Posts Tagged 'esl'

Mondays

Mondays are my hardest day.  Everyone is tired and grouchy, and my worst class (the students that broke the windows in retribution for being punished) is my first period of the day.  The three classes which follow it are better, but still quite difficult to control, in comparison to the students I have at my other two schools.  Part of that, I’m sure, is that due to the disrespect the students here treat me with in general, I am not very friendly to them in return, whereas at the other schools, my students like me and come and chat with me at my desk, etc, and so thus I am friendly back.  If I can make it through my Mondays, the week feels in a way like it’s already winding down.  It makes the time go much faster.

I have also noticed that staying at home on the weekends has made my time go by faster as well.  When I travel on the weekends, I leave Friday afternoon or evening, and return Sunday evening, and am busy all weekend.  Even though it’s leisure, I end up wondering where the weekend went.  When I stick around Jindo, I feel no pressure to do anything, and that, combined with my half-day on Fridays, tends to make the weekend seem decently long.

I do, however, need to remember on Monday to ask the school that is in charge of my paychecks to show me my pay receipts.  In looking at my bank account, I seem to be being paid around $400 under what I should be getting, which is a significant amount.  Korean schools are notorious for cheating their foreign teachers out of parts of their paycheck, and I really hope it’s just a mistake, rather than that.  However, it would give me an excuse to request that my employer be switched from this school to one of the others, which would be nice.  My co-teacher here does relatively little and has absolutely no interest in being around me more than she has to, outside of school, and the school itself seems to rather dislike me, unlike my other two, which love me.  Ah well, life is life, and you learn to deal.

Here, have one of my photos from my lung-cancer-inducing photo walk the other day:

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A Glimpse at my Week

My life has definitely calmed down now that I am only teaching at 3 schools instead of 7 and have been able to thus develop a routine.  I was told by many, many people that after the first 3-4 months, which seem interminably slow, that time really speeds up.  I was skeptical about this, due to the snail’s pace at which my life seemed to crawl for awhile there, but it is definitely proving to be true.  It feels like I go from Monday to Friday in about 3 days, which is good, because right now I’m just counting the days until I go back to the states for my month+ long winter vacation.  For those curious, here’s how I generally look at my work-week:

Monday:  My first two classes of the day are also my worst-behaved of the week.  So, if I can make it through those two without getting too angry, things are good.  Plus, at that school (which I will call GS), the teacher has decided that she doesn’t like my lessons, and so I’m basically a pronunciation monkey for her.  Makes my life easy, so I don’t complain.  Mondays I teach 4-5 classes, and I am usually done teaching by 2 or 3, and my remaining hours (until 5) are spent anxiously awaiting someone to upload the week’s new episode of True Blood, and then downloading it.  That evening, I go home and treat myself to one of my Belgian or German beers that I hoard when I find them.

Tuesday:  On Tuesday I am at my favourite school (which I will call US), and the students there love me and come to my desk to try and practice their English with me, which 90% of the time is cute, and nottoo annoying the other 10% of the time.  The students there are generally actually interested in learning English, and their pronunciation is the best on the island, in my opinion, so my job there is relatively easy.  Plus, the teachers there are generally happy, so the environment is nice.  The best part about Tuesdays, though, is that by 1:00 or so (and I only teach 2-3 classes), I get to head home, because that school is sane and releases me after I’m finished teaching, rather than making me sit uselessly at my desk until 5.  Tuesday evenings I spend either in front of my computer or out walking, or both.

Wednesday:  Wednesday I am back at GS, which is rarely pleasant as the teachers always seem very angry and stressed.  The students are my worst-behaved and their English is the worst, so my job there can be relatively stressful sometimes.  But, my afternoons I have no classes, so I spend that time working on my various websites, or on editing photos, etc.  Plus, after that day is done, I only have two days left in the week.  I theoretically have a workshop for the middle school teachers that day in the afternoon, but it only happens about half the time.  I teach 3-4 classes on Wednesday, plus the occasional workshop.  Wednesdays are cooking days, so my evening is usually a mix of cooking and cleaning.

Thursday:  Thursdays I am at GN, which is a decent school.  I love my co-teacher there, and like US, the teachers and students are generally in a pretty positive mood, so it’s a comfortable environment.  Some of my students there are good, some are bad, though the ones that are good are really good, so that’s nice.  I usually teach 3-4 classes on Thursday, and they’re almost aways all in a row, which can be hard, but I’m usually done by 2:30 at the latest, and then I go home.  I teach a workshop for elementary school teachers at 4pm at another school, and so I go home and surf un-censored internet for an hour or two before I have to head out again.  The teachers in that workshop are pretty low-level, which is a challenge, but all my previous experience has been with teaching adults, and the teachers are nice, so it’s usually fun.  Thursdays I almost invariably eat at the street-stand sandwich place in town, where they know me so well they start making my sandwich as I walk up to the counter.

Friday:  Friday is, well, Friday, so it’s almost always a good day.  Fridays I am back at US, and I usually only teach 2 classes, so I’m done by 11:30.  I usually stick around until lunch at 12:30, as a free meal is welcomed, and US has the best food of the three schools, but if I need to head out earlier to catch a bus or something, I can.  Because I am finished so early, and my days at US are so easy, Fridays almost don’t feel like a work day, which results in my weekends feeling almost like a three day weekend.

