TGIF in Korea
``What day is it today?" ``It's Friday!" ``What do you say to that?” “TGIF!" ``What would you like to do this weekend?"
But contrary to my expectations, only awkward silence reigned in the classroom. I was a little at a loss but asked my students, ``Could you tell me what kind of exciting plans you have for Saturday and Sunday?"
``Go to an academy," some students uttered in a low tone. ``You even go to private tutoring institutes on Sunday?" ``Yes, we do." I then asked, ``How many of you are forced to go to an academy on Sundays?" I was so disappointed to see that almost all my students raised their hands.
Every Friday afternoon I make it a rule to hurry to catch a bus to rendezvous with my wife who makes her way to the bus terminal, which is located halfway between Gwangju and her workplace, to pick me up, so that we can visit our countryside house to relax by planting and picking vegetables like lettuce, hot peppers, cucumber, eggplants, and to prune our plum and peach trees.
On this particular Friday, I was eager to find out if any of the sweet potato sprouts I planted had taken root in the ground or had died due to the terrible drought Korea has experienced, and was naturally eager to water the sprouts in a last major attempt to revive them.
What a wonderful stay for one night and two days I have on weekends at my country house which sits on a hill with a river in front and a small forest out back near a small village. I’m in the habit of taking great pleasure in my country life such as making furrows, planting and watering vegetables, mowing the grass, and eating great Korean dishes with “samgyeopsal” (Korean-style bacon), and lettuce and hot peppers picked from the field out back with the help of some villagers.
To my surprise, I recently heard two items (one good and the other not quite so) on the 9 o'clock TV news regarding the new five-day week. Can you guess what was said? The good news was that the amount of leisure goods such as bicycles, fishing and camping equipment being sold is more than three times the normal amount due to the five-day school week. On the other hand, terrible news to hear is that many parents are forcing their children to stay over and study at a variety of illegal boarding academies in big cities f on weekends in order to make use of the time themselves!
What do you think makes your child happy: studying, high scores, entering elite high schools and universities, landing a good job, making a high salary? This year the five-day week was initiated at schools, which has enabled more Koreans to enjoy their private lives by significantly increasing their leisure time. Koreans are thus expected to be able to spend their weekends enjoying family activities with children such as more family discussion time and various leisure activities to enhance their children's creativity, individuality, and autonomy.
Now is the time when we Koreans must ponder what makes us happy and help students enjoy freedom from school violence. A campaign should be launched that focuses on changing our consciousness of how to enjoy a happy life in and around our daily life, so that our children will be free from their heavy yoke of forced studying, exam hell weeks and school violence, and will be empowered with more creativity and individuality.
I really look forward to seeing my students’ smiling faces as they shout ``TGIF" on Friday afternoons and that they will look really forward to their weekends and enjoy a variety of activities with family and friends.
All Korean parents, keep in mind the proverb, ``All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
The writer is an English teacher at Jeonnam Middle School in Gwangju. His email address is email@example.com.