Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Something Tells Me Saturday is Going to be Hot!

As I sat down to my computer to take a rest from an hour of cleaning the officetel I came upon this sight. Saturday getting up to 96 F and a mini picture of a sizzling thermometer.

Having grown up in Florida where in the summer it easily would stay in the 90's for a month. I should be use to this, right? But I think when you move to any place you end up acclimating yourself and thus becoming a different animal.

Although I might regret saying this, I would rather take the summer heat than the winter's freezing rain.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pictures of my Finished Dano Fan

Tuttle wrote in inquiring about pictures of my finished Dano fan. One can't help but fulfill his request. Here you go...

2011 GEPIK Rumors

My open class was today and it went pretty smoothly. Really, what can I say if the people who attended showed up late and left early?

As an English teacher working for GEPIK these are just some of the unexepected turns this job can take. In fact, usually we don't know what is going on underneath the surface at our own school. On a broader scale being brought up to speed on changes within the curriculum and such are also kinds of information that somehow doesn't make it to us. If you have taught and worked in Korea for a while you will know that being told about changes usually come at the last minute.

However, I feel that instead of waiting for the information to come to me I will just dig it out of my peers and coteachers.

Recently I posted a topic on the GEPIK teacher's Facebook group probing its members to respond to my inquiry about upcoming changes. I also posted this same topic on a forum-based website for teachers in Korea.

The Rumors:
I would like folks to please post any rumors they have heard from coteachers or other Native Teachers about changes for 2011.

What I have heard:
- Grades 3 - 6 will get new books.
- Schools will choose the material / therefore not everyone will use the same book / meaning we may not be able to easily share materials
- Grades 5 & 6 will increase to 3 times a week

What have you heard???
The responses I received were very interesting and ranged from the serious to lazy. Things have calmed down now and not many people are posting so I thought it would be a good time to anonymously share their responses.

Most people seemed to know about the book changes and were familiar with that, however there were a few that didn't know our schools will end up choosing the book. In fact, I heard from my coteacher that the local government will pick 4 textbooks and then schools can take their choice from these 4.
3 & 4 are getting new books again next year. They are seen 3 times a week, as well. It is supposed to be twice by the native teacher and once by the Korean teacher alone. 5 & 6 will change text books the following year. I am pretty sure they will still be seen 3 times a week like they are now. I am aware that some schools do not have enough native speakers to cover the 2 classes per week, but based on the cirriculums, that is what they are supposed to be having. That being said, schools will adjust accordingly. For example, 5th grade in my school does not see the native teacher, but 4 and 6 see us twice a week. 3rd sees us once and the Korean teacher alone 2x.

Not sure if that is helpful or not.
Increasing the classes means increasing the teaching hours of Native Teachers. However most of us are at our max and already doing overtime with after school classes. Keep in mind that we can only go to a limit of 28 teaching hours per week. Typically, 20 - 22 of those are with the normal classes. 

Getting rid of Native Teachers???
how about the fact that the GPOE ditched the 'intern teachers' even when schools wanted to keep them, in favour of bringing more crappy teachers here... I work my butt off to keep my job and the GPOE would rather have someone who is less competent and pay them more... and that in 2012 the GPOE is gonna start getting rid of native speakers bc they think that they have enough Korean teachers who speak English well enough to teach conversation.

there are more important things than changing textbooks that we should be looking at.
This writer brings up a curious point that many teachers don't know about. Personally, I don't know what to believe or make of this. I agree, though, that there probably are more important things to worry about than our books changing. Certainly, if you think about it, we can't expect the Korean government to permanently continue to import Native Teachers. One person replied to this by saying:
Here's a fun one for you... by 2012, the Korean government is planning to replace all English teachers with Korean English teachers who can TEE (Teach English in English). I've seen official documents, I've been to a lecture about it; but luckily it is not just GEPIK, but EPIK and all other English Teachers in Korea. Good Luck Guys. Keep on top of it!
Personally, I have to think whether it will affect me or not. By 2012 what will I be doing?

More responses:
... no they are not. I think you've gotten something wrong in translation. I'm pretty sure it would be impossible for them to do that with any good effects. they are STARTING to do this. my coteach went to some meeting and her english is excellent, this is what she said. I'm also fairly certain that its ONLY gyeonggi as 1)GPOE is a bit crazy and 2) EPIK is still supporting TALK... also to note the Gyeonggi Education minister was re-elected, NOT the one who made all the changed last year, bc this guy was brought in part way thru the year AFTER the annoying changes had already been made...
the Teaching English in English thing is absolutely true as I know of co-teachers busy with the training at the moment. I do not see this working as the material itself is full of mistakes, but this seems to be what they are aiming for. I do not see them however firing all the native speakers at once, I think it will be a systematic replacement if that at all, because I fail to see even some of the most competent co-teachers teaching on their own. They have too much of a struggle with pronunciation first off and secondly grammatical structure is a nightmare to them. So, the education department will either realize this halfway throught their "replacement project" and keep us around OR they won't and in another 10 years start bringing native speakers back in again. I won't worry too much about it, cause if all else fail and you are really deadset on being an ESL teacher, there are always the hagwons, I doubt those are going away anytime soon ;)
I think you run the risk of wasting a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what is happening and obsessing about things you have no control over if you constantly try to keep up with what is happening internally at the education department. Also considering that each new minister changes things to his liking...

