My old hagwon closed!

You may have heard about my awful first 6 months in Korea with CPIS.  I arrived and started working within 12 hours only to find out the “school” that hired me was a huge web of lies.  We had issues with paychecks, health insurance, eviction notices, incompetent administration and just about every issue that you hear about from a hagwon.

You can read about my struggle to find a new job and acquire a “letter of release,” the threats and accusations the administration came up with and a wholly negative work environment but I’m happy to announce they shut down!

I do feel sorry for any teachers who lost their jobs and if you happen to be one of them don’t hesitate to contact me.  I’ll do my best to help you get a better job!  As for the kids its nice to hear they’ll have a brief reprieve from the long hours in school although I”m sure their parents have already found alternate hagwons.

I usually don’t like to rejoice over someone else’s misfortune but the circumstances that this atrocious school & administration created soured my first experiences in Korea.  They took advantage of us every time they could and instilled a false mistrust of Korean administrators that I’m still working through.  So today I will let that smile creep into a grin as word about my old hagwon’s closure fills me with joy.

Payday!

Payday is always a good day, unless of course you don’t get paid.  Thankfully my new job doesn’t exhibit the same tendencies I’ve become used to and we got paid bright and early this morning!  It was nice to check my bank account at lunchtime and already see the deposit.  Now the question is do I go shopping for some camera accessories, kitchen appliances, new clothes or buy plane tickets first?  I think I’ll start by booking my flight to Vietnam!

In my last post I mentioned how awesome my new class is.  That trend has continued!  I also hinted at “missing a few walls;” well, that’s because I work in a 3-wall classroom (I’ll get some pictures up soon).  Its reminiscent of my own elementary school experience but I find that it keeps 90% of my students more aware of how distracting they are and teaches them to focus with minor disturbances.

Of course, there are a select few that seem to always be spaced out.  Then again they are children.  Its hard to say whether the spacey ones are worse at English because they space out or if they space out because of their lack of comprehension but in my 4th week I definitely know who I’m going to have to work extra hard to engage.  Today I did have my first intervention for an avid nose-picker helping the student realize how disgusting of a habit it was, especially since she’s eating her boogers in 4th grade!

At the end of the day there was some discipline that lead to even more drama.  My co-teacher laid down the law with one student but when removing them from the room I was surprised to find a plethora of followers gawking at the situation.  Needless to say the whole crowd lost about 10 minutes of playtime while I reminded them about our school motto C.A.R.E. (Choose Actions that Respect Everyone)

Regular meetings help keep me in the loop with everything happening around the school.  I have weekly team meetings to discuss our plans for the following week and my two co-team leaders are always available as a resource.  My program director is an amazing resource too and I am going to be sad to see him leave in a few months.  Luckily I’m taking advantage of his knowledge now since we just sat down and discussed my future as an educator, something that I haven’t had the opportunity to really do since college!  Everything about this school so far has been superb and it looks like although I may become busier, I’m confident the job itself will keep getting better!

 

young hoon elections

Election Speeches with 4th, 5th & 6th grade sitting attentively

A bilingual classroom missing a few walls

Okay, so I’ve been busy.  But busy is good, especially since its because I love my new job and coworkers!  Teaching 4th grade is a wonderful change from my crappy hogwon and I continue to be impressed by the professionalism exhibited at my new school.  Everyone from the administration to the teachers, students and parents are a joy to work with!

I have meetings a few times a week which helps make sure that I use my downtime productively but it also means I have an idea whats going on in the school.  I actually feel like a part of the team instead of an under-appreciated foreigner.  One of my favorites was when the English program director and some other administration sat us down to talk about professional goals.  Not just at our school but in life.  So happy to be in a job where I have educator colleagues and mentors.  I guess its probably a good time to start thinking about that Masters again.

Well for now I’ll just fill you in on how awesome my new gig is.  My 36 students are amazing, I love them all, even the nose pickers.  I’ve only got a handful with limited English and can have a conversation with most.  That being said they still have a lot to learn and certainly aren’t fluent but they work harder than any students I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

I’m still getting used to my 4 block schedule but love my full block daily prep.  By the end of the 2nd week I’d learned everyone’s name (although I do still mix up Hyun Jin and Jin Hyun among a few other tricky ones).  We started actual academics and its great to teach actual math, social studies, reading and writing again.  There were class elections followed by 6th grade elections for school president.

