The Best Teachers Don’t Do What They’re Told

The Best Teachers Don’t Do What They’re Told

This is a great read for any teacher, parent, administrator or anyone who just wants some insight into the teaching world.  Each and every day teachers perform hundreds of tasks; being a teacher can often feel like you are trying to balance a juggling act while giving a motivational speech to college freshman and simultaneously a lion tamer with a dilapidated chair.  The phrase “choose your battles” comes into my head regularly and if you haven’t learned how to yet ask someone to help, its a wonderful life skill.

Less is more and while you should always maintain a professional level of responsibility The Best Teachers Don’t Do What They’re Told dives wonderfully into how thinking outside the box is often more effective than conforming.  Don’t forget to balance the two!  

ESL, Special Ed, Regular Ed, Honors/Advanced classes or higher ed.  I don’t care what you’re teaching, its worth the read!


Sometimes its okay NOT to make a happy face



Classroom dyanmics

Our “favorite” student was absent today.  This provided for a completely different classroom dynamic.  I remember how drastic a difference one student’s presence or absence could make in classrooms back home and I discovered how true it is for my ESL class here in Korea too.   Our morning routine went nearly flawlessly and I found myself wondering what I should do.  On a normal day with full attendance I sit with one student to help him finish writing his morning sentence.  He usually tries to crawl all over me, his desk and the floor while waiting until the last second to finish quickly before snack time.  Sometimes he’s still writing while the rest are eating but today I was able to join the rest of my students at play after they all finished their sentences.   I even snuck in a little planning too!

Even without our most physical student the boys did needed to be reminded to keep their playing calm.  I guess “boys will be boys” applies here in Korea too; they like to build things out of blocks and paper and then don them like weapons and chase after each other.  I’m tempted to stop them from building anything that could be a weapon if the behavior doesn’t improve.  Luckily they are plastic and paper and we havent’ had any real injuries yet.   After snack & playtime we went to the library where I usually have to worry about a certain someone running and jumping around.  Today the biggest issue was that two students got distracted by the faucets in the bathroom and came back with wet shirts.

Back in the classroom for some academics it was nice to have everyone following along.  Our morning meeting where I pick 3 helpers to check the weather, temperature, and place days of the week in today, tomorrow and yesterday went much very smooth.  All of the students sat in their seats and although we still had a few try to cheat and see the temperature before guessing we finished much faster than expected so we sang practiced some extra spelling with our “qu” words and sang our alphabet song.

Their specials went of without a hitch the typical reminders to speak in English and keeping the boys from kamehameha-ing each other afterwards.  Walking to and from classes and lunch they got a little talkative but no one had to be removed from the line or sent back to the room.  My co-teacher and I relished in the relief we got today and tomorrow should provide with a full class again and I’m sure the contrast will be noticed.  I do think he is improving but every day is so different that its hard to tell.  It was a nice treat for the rest of my students to have some extra games and playtime since I budget for most of the lessons to take longer.

As a follow up to my last post; we had a meeting yesterday morning; the day after our surprise inspection.  My principal ran the usual foreign teacher meeting but we have a new administrator sit in.  She’ll be starting full time in about a week or two but has been observing our classrooms the last few days.  The principal explained that the inspection was routine and usually happens once or twice a year and brushed past the covered classrooms by saying the school has “lost students so we use space than we are allowed to.”  That didn’t quite add up for most of us but when the new administrator said “that sounds strange,” we all agreed.  Unfortunately there wasn’t any extra clarification.

Tonight I’m off to meet Ben and head to Gangnam for some people watching, sight seeing and a delicious dinner!

A Strange Day at Work

The good news is my class is going great.  They are taking to the new games I made to introduce sight words and work on phonics.  They love the money game so much that I wish we weren’t about to move onto measurement in math.

In all subjects there is quite a discrepancy in ability and I’m working on putting groups together to develop more directed lessons and start scaffolded centers in the upcoming weeks.  My coworkers are great and its nice to have some experienced ESL teachers to bounce things off of; I’ve introduced them to ActivInspire and they’ve shared some great lessons and websites like or

Our “favorite” student is slowly making progress but likes to roll around on his desk and the floor instead of doing his work and I’ve had to remove him from class a handful of times for physical behavior.  I met with my administration today after his mom came in and we developed a plan that I’m hoping will keep him from continuing to aggravate his peers and teachers.  His parents are on board and I think this is the first time anything like this has been attempted for him.   He’s a sweet kid and one of my smartest;  I can’t wait to see him progress socially too!

Given my previous teaching experience the meeting wasn’t that out of the ordinary even though it may have been a first at this school.  In Korea students that need a little extra attention often slip through the cracks due to strong cultural traditions.  Some other traditions that made today more out of the ordinary were apparently related to an inspection we had.

In the afternoon I had two gentleman walk into my room and tell me they were “taking measurements.”  They produced a laser measure and quickly wrote down the dimensions of my classroom.  They proceeded to do this for all of the rooms and I thought nothing of it.  I tried to enter the teacher’s room after school to laminate some word wheels and sight word Uno and turned the corner to find the doors locked and the hallway dark.

“Can I use the laminater?” I asked

“Better not” the secretary with a thick accent


“He is in there.”

“Oh?  When can I go in?”

“Maybe 5:30?”

I went upstairs to consult with my coworker.  We both laughed at the absurdity of it all trying to figure out what the measurements could have been for and why a hallway would be dark and on lockdown.  I found out some windows & signs were covered up next to the Music, Art, Chinese classrooms along with a few other rooms.  It was all incredibly strange and she suggested I go talk to Colin.

Since I was still unable to use the teacher’s room I hopped down a floor to Colin’s room to try and puzzle this one out.  The only reason we could come up with for measuring classrooms was to put in a rug or some other flooring (unlikely given their financial predicament), maybe to paint? (also costly) or perhaps to sell?

There was plenty of speculation and it may all in fact be routine during an inspection but Colin let me know that we had an inspection about a month ago that left the admins unhappy.  He theorized our school may not be following all of the guidelines they are supposed to, for instance we are an “international” school by name but in Korea, International schools aren’t allowed to teach certain subjects, like Music, Art or Chinese.  We discussed some other less anonymous “sketchy” happenings and coincidences but we don’t really know whats going on.

We talked for a while longer but without any real evidence its all just theory so our discussion went towards collaborating on future lessons.  I helped him install ActivInspire and find flipchart about the Solar System while he gave me the school password for and showed me his students’ favorite links.  He thinks the next paycheck may be delayed as a result of a sour inspection but I’m still hopeful it’ll be on time; frankly I don’t want to deal with the fallout of another tardy set of wages.

In spite of it all I continue enjoy my students and the work here.  Life in Korea is fun and I’m definitely progressing with the language.  I can read at about a Kindergarten level and can have a VERY basic conversation.  I am looking to start a conversation exchange class next month and am just waiting to take the placement test.  If something does turn south at this school it makes the silver lining is I can find a higher paying job with better vacation without dealing with a “letter of release” for my visa.