Bottomline: we are at the BOTTOM OF THE BOTTOM of the food chain here and we have no say. I have been with GEPIK for the last 4 years and if there is one thing I have learned it is not to worry about "what might happen".
Certain Native Teachers don't deserve to be here?
One individual made a complaint about how they see that some people don't deserve the job...take a look..
This brings about another topic...It may or may not be realated: I've met many foreign "teachers" who do not deserve to be teaching. The system needs to do better background checks and proper interviews and not choose teachers who "look" qualified. I have a friend who is leaving her middle school position at Byuk-jae middle school and when given two resumes (one a Vietnamese woman an impeccable resume and excited sounding cover leter and a Gyopo male with NO experience and dull sounding cover letter) to look over guess who the school chose?
 People responded like this:

As for people who are in jobs they don't deserve, ... I agree with Ji, I have lost count of the amount of people I have met who just not belong here.

The ONLY thing so many foreigners are here to do is drink as much soju as they can, go to work hung over as often as they can, in other words extend the life of being a student with just one more year. They take as little pride and show as little interest as is humanly possible in the job they are here to do. And this is one of the main reasons why foreigners have the reputation they do with Koreans/parents in general, because we have created it for ourselves and unfortunately the system is doing nothing to correct this.(nor is the behavior of some might I add)
I have to say I can agree with this writer here. One of the best places to experience this closely is the Orientation. There were people in the group who seemed to just snooze through everything so that they can get out and drink later. Certainly the aspect of teaching in Korea as a post-college party is a topic worthy of debate. Partying is cool and all, but let's not forget about the image we portray to our colleagues and neighbors. 

Back to the the change a sign of things to come?
One writer from the forum website wrote this insightful comment:

At an EPIK workshop last year, I heard that there would be several "approved" textbook programs, and the schools did indeed get to "choose" from the approved vendors.  The kickbacks and profits of the textbook publishers, and their relationship to the education ministry and the ruling party, as well as the local school districts, must be a factor in this.

As offensive, inappropriately suggestive, and just plain wrong the current textbook series is, from the Korean pedagogues point of view, it serves the function of keeping children away from English language based culture that has not been mediated by Korean translation.  Additionally, the tests designed around it have proven to be significantly obscure, allowing the testing to serve the historic gatekeeper function: That is, a test which helps to winnow a serviceable elite, not a test of actual ability or knowledge.  Notice how the tests measure the ability to relate certain Korean concepts to other Korean concepts in the "correct" way, with the English language keys thrown in as a tertiary check on "correctness".

The elementary part of the old curriculum was anarchic enough that rational approaches to grammar could be used effectively within its framework.  And for Korean teachers unfamiliar with, and quite possibly resentful towards, English, the old curriculum allowed the schools to spend a little more time honing the basics of Korean with their most recalcitrant charges, under the guise of studying English.  At the more advanced levels, the method of having to explain everything in Korean, the memorization of equivalents ad infinitum, and other methodologies, helped to prepare the students to invest further in the Hagwan and tutor industries, perhaps developing them into lifelong consumers of this commodity inappropriately labeled as English.  It's the Korean economy, . . . . .

Joybot0's suggestion that we pool our resources in digesting these changes is well received.  We'll be in a better position to exploit the upsides in what will hopefully be a mixed bag.  There may even be some evidence that the old Korean paradigm of focusing myopically on East Asian reference points is starting to shift.
 One of the regenerating topics that came up at Orientation was the influence of Native Teachers on not only the children but how they are receiving their education...

Leads me to my own topic:
What impact do Native Teachers have on Public School teaching methods?

It was told to me during Orientation that our presence in the classroom is a modern experience for the students. This is because we teach them using references from how we were taught back in our home country. Typically this contrasts greatly with how Korean children are taught in school. Just for example, it is typical for Korean teachers to stand in the front of class and direct the class with dictation and speech. Children listen and repeat. From what I know there is little Q & A going on. Basically what you need to do is imagine that a classroom in Korea is taught differently from that in the west.
I personally feel that I am not on a mission here to change the Korean classroom and oppress them with my ethnocentric ideas of how children should learn. However, I do believe that as we teach the classes in our natural non-Korean ways that things could rub off elsewhere. Even if English time is the only time they experience a different way of learning they are still having a different experience.

Some of the examples people at the Orientation talked about were that when we teach English we usually walk around the classroom. We look over the students shoulder and check their work. Or we ask them for their opinion and thoughts. I was told that nowadays the Korean coteachers are participating and going around the classroom getting personal with the students.

My conclusion is that Korean public schools will never really look and feel like they do in the west. Instead they will modernize and advance in their own way depending on the will of the Korean teachers and the materials they have at their disposal. So if the materials change, not just for English, then perhaps methods of teaching will reshape as well. I bet I could find someone who taught here a long time to tell me how much things have changed.

