Teacher’s Day – South Korea

Teacher’s Day is one of my favorite Korean holidays.  Its not just the cute notes, buckets of flowers, snacks and other assorted gifts.  Sure those help but what really makes me love Teacher’s Day is the realization of how much value Koreans have for teachers.temp_1431679395167.-504624130

There is a separate holiday where the entire country devotes itself to their teachers.  You could argue that its a Hallmark holiday (and i’m sure stationary stores love it) but there’s also a Teacher’s Day song that everyone knows and the day encourages students to visit their old teachers.

Teacher's Day Assembly.

Teacher’s Day Assembly.

This year was the first year I had actual visitors in the 2 hour block our school devoted for students to reunite with their old teachers.  Our students were dismissed after lunch while we had prep time and still got out 2 hours early.  Last year’s 4th graders came by in force dropping off the cutest hand written notes you’ve ever seen. Continue reading

Grateful, flattered and a big ‘Thanks Mom’

Thankful, humbled, flattered, honored & feeling blessed.  The last week brought lots of good news and opened new doors without closing any.  Whether its good karma, good luck or simply I that had great parents who raised me right I keep getting more and more opportunities to thrive in everything I enjoy.  Thanks mom!  A belated happy mother’s day to you (don’t worry I woke her up with a Skype call as I went to bed.  Time zones are funny like that).

On that mother’s day Skype call my parents commented that it seems like my “life is in between vacations.”  I’ve got a good job that affords me plenty of time to travel but more importantly living in Korea means I’m always traveling.  So how could things get better than they already were?  I had no idea until these last few days.

Over the weekend I attended my 2nd Google Apps for Education Conference.  It was amazing, I learned a tremendous amount to help me personally as an educator and independently with productivity tricks.  (stay tuned for an overview of the best tips & lifehacks!)  At the end we were invited on stage (roughly 200 attendees) to do a “Demo Slam” (a 2 minute presentation of on an awesome Techno trick).  I won a cool laptop bag but more importantly while networking later in the evening they asked if I would present next year!  What an honor.  I of course said yes and have already begun preparing a trial presentation for my coworkers.

The networking continued as I met dozens of teachers from international schools all over Asia.  Uh oh.  All over Asia?  Yeah, I don’t know when I’m leaving Korea but there’s no guarantee leaving Korea means returning home.  Especially if I can get into a fancy international school and explore some new corner of the world!

Already on cloud 9 from the conference I finalized my summer plans and have begun coming to the realization that I’ll be spending 3 weeks in Thailand this summer!  Brian and I are hoping to jump on motor bikes and explore the northern jungles in between beach days and hopping over to Cambodia to see Angor Wat.

Hours after those tickets were purchased I was asked to be a Teaching Mentor!  I was taken aback.  He couldn’t truly be asking me to be his teaching mentor?  I’m still young.  Aren’t I?  Okay so I’m almost 30 (with dreamy thoughts of a destination 30th on the beach!) but I’ve only been teaching for a handful of years.  I’ve always known I was good with kids and thought highly of my teaching abilities but never wanted to be pretentious.  I guess I’m inspiring more than just my students but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to be a mentor.  Does it?

I confided in him that I wasn’t sure I was qualified but IF I meet the requirements I would be happy to oblige.  Then I started to think back to the mentors in my career.  Most if not all of them mothers by now so happy mothers day to Roe, Judy, & Sue; they were some of the most influential teachers in my early career.  Can’t forget Dr. C and all my amazing professors.  I know I’m not quite among their ranks but in makes me proud to know I’m on track!

So like I said.  I’ve got it pretty good.  The truth is after leaving that crappy hagwon I have had few complaints and many thanks.  Thank you mom & dad especially for helping me become a son that you are proud of.  A person that I’m proud to be.  Thank you to all the mentors and role models in my life from Aunts, Uncles & extended family to coaches, scout leaders and of course my teachers!

My students picked this picture because…

My Korean co-teacher came up to me and asked if it was okay for the students to show me pictures.  I heard him using my name in class and then speaking Korean for the last 15 minutes but thought nothing of it.  But then they explained in English why they choose each picture specifically for me.  It was adorable and its moments like these that makes me love teaching!

yh students

Some of my favorites were:
I picked this picture because…

“You are able to teach us all day everyday” (open 24 hours)
“You love us!” (hugging polar bears)
“You teach us good things but also take away our bad things” (light & dark artistic sphere)
“You always have new ideas to help teach us” (fireworks)
“You like climbing mountains” (2 hikers)
“You have many students and like teaching” (Chinese classroom)
“You teach us and don’t care about money” (foreign currency)
“You are clean and pure.” (glass of water)
“You are perfect!” (bullseye)

“We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors; We Borrow It from Our Children”

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”

-Moses Henry Cass

Hang En-8

Cass’s quote is especially important I lieu of the recent climate change “debate.”  Well, lets be honest, its not really a debate.  The conversation is akin to a child arguing with an adult over the benefits of brushing one’s teeth, eating healthy, how video games are good for studying or just about anything that has been scientifically proven yet people still deny.


