Ever wonder what it was like to teach English in Korea in the 1950s? Frederic Dustin, an American residing in Korea for almost six decades, recalls what it was like teaching at Yonhi University (now part of Yonsei University):
“The school had returned from Busan a year or so before and there was so much damage. That first fall of ’55 was difficult. Many of the classrooms still had no windows and some were missing doors so it was terribly drafty.”
In addition to the lack of heat, there was also a dearth of education material.
“A suitable textbook was simply not available at that time. The Robert Lado series developed at the University of Michigan was mainly for Spanish speakers and certainly not for 30 or more students in a class!”
So, borrowing from the early missionaries, Dustin used a story-telling system and, instead of the Bible, utilized “a little book of Aesop’s Fables” as his text book. Pantomiming the actions of the main characters of the stories, 25-year-old Dustin was able to convey to his not-much-younger students the gist of the story. It was entertaining as well as very successful.
I am not sure if it happens now as much as it did in the past but I am sure many of us old-timers have experienced something similar:
“It was almost impossible to sit down for a cup of coffee or a meal, especially when alone, without having an elderly Korean gentleman suddenly materialize seemingly from out of nowhere saying ‘May I introduce myself? I’m Mr. XX, the Minister of so-and-so government office.’ Many of the elderly, if not educated abroad, had learned their English from U.S. or Commonwealth missionaries in Bible classes in Korea.”
You can read the rest of the story here (complete with pictures) – at the Korea Times.
I also wish to make a few corrections to some errors that I made. First, the pictures are from Fred Dustin who generously granted me their use for this article. Second, the first picture’s date should be 1959. And third, Mr. Dustin attended University of Washington and not Washington State University.