"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." - Saint Augustine

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I've realized/affirmed...

Visiting the Preschoolers/Kindergarteners in my school!

The early childhood wing of my school!

Since I don't have a dryer I dry my clothes by laying them on my heated floors!

One of my class rules is "always try your hardest" and this often involves drawing pictures or demonstrating something if my students can't say it in English to me. Mike clearly wanted a drink of water! So cute! 

Now that I have officially made my decision to go back home to Michigan in the end of December I do feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I was so torn between what to do and I honestly could have debated over it forever. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have this unique experience to travel around another country while teaching and learning all about their education system. I’ve noticed how learning about children in Korea and their schooling is definitely what I am the most interested in learning about while I’m here. I have no doubt that my passion lies within the education world and specifically, but I know there are so many things that interest me right now and I feel it’s best go to home and figure out what’s my next step!

I can honestly say that every day I’ve been here in Korea has been wonderful. Sure there have been moments of stress and such, but overall I have absolutely loved everything about being here. I feel like so many people have realized so much about themselves and want to come back to the states and totally change their lives and become better people. I feel like coming here I was already in a really good place and I found myself wondering if I had really changed at all, and realized that of course ANYONE would change after an experience like this. I definitely have realized many things about myself since I find I have way more time to reflect on life, teaching, etc. here in Korea than I ever have had in my entire life.

I’ve realized/affirmed:
  1. I AM A PEOPLE PERSON! I love being around people and think the people I choose to surround myself with have a LOT to do with my happiness. I consider myself to be a very happy and positive person (I definitely am an optimist) so…thanks to everyone who is a part of my life! I consider the people in my life to be the BEST part of my life.
  2. I love children and teaching. I always knew this, but teaching English in Korea is very different than any teaching experiences I’ve had in the states.  This is my first time having my own students, classroom, and flexibility to teach whatever I want. I LOVE IT! I have so many interests in the field of education and cannot wait to continue my education, experiences, and get my Ph.D. and teach college courses someday.
  3. I want to travel, explore, and learn more about my city, state, and country. Whether this be reading books or websites or going out into the community and trying new and different things…I want to come home and do new and exciting things in a place that has become very familiar to me. I know there is a lot more to learn and see in my own country!
  4. I am interested in teaching/living/traveling abroad again. My family traveled A LOT as I grew up but we stayed within the U.S. (aside from Canada and Mexico).  Before Korea I had been interested in teaching on a military base/teaching for the DoD (thanks to my boyfriend Alex being in the military and exposing this to me)! I know that this will become more difficult as I get older and have more responsibilities and commitments back at home. I’m going to look into this once I get home and see what my options are!
  5. I want to have more time for myself (more time to sleep, read, exercise, and just relax and do all things I never feel I have enough time to do). As organized as I am I still think this means I need to manage/prioritize my time better.
  6. I want to run a full marathon next year and focus more on clean eating!

On Monday Eunhye and I went out for sweet potato pizza after school. We were there for almost 5 hours and I learned so much about things in Korea and I helped her translate and write the script for a short movie she has to make for her English Cinema class. Here’s a few interesting things I learned:
  • Tv shows/dramas are not allowed to promote/show smoking and smoking is only allowed in movies.
  • There are no food/cooking shows or advertisements for food past appx. 10pm since this makes people hungry and Korea tries to promote health in many ways. 
  • It is not nearly as common for couples to live together before marriage as it is back in the sates. Many couples who do this live together “in secret” (usually when away at college) from their friends or family since they feel ashamed.
  • When you’re in debt there is a debt collector who comes around and puts little red square stickers on items that now belong to the government.
  • Korean teachers switch schools every 4 years! Eunhye thinks this is to reduce problems between staff and to have fresh/new teachers at school.
  • Every teacher picks a major (Gym, Music, English, Art, Math, Science, etc.) so they are able to teach a “specials” class, but they are all also educated to be regular classroom teachers as well.
  • After graduation for the college of education newly graduated teachers decide what province they want to teach in and apply within that province. Every 4 years they apply for their top 3 schools and then get placed somewhere.
  • Teachers get points for volunteering, teaching in a rural area, being a head teacher, English teacher, etc. and the more points you have the better chance you have of getting your #1 choice school  (when switching schools every 4 years) or moving up to a higher position in the educational system.

Eunhye and I at dinner!
This picture is blurry but the lady was pretty confused
 about how to use the camera so we just settled with this one!

Our delicious sweet potato pizza with cheese crust!

