Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cute little reindeer

When I did that Christmas lights project with the kids they all tried to wear them like headbands. So I figured I'd give them what they want and even thought Christmas is over we'd make Rudolph headbands. Usually I have an example already made so they can see what it's supposed to look like, but I didn't do that this time. None of them figured out what they were making until the end, when I had little Jenny come up and I put it around her head. Then all the sudden their eyes lit up and they all yelled "Jenny Rudolph!" So adorable. I really love my job on days like this.

 Ben and Jack
 Emily and Lily
Santa's little reindeer

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas in Korea

Last year I went home for most of December, so this was my first Christmas in Korea. Christmas has come and gone, but it never really felt like Christmas, even on Christmas Day. That was probably a good thing because then I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything at home. I think it's because there was no snow. And because people don't make a big deal about it over here. I decorated my apartment, mostly thanks to my friend Katie and the things she left behind last year and then mailed me this year. 

 Festive bathroom

 She made that cute paper chain by hand last year

Christmas Eve everybody had to work. I showed the kids Ice Age and fed them candy canes. Then I went to Busan to spend the night with my friends.

 She's rudolph and Santa

This dog's name is Paco. He's kind of a demon, but he looked so cute in his Christmas scrunchie

Christmas morning we woke up and ate breakfast together, then went to church for our Christmas party. We ate Costco sandwiches, chicken, and pizza - not exactly your traditional Christmas feast but it was so good. We did white elephants and sang some carols and just spent the day together. It felt like a family day.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's starting to feel like Christmas

Christmas is in 8 days and I don't really feel like it's coming, so today we learned lots of holiday words, made some lights, and listened to Mariah Carey's Christmas CD. Mariah was more for me than the kids, but a few of them got up and danced. Holiday cheer is here!

 He couldn't stop looking at his lights

 She's so adorable
 So is she

 The best way to use scissors, obviously

 Hahaha, he's ADD for sure. He's also the one that danced the most.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lasik in Korea

I'm getting my eyes fixed tomorrow! I've worn glasses or contacts since about 2nd grade, and ever since I found out how cheap the surgery is here I've wanted to get it done.

A few weekends ago my friend and I went to an eye clinic for tests. They need to test all kinds of things in your eyes to make sure the surgery will be effective. The doctor came out and got us and led us around a circle of machines. I hate that glaucoma test that does the puff of air in your eye. I know it doesn't hurt and I know it's going to happen, but it always startles me. They usually have to do it 3 or 4 times because I always blink or pull away. I can't help it. So every time I sat down at a machine I was worried a puff of air - or something worse - was going to come at me. The doctor wasn't very confident about speaking English, so I never knew what was about to happen. I just had to put my chin on that thing and hope for the best. Luckily there was only the one puff of air, but the constant fear of it might have been worse. Doctor also didn't know the word for "blink," he kept saying "crink" and I kept trying not to chuckle.

When that was finished they stuck us in the waiting room for a while, then one of the nurses came out with a phone and handed it to us. Weird. They had called my co-teacher Seo Ah because they wanted her to explain everything to us in English. Thank goodness for her, she was such a big help during this whole process. At the very end they told us the price, and we didn't like it, so we decided to find a new clinic.

The week after we went to a new place for a consultation. The nurses there all look like clones. They have the same uniform, shoes, age, body type, and probably even the same eyes. They led us around the circle of machines again, but this time I knew not to fear the air puff. I had to go back a few days later for another appointment. I knew something was wrong because the doctor was taking a very long time on one of my eyes. He told me I had a thin spot in my retina that would have to be fixed before lasik.

So they took me to downstairs and put me in a dark room all by myself. The nurse strapped me into a machine and gave me a metal bar to hold onto, and I fought the urge to run. She said the lasers would just feel like needle pricks, and of course I immediately imagined needles in my eye, and I wanted to leave so badly but I was still strapped in. Doctor came in and I must have looked terrified because he gave me a big speech about how it wouldn't hurt and it would be over before I knew it. And he was right. I kept waiting for it to get bad, and then all the sudden I was done. They released me from the machine, and I was so relieved, until I realized I couldn't see out of the eye he had worked on. For a moment I thought he had blinded me. The nurse drowned my eye in drops and in a few minutes it was fine.

