오랜만이에요

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post. I would have to attritbute that to the cycle of sicknesses that have occured since the last post. Usually the cycle goes like this:

Week 1: I’m fine and dandy.
Week 2-2.5: Sick as a dog due to allergies
Week 3: Fine and dandy.
Week 4: 2-3 days out of that week will be dedicated to recovering to some bad food I ate(which just happened to not be street food and usually is the school lunch)

My most recent bout is with some school lunch I’ve eaten three days ago. I have lost my appetite, my stomach has been upset off and on,  and doing the simplest things like walking can easily drain me of energy and i want to sleep all the time. I think today is one of my better days though SO I hope I’m snapping out of it. Thank goodness all of this is happening during my vacation, which I just started suprsingly enough…on the day I got poisoned by the school lunch LOL.

I’m happy that I’m on break. It will give me time for my immune system and stomach to recoup from school and will give me some time to work on things for the next semester. I have a few goals to improve as a teacher this upcoming semester:

1. Be Better On Classroom Control
I did quite poorly on classroom control with the second years. I tried to go over rules, but it failed miserably. My  co-teachers told me that the second year class is a pretty violent class overall and many of the classes act out just as bad in the Korean teachers classes.  Even some of the other Korean teachers told me this. I’ve been told to just ignore their actions. This upcoming term, I am going to post the rules in the classroom and give them a copy of the rules BOTH in Korean and English so they won’t try to play the whole language barrier chip when they break a rule and I punish them. I’m going to try the approaches mentioned in the book I read in December called Setting Limits in the Classroom. The overall message is to cut out the constant warnings and get quicker with dealing out the disciplinary action. In other words, warn the kids once, and then pursue further action if needed.  I will have to say that the incoming second year class is faaaaaaaaaaaaaaar better than the current second year class(incoming third year class). They have far more respect and are far more well behaved than the second year class. I was told by some of the Korean teachers that they lucked out on this class because they got the cream of the crop from most of the middle schools in town. I hope this is the case for the incoming first years. It might be so because the school was ecstatic that they only had a surplus of one student when it came to the number of people applying to the  school and gave out free rice cake to everyone. Also, they are apparently cutting the incoming first year class by two classes.

2. Teach more colloquial phrases
This semester at the beginning of each class, I am going to dedicate a good 10 minutes on teaching the kids some slang. I know that the kids love to learn slang and can’t get enough of it. I’ll have ways for the kids to reinforce these phrases through skits and such. I bought this book on American slang and am using some of that material for this part of my class.

3. Teach more about world cultures
Of course, I teach the kids about my country’s culture, but the kids need to know more about other cultures. I’m going to focus on cultures in which English is one of the offical languages and show them that places like the US, Canada, UK,  and Australia, etc. are not the only countries in which the people speak English. Even though there are a lot of South African foreign teachers in my town, I doubt that they even know they speak English in South Africa. I would say I would find this appalling, but it’s not like American high school/college students are any better on this front from my experience being a TA. I will probably focus on the Philippines first given some of the kids have gone there on a home stay program set up by the school and my boss also went on this program(thus has many pictures and stories to share).

4. Refine my reward system
The stamp card system/English Idol competition worked pretty well. Modification is not needed for the English Idol competition maybe other than changing up the prize. The stamp card system needs to be modified though LOL.

Other than some good ol’ goal setting, I have a trip planned to Hong Kong in two weeks. I’m going to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while. In the meanwhile I am just going to work more on making these goals a reality and getting some REST.


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New Additions

I finally have had some time this weekend to just sit down and update my blog. I added a “Teaching Resources” page and then a link to some of the pictures I have taken in Korea. If anyone thinks there’s some book or link I need to add, then just let me know.  Enjoy!

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Teaching at a High School

Time to break the long silence! I’ve been really busy lately which is why I have not updated in a while. I went to a teacher’s workshop today which was pretty good. I heard about this workshop and thought I couldn’t go because the Foreign English teachers association is only open to Middle and Elementary school teachers. But I got an invitation and of course I will jump on any type of training workshop available in my area. To be honest, even though the workshop was focused on elementary and middle school, a lot of the things covered applied to High school. I met some new people and when some found out I was a High School teacher, the usual reply was: “Wow….High school. I heard that is tough!” or “Wow….HIGH SCHOOL????? I’ve never met a High school teacher. That must be hell!”