There you have it people a long and clustered post about rumors for changes within the GEPIK public school system. Remember this was focused on Elementary school teaching and I have no clue what could be happening with Middle or High.

In the end, I would really like to know more about this replacement program they have brewing and whether it will be a threat or not. Till then I am just going to whistle my way through summer and look forward to my vacation.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

GEPIK Summer Plus Orientation: Part 3

Putting aside the lectures the best part of Orientation was meeting new people. Certainly I wasn't fond of everyone, for example the guy who creepily hit on me. But I came out of this event with a few great new friends who share similar thoughts with me.

This was achieved through the magic of Scrabble and probably coincidence. I knew there were people like me out here in Korea just didn't know when I would meet them.

Anyways, one of the highlights during Orientation was Dano Fan Painting. Before dinner I joined others in one of the lecture halls. There were several activities you had to sign up for. I sat down in the front where I was close to the presentation.
The instructor told us about Dano painting in Korean and translation was provided.
From our booklet I can tell you that "Dano means May 5th by lunar calendar." Meant for wishing for a full harvest. "Nowadays it is a fun holiday to eat some rice cakes in the rural area." It goes on to say that Kings use to have a custom to grant a fan named "Danoseon" to his men who were wishing for a good summer.

This was explained to us along with the symbol of peonies, which were on the fan and meant for us to have a happy future. Then some examples were shown to us.
Paints, brushes and fans were handed out to us and we began painting. I tried to do mine in a water color style and found myself have a good time. It ended up being almost therapeutic by how relaxing it was to paint and focus on something other than how to be a great teacher.
After painting time we had our last dinner at Orientation and then took a break. The last activity for the night was a "Get to know your Coordinator," which was actually a big party. There were arranged fun activities to do, however, I was really tired and only caught about half of it before I jumped ship.

One of the funny things people did was charades on the stage.
I sneaked out and met my new friends to play Scrabble. Before we left, the next day, we had a little review and reflection session where we talked about the classes and Orientation itself. Phone numbers and emails were exchanged and then it was time for our bus ride home.

Tomorrow is Monday and of course I go back to work after missing out for three days last week. I know one of my coteachers, Mrs. K, was probably stressed out and tired without me. So I hope to remember to buy her something at the bakery on my way to work to say thank you. On Tuesday we have an open class for the teachers at our school and I know she will be starting to freak out about that. As for me I am fine with doing open class...haha.

Anyways, if you see yourself coming to Korea and heading to an Orientation take it with an open mind and try to make new friends.

I am going to leave all of you with this video montage I made of the Orientation.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

GEPIK Summer Plus Orientation: Part 2

Now that I had a chance to rest and digest what went on at the Orientation I can write about it.

First just understand that this program was for: for renewed GEPIK teachers, as well as new teachers who have more than 3 years of teaching experience. The Plus Orientation content is different to GEPIK Orientation, and covers advance materials which will help experienced GEPIK teachers to improve their skills and abilities.
As is stated on the handout I received 24 hrs prior to leaving. Needless to say I was skeptical of what to expect from the "Plus"-ness of this ordeal. Therefore, today's post is going to be about the content. I will analyze the lectures we received and give critical feedback. 

The Facilities:
I am going to start with a look around the buildings so you can get an idea of where we spent our time. Teachers from around Gyeonggi-do were rounded up and brought to Anseong. This building is like a center for seminars and corporate training. In fact, while we were there other groups were in attendance for their own training.

The facilities were modern and clean. Classrooms were equipped with projectors, computers and speakers. The surrounding area was mountainous and quite lovely. Below are pictures of a training field.

After we got to the location we picked up our room keys and joined our groups. Since there were a lot of  us we were grouped by our area. For example, I was in the Yongin & Moran group.

There was no time to waste and after lunch we had scheduled three hours of lectures and workshops.

First Day Lectures & Workshops:
The lecture and workshop topics for day one were as followed:
  • Co-teaching Activities
  • Secrets to Becoming and Effective Teacher
  • Ice Breaking Time
*Keep in mind our lectures were meant for Elementary school teachers.

1st Lecture: Co-teaching Activities:
This was presented by two people, Yang Miran and Wesley Swan. They were a pair of actual teachers from an actual school here in Korea. So their lecture definitely showed that they knew their audience.

After reading the title of this lecture I expected it to be about co-teaching. Things like how to get along with your coteacher and methods to make coteaching work together. Instead, as I found out, it was more about activities that these two teachers use in their school. Of course, this kind of subject matter is okay; however, they could have tried to get the title on the point.

Their lecture was pretty good and fun to sit through. At first they talked a little bit about their school and work together. Then they had us join in on an activity they do with students of putting a story together in a group. That was pretty fun and a little clever.

Keep in mind that we were given a booklet for the 3 days and in inside were the lecture materials. Some of the activities they suggested sounded really useful to the classroom and relevant to our experience.

