TGIF!

The week after a long vacation is always tough.  (I know America, you didn’t have any time off but we had a 5 day weekend for Chuseok)  Doesn’t matter your profession and it apparently doesn’t matter where you are on the globe.  I remember dreading going back to work after a long break in the states for a few reasons.  Getting to sleep on time and waking up early was always my first hurdle.  The crazy students were usually a close second.

The same is true here.  After 5 days of sleeping in and staying up late to explore the city; going to bed this past Sunday and Monday was brutal, waking up on time was even worse.  I like to walk to work but this week I took the subway a few too many times just so I could get those extra minutes of sleep.  I found myself going to Paris Baguette for breakfast rather than taking the time to eat a bowl of cereal before I left.   But, I survived the week and by Thursday actually had enough time in my morning to open a new box of Kelloggs and throw in a banana.

When it comes down to it, getting back into my routine wasn’t so bad and by mid week I was able to get to sleep at a decent hour.  The next pitfall was the students being off their rockers.  Now, that could have been the full moon we just had bur more likely its because they were just as bad at leaving behind the laziness of vacation as I was.  Our “favorite” student had his worst week yet and although the rest of my little munchkins were pretty good by midweek, Monday was just as out of control for everyone.

So what did I do?  I tried to make it seem like all we were doing was playing games.  I made the “crash” game (stole the idea from a coworker) with sight words.  Its a card game with small words that they know and about a dozen “crash” cards.   They keep going until they get a crash or don’t know a word.  They loved it and immediately began to recognize more words in their reading.  In fact by Friday they were playing “independently” (I use the term loosely because I’m pretty sure they just sat in a circle and giggled whenever someone got a crash card.)

In Science we did an experiment with evaporation, condensation and precipitation by boiling water before finger painting our own water cycle.  We read a few extra stories and I let playtime go a little longer than usual.  Combine all that with the typical songs, dances and general ridiculousness that I bring to the classroom and they were actually able to focus!

By Friday we were wiped, students and teachers alike.  Oh, and my co-teacher might be coming down with a cold on top of having to deal with the brunt of the students’ temper tantrums.  Mary, if you’re reading this you are amazing and I couldn’t teach these kids without you!  Even though being exhausted by Friday is standard this time we were literally doing a “happy dance.”  We took regular breaks to sing our phonics song, played spelling games and just relaxed.  We were able to plow through some of our math work but rather than being the “lord at the board” we pushed the desks together and made a giant table.  As an added incentive to finish their work those that were done got to independently play sight word games.

Unfortunately, all this wasn’t enough.  We still had more fighting than our usual  Asian anime action heroes.  We had to split up a few of the boys more than once and there were more tears than in a usual Kindergarten day.  If that wasn’t enough I had to send one little girl to the hospital for what started out as bug bites but by the afternoon her face was all red and puffy in an allergic reaction.

To give everyone a break we sang the banana song and then played on the roof at the end of the day.  Our “favorite student” had to bring up his math packet but suddenly became my most diligent worker.  Everyone got a turn flying around as I carried them and we jumped, danced and had a merry old time.

Now to enjoy some Korean cooking and the rest of my weekend. TGIF!

A day in my classroom

We still don’t know whats happening with the financials here.  There are quite a lot of mixed feelings but I’m still pretty optimistic about everything.  I think the paychecks will come through and the school is gonna make it but if not, I’m looking forward to finding a hostel until my recruiter helps me get a new job.  My main concern was that I would get deported but I’ve been assured that won’t happen unless I fail to find a new job.  The good news is the teaching market here is booming with a huge demand for English Teachers.

My students are still fantastic.  My kindergarten has 10 kids, 4 boys & 6 girls.  They are adorable and very affectionate; most of them were full of hugs and fighting over sitting in my lap by my second day; it took a couple of them a few days to warm up to me but everyone seems pretty comfortable with me by now.   Every morning my students arrive around 9:30.  I try to get in by 8:30 and my Korean co-teacher, Mary, gets in before 9:00.  The kids come in and change their shoes since Koreans have separate indoor and outdoor shoes.  After they put on their new shoes and unpack they get started with a daily sentence or two.  I usually put 1-2 spelling words in and this week our words are all about travel so we have had lots of pictures of planes and boats.

