Alumni Spotlight: Marcel Van Oort


Marcel Van Oort was born in Groningen in the Netherlands in 1982. He grew up in Perth, Ontario, Canada and attended the University of Toronto, where he earned a specialist BA in English and a BED in primary/junior education. He is currently working and living in Seoul, South Korea with his wife Mary.

Highlights: So far, there have been many highlights in my experiences both at school and away from it. Probably the most exciting thing I've done outside of school was visiting the Seoul Grand Park Zoo on my first weekend in Korea. Somehow, the animals made me feel at home. Moreover, the zoo is very big and impressive, and reasonably priced as well (only costs around $3 to get in).

At school, two moments stand out as highlights of my experience. The first one was my seeing my classroom for the first time. As a new teacher, I was literally shaking with excitement at the thought of having my own classroom and my own class. It was like a dream come true. The other moment that really got to me was when Irene, a 7 year-old girl who is selectively mute (she can talk, but chooses not to) said 'hi' to me in the hallway. I was so surprised and excited, I wanted to jump up and down, but that probably would've scared her, and I'm really trying hard to make her feel comfortable so she becomes less introverted. These experiences have made me feel that my time abroad is certainly worthwhile, and have strengthened my belief that teaching is the most important, and best, job in the world.

Morning: On a given morning, I wake up in my apartment around 7:30 am, and take a shower. I do my exercises, drink a cup of tea, and head to work. It's about a 5 minute walk, so I take my time, and am usually pretty early. If I didn't do it the night before, I take a look at my schedule for the day, review my lesson plans, and make sure all my materials are in order. My kindergarten class starts arriving at 9:30, and all the children have arrived and are ready to start class at 9:40. We do our morning greeting, which involves checking the calendar and the weather, and singing our song of the week. Each day has a different schedule, but there is always a snack sometime in the morning, which I share with the students.

Afternoon: In the afternoons, starting at 3:00 pm, I teach elementary school to children between the ages of 7 and 10. Many of them used to attend kindergarten at the school, so they're familiar with the rules and routines of the school. The content is generally more difficult than the morning, and requires a little extra work in advance sometimes to be prepared for the day.

I usually have a 45-50 minute break sometime in the afternoon to catch up on grading and preparing for the next day's lessons. Unlike kindergarten, where I teach all the subjects, I only teach English to elementary students (usually reading, writing, multimedia, or literature).

Evening: I get off work between 6:00 and 7:00 on weekdays. There are often a few loose ends to tie up at work before heading home, and sometimes I have to call one or more of my students at home to check in with them. When I get home, I make dinner for my wife and myself, and try to relax a little. Most days, I am exhausted from teaching, and don't want to do too much besides catch up with family and friends on the internet. Sometimes, I go shopping for essentials or go for a walk to stretch my legs. If I don't feel like cooking, there are always a lot of delicious restaurants in the area to visit for dinner, and most are quite inexpensive. Bedtime is around 10:00, with a bit of time to read before I fall asleep. I like to keep up on my English, just to be safe ;)