  1. Activity: Conversation Survey: Students form two lines. Large classes can have a pair of two lines. Students ask each other various questions. Questions like: Where are you from? What do you do in your free time? Students move from one student to the next when the teacher yells "Next!". Teachers move around the lines to make sure English is spoken and behavior is proper. We played this at the Orientation and I found it to be fun and useful.
  2. Call Me!: Distribute a multiple choice quiz paper to each student in the group. (Each paper is meant for different levels) Assign points to each answer for each question. The group will add up the points. If each answer is correct, the point total will match the missing digits with the point total. If all the numbers are correct the instructors phone will ring. 

This lecture left me feeling interested in their games and pleased to see a team of teachers working together.

2nd Lecture: Secrets to Becoming and Effective Teacher:
This lecture was performed by a GEPIK coordinator who is of high ranking. I want to point out that there were several people in our group that were noisy and distracting in class. But this lecturer wouldn't take it and made sure to tell them to be quiet.

She started class by all of us turning to the page in the book that references her lecture. The first thing she wanted us to do was answer #1 in the booklet. The question was...

Why do you want to become a teacher?

I looked at the person sitting next to me and we both had a look of confusion. Weren't we already teachers? But we answered the question anyways. Mine was: 

Teaching children fulfills me and helps me find my place in the world.

I know it sounds a little cliche, but it was the only thing I could think of. At this point I was already starting to feel tired. 

So she gave a talk about this and other teachers shared their responses. She moved on to question number 2 about us listing our strengths and qualities that we have that can make a successful teacher. 

The following are a list of the main topics she covered:
  • Key Behaviors
  • Helping Behaviors
  • Skills that can help us work effectively
I found this lecture to be insightful and probably useful to me in the future. Though, to make it really meaningful I would have to look over these topics and really think about them towards my own teaching experience.

Workshop: Ice Breaking Time
For some reason the bus ride, plus having to use my brain at high speeds, and being around more foreigners than I ever have been... made me tired. So a workshop was what I needed.

Again I got confused about the contents when reading the title. Here I thought it was going to be an hour of ice-breaking games meant to get to know each other. Instead it was more about cultural differences and our input. Why didn't they name these things accurately is beyond me.

The class was presented by our group's specific coordinators. What they did was show us a PowerPoint Presentation with pictures of Korea that are major cultural shockers.

This included:
  • World Cup crowds vs. our country's team pride
  • Holiday traffic...why is it so crowded?
  • University Entrance Exam craziness & obsession
  • Ahjumma (older woman) fashion...such as wearing large visors outside...anything similar to our home country
Although this was fun and we shared our experiences and opinions I felt the time could have been used for something else. Instead, I feel we should have had more workshop orientated activities. If the topic were to tay about cultural differences we could have sat together in small groups and worked out how we have come to accept these differences and what we do when challenged by them.

*Keep in mind that after each class we were handed a short evaluation form.

After this was a short break time and then dinner. They served us inside the large auditorium a meal of Korean food, which was actually really delicious.

The other meals for the rest of the time were served in the cafeteria. They were all pretty much in the style of western food and tasted good.

After dinner were some mini workshops (learn Korean, Korean history, etc), however I was beat from it all and chose to go back to my room and rest for the day.
Let's move on to Day 2 Lectures and workshops.

Day 2 Lectures and Workshops:
Day 2 proved to be a day where there were some good and bad lectures. I must say that this was my first Orientation and so didn't really have much to base it on. I think the people who organized this found a good selection of lecturers but one bad mistake which I will talk about.

Lecture: Teaching Methodology
This was the first lecture of the day and was held in a large room. Immediately as the lecturer, Prof. Hong Sun-Mi, began talking I knew that she had little experience talking in front of a room full of Elementary Native Teachers.

I am critical of her speech for many reasons. Some of which are that her tone of voice was low and drone like, she hardly looked around the classroom, and when she wrote on the board she mostly looked at it and forgot about us. Hardly ever did she stop her speech to ask us our opinion or thoughts. Or even whether we understood what she was talking about.

Already, you can see, from the beginning she was not a powerful spokeswoman. What made matters worse was that her content was very dense and dry. I am going to share with you her content, but I want you to keep in mind that we are Elementary school teachers here in Korea. The following is taken from her materials given to us in the booklet.
  • Class objective: You can understand how Korean students think about Native teacher. (She covered this briefly in the beginning.) You can know how to improve your teaching speaking skills through discussion. You can learn how to improve students' speaking ability through discussion.
Let me stop here. She had the goal in mind that if she taught us about debate that we could use it in the classroom. However, she built her lecture without considering her audience. Throughout, it seemed she didn't know where we were coming from and what it is like to be a Native Teacher and teach English to students in public schools here. Her first fault was to slightly insult us with the following statements.
  • How Korean students think about native teachers? Advantages: The class is interesting and active. ... Disadvantages: Sometimes too speedy to understand. (I speak slowly in class and constantly check with my students if they understand me. Her statement assumes we all come in to class and speak our natural speed, which is completely wrong.) Often do not understand Korean culture. ( I got kind of pissed off at this. Yes we naturally can not understand Korean culture. But everyday I try my hardest to understand and accept the differences. Maybe I don't know or understand the cultural reasons behind the behavior of the students but that doesn't mean that I haven't gotten the hang of things within 2 years. I wonder if she realized she was speaking to the "Plus" audience who have been in Korea longer than 3 months and some of us have close relationships with Koreans. At this point, I knew her perspective was the typical "Us vs Them" approach.)
Looking at her points of reference on the booklet I can say she does have quality ideas. Like "Use more interesting fun and games." or "Present recent hot news". She wanted to give us ideas to help the kids speak more.

