Archive for the 'life in korea' Category

Sorry about that!

I have been enjoying the increased flexibility over at my self-hosted and all-inclusive blog lately, and have been forgetting to cross-post my entries over here.  In the interests of posting here in any sort of timely fashion, I am for the moment opting to just link to you the Korea-related entries over at my main blog, for now.  In the future, hopefully I will be better about actually cross-posting, rather than just lazy-linking, like this.  But, here you go, here’s my last week or so’s worth of Korea posts.  Enjoy:

Advertisements

Une Vache Coréen

stuff-1-10

Photos taken about 300 yards from my apartment.

Frustrations in Korean Education

Most of the time here in Korea, I am not exactly happy, but not really actively hateful; grouchy is a good term.  I even have some happy days.  But, I do have what I call “hate Korea” days an awful lot.  Today was one of those, and I’m so glad my school let me go early, because I was seriously stressing out while fuming at my desk, and my shoulders were quickly turning into bricks.  

You see, Koreans often have trouble with the process of planning ahead.  They don’t do it.  They also are not the world’s most logical thinkers, especially when it comes to critical thinking.  It’s not their fault, it’s just a product of their education system, and, to a degree, the culture.

Public schools in Korea typically offer winter camps and summer camps for students who want to work on a particular subject.  English is popular (though the kids usually are there only because their parents make them), and so most of us ESL teachers get roped into teaching said camps during the holidays.  That, in itself, is not a problem.

What bugs me is when my school waits until TWO WEEKS before the winter holidays start to begin preliminary planning for said camps.  They don’t even know when exactly they are going to happen, or how many kids there will be, etc.  Not only that, but everyone is in the middle of exams right now, so teachers are busy with all that, instead of being able to plan for these camps, because nothing was done beforehand.

What this means for me is that this afternoon, my co-teacher/minder came to my desk and told me that I have to make 20 hours of lesson plans by Monday morning.  Not only that, but the lesson plans all should ideally be along a theme, and they should all be of such a sort that will work well consecutively, since I am seeing the same students every day for four hours.  Yes, you read that right, they expect that middle school students will be able to pay attention in a foreign language class for four hours.  Even in the immigrant classes I taught in the US, our longest classes were 3 hours, and even with those, which were comprised of adults who really, honestly, enthusiastically wanted to learn the language, by about the 2.5 hour mark, keeping their attention and energy level up was a constant battle.

I have tried to explain this to my co-teacher, and have requested that rather than one class of, say, 30, they will get far, far better results with two classes of 15, even if each class has me for half the time they would have otherwise gotten.  Koreans tend to have difficulty with the concepts of quality vs. quantity and of diminishing returns, and this is truly a prime example.  Argue as I might, she wouldn’t give in, and insisted that forcing 30 kids to try and pay attention for 4 hours is far, far better than giving 15 kids more personal attention for 2 hours.

I miss my friends back home, and my boyfriend Marc, but the times that I really think about coming home are the days like today.  I miss folks dearly, but if I were ever to “pull a runner” (leave in the middle of the night), it would not be (primarily) because I want to go back home, it will be because this country has finally driven me to my breaking point.

Freedom

My bike, at the top of one of the nearby “hills” at sunset:

stuff-6

One of the major advantages of having my “scootercycle” (as I call it, as it’s 100cc) is that I can drive around the island to get my photos pretty easily.  I have a tendency to just wander around on the little one-lane roads that form a spiderweb between the rice paddies and meander up the mountains.  I like the freedom of being able to stop at a crossroads and think “Hm… I wonder what’s up over on the other side of that hill…” and then actually go and find out.  My sense of personal freedom is very important to me, and I think I would have gone a little crazy by this point if I didn’t have my bike, and the ability to just “go” that it provides and represents.  I have lived in cities, and I have lived in the countryside, and I prefer the countryside, but what I did not initially take into account in my choice of Jindo as my location here in Korea was transportation.  When I have lived in rural areas in the past, I have always had my own car.  Here, the beauty in the surrounding countryside that I saw from the windows of buses was tempting me, but I couldn’t explore.  Thankfully, someone informed me that for $400, I could own one of the little motorcycles/scooters that all the farmers ride here.  It’s a bit of a POS, but it has taken quite a beating from me and it still runs quite well, considering.  The important thing, though, is that it’s mine, and it allows me to see what’s over the next hill, around the next turn, or at the end of the road.  If only it were so easy to do that with your life, eh?

*shiver*

Know how I keep mentioning that despite the fact that it’s not really much colder here than Massachusetts is, that it feels MUCH colder?