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I have an exceptional class but there is one student that I usually have to sit with in order to get him to write.  Some days he asks to write “half & half” where I write every other letter for him.  It seems to help motivate him but he still prefers to draw his letters all over the page.  The odd thing is that on the spelling test he will write perfectly and usually get 100%!

When they finish writing they get to play but by the time everyone is done its usually snack time.  We break for some Korean treats and then back to playtime for a few minutes.  Every day is slightly different but they usually have a special after snack.  Today they went to Gym and then Chinese class so I get to do some planning (or blogging) or if I need to I can quickly run to the bank or post office.

When they get back from their special we technically have Language Arts which I use it as a morning meeting time.  We all read the morning sentence together and then read today’s date and talk about the weather.  I just started weather with them and added “yesterday was” & “tomorrow will be” to our calendar discussion but they are picking it up quickly.  Generally they will repeat anything you say and a couple of them will remember it unprompted even though most of them look like deer in headlights without my prompts.

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That usually takes us all the way until lunchtime so we pause to wash our hands and off we go.  Before they eat we always sing a little song.  It’s a sort of prayer saying “thank you for the food we eat” and for everything around us, etc.  I’m glad it doesn’t get too religious or spiritual.

After lunch we usually have a big block of academics.  The nice thing is I have a self-contained classroom so I can decide how much time I really need for each subject and move things around as needed.  Mondays we do show & tell and Mary takes pictures of them walking around the room after I’ve done a mini interview that they prepped for at home.  It’s really cute and gets them more comfortable speaking in front of the class but its all memorized lines that they really just whisper back to me.

In Science we are learning about the weather and different weather words.  We are supposed to move onto types of clouds for the second half of September but I’m not sure if they will really grasp “nimbus, cumulus, stratus or cirrus” so I may have to figure out another way to do it.

Social Studies this month is surrounding the Korean holiday Chuseok.  Its kind of like Thanksgiving and I feel like I’m learning more about it than my students who have celebrated it their entire life.  The good news is I have a 5-day weekend next week because of it!

For math we have videos that go with every lesson and are currently working on grouping by 10’s and understanding tens & ones place value.  Again we are very diverse in abilities here; some kids fly through the work everyday and have me trying to think outside the box about differentiating some enrichment for them.  Other students can barely keep up just with copying what I’m writing on the board and definitely aren’t independent.

We end each day with some more Language Arts but by then they are pretty pooped so I turn it into a game where we practice spelling.  I’ve been trying to work on phonics with them so we do some alphabet and letter songs too.  So far they love it and can’t wait to play the STOP game.  I heard about it from a coworker, it’s basically hangman but with the word STOP written with spaces between the letters.  It’s really helped them sit quietly & raise their hands because they love it so much.   They have to give me a word that starts with their letter before I tell them if it’s in the puzzle.  They go absolutely bonkers over it because they are so competitive.

At 2:40 my Kindergartener’s leave for the day so we have to clean up and change our shoes again.  By 3:00 my afternoon students have arrived and I have a 2 hour block with them.  Mondays I work 1 on 1 with an adorable girl named Lucy on phonics.  Supposedly she was really shy and her mom was worried about the clinic but she loves our sessions so much that I was shocked when I heard she was shy.

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Tuesdays & Thursdays I really like my book club.  I have 4 students who are a little older and come from a different school.  They are pretty fluent in English and we just finished our first book Ghosts Don’t Eat Potato Chips.  They have a vocab test this Tuesday and a book report due Thursday but we already started our next book Werewolves Don’t Go to Summer Camp.  These kids are so hardworking and I couldn’t keep from reading extra!  2 of them nearly finished the book a week early and whenever they don’t know a word they actually ask me about it.  They are genuinely excited to learn new vocabulary and have taken to my goofy teaching style quite well.

I work with 2 students on reading & speaking fundamentals Wednesday & Friday and they fight me over homework; except not the way you are thinking.  They ask for it, they crave it and even get upset when I tell them no homework today!  I usually just give them the same conversational work that we did in class to do with their parents.

All in all I really like all my students.  It is a long day to have students until 5:00 everyday but I get an hour to decompress and do some more prepping for the next day.  We are all contracted until 6:00 so can’t leave early and on occasion will just hangout in someones room.  My coworkers are great, my students are great and hopefully after today my administration will pull through so I don’t have to find another job!