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

Monday, October 15, 2012

Elmer the elephant

I did a project with my students last week. I read them the book Elmer, which is about an elephant who's self-conscious because he's colorful and the other elephants are gray. It's very sweet. So I gave them blank animals and they had to color them and write some sentences about their colorful friend. I think stuff like this is almost more fun for me than it is for them because I love to see what they create. The stuff they say cracks me up, and it usually gets funnier when it's said wrong.

 The elephant name is Bungi. Bungi is crazy. Bungi is dirty. Bungi is pretty. Bungi has boyfriends. 
 This is lion. This is black lion. This is black lion eyes is red. This lion is very hungry. This is lion very cute. 
 This is power ranger monkey. He likes pizza. He likes girl. He likes eat. He likes people. 
 This elephant name is Ella. This elephant is cute. I love this elephant. This elephant is big. This elephant eyes is small. 
 The monkey is crazy. The monkey is fight. The monkey is friend. 
 Lion is fire. I like lion. Lion is fighter. 
Monkey likes bananas. Monkey body is colorful. Many flowers are in the monkey's body. 

Friday, October 12, 2012


In 1st grade Jenne was practicing her sentences while Lilly was chewing on her tutu.

The lunch ladies served us kimchi, rice, sour veggies, egg, and tofu soup. Then everybody went to the teacher's room and ate snacks because were all still hungry.

Some mom brought bottles of frappuccino for the staff.

I let 3/4th grade play bingo and they cheered like I had just given them cash.

I watched the vice presidential debate, and sent in my application for an absentee ballot.

A 3rd grader was yelling at the class to be quiet when he accidentally hit many buttons on his computer and made lots of noise. Oops.

I wore my vest with the fur because it's fall now.

5th grade Kate came out of the bathroom wearing hanbok (traditional clothing). I guess she wanted it to be fancy Friday.

We had a little competition in 5th grade, and every time the winning team hummed the wedding march. I don't get it.

I only had 3 students do the Gangnam Style dance during class today.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Geoje Vacation

Recently it was Chuseok in Korea, which is like Thanksgiving, which meant 5 days off work. So I went to a few islands with my friends Julie and Rosie. We visited Geoje and Teongyang. They're about 3 hours away from where I live. It was really great to get out and do something new and different. Last year I feel like I went to a new place every weekend, and I've been missing that. We did a lot of cool stuff, but also made time for the important things - afternoon naps, lots of snacks, and relaxing. 

On our first night we went to a beach, built this fire, and roasted hot dogs. We may have had help starting it from a nice Russian man with a blow torch.

 We took a ferry out to Oido Island

 Rosie, Julie, me
 Botanical gardens on Oido

 Sat in some colorful chairs
 Went to the Prisoner of War museum
 We had to fight the kids for a turn to play on the big gun
 Hiking day

 We rode bikes along this huge stretch of beach. It was beautiful.

 Throwing rocks. It reminded me of being 7 years old at the lake.
 Ate a giant hamburger at place called Big Burger.
Brunch at Paris Baguette. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The importance of the co-teacher

The relationship you have with your co-teacher is so important. Especially in the beginning, when you're basically a baby dropped in a foreign country. This person can pretty much make or break your experience in Korea because so much of your school life and your outside-of-school life depends on them. They affect the atmosphere and expectations of the classroom, they help you do practical things like book train tickets and pay your bills, and they control your vacation. Needless to say, if you've got a dud, you're screwed.

I've been here one year and 8 months, I've had 8 co-teachers, and I've got my first dud. She's filling a maternity leave, one that will either last until December or the end of February when I go home. I'm praying for December. She's about 65 years old, has never taught elementary school before, and is doing the bare. minimum. Her first week of school she told the vice principal she only took the job because she knew there would be a foreigner who she (rightly) assumed would end up doing most of the work. If that's not a red flag I don't know what is.
(Side note: when one of your employees essentially tells you she doesn't plan on working, you should DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Today Yuri told me that everybody at school, including the principal and vice principal, knows that she's a huge slacker. I'm not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.)

Basically, she's not pulling her weight. Not even a little bit. In any work situation that's so frustrating, but especially when there's a foreign language involved. There are things I just cannot do as well as her because I don't speak Korean. The biggest, and most obvious one, is communicating with the students. Those little 3rd and 4th graders understand maybe 50% of the words that come out of my mouth. Same for some of the 5th and 6th graders, actually. And translating simple things like directions into Korean makes everybody's life better. The same goes for discipline. When kids are naughty I can send them to the back of the room and talk at them in my angry English-teacher voice, and most likely they will know I am upset and it's because of something they did. And that's where it will end. Or, the Korean teacher could go back there and have a conversation about why what they did is wrong and why they can't do it again and give them a punishment they will understand, and then maybe it won't keep happening.

People keep telling me "At least you didn't have her your first year."True. If she had been in charge of picking me up, taking me to the grocery store, and showing me how to use the bus, I'd probably be homeless and starving right now. And I'm definitely better at my job this year than I was last year - I have a better idea of how things work around here. But that doesn't make it any less irritating. I'm probably angrier because I know what this relationship should be like, and I know how good it can be when it's going well. And it's not making it better for the kids. Guarantee their English test scores are going to plummet this semester. I think I'm pretty good at my job and I care about them learning English, but realistically they need things translated. No matter how much I simplify what I say or how many charades I use they just won't understand everything I say.

So, I'm learning the hard way how important it is to have a good co-teacher. Let me tell you, it's SUPER important.

Monday, October 8, 2012

We need some more boundaries

Kids in Korea have a LOT of freedom at school. In elementary school the day is broken up into 40 minute periods with 10 minute breaks in between each period. And those 10 minutes are a free-for-all. It's like a mini-recess with zero rules. In the beginning I tried to control the kids during this time, but none of the other teachers do so it ended up being a waste of energy. They couldn't understand why I would tell them to stop hitting each other or not to run indoors and they'd look at me like I was crazy. They fight, wrestle, climb, run, jump, scream, play hide-and-seek...literally anything is ok. I've gotten used to it, but I don't love it.

At lunch the other day my co-teacher told me that a 4th grader at another school fell out of a 4th story window recently. She said he dropped his backpack out of the window and it landed on an awning on the 2nd floor. So he jumped out to get it, and the awning broke. He was in a coma for 2 days and is awake now, but has some brain damage.

I'm all for giving kids a little freedom and not controlling their every move, but this is out of control. When students are getting severely injured you know there's a very serious problem.