Well, I finally found a weather forecast for Jindo, and now I know I’m not just being wimpy.

  • Actual Temperature (as of right now, 6pm):  24˚F (-4˚C)
  • “Real Feel” Temperature:  -4˚F (-20˚C)

It’s the same temperature now that it was when I drove to work this morning.  Yes, I drove my motorcycle, for 20 minutes, in a perceived temperature of -4 (-20C), and that’s WITHOUT the windchill of being on a motorcycle at 45mph (70kmh).

This country is officially cold, and I am officially nuts.

By the time I go out to dinner tonight, the predicted temp is 8˚F (-13˚C), with a “real feel” of -22˚F (-30˚C).

The up-side is that if I feel warm in my German WWII parka in this (which I do, with a sweater on underneath), I will be *fine* at the reenactment in Pennsylvania in February.

Exam Time

Inspired by CowsByTheFence‘s recent post, I figured I should mention about teaching here during exam season.

Exams are the paramount part of the Korean education system.  Those exams determine how good of a middle/high school the students are able to get into, and they study for a ridiculous amount of time, both in school and at cram schools.  Toward the end, many of my students are out at cram schools until 2am – remember, these are middle schoolers.  What this means for me at school is that I end up with a severely reduced class schedule.  Usually I teach 3 classes or so a day at my schools.  When the students are studying, I don’t teach that class, and so I have been having days where I only teach once, or sometimes not at all.  That doesn’t mean that I get to go home though – two of my three schools require me to sit idly at my desk until 5.  Now, it’s okay, as I use that time to work on my blogs, my reenacting units’ websites, and to chat with folks back home.  But, to counter what I suspect will be cries of “but you don’t have to work!”, I will say that really, I would rather be working.  Sitting at your desk for 8 hours, with nothing particular to do, does get boring when it’s day after day, and I feel somewhat useless.

Now, technically that time is “preparation time”, but in reality, I only teach one lesson plan per week, and weird as it sounds, I tend to actually literally “dream up” my lesson plans as I sleep – I keep a notebook on my bedside table, in fact.  My co-teachers find this hilarious, but really, my lesson plans have been pretty popular with the students, so they don’t seem to care where they come from.  Since it looks like I will be teaching 2-3 weeks of camps during the winter holidays, I will soon start to use that time to plan activities for those, but until I have something concrete as to the length and preferred content of the camps, I don’t really want to put any effort into it, as it would likely just have to be discarded.

I am really surprised that my school district has decided to run a middle school camp this winter.  The camp they ran this summer was so unpopular that they had to pay the students to attend, rather than the other way around, and I’d imagine that they’d have an even stronger negative reaction for a winter camp.  Ah well, that’s Korean logic for you.

At least the new foreigner arrives today.  Everyone in town is greatly anticipating her arrival.

Huzzah!

I feel rather accomplished at the moment. I had a conversation, without using any English! Sure, I wasn’t really using full sentences, but it’s a start. I have translated my words pretty literally (as you can probably figure out from the choppiness).

While I was out walking to the ATM to get money for my oil, I saw a guy playing fetch with his Jindo. I waved and said hello. He spoke back, and it went something like this (Korean translated to English):

Guy with Jindo: This is a Jindo dog. They are very beautiful and smart. High IQ!
Me: Yes, Jindo dogs are beautiful and cute.
GWJ: Do you like Jindo dogs?
Me: Yes! I like Jindo dogs. Jindo dogs beautiful because orange fur. (playing with dog: Come here! Sit! Good dog!)
GWJ: Where are you from?
Me: America. (Migook) Boston.
GWJ: Ah! Boston marathon! Red Sox!
Me: Yes.
GWJ: Are you a teacher?
Me: Yes. Middle school English teacher. Teach at G******, U****, G******. Three schools.
GWJ: Ah! English teacher! Rotation?
Me: Yes.
GWJ: Difficult!
Me: Yes.
GWJ: Do you speak Korean?
Me: A little.
GWJ: A little?
Me: Very little.
GWJ: *laughs*
Me: Nice dog! Cute dog! Goodbye!
GWJ: Thank you! Goodbye!

As I walked away, I had a huge grin on my face. It really felt like a breakthrough. It was probably the first conversation (and certainly the longest) that I have had where I didn’t have to resort to English or gestures. I felt very accomplished. Sure, I’ve been here 6 months, but Korean is a very difficult language to learn purely by osmosis.


November 2017
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Blog Stats

  • 52,599 hits