Because of that, I think there’s some misconceptions about teaching at a high school. So….without further ado, I am going to summarize my first three months as a High School teacher.

GENERALLY SPEAKING
In the U.S., more teachers tend to want to teach Elementary school kids rather than High School because there is this idea that the kids are more “managable” and high schoolers are “incorrigable.” In Korea it is more or less the same. Many people believe that High School teachers have it the worse out of all the schools. To be honest, from the few(and may I emphasize FEW) High School teachers that I met, they all voluntarily chose to teach High School. Why? After I list PROS and CONS, you decide for yourself. I will start out with the PROS since everyone focuses more on the CONS anyway.

PROS

The biggest Pro about teaching High School is the fact that if you hate little kids, you are not dealing with them. I find little kids to be rather annoying to be honest. One fellow high school teacher told me “I’m scared of the little ones.” I cannot relate with little kids at all. Many people choose to do high school is because they feel they can relate with teenagers more than they can do with little kids or kids that are in that “in-between” age. Even though I teach at a low level English school, there are a number of kids that can speak English decently. I have a group of girls come in now and then during lunch break and we talk about Korean and American pop culture. I’ve had another student ask me about discrimination in America, cultural differences between America and Korea and so on. Also, if you need help with a little task and you don’t want to bother one of your co-teachers, just ask them and they’ll help you out! I’ve had students tell me how to get to the hospital and how to use the heat in my apartment. By doing this, it makes the students more confident in using English(at least in my opinion). I get a lot more communicative interaction with kids outside the classroom than inside the classroom. This could be due to the lack of pressure to perform. I remember one time I ran into a group of kids in one of my baddest classes on the subway(bad class overall but good kids). I ended up having a good conversation with them!   Because the kids have a “higher” English level, you are able to talk to them more.

Another Pro with teaching High School is the number of “off days” you have. When it’s time for those midterms and finals, kids are going to want to study rather than go to class. And because of that, the co-teachers or the kids will request that they don’t have class and they have a study period. So that’s more or less almost a week off of class….and then there’s the midterms which is more or less another week off. So that is two weeks of free time! Of course some of it you have to spend at school…but if you have a good school, they will give you some of those days off. For example last month when there was midterms(from Tues-Fri), I had to come to school from Monday to Wednesday and then I the rest of the week off.  Also the high schools have various tests throughout the month and class will be cancelled for the whole day. And of course there’s the biggie which is the KSAT(college entrance exam). Most High Schools usually will not have class that Wednesday or Thursday and many schools don’t require their ALTs to come to school on testing day.

This last pro can be either a PRO or CON depending on who you are, but it’s a PRO for me. The thing with high school is that most schools do not require you to use a textbook, so you can literally teach them anything you want. I use a combination of creating my own lessons from scratch and getting resources online. I have done lessons on comics and cartoons, scary movies, extreme sports, natural disasters, and so on.  The majority of my lessons have been a hit with the students….ESPECIALLY the scary movie and extreme sports lesson.

CONS
So now the cons. High school students can annoy the hell out of you sometimes because they can be loud and annoying. They can be disrespectful  towards you but on the other hand be respectful to the Korean teacher. Or they’re just disrespectful to all the teachers. I’ve had a few classes in which some bad boys started to wrestle each other and they had to be broken apart. They also will swear like a sailor. They have issues with authority(what teenager doesn’t) so if you try to tell them to be quiet or try to punish them, there’s a  chance that they won’t give a damn. It will take you getting extremely mad for them to get the point. This is also contingent on the co-teacher or if your co-teacher even shows up for class. The classes in which are the hardest to teach are the ones without a co-teacher. There have been one time where both the co-teacher and I could not control the class and I said “forget it, I’m not teaching anymore, you’re getting punished.” There’s seriously no point in continuing to yell over loud kids. That got the kids attention and some of them felt bad and said “No! No! Teach, teach!” Then when I punished them, of course some of them didn’t listen and laughed it off. It got to the point where I just told their homeroom teacher and he/she ended up punishing the class. The next week, I got an apology from that class.