Seoraksan National Park, South Korea

For millennia humans have inherited the earth from our forefathers and continued to live off the land.  Only recently has our race begun to realize the impact we have on nature and the profound changes we set in motion.  Some changes are already irreversible (sure that’s a TV show but those facts check out).  The Earth’s temperature is rising and our best estimates of letting it continue on the current course are catastrophic.




Jirisan National Park, South Korea

The thing to remember is that regardless of the current situation we need to get into Cass’ mentallity of “borrow[ing] Earth from our children.”  We hand it back to them in (hopefully) better condition than we were given it.  Humans are known for their ability to adapt and I am confident in our abilities to continue doing so.  I look forward to inventions that help us solve the issues that climate change is presenting.  I’m hopeful about future technology that could reverse the damage caused by our pollution.   A 19 year old is spearheading the ocean cleanup, scientists are hoping to lower the Earth’s temperature by using artificial trees or other inventions to suck the harmful CO2 out of the sky.


East Sea from Daecheongbong, Seoraksan National Park, South Korea

The sun hasn’t set on us yet.  With the help of modern scientists, activists and everyday people we can keep this beautiful Earth for generations to come.  Soon we will return this borrowed planet to our offspring but until that day we have work to do.  Even if its just recycling and making a compost pile everyone can help clean up our planet  Get out there and make a difference so we can leave the best planet possible to our children!


Presidential analysis by Paul Krugman – In Defense of Obama

Paul Krugman, “Nobel Prize-winning economist, once one of the president’s most notable critics, why Obama is a historic success” recently wrote an enlightening article for the Rolling Stone.  Titled In Defense of Obama he highlights major criticisms of Obama’s presidency.  I usually keep politics off of here but after reading the article I felt it worth sharing. BzywR75IYAALpMw I voted for Obama.  Twice.  I don’t stand by everything he’s done but I agree with Krugman that the critics are a too harsh on the guy.

“Obama delivered less than his supporters wanted, less than the country arguably deserved, but more than his current detractors acknowledge”

Regardless of your political views this is well worth the read.  Krugman gives an excellent overview of the current state of American affairs.  From the ACA, aka Obamacare, to the job market he points out where Obama and his cabinet’s policy have helped.

“health reform is looking like a major policy success story. It’s a program that is coming in ahead of schedule – and below budget – costing less, and doing more to reduce overall health costs than even its supporters predicted.”

Playing the careful critic Krugman reminds his readers that things could certainly have been better and in many cases its not just hindsight being 20/20.  Advisers (including Krugman) did their job and advised upon deaf government ears while policy created a slow but steady recovery as oppopsed to the in your face changes than the modern American wanted.  We want the fix everything pill (which may have been available given the right policy) but instead got a tortoise to the hare.  The good news is we are still finishing the race ahead of many global partners who still have double digit unemployment and significantly less of a recovery.image

“The bottom line on Obama’s economic policy should be that what he did helped the economy, and that while enormous economic and human damage has taken place on his watch, the United States coped with the financial crisis better than most countries facing comparable crises have managed”

A major financial fact that Krugman illustrates (and most Americans are unaware of) is less of the importance of the recovery and more on new policy that will prevent another serious collapse.  Dodd Frank is a complicated piece but 3 main points are highlighted.  It protects American citizens from predatory lending, creates a system of oversight for too big and too greedy banks while giving the government legal authority to step in when those banks find themselves in hot water.

“National Security” is a hot topic and Krugman conveniently omitted the dreaded “drone” word.  Perhaps the area where most of Obama’s supporters waver and the reason for low approval rating; I’m glad Krugman mentioned national security but he too was careful in the criticism.  John Oliver illustrates the point quite well; most Americans are pro drones in spite of their horrific nature and while lacking sufficient knowledge on the topic.  Americans (and most of the world) are willing to forget about the cons in lieu of killing terrorists.

131031_barack_obama_flags_ap_605Speaking of terrorists how about that NSA?  Krugman points out that its not his profession but his comments echo those of most Americans.  The country is slowly turning into a security state and Obama’s actions (or lack thereof) didn’t help the situation.  The balance between freedom and safety is a slippery slope that I hope we don’t tumble too far down.  This will undoubtedly be one of the biggest scars on Obama’s legacy.

“We have, in a remarkably short stretch of time, become a notably more tolerant, open-minded nation.”

But lets get back to the good news.  In fact my favorite part of what will be the Obama tale has got to be social reform.  We have a long way to go until equality has truly been reached but the LGBT rights are among few positive critiques I hear about my beloved home country while living abroad.  Couple that praise with Environmental gains in green energy and the EPA’s new regulation and America is looking more and more like a progressive nation.

I guess I still have HOPE that”Yes We Can” continue to make positive changes and one day return to being the best country in the world!  What are your thoughts on Obama’s presidency and Krugman’s analysis of it?

Read the whole thing at : http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/in-defense-of-obama-20141008#ixzz3GAYx28dU