I've been trying to avoid learning all the details about the surgery because if I'm going to be awake and aware, I'd like to be as oblivious as possible. Otherwise I'll just freak myself out. Unfortunately doctors like you to be well-informed, and I've learned a lot more than I wanted to. So I think it was good I had that little preview with the laser, because now I know it won't be that bad.

And after tomorrow I'll never have to wear glasses again! Oh glasses. I've been wearing them for the past 2 weeks and gotten all kinds of responses. A few teachers told me they were beautiful (but I know they were lying), one boy said "teacha good job glasses," a few have told me I look like Harry Potter, and one girl said they looked like eggs on my face. But the best one was 4th grade Ally. The first time she saw me in them she said "teacha, no" and she took them off my face. Ha, she's right, they're really bad. I've had them forever and until 2 weeks ago it didn't matter that they were ugly because nobody ever saw them. And after tomorrow nobody will ever see them again. Hallelujah.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Fire safety" and some other funnies

My coteacher Seo-ah told me that one of my afternoon classes was cancelled because the kids had a fire drill. The alarm went off and they all walked outside and sat down. Then a fire truck pulled up and 3 firemen got out. They gave the kids a little presentation, then gave the kids fire extinguishers and started setting trash can fires. That's one way to teach fire safety I guess.

Pictures I took from the safety of the school building

Alice, why are you wearing 2 different shoes?
It's fashion teacha.

Rose why is your phone wrapped in a paper towel?
Because it's a mummy.

The 2nd graders did a worksheet, and I told the kids that finished early they could draw on the back. 2 boys each picked up a handful of crayons, scribbled, and told me it was Picasso.

3rd grade Sarah told me all about how she saw Breaking Dawn last night. Inappropriate.

Seo-ah taught 3/4th grade with me, and she is strict. I like it. They were not at their best today, so after class she made them do squats in the hallway while chanting various things.

The bus drivers went on strike this morning. That's no good when you rely on public transportation.

My 6th grade boys asked me to play "Call me Maybe" for them and then sang along in high-pitched voices

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

All in a day's work

This week was the yearly "Art Festival" at school, and by art festival I mean dance recital. The kids have been practicing for ages, and even though they were super cute I'm glad it's over so I won't have to hear recorders and drums every afternoon. Those instruments really carry. I think elementary school music rooms should be made soundproof.
 These little dumplings opened the show
 The chorus of the song the Kindergarteners danced to said: shake it baby shake your butt for me. A line was crossed
 Why do we make kids learn the recorder?
 1st grade
 It's no surprise which kids are really good at beating on drums
 4th grade wore glittery visors
 Mob of parents recording their kids
 5th grade. Half those "boys" are actually girls
 Mask dance
 Their costumes were the best
The hosts dressed as bride and groom

Monday, November 12, 2012

8 things

1. It's mid-November and the leaves are finally starting to change. Some trees turned yellow a couple weeks ago, but now we're starting to get some oranges and reds too.

2. Every time I walk past an open window or door at school, I close it. About half the time I walk past later on and it's open again. We don't need that much fresh air in the winter.

3. At least 2 kids in every class are coughing and sneezing all over their desks. Probably from all the "healthy fresh air."

4. On my way to school I walked past 2 kids. One said "Oooh, waygookin" and the other said "fantastic." I love it.

5. Today was picture day, but nobody told me, so in the staff picture everyone is wearing black suits and I'm wearing jeans and a purple sweater.

6. I was dragged into another room to have an individual picture taken. They made me sit at a desk and chair like a student, and the photographer was very particular about the way I crossed my hands on the desk. He took 4 pictures and I stood up to leave, and he said "No no no! More!" So I sat back down. While this was happening 3 other teachers were using the treadmills that we apparently store in that room, and students kept coming in and laughing at me.

