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.