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

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.

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)

Korean Tug of War

Last Friday our Korean teachers planned a Team Building afternoon for the students.  Little did I know that I’d be an active participant and not simply there to keep the peace.  Enjoy this debacle which cost me 2 (already beat to hell) indoor shoes and a few shreds of dignity.   I certainly haven’t gotten my butt kicked that badly in a while and it was a humbling, exhausting and hilarious experience!  10/10 would do it again

That’s me at the top getting clobbered 😉

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done on short notice?  Tell me in the comments!

Starting a new school year – Korea

The 2015-16 school year started at the beginning of March and its been a whirlwind of excitement.  I still can’t believe I’m almost finished with 2 full years living in Seoul.  Time certainly files by and I miss each and everyone of you reading this back home!

I am the new 4th grade team leader and inherited a number of responsibilities with said promotion.  Sure I’ve had lengthy meetings and spent time helping our new teachers adjust but I love it!  Its given me a chance to help pick the direction of our classes and school while honing my leadership skills and satisfying that primal urge to be the boss.4-3 classroom

Every school year presents new challenges but Korean ESL classes are uniquely different from those I taught in America.  My new crop of Korean 4th graders are as cute as ever and I have a huge range of English abilities.  Some kids already come up to me everyday and chat away about their family and home life while others are still working at a Kindergarten reading level and developing beginner speaking skills.

To help cope with this spectrum of abilities and adapt to a new schedule we are incorporating centers every week.  I’m working closely with my Korean coteacher (Mr. Kim) who thankfully has the best English I’ve seen in a coteacher.  We’ve got a wonderful relationship and have bonded over his time studying in Texas among other things.  He is the 4th grade Korean team leader and surprised me the other day by offering to share some of the burden when we are slotted to teach 36 students at once!

Speaking of that schedule a few of you heard about the new Korean laws that forced our hand.  The government is apparently trying to shrink the English education in South Korea and has limited the hours that we can teach English.  As a result we adapted the schedule and hired a few more teachers.  So far its working well in my grade but we’re bound to hit some rocky patches eventually.

I started a chess club this year and its already going strong in its 3rd week.  They capped me at 16 members even though I had 31 sign ups.  Normally I wouldn’t mind the smaller class but I get a stipend based on numbers so am still trying to weasel a few more spots.  The kids love it; we start each week with a quick chess lesson about tactics or how to mate with certain pieces before spending about an hour playing against each other.

There’s a lot of last year’s 4th grade to look forward to as well.  We are still planning a number of field trips (including the overnight to Gongju!).  My administration is the same as the end of last year and fight for better English programs but they unfortunately are sitting backseat to the Koreans.  Its to be expected but we are hoping for more equality in scheduling, planning and the rest.  We’ll see how the give and take goes but whatever happens I know I’ve got a great job!