However, she doesn't know what it is like to have a class of 35 students who if prompted to speak at the same time, is a disaster.

Things fell apart when she got into teaching us about debate. Things became very technical and advanced. She gave us a graph and outline of how a debate works and should be played out with the students. But it wasn't practical to the age or size of our classes. Yes in the long run we can take her very technical schemes and adapt them to our class. However, wouldn't it have been more useful to present us with the idea of debate and then have us discuss how we can use it in our classrooms?

She finally started engaging with us by asking us for debate topics so that we could have a mini-one in class. One person suggested something but then I put my hand up.

She came over to me with the mic and I let it out, however in a peaceful way. I told her that I appreciate that she wants us to have more discussion in class and that we should use debate. I told her that we all have been to college and have learned what debate is. I said it might be more practical to have a discussion about how to use debate in the classroom. I told her that I have a hard time seeing how to use her method (she suggested we split the class up in to 2 groups) since we have 35 students per class and two groups mean about 15 kids each.

After I spoke she seemed a little frazzled and went back to the podium. A few people in the audience clapped for me and said, "Yea!". She tried to carry on with her thing but realized what I said was becoming the interest of other people. So she asked us what we thought we could do, she also made a comment that she didn't know we had 35 students per class. Again another pointer that she didn't know her audience.

Thankfully another person in the audience got up and talked about how he has done something similar in his classes but how he had to make it very simple.

She went back to the black board and tried to scheme out for us a plan of how to do this with our class. But again she just mumbled at the board and sort of looked at us. Other members spoke up and told her that they were too having a hard time finding how to use her topic for our classes. But a few spoke up to talk about how it could be possible.

It ended with us just keeping our mouths shut in hopes it would be over soon.

The last day of Orientation we were asked about our opinion of the classes and the same kind of disappoint was raised about this class. One lady, however, expressed how she felt it was good for us and wants to see similar types of "college-level" material. I suppose that is possible but if so I would hope the lecturer would really consider their audience before coming in.

Lecture: Using Games in the EFL Classroom
 The next lecture was a breath of fresh air. Mr. Tory S. Thorkelson started the class with a clear and loud voice and a topic that we all were familiar with. Plus throughout the class we actually played some of the games he brought with him. Also he was a seasoned English teacher here in Korea and so knew what worked and didn't, and why.

One of the interesting aspects of his speech was his attempt to distinguish games from activities. This was a good puzzler and kept me thinking. He said that games are more rigid and follow strict rules, whereas activities can be adapted and changed. Certainly something to think about more.

One example of the games he presented us was:
  • Draw and Say: Simple game (which I have used before) where one student has a picture and another has a blank paper. One tells the other what they see while the other draws. They compare afterwards.
As you can see I enjoyed this lecture and his ideas on motivating students and what games are best for our classroom.

Workshop: Group Discussion & Sharing Ideas
Thankfully a workshop was scheduled as the last 3 hr activity, for it came after lunch time. This class was an example of what they should add more of next time. A place where we can share ideas and talk about what works. Sure it is one thing to exchange a worksheet or class plan online but to discuss face to face with what we do in class makes it a whole lot more encouraging.

The scheme of this workshop was that we were put into small groups. We were given a large peice of white paper that was divided into four parts. Each paper had a lesson topic and the four parts related to learning English. (Reading, writing, speaking and listening). For 10 minutes each group brainstormed and wrote down their ideas for the topic.

It was fun, I have to say, and was interesting to see what other people came up with. Most of the topics were based on actual lessons from our curriculum. Therefore we had actual tested activities under our belt for these things.

Unfortunately my group was a bit of a mess. I was put in a group with 3 other men, one of which was a bit nutty. For example, he wouldn't stop talking about off topic ideas and he also kept on flirting with me. I tried my best to lead the group and get the work done. One member kept on walking out to get coffee or picked up his phone to respond to a text. This same member hardly gave any input. It made me feel like I do a lot of hard work and thinking while he can just get by. Anyways we were suppose to come up with one final lesson plan but since the other guy kept on talking it never happened.

As you can see the lectures and workshops were peppered with good and bad points throughout. I can't really say whether they were really geared towards us "Plus" folks. I think if they had more workshop orientated activities it would have been, since we have so much experience already.

In addition, no where were we ever informed about upcoming 2011 changes to our curriculum and contracts. There is a lot brewing underneath the surface, which I will talk about in the future. It would have been great to be brought up to speed about these things and ask for our opinion. However, as much as I wanted this to happen my expectations were very low. 