Also, high schoolers have a “brain drain” for they are in school until 10PM. Then I told my class that my high school ended at 3:15, they said that they were jealous. Because of this “brain drain” there is a high tendency that they sleep in class or just don’t pay attention at all. The way this can be dealt with is tricky for I’ve heard some high school co-teachers just tell their native English teachers to “let the kids sleep.” Others make their kids wake up. The one reason that they do sleep in class and act up is because they get no grade for this class and many see no point in paying attention really. At least this is the case at many schools. That is when a teacher needs to get creative. For high schoolers, giving them a “carrot” is absolutely important. Candy is usually what teachers revert to, but I recommend that one tactily give out candy. I use an incentive program for the kids in which they recieve stamp cards. A certain number of stamps equals a certain level of prizes. And they can get stamps for various things…for participating, cleaning the classroom, and being the first ten to finish my worksheets. By doing this, it motivates those who are not keen to volunteer for a verbal activity to do these activities or motivates them to do things within their comfort zone(like trying to finish their worksheet first) to recieve a stamp. For the second year students I have an “English Idol” competition in which each class are competing for the most “X”s on this chart I made. They can recieve up to 5 “X”es for 1)coming on time 2) bringing pens 3)participating 4)good behavior and 5)cleaning up the classroom. The class with the most “Xes” at the end of the semester recieves a movie and pizza party. Ever since I have implemented this incentive program, students have been bringing their pens, participating, and cleaning the class more on a regular basis. Another high school teacher implemented the same program at her school and she is seeing some positive results too.

At least in my area, there is no support for high school teachers  due to various administrative reasons. In other cities, this might be a different case. I only know one other high school teacher in town and met another on some trip. I know a few others outside my town though. There’s no workshops or training tailored towards high school teachers. I sometimes think this is the case because when kids enter high school, it’s all about those college entrance exams and less about them getting enthusiastic about English. Thus there is no need to train native high school English teachers to be better teachers.  Luckily I have made some friends in the Foreign English teachers association in my city and they have been kind enough to invite me to some of their events, for example, this workshop I went to today. Also, the support I get from my co-teachers at school is really good and they have been giving me “on-the-job” training and feedback from my lessons.

Anyway, those are the pros and cons of teaching in High School. I hope this gives some insight on teaching at a high school. It’s not a piece of cake, but it’s not entirely as bad as people make it out to be either.

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Which One Should I Choose?

So I have to fill out this “Questionnaire for Native Teachers of English” which was sent to me by the province.  I came across the second question on “Nationality.” It has the usual choices:

American
Canadian
British
Australian
New Zealander
Irish
South African

But then you have this section:
Others (Korean American, Chinese American, etc.)

Am I an “Other” or an “American?” Hmm. In case you don’t know, if you are “non-white” you are considered “Other.” Because when Koreans/Japanese/Chinese/etc think of “Americans” they think of only white people. Which is why non-American whites are apparently “American” as well. I’ve noticed this is especially frustrating for Asian-American/Canadian/British etc. teachers who “look” Korean but are actually not Korean. Another scenario is that they are of Korean ethnicity, but they do not speak the language.  Despite this being a prevalent thing, I think this concept of who is “insert nationality” is slowly changing and people are realizing non-whites can be Americans, Canadians, British, etc. too.

I showed that question to my boss and even he had to shake his head at that along with the other questions on the questionnaire. One question asked me “What teaching experiences have you had in Korea” and “None” was not an option available. The same goes with the lack of “None” on the question “What problems do you experience in your school work besides teaching?” Also, the answers one give on these surveys are supposed to be confidential, but you have to give the survey back to your boss so he/she can put in the appropriate answers in some spreadsheet and send it off. I have taken research design classes and this breach of confidentiality is a big no no. This was a poorly designed survey….that’s for sure. And poorly designed surveys tend to come out with extremely high error margins!!!!

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Midterm Week: Hell for the students, but heaven for me.

Since the kids have midterms this week, I do not have to teach a single class at all! I just have to come to school on Tuesday and Wednesday, then I have Thursday and Friday off! I don’t really have any special plans given that I have Korean class on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. I will probably will just spend one day exploring the rest of this city. Even though this city might have a population of 450,000 people, it seems smaller than what it actually is. THAT is because of some bad urban planning. Ironically it is a “new city” which means that it was planned. You can definitely see that from the top of one of the mountains near by. BUT the main issue is that the city has no central point. There are huge tracts of land and then residental/commerical space. Then more huge tracts of land and more residental/ commerical space. Repeat that for the rest of the city limits and there you have Siheung. There’s two spots of particular interest to me which is Wolgot New City and Oido. Both of these areas are on the coast line. I heard that the coast is just nasty,  but Wolgot New City always looks kind of cool at night from the bus.