The long and short of it is I am teaching at an actual school and love it! (Have I said that enough?)  Life in Korea has certainly taken a big upward turn with my new job.  My new coworkers are a riot to hang out with and we’ve been exploring the new neighborhoods together.  Tons of great food and drinks make our new friendships even stronger.

The only bad news is being so busy means I have less time to write about it and even less to edit everything!  I hope there aren’t too many grammer mistakes in my most new post, as in this won that you are reeding rite now.

Goodnight for now.

Overcoming an unexpected hurdle

Day two with my new 4th graders went even better than I could have planned.  I cleaned up my computer and didn’t have random pop ups in the middle of my lessons; I knew who was a girl and who was a boy and even remembered a few names!  The presentation Mike & John (my team leaders) prepared continued along smoothly and helped my class generate a set of rules before laying down the 4th grade law.

YH morning meeting 2014-15

We used cupcake analogies to portray our 1-5 grading system and allowed the kids to get creative and make their own comparisons.  I had dilapidated cars (1 for needs improvement) turning into hotrods (5 for excellent), flip phones transforming before my eyes into low end smartphones and eventually a Galaxy 4s!  This was a clear favorite among the students and I will happily be able to refer to it when grading and explaining grades.

Today included Miss Nelson is Missing and provided the opportunity for me to read another chapter in The Witches.  All of that was pretty normal for a 4th grade classroom.  I expected these changes and embraced them as I began to embrace my new students and the challenges that we will face together.  After all I’m no longer working in a glorified daycare but rather a renowned private school!

The biggest change I noticed today was after the students had left.  We had a full team meeting including our 4 Korean counterparts.  Luckily one of the admins acted as an interpreter, but, as soon as we sat down (I’m ashamed to say) I got a little anxiety!  At my last job every meeting with administration ended poorly.  We were yelled at and blamed for things outside our control.  I was accused of lying and threatened with deportation; unfortunately that was the norm for myself and the other 10 foreigners.  Every time we needed a translator lies were told and we later discovered important info that was skimmed over.  I developed an unfortunate skepticism for Korean businessmen and administration after my horrible hagwon!

I kept this to myself, trusting in my veteran coworkers to vocalize any concerns.  Most of the meeting was the Korean teachers making sure that we were on the same page.  In fact, very little new information was dispensed in the meeting.  We made both sides aware of a few deadlines, some scheduling issues and shared classroom etiquette.  Extra attention was paid to advance notice regarding plans and changes (something that has appeared to be a luxury so far in Korea.)

Despite having a perfectly friendly and professional relationship with everyone involved I continued to find myself skeptical of translations.  Wary of the words coming from my Korean counterparts I forced myself to push these thoughts from my mind and leaned on my team lead while remaining silent.  Before long the meeting was over and I quickly realized that this new unexpected hurdle, this unfair prejudice that my previous boss instilled in me would be one of my toughest challenges in the coming weeks!

I want to end it there but I’ve gotta say that I love my new job and all my coworkers!  I know that this prejudice is unfair and am confident that my new colleagues will help prove just how false of a picture my previous administration painted for their brethren.  Oh, and I love that the Korean’s opened with “4th grade is best team!”  Clearly we are all on the same page.

First Day of 4th grade ESL!

After an outstanding Sunday orientation with my new team of teachers I was stoked about meeting my students today!  As with any day in a classroom there were a few hiccups but my students were great and I loved my first day.

Bright and early I met my coteacher, Mr. Shin, before some last minute prepping.  My 4th grade not-so-wee-ones began arriving around 8:15 before my coteacher divvied them up into two 18 student sections.  We began the day with an introductory meeting before I took A group and started a “welcome to 4th grade” presentation on my smartboard.

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A huge shoutout to my co-teamleaders John and Mike for putting together the fantastic presentation!  It started with First Day Jitters, ice breaker name games and will be continued tomorrow with Miss Nelson is Missing before we make our class rules.  Between making name tags and all the games I’m getting a feel for all everyone’s name but its still really hard to pronounce a lot of them.

There are subtle differences that can change a name from masculine to feminine and generate an explosion of laughter.  I think I scored some “brownie points” when I told them they could write “whatever name they wanted me to use” on their name tags.  Most of the students simply put their Korean name, a few put an English name but I did have one girl who wrote “Penny” and another “Tiger.”  I double checked that this was actually a “name they wanted and had used before” and decided to allow it even though I was skeptical.

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