and see Miso’s classroom?’”