One of my favorite things about teaching here in Korea is the relationships I’m able to form with my students. I love that I can walk home from school with my students and see them out around town. I know some teachers (in America and here in Korea) don’t like seeing their students outside of school and I understand it’s nice to have your privacy and life outside of school. I view teaching as a full time role model “job” and think it’s neat to run into my students in places besides school. They’re always so excited to see me and I love laughing and talking with them and brining a smile to their face (and mine). For example:

Earlier in the week I was walking home with one of my 4th grade students, Brittany. We walked and talked the entire 20 minute walk home which is pretty impressive considering neither one of us knows the other’s language all that well! She taught me how to say many things in Korean and we were laughing so hard over the different animal names and noises…pig, horse, cat, dog, sheep, chicken…the all have different sounds than ours do back at home. We talked about different fruits, vegetables, and I read all the English to her on signs as we passed by. She told me about her 17 year old sister and 6 year old brother and I tried to ask about her parents jobs but it was very confusing and I couldn’t figure out another way to explain it since I only knew an example occupation of “teacher” in Korean. I taught her how to say “Cheongdo Elementary School” by comparing it to “Cheongdo Chodong Hakyo”. I found out she lives just a few buildings away from me! We took this picture together and after looking at it she wanted me to delete it and was saying "I'm ugly...ugly!" I was so surprised, but assured her that she was very pretty and that I loved how friendly she is and that she always has a smile on her face. I could tell she was very happy to hear this! :)

Walking home with Brittany. :)

Then, on Friday night Eunhye, my co teacher, and I were walking home from school and waved to two of my 5th grade boys sitting at the window of a convenience store eating Ramen noodles. I know these two boys get silly about taking pictures so I tried to get one and they started laughing and pulling down the blinds. It still amazes me how independent children are here. They usually go to a convenience store a stand on the street for dinner as they make their way to a Hogwan to continue their studies into the evening. 
Thanks for pulling down the blinds!

Caught you!! 

Eunhye ordering our drinks and cheesecake.

Lattes, cinnamon bread, and cheesecake.

After hours of talking and studying Korean you can see our snacks are gone!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy 빼빼로 (Pepero) Day!

Pepero and a Starbucks drink that I got on Pepero Day!

Today was Pepero Day! Yum! Peperos are chocolate covered cookie sticks that you give out to your friends, family and people that you appreciate; similar to Valentine's Day. Peperos are the gift of choice since the sticks look like the date, 11/11.  My students were pretty hyper and excited about it today and I was lucky to get many boxes and sticks of Pepero. I'm pretty sure a few of my students even gave me boxes that their friends gave them. haha.

All about Pepero Day!

Here are some pictures from today...

Here's the big Pepero display at my grocery store.

Buying Pepero for staff at my school, my Taekwondo Sabumniems and my friends!

Stores had Pepero outside on my walk to school.

Pepero for Ms. Julie!

These are the little sticks that come in a box! My favorite!

He got these from his girlfriend! Ahh, 6th grade love...

Debbie Chung is the coolest girl I've met here in Korea

                                                                            silly me

                                                      THE COOLEST GIRL EVER!!
Ever since my arrival here, I've noticed the keen, sweet, loving, beautiful Debbie Chung and her amicable personality.  She was always so kind and giving to those around her.  I have grown a lot as a person here just watching her sweet charismatic character and the way that she treats others.  I'm so lucky to be considered as her friend. I wish I could be just like her and look like her too! DEBBIE CHUNG IS BEYOND ASAAHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She's wayyyy cooler than me, more than I'll ever be!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Teaching Reflection: October 18th- November 5th, 2010

Happy Halloween! on PhotoPeach

I decided to lump these 3 weeks together since I was wrapping up my topic of "About me" and starting to teach "Happy Halloween".  The week of October 18th was strange since a bunch of my classes were reconfigured. I had new classes added with all new students, and many of my other classes changed by either losing or gaining new students. This threw a wrench into my plans since I had to cover some of the basics with the new students. This ended up being a great review for the other students and it was a nice opportunity for them to use English as I had them partner up (one new and one old student) to help the new students make their nametags, sticker sheets, etc.

As an early childhood minor Im surprised that I sometimes feel the most challenged in my younger classes. Maybe this isnt so much of a surprise though since I am trying to use developmentally appropriate curriculum, but I dont know very much about ESL DAP. I feel that genuine/natural conversations during class are some of the best English teaching moments and I love starting out my classes with the children around my desk looking through my basket (since I travel from class to class I bring a basket with me) asking questions and talking to me. I sing songs with all my grades but find that I need far more songs and finger plays for my younger children since we cant have as many conversations due to their lower English levels (in comparison to the older students). With my younger classes I can definitely tell that Im building confidence, were having fun, laughing, smiling and creating an interest in English so that when they do get older they continue learning the language and also have the ocnfidence to take them throughout many things in life.

Coming to Korea with no experience teaching English and no curriculum to teach from was a little frightening for me! I remember wishing that I had some type of curriculum or something to go off of and now that Im here teaching in Korea Im very happy and thankful to have the ability to teach whatever I want. I know people who teach at Hogwans (privately owned teaching institutes. See  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagwon ) and I have heard that they have a very strict curriculum to follow. Though I do see the value in having curriculum (especially for those teachers who have no teaching experience) I think its important to have flexibility and to be able to use Developmentally Appropriate Practices. As a recent graduate with a bachelors degree in Elementary Education I enjoy being able to teach whatever I want because I have the ability to teach meaningful content and go wherever the students need to go. This is easy for me because while Im teaching Im constantly thinking of new ideas and activities to try with my students. The difficult part is sitting down and and planning what would be THE best since I dont have time to do it all.