7. At 11:57 co-teacher told me "Today this class is finished at 12:00." Thank you for the advance notice.

8. In 3 months and 2 weeks I will no longer be an EPIK teacher.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The most important day of your life

Today the high school seniors are taking a test. A very big, scary, important test. The score they get will determine what university they can go to, what they can major in...basically what the rest of their life will be like. There is so much pressure from their teachers and their parents to get a good score. Last year a student said her older sister didn't get the score she wanted, and the mom and sister cried for days. Moms will stand in the school parking lot all day praying for their kids. Elementary and middle schools that are near a high school won't begin their day until the afternoon so there's no noisy distractions for the test-takers. Planes are grounded for the same reason. It's intense. This video sums it up pretty well.

Monday, November 5, 2012

I'm annoyed with Korea

One of the classes I teach is 1st/2nd grade combined, and I dread it. There are very few days when class is over and I don't feel worse than before I started. It's not my favorite age group. If somebody said "What age kids do you want to teach?" I would NEVER say "Oh please, give me the little ones." I just don't have the patience for them. I don't like how needy they are, how many times I have to repeat myself, how much supervision they need. I think they're very cute...from a distance. I like them best when there's only a few of them, and in small doses. 

Although they are close in age, there is a huge difference between a 1st grader and a 2nd grader. 2nd graders are much more mature, and further along developmentally. A lot of my 1st graders still don't know what to do when they come into the room, they don't know the classroom routines, they can't sit still. 2nd graders have got that all down. They've just been in school longer, and in this case, they've had an extra year of English. On paper, combining them is an ok idea, but in reality it's a disaster. 

So I've got 18 of these little puppies in one class. I realize that 18 is not a huge number; it's way below the average classroom size in the United States right now. But in a language-learning situation, at that age, 18 is way too much. It's on the verge of ridiculous in my opinion. There are too many of them that need too much help, and only one of me. They hardly understand me when I talk. Some days I feel like I'm talking to actual puppies. I have a "co-teacher" in the class with me, but she might as well be a puppy too. 

There are a few 2nd grade boys that are t.r.o.u.b.l.e. I think some of them legitimately can't focus and probably have ADD, but there's this one. Oh this one. He is naughty on purpose. He thinks it's funny, and he likes to get the kids around him to do the bad stuff he's doing. I have him sitting in the back of the classroom with an island of empty desks around him, and he still manages to disrupt my class every single day. He does the same stuff all the time and he knows it's wrong, but he doesn't care. I make him stand in the back of the room at least twice every lesson, and I've brought him to his classroom teacher about once a week for over a month. No change.

So today he was being his usual self, and I decided I've had enough. I've had more than enough. This has been going on for way too long and it's disrupting my entire class. He sucks up way too much teacher time every day. I've got students that are well-behaved and far behind, and they deserve some of the attention I'm forced to give to him. So I walked him to his classroom teacher and said "He can't come to English class anymore." 

And she freaked out. She got 3 inches from my face and started yelling at me. Yelling! I was so surprised. I figured if she was going to yell at someone it would be the troublemaker, not the teacher. She has always seemed very sweet, and can't speak English very well, except apparently when she's angry. She can't quite say "What did you do yesterday?" but has no problem screaming "It is your duty to teach every terrible student!" I didn't see that coming, but I held my own pretty well. It ended when she picked up the phone to call someone, and I walked out of the classroom.  I was not about to stick around for round 2. 

The mentality in Korea is that you should do things no matter what because it's your duty, or because someone older than you told you to. You can't question anything. The circumstances don't matter, and there's no such thing as compromise. It makes situations like this impossible. She wants me to keep dealing with the same problems every day, and that's not going to happen. I may be the foreigner, but let me tell you something. I'm winning this battle. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I've been doing Halloween lessons and activities all week. We've been learning about zombies, ghosts, jack o lanterns, and costumes.

We made paper plate pumpkins:

and spiders:

We went trick-or-treating around the school. I was going to take pictures of the kids in their costumes, but they all wore the exact same costumes as last year. And they're not so much costumes, as mismatched Halloween accessories. They (or their parents) don't seem to understand that your whole body should be dressed as the same character. One boy was wearing a scream mask, a witch hat, and carrying an axe.
Halloween 2011

I showed the kids the youtube video of the Gangnam Style Halloween house, and some of them literally didn't notice the lights because they were so excited about the song. Even the 2nd graders knew all the words.