We will see if anything that was presented to me will come in handy when I am back at school. In the next series I will highlight a fun activity I experienced and tell you the secret to Orientation. ;)

Friday, June 25, 2010

GEPIK Summer Plus Orientation: Part 1

Before I retell you the fun and interesting things I experienced for the last 3 days I just want to first spend time on reflecting it all.

The purpose was to have everyone learn something to help us become better teachers. I am super tired right now from choppy sleep and so can't really tell whether their goal for Orientation took place inside me.

What I do know is that I walked away from this event with the following things:
  • I made new friends who, like me, don't like to drink.
  • I found a few Scrabble buddies.
  • Speaking up in class and making a point everyone is thinking takes guts, but feels rewarding afterwards. 
  • The mind can feel angry but the heart humble.
The following posts will describe in more detail my experience and opinion of the lectures and activities provided. All I can say for now is that I am recuperating from being around more foreigners than I have ever been since I visited America last summer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Going to Orientation

GEPIK Orientation for seasoned teachers is tomorrow. I got the word I am going today. Yep...last minute.

Ah well. I resisted going but in the end couldn't get out of it.  I look forward to meeting new people and maybe learning something. Or I guess sharing my own ideas with others.

And of course I hope to report back on look forward to that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Camp Preperation: Themes

For those who work in public schools around Korea summer and winter are not only time for vacation it is also our time for camp.

Camp at Korean public schools is probably not what you have in mind when you think "camp." For example, the kids are not in tents and they don't learn outdoor type activities. It is a period of learning English inside the school and usually lasts 5 days.

Depending on the organization and communication skills of your coteacher(s) you may either plan camp well or in a rush. You might be told, "You can do anything" or "No let's not have a movie day."

I was blessed this year to have a coteacher who let us (two foreigners at my school) plan whatever we wanted. She really wanted us to make it fun. We put our minds together and came up with 5 different "day-themes" for each day of camp.

Our camp schedule will be 3 weeks.
  • First week = 3rd & 4th grades together
  • Second week = 5th graders
  • Third week = 6th graders
We plan on using the same themes for each week, just change up some worksheets for the older kids.

Here for you in this post I will show you the themes we chose. It is my hope that these ideas might come in handy for you when you have to plan your camp. Certainly planning for camp depends on how much time you have. Remember that camp is usually just you in the classroom with 20 kids of mixed levels. Sometimes the school separates the kids by level but I actually think that is unwise. In my experience the advanced kids help the lower level ones and this is a real boost to their English confidence levels.

Overall Theme:
Let's move on to the theme of our summer camp. We are calling it:
"Passport to English."
If you are truly lucky you will get the privilege of titling your English camp. If not you could end up with "Fun Fun English" or something similarly bland. We came up with this title because I suggested the idea that since we have two Native Teachers it would be great to have the two classes move from one to the other. Meaning Class A would be with me for 1 hr and then Class B would move to the other teacher for an hour and so on. They liked this idea and so I pushed my next thought was that the kids carry passports.

Everyday there will be target sentences they will have to study. As they leave our classroom they have to speak the target sentence, which rewards them with a stamp in their passport. 

This led to more creative thinking and produced that our classrooms will be themed as a specific country. Since I am from America my class will be the American classroom. At the beginning of camp they will pretend to "enter" America with their English Passports. 
Above is an example of the passport template I made in Microsoft Word. They will end up making it on the first day. 

The idea is that as the days progress they will practice target sentences based upon the daily themes and receive stamps. By the end of the week those with the most stamps receive a prize. We also have found ways to incorporate it into a few games. 

Day 1 Theme: "Passport and Get To Know You"
The first day of camp is an important day because it will set the standard for the rest of your week. You want to make sure you lay down the rules and concepts of camp so that the students aren't lost throughout. Also they need to know what actions will get them rewards and what will get them punishments. 

This day you get down the basics, such as group formations and ice-breaker games. You want the kids to feel comfortable at camp and be friendly with their peers in their group. Grades 3 & 4 are pretty good and make a working together feeling but grades 5 & 6 will end up sticking to their own personal groups. One way to combat this is group kids randomly instead of letting them choose who they get to be with. Make sure to play games and activities that gets them up from their group and play with everyone. 

During Day 1 we plan on having ice-breaker and get-to-know-you games. Here are a few examples:

Get to know you BINGO: Using the handout Ss go around the classroom and try to find a student who can do a certain thing on the bingo. When an Ss gets a BINGO they sit down and get their prize. *Afterwards ask Ss who can do what related to the handout 

Name Game 1: Ss sit in a circle and pass a ball around. First Ss: “My name is Lisa. I like apples.Second Ss: “My name is Tom. Lisa likes apples. I like bananas.Third Ss: “My name is Brian. Lisa likes apples. Tom likes bananas. I like oranges.And they keep playing this way till everyone gets a turn and they have to memorize everything.

Snowball Speaking: Ss will practice a sentence and have it gain more words as they play. They will line up in their groups. NT will write the sentence on the board. “I like to eat apples. First Ss in each group starts out saying this sentence then the next Ss has to say the same sentence and repeat the first item and then add an item of their own. (Ex: I like to eat apples and bananas. The point is that the Ss must remember every new item and add a new one. This is a speed game so when the sentence gets to the end of the line that Ss has to run up to the board and write the sentence including all the items.