So, in short, Monday sucks, but then Tuesday goes by like a bullet train, Wednesdays suck but then Thursdays are okay and I spend them looking forward to Friday, then Friday is almost a non-workday.  So, really, it makes things go by rather quickly.  I have mostly been sticking around on the weekends, though I was going to head up to the province north of here to check out the foliage this weekend, until the weather called for rain and clouds there.  Maybe next weekend.  Sometime in November I need to make a trip up to Seoul to hit the expat store and an expat bar or two (I now have a ring I wear to fiddle with in class, and if I go to a bar by myself, I just switch which finger it’s on and the men mostly leave me alone – haha), but in general, I’m trying to stick around town more, since with the economy the way it is, I need to save my money.  I am still going to do the Trans-Siberian on the way home, but I may cut my time in Europe a little shorter than I originally planned, unless the economy rebounds.

Anyway, this entry is long enough, so I’ll stop now.

#@#$(*& Students!

So, I just had to discipline AN ENTIRE CLASS. Ironic that the first time I’ve actually had to punish a student (I had to isolate one last week, but it wasn’t what I, and the Korean system, consider punishment) I actually had to punish an entire class.

They didn’t like my lesson, so they were being silent. So, I asked them if it was too difficult. Silence. I told them that if it was, I would do an easier activity. Silence. I had my Korean co-teacher translate. Still silence. After 10 minutes of trying to get them to say something, anything, I told them that if they were going to be silent, they were going to do so uncomfortably. I made them all stand up from their desks and stand with their arms outstretched. Silent. For the entire period. Believe me, after 15 minutes, it starts to hurt.

I’m vaguely worried about retribution, however. Last week a teacher punished a few students, and they broke 7 windows in the teachers office in response. I told my co-teacher that in America, those students would be expelled, or at least suspended. These were the 8th graders, who apparently are a reasonably violent and vengeful bunch, so I do have to be careful about what I do with them. After the bell, I asked them “Did you enjoy that?” “No…” “Will you speak when I ask you a question, in the future?” “Yes…”.

Apparently they think I should only play games with them. I told them that I would play a game with them the last week of every month, but if I *only* play games with them, they will not learn anything from me, and they will never get off the island, that they will not get into university (a halfway decent knowledge of English is generally required), and that they will end up as farmers (and the Korean word for farmer is the same word for “peasant”). Harsh, yes, but they really pissed me off. They were completely disrespectful to both me and the co-teacher, and the other Korean teacher who was brought in to help. They were disrespectful by American standards, and *extremely* disrespectful by Korean standards.

It’s early in the year, and I do *not* want to start off the year seeming like a pushover. I really hope this has some effect. As a friend of mine says, if I continue with the same, all I will do is achieve compliance through force, which is not a productive form of classroom management.

School Stuff

Wednesday I head up to 해남 (Haenam) to take my driving classes.  It’s offered in English once a week there, and while I was annoyed at first at having to take the class, it would be nice to actually understand what the various Korean traffic signs mean, and understand what the rules are in terms of bikes.

My lesson this morning crashed and burned in the first 5 minutes.  They were even more rowdy than I had anticipated.  I ended up making a tally of how many people did which activities over the holidays, and then asked them questions based on their answers (like “Where did you swim?”, “What TV show did you watch?”, etc).  After that, I asked them to give me suggestions of some topics they would like me to cover in class this semester.  Korean students have essentially no control over their schooling, and I wanted to put a little power in their hands, for once.  They seemed baffled that I was asking *them* what they wanted to learn, but eventually they figured it out.  So, now I have some ideas of what units I should touch on first.  I ended with about 10 minutes to spare, and so we played hangman with the category being sports that were in the Olympics.  They enjoyed that, and it gave them a positive note to end on.

Tomorrow I go to 섴교, my least favourite school.  My co-teacher there corrects me in front of the class (and 95% of the time he’s wrong), and often will try to change my lesson as I’m teaching it.  I have talked with him about this before, but he’s an older teacher, and most older teachers tend to view younger teachers as below them, and thus have no problem with overstepping that classroom boundary.  It’s irritating, but there’s little I can do about it.

*Edit:  Oops, I was wrong, I’m going to 지산, the school I work at that doesn’t have indoor plumbing.  Nice kids, horrendous facilities.

Stuff.

Having the new bike is really helping with my mood, in general.  I hadn’t realized how much it was bothering me to have my travel restricted to the (very limited) bus service here.  I’ve been driving it around parts of the island I hadn’t even previously realized existed, and coming across people who I’m quite sure have never seen a Real Live Foreigner™ before, from their reactions.  It’s been enjoyable, and I’ve been getting some good shots.

That said, with the recommencing of school duties today, I found myself rather depressed this morning, for some reason.  In general, I do pretty well here – I’m not really sad, or lonely.  But, sometimes it does hit me broadsides.  I miss having Marc next to me when I wake up, I miss the forests of both Massachusetts and Virginia, and I miss being able to feel laid back.  The communication barrier adds a general level of stress to my life here, and while it is low level, it is constant, and that can begin to wear on me.  I’m hoping to go up to Seoul for Chuseok so I can attend Quaker Meeting again, as I think it will help.  I have found that attending Meeting really does wonders for my mood here, as it provides a reasonable amount of familiarity, something I sorely lack here most of the time.

Without further ado, here’s two photos from yesterday’s drive:

 

Seaweed Farmers in Paengmok

Seaweed Farmers in Paengmok

and

My bike at sunset in the most rural part of the island.

My bike at sunset in the most rural part of the island.

 

Classes start for me today at about 11am.  Since it’s the first week for the kids, I’m giving them an easy day.  I’m going to have them each tell the class three things about their vacations, and then I’m going to call on random kids and have them try to remember what other students did.  Simple, easy for me (I’m a little tired after spending 4 nights sleeping on someone’s floor), relatively easy for the students, and will help to ease them back into the idea of being in school again.  That’s this week’s basic lesson plan.


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