Tomorrow, I am meeting up with a student who just got back from living in the US for about 1.5 years. I think she just literally came back either last week or the week before. She says that she is very lonely because A) her class has already graduated B) she is older than everyone and C) I’m sure she has become accustomed to US high school life and is now having to readjust to Korean high school life. Korean and American high schools are sooooooooooo different socially and academically.  She says that she wants to go back to the US and is applying to UCLA and some other schools in California. I’m sure I’ll have an interesting conversation with her. I kind of know how she feels for I went through the same thing when I came back from being a student in Japan. It’s like you’re just a ghost….many of your friends have gotten used to you being gone and have moved on with their lives AND also you have to get used to the hang of things back in your home country. Also being abroad allows you to gain various perspectives on things. I can imagine that she’s having even a tougher time than I did, given she is in high school. When she first came in the room started to talk, my jaw dropped…because with 95% of the students, you get nothing more than the usual “HI TEACHER” *gigglegiggle* treatment.

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PR Campaign Galore

Since I have been here, I’ve been involved in many public relations things with my school. This last week, the school PR pamphlets were finally published which includes pictures of myself in the “Foreign Language” section. I thought I was finished with PRish type stuff, but yesterday one of my co-teachers came in and told me that some people will be shooting a PR video. I was fine by that because I just thought it was for the school. Well today it turns out, it’s for the city and will be available on the municipal website. So I had to scrap the lesson I originally was going to do for another one. The one I was originally going to do was part II of my Cartoon/Comics lesson which involved watching a video, answering some questions, and doing some dialogue.

Even though the kids were explained into Korean what was going on, they were their usual crazy selves. They were super loud despite there being two co-teachers in the classroom. Usually when the teacher tells them to be quiet, they would, but they didn’t. In my opinion, they acted like that because the teacher didn’t punish them…haha that’ll look really bad if that was on camera. I guess they took advantage of the situation. This class is one of my favorites, BUT they could have been more well behaved given the cirumstances! They are representing their school, for crying out loud. One girl flat out refused to answer my question! One of my favorite students kind of saw that the  class was getting out of control and helped me distribute the papers and pens to the class.

After like 20 minutes it was all over with. But then I had to do an interview talking about the benefits of a native speaker at school. I just said some basic stuff like “kids will be more comfortable with using English and with foreigners” and “we can teach them some aspects of the language not commonly known by many Korean teachers. For example, slang.” For all the qualms I have about the English education system, I do believe those points, especially number one. For the last week, I have had middle school kids randomly come up to me to say “Hi.” 50% of the time it was more than just “Hi.” They’ll try to make some small talk to me and they’ll gossip about their homeroom teacher or about some other people in class.

Well I hope that these PR things works out and get middle schoolers in the area interested in applying to my high school. If it could be the ones that I talked with a few days ago, that would be GREAT. I need more people like that in class!

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Bikes and Language Classes

I finally made a worthwhile purchase yesterday which was a new bike. When I was in Japan, I had a bike which proved to be a valuable asset. I regretted not buying a folding bike though because of the overall coolness of it. Well I finally made sure I didn’t make the same mistake and got a folding bike. This will definitely cut down time on going to school(not that it’s long to get to school anyway) or getting to E-mart (which takes 30 minutes by foot).

In other news, I am kind of fed up with the pace of the Saturday morning Korean classes I take. I was told that it will take six months to finish the book and I basically know around 80% of the material covered in the book. I still wanted to take the first level class because I did teach myself and thought this would be a good way to review and reinforce. Because of this, I am going to bite the bullet and take Monday-Wednesday-Friday evening classes. Another person in my class will be doing the same.The director of the school said that there might not be enough people to start another evening beginner’s class, but she will let me know by tomorrow. I really hope that there is.

This might prove to suck given I live a good hour and 15 minutes away from Gangnam and I will be getting home by 11 or 11:30ish on Mon Wed Fri. The good news is that I at least have one hour to get prepared. Also, it will take two months to complete the Level 1 course which is well worth it. When I get to Level 2, I will go back to the Saturday classes for it will be around winter break.  I know for a fact that I don’t want to spend my winter break in classes for three days a week.There are six levels at the school, and I hope by the time I leave that I will at least finish level 3. *crosses fingers*

These few weeks have been going fast…as the saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun!”

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