As you can see Day 1 will be a kind of relaxed day meant to get the kids into camp and in the mindset to work together. We also have peppered in learning some songs. 

Day 2: Drama and Role-Play
What camp would be without a day full of drama and role-playing? Actually, in my experience, teaching drama to students can at first be a bit challenging. Mostly because you are asking the kids to get up and act out in silly ways in front of their peers. But if you join in and act silly yourself you can get them to play along. 

This day we plan on switching the kids from class to class. My class will be learning the parts of a story and character types. This will be achieved with a PPT and a worksheet activity (or group activity). 

Then the kids will have a chance to create their own story and practice acting it out for a performance. In this case I made a handout where the parts of their story are determined by rolling the dice.

Since they need an ample amount of time to practice and perform their role-play this consumes most of Day 2. There are few drama games thrown in for fun, too. Examples:

Sculpting Figures: Using the same cards Ss will try to shape their group members to make other teams guess what it is they are doing. Example: Team gets the card “playing baseball” So they will position their team members in a way that makes them look like they are playing baseball. 

Story in a Bag: NT prepares different object cards in envelopes for each group. Groups will take out their cards and try to make a story.

Day 3: Nutrition, Shopping and Cooking
One of the basic necessities of camp seems to be a role-play shopping and cooking day. Don't let your coteacher fool you into making sandwiches. Have you ever made a sandwich before with pre-sliced ham and cheese? It takes all of 5 minutes and doesn't really present much creativity. Instead search online for fun kids cooking recipes. There are whole lot to make that are out there. Do you remember Ants on a Log? Putting peanut butter on top of celery or apples? That is really fun.

Well for our camp we tried to break out of the "sandwiches" mode by coming up with two recipes to make. Backing up this day are lessons about nutrition which will lead into the cooking part where kids choose either "healthy" or "unhealthy" toppings. 

Our recipes: 
  •   Funny Face Sandwiches: Here the kids will toast bread and cut out shapes in the bread, cheese and ham with cookie cutters. They will try to make a funny looking sandwich in this way. They will have a choice of candies too. 
  • Yogurt Parfait: This will be my part. Just your basic recipe of building up layers with yogurt, cereal and fruit toppings. Of course they will have a choice of candies.
 The other activities on this day include a shopping role-play where they compete with each other to shop the fastest. One group will get a shopping list while the other groups pretend to be different types of shops. I have already played similar games in class and so know how much fun it is. Since cooking, eating and cleaning up takes up some time this day is pretty much wrapped up.  

Day 4: Science  
I love Science! And this subject is so much more fun with kids. When doing a science day try not to get too technical with the kids. One theme I did before was learning the different types of senses (their language) and then have a taste-testing session with mystery foods. 
This time for camp we decided to do the famous Egg Drop!

 If you have never done this as a kid than I truly feel sorry for you. But definitely try this out with your students. At the mountain camp I went to last year the science class did this and from what I heard it was a real hoot. 

The basics are that you get the kids to design the egg basket in their group. Have them make it together. Then the teacher climbs up to the roof and drops their eggs. Afterward a discussion is held to talk about what happened. 

Here is a look at the handout I made for the pre-drop time.
 I am really looking forward to this day, because out of all the things I have done with children in Korea this looks to be the most creative. I hope it will be a surprise for the students as well.  

Day 5: Sports and Outdoor Fun
The last day of camp is one of tired students who wish they could be at home. That is why it is a great day to hold outdoor sports and mini-competitions. 

We split up the day in this way:
  1. Sports Language & Rules: Korean kids can't help but shout Korean when playing games. So before we start playing we plan on teaching them phrases to say in English while playing. Also we will add in general sportsmanship rules for them to remember.
  2. Relay Sports on the field: Your basic games. For example putting a balloon between the knees and racing this way. Classic run backwards race and so on.
  3. Water Balloon Challenge: Just what it sounds like. Hopefully we can get our hands on lots of water balloons.
  4. Mission Impossible Game: This is a bit of a slower activity. Kids will work in groups and get a handout listing missions they must complete. On the paper are clues about certain places around the school. They have to figure out the clue and then make their way to the location. At the location will be a stamp where the kids stamp their paper. Below is an example of the mission handout.

 My coteacher was kind enough to add Korean to the paper so that the kids had a better chance of figuring the stuff out. 

After the games the kids will come back to the classroom to eat a snack and sing a song. Then it will be the closing ceremony. For some reason at my school the Principals like to have an opening and closing ceremony where they speak Korean to the kids and everyone bows. We usually give out the prizes at the end of this. 

I am really looking forward to summer camp this year. Mostly because we are getting to do stuff we really want to do and also because last camp's coteacher no longer works with us. (The old lady). She disagreed with every idea we had and thought the students levels were that of super-beginners. 