Little Peter brought full size candy canes to pass out to his friends, and I was so excited to see one I didn't even tell him it was for the wrong holiday. Last year I couldn't find any, and I tried to ask him where his mom bought them but of course he didn't know.

Rose's birthday was today. Kids in Korea generally bring in food to celebrate with their class, but it's usually more of a meal than cake or candy: her dad brought fried chicken. She had him wait until English class time so I could get in on the party. It gets even better...her classroom teacher's birthday is the same as hers and she told me she wanted to celebrate with me instead. She told me I am "special teacher." Awww :) So we had a halloween-birthday-chicken party.

In every class there was a kid whose costume included an axe or a sword, something I could carry around and pretend to "kill them" with. They enjoyed it, and I really enjoyed it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stuff people said today

Little 1st grade Ben drives me crazy because he cannot focus to save his life, but luckily for him he's quite adorable. He followed me around today and "hid" in different places and would jump out and yell "hello!"

I overheard two 6th grade boys in the lunch line and they kept saying "ladies first" to each other. Except it sounded more like rady.

I discovered my new favorite punishment. I was walking behind the 5th grade class and every time one of them talked or did something naughty their teacher would stop, make them go to the back of the line, and walk while squatting. It got real good when they had to go down the stairs.

At lunch my co-teacher looked at me and said "Breann you are good at chopsticks." Ughhhh seriously?! I said "Of course I am, I've lived here for 2 years." Sometimes I think I'm just a blonde monkey to them.

My co-teacher also said "When you go to Japan, please don't spend a lot of money. I really hate Japan."

A 5th grader wrote this sentence: People in Brazil eat rainforests.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What is my life?

I pay my water bill directly to my landlady, and once a month she comes to collect. When that happens I answer the door, say hello, give her cash, and say good-bye. She says thank you, bows, and walks away.

Tonight she came and we did all that, then she took her shoes off and walked inside. She said a whole bunch of stuff but the only word I caught was "internet" so I showed her where my internet was and thought that would be the end of it. Wrong. She pulls out her cell phone and has a fairly long Korean conversation while I stand there awkwardly, trying to figure out how to make this stop. Normally I'd just walk away, but this is where I live.

She finally hangs up and I think the uncomfortable-ness is over, then calls somebody else and hands me the phone. Her daughter-in-law is babbling on about paying extra to get another internet line, and when I tell her I don't want another line she confesses that she doesn't actually know what landlady wants translated. This is going so well. So I pass the phone back, landlady speaks in Korean, and gives it back to me...about 3 more times. Her poor daughter-in-law doesn't speak English that well, and doesn't seem to have any idea what's going on. I'm in my pajamas and just want to get back to my TV show, and landlady seems to be having a grand old time hanging out in the foreigner's apartment.

Eventually I convinced them to call my school tomorrow and tell someone there what's going on. I can't wait to see how this all turns out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I deserve a raise

Yesterday I was teaching 2nd grade, and the person who is supposed to help me didn't show up. This isn't unusual, she's been missing a lot lately and I've gotten used to not having a co-teacher for that class. Frankly, she's not that much help when she is there.

But yesterday the kids were out of control. Within 10 minutes I'd sent 4 of them to time out in the back of the classroom. The rest of them were sitting on the floor - we were going to play a game. I realized I'd grabbed the wrong flash cards and walked 4 steps to my desk to get the right ones. And in those 4 steps...chaos. When I turned around all the kids were on top of each other. They were fighting, was like Korean hunger games.

I made them all go back to their desks, and they knew how bad they'd just been and how mad I was so they were silent. I was standing there thinking about the best way to handle the situation, and I thought "No. This is not in my job description. Disciplining an entire class is a job for a Korean."  

So I lined them up and walked them to their homeroom. Except their homeroom was filled with 4th graders, and none of them knew where the 2nd grade teacher was. So I walked them to my co-teachers office. She wasn't there either.

Turns out, everybody I needed was in the gym playing ping pong with each other.

I deserve a raise.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012