Teachers in the U.S. Are Still “ignorant about Korea.”
보스톤코리아  2011-07-11, 17:18:35 
HyunCheon Kim
Translated by SeungYoun Woo

“Why are Korean students so good in math?” “Do Korean women have professional jobs?” These were the questions the teachers in the Korean studies workshop asked. To them, every bit of information was new.

The Korean studies workshop was held at the Conference Center at Waltham Woods for 3 days, from Tuesday, June 28th to Thursday, June 30th. About 40 American teachers attended to listen to lectures about the history, art, culture, literature, and politics of Korea.

There were 60 people who were interested in participating in the 2nd workshop; however, 20 of them had to be on the waiting list due to the budget. “The number of people at this year’s workshop has risen significantly compared to that of last year’s, which had only 27 people. The Korean studies workshop is becoming famous through word-of-mouth among teachers,” said Min-Jung Kim, a professor at UMass Lowell , who participated in the workshop as a director.

The teachers enthusiastically listened to the lectures and on the last day of the workshop, they presented their teaching plans, which were based on what they had learned through the lectures. The teaching plan of Sima Kirsztajn, a teacher at Baker school in Brookline, was selected as the best plan. [Is she a teacher of middle school aged students at the Baker Elementary School?]
“Her teaching plan delivered accurate knowledge of Korean studies based on her thorough understanding of the workshop lectures,” commented Professor Kim.

In the workshop, Linda Sue Park, the author of When My Name was KeoKo, the story that has replaced Yoko’s Story (So Far from the Bamboo Grove) as supplementary material for middle school history in MA, gave a speech about the real lives of Koreans during the Japanese colonial era based on a summary of her book.

Most of the teachers seemed surprised to hear quite an unfamiliar story, especially when they heard about the policy of obliterating the Korean language.
Professor Kim, who was devoted to preventing the use of Yoko’s Story as supplementary material, said, “The need for a Korean studies workshop has been proven through the responses of the American teachers,” and she assumed there will be a great ripple effect of this workshop.

When American teachers, who teach multinational students, not only understand Korean students but also learn about and teach multinational cultures, they will deliver more and accurate knowledge to students.

“Like Jewish people, who have kept on telling their stories for many years, Koreans need to break away from their idea that Korean history is a shameful history, and they have to become devoted to providing correct knowledge of our history,” said Professor Kim.

During the workshop, a member of the Korean Spirit and Culture Promotion Project visited with videos to lecture about the excellence of the invention of Hangul (the alphabet of the Korean language) and the present state of Korean culture. Also, they [I think you mean “he” or “she”, not “they”, right?] demonstrated Sebae (the Korean New Year’s bow), which is a traditional activity on New Year’s Day. Hangwa (Korean traditional sweets) and Sikhye (a Korean traditional beverage) attracted the teachers’ attention.

Moreover, Professor Jonathan Best of Wesleyan University, Professor McCann of Harvard University, and Professor Sung-Yoon Lee of Tufts University participated in the workshop, givinglectures about Korean ancient history, artworks and poems, and also they related facts about the Korean War and the separation of North and South. There was also a time comparing the stories of Robin Hood and Hong-Gil-Dong.

Mishaela Kerns, an ESL teacher at Woburn Elementary School, said, “I did not have a chance to know about Korea, but the Korean studies workshop was a big help for me. I think that it is important to learn about different kinds of cultures in order to teach multinational students.”

“Because the workshop is for teachers of elementary, middle, and high schools in the U.S., the program was infused with information and materials that the teachers can actually use when they are back at their classes. On the other hand, there was a huge lack of staff members who can conduct the workshop. We need more help from Korean volunteers, those who are very familiar with Korean culture.”

The Korean studies workshop, managed by Professor Min-Jung Kim, Agnes Ahn and Shilla Chang, is a program that was first established last year with the cooperation of UMass Lowell and the Korean Foundation. The program is now placed as one of the programs under the PDP (Professional Development Program) for teachers in the U.S.

ⓒ 보스톤코리아(http://www.bostonkorea.com), 무단전재 및 재배포 금지
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