Anyway, I hope this synopsis of the themes of our camp will give you some ideas for your camp. If you are going to teach your first camp this summer then I wish you the best of luck and just have fun with your kids.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Souvenir Shopping in Insadong

My summer vacation is rapidly approaching. In the mix of my list of things to do before I leave (go to the dentist, find a sturdy suitcase) is to pick up souvenirs for my family back home. You know those little things that are emblems of Korea and look like they came from half-way around the world.

I knew the place to be was Insadong street in Jongno. This must have been my 5th or 6th time coming to this place but every time you go you see something fun.

Another special aspect of this day was that it was an impromptu Girls Day, since I met up with Lola O in Seoul and Seoul Searching.  They ran into two of their friends and it was a smorgasbord of girly fun.

They allowed me the pleasure of souvenir shopping while we teetered around from shop to shop. I won't reveal what I purchased, since my Mom reads this blog. But let's just say I found a few good treasures.

After treasure hunting we ate lunch at a familiar yet hidden spot in the area. Then we wondered on down to the Ssamzie artsy mall-walk area.
This area is known for its graffiti on the walls. (Mostly love notes and some funny stuff here and there.)
While taking these photos I became amused with my friend's shoes.
While we were waiting for something (souvenir secret) we looked down below and spotted caricature artists. We noticed two of them were foreigners and immediately we began to wonder whether this was their full time job or whether they go around traveling. I noted that since they all drew in similar styles that they must have been trained for the job. hmmm
While looking down I noticed that over to the side where the shop stalls are were a cute couple. Her (assumed) boyfriend was in military dress, while she made him wear a girly pink ring. You can see her trying to take a photo.
We moved on to make our way to the Anguk side of Insadong street where we planned on turning around and going back. But on our way we spotted a TV crew and people taking photos. Apparently there was a celebrity there talking to the cameras about something. From what we gathered he was a famous comedian or gag-man here. I tried taking shots myself but people kept on walking in front of me.
It was a swell day overall and really relaxing to talk and walk with gal pals. We hope to have a girls night someday. haha

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Feeling of Korea

Today I was up in Seoul for reasons which I will blog about later. But while I was there I couldn't help but feel something captivating about Korea.

Maybe it was the Ahjumma (older woman) shopkeeper who treated me with care and searched within her stock for the right size. Then on the way out the store said, "so beautiful."

Maybe it was the street scene of concrete and tall buildings. Even though at first it was daunting now it seems like Korea wouldn't make sense without it.

Maybe it is how every time I ride the bus down the same path into and out of Seoul I see something newly built or torn down. While riding the bus the feeling of other passengers quietly and patiently riding along till they get to their stop, brings a sense of tenderness to me. Maybe it is those red plastic buttons on the bus that light up when someone needs to get off.

This is a feeling that Korea has become someplace familiar to me. During my first year in Korea I found it so hard to accept the unfamiliar. I was so thirsty and eager to find familiar sights, like houses or Whole Foods stores here. Of course, I knew I was on the other side of the world and what they got here is what they got.

Seeing the trees as I pass by them at high speeds on the bus go from stick-brown in the winter to bright-green in the summer leaves me feeling satisfied.

There have probably been too many days where I have felt contempt towards Korea and its people. Finding their faults and letting it hit me personally.

However, the days that I truly enjoy living in Korea are the ones where I feel at peace with their differences. The days where I almost feel a sense of security knowing that they and their landscape is different. Without which I might just live too much of a boring life.

Somehow these feelings hit me today. ...

Thursday, June 17, 2010


A funny new sitcom is coming to NBC about a guy who has to work in India because his boss outsourced his team.

Just take a look:

From what I hear it did good with test groups and so maybe isn't too racey.

Japan Leftovers

You might remember that back in November I did a visa-run to Osaka Japan. There were some pictures during the last full day of my trip that I never put up. They are from when I visited the Chion-in temple in Kyoto.

After visiting the temple I wandered down to Gion street, which is famous for being a Geisha district, and got a bite to eat.

I remember that as I was walking back to the city there was a narrow street that looked interesting. Indeed it was, for there were old style buildings with what looked like really good traditional restaurants.
The figurines in the window display case were interesting.
Looking back I recall that the season was Fall and certainly I enjoyed the foliage.
I finally made my way to the commercial streets and started looking for a cheap yet interesting place to eat. 
As I walked down the street there was a young girl standing near the store fronts passing out fliers and speaking Japanese. I took one and looked at it and there looked like something good to eat. So I pointed to it and asked, "Where?" The next thing I knew she was leading me down a narrow alley and took me inside a very quaint and small restaurant.

It sure was a gem! The restaurant was busy and from the looks of it with local people, so I knew this place was good. I sat down and ordered a Tempura vegetable set. I was served tea and I took in the restaurant. 
In front of me was the kitchen with the staff busily cooking. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the tempura, probably because it was so darn delicious and I was really hungry. Oh how I wish I could easy step into this place again.
Afterwards I did a little souvineer shopping and went back to the hotel. I wonder if I will get out to Japan again or with my next-next vacation time explore China or somewhere else. 

Ahh...who knows... ;)
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