I realize that the holiday Halloween in itself isn't something that would be considered very important English to learn, but it’s a big part of American culture and such a fun holiday that I wanted to share with the children. They loved watching videos of children trick or treating, learning about different costumes, trick or treating for candy in our classroom, singing Halloween songs, making books, and receiving Halloween stickers. They treated the stickers as if they were gold since my mom sent them from America. It’s impossible for me to teach any topic in less than 2 weeks considering most of my classes meet once or twice a week. I always review the previous class content and then can decide whether or not I need to continue on that topic for the day or whether I can complete the review and start something new. It was hard for me to wrap up Halloween since the children loved it so much!

Thoughts from teaching Halloween:
- Though I am not always able to use computers in the classes I teach in I am reminded how helpful having powerpoint with key vocabulary and pictures can really be.
- I love hearing the children singing the “Knock Knock, Trick or Treat” song in the hallways after class. Music is a wonderful way to teach English and it definitely sticks with them. My students sing every day in all of my classes!
- I came into one of my 5th grade classes and a boy was ready and waiting at his desk and said, “study English!” 
- I definitely over plan and write down extra activities in my plans just in case we finish early.
- Even though my focus was Halloween there are so many other topics that come into play every day. We also talked about chunks, digraphs, using “How do you spell __________?”, lower case and upper case letters, silent “e”, and punctuation.

Activities included:
- Trick or Treat Coloring sheet. I did this with my 1st graders (against my own beliefs in using these) since I was told that they love them. I personally feel it was okay to use the coloring sheet in this situation as my focus wasn’t the process of drawing the costumes, but more so the English they used as we talked about the picture and the different costumes and colors in the costumes. They also wrote “Happy Halloween” and “Trick or Treat” on their sheet.
- I gave my older students a word search. WOW! The 5th and 6th graders were silent during the word search and told me they like word searches. I started this activity out by going over all the vocabulary on the word search by asking the students to demonstrate or tell me what the word meant. One funny example was when I said “bat” and they said “baseball” and made swinging motions! After their guesses I would then showed them a picture and they were very excited when they were correct!
- “Knock Knock, Trick or Treat” song. The lyrics introduced children to 6 Halloween costumes that they acted out during the song.
- Make your own Halloween book. These were created using the lyrics from the “Knock Knock, Trick or Treat” song.  The younger grades didn’t create a whole book but picked one costume instead.
- Writing about Halloween. After videos and discussions my 5th and 6th graders wrote about what happens on Halloween as a class.
- Making bats. My 1st and 2nd graders made bats and I was amazed at all the vocabulary and phrases used during this activity. The children became familiar with asking, “Can I have the glue (scissors,  paper, crayon, etc.)
- Trick or Treat Videos. I showed all my classes a short video on trick or treating in America.
- Trick or Treating in the classroom. After watching the video of children in America trick or treating all of the students practiced ringing a doorbell, asking for candy, and saying ‘thank you’ for the candy (I really did give them candy!).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Immersion of English Education

With my 4th graders today. I see them 3 times a week which is the most out of any of my classes.
I'm getting very close with them and getting to learn so much about them. They're amazing!
So excited during our hot potato game.

Looking at the board to see what sentence to read. "Yesterday was...",  "Today is...", or "Tomorrow will be..."

Passing the ball quickly!

Some of the students write on their hands in Korean how to pronounce tricky English words . I think Mary was writing "Two thousand and ten." 

Since I stayed after school talking with Sunny Lee until 6pm it looked gorgeous from the 5th floor of my school.

I'd never seen the fountain in the center of Cheongdo at night before. Beautiful!

Not that this is really news to me, but I’ve really realized how much of a people person I am. 9 times out of 10 I’d rather be surrounded by people than alone (I do like SOME alone time!). I can be anywhere in the world and find that the people I surround myself with are a big part of my happiness. I know that I’m the type of person who can make the best out of any situation and I find myself going around with a smile on my face and being very friendly and open-minded here in Korea. I love talking with people and hearing their stories. I have a journal that I write in almost daily and I thought I would share some things on here also.

Today I had a very interesting conversation with the English conversation teacher at my school, Sunny Lee. She’s only at my school on Monday and Tuesdays but we find time to have a good conversation everyday. She’s about 45 years old and has taught English in Mongolia. She’s always been so helpful and informative as I ask many questions about Korean culture and especially about their educational system. One time previously we had a conversation about dating and marriage in Korea. She was telling me that divorce is not very common in Korea. Sunny Lee is a widow (her husband died 10 years ago) and she told me that most divorced/widowed people stay single because it’s hard for them to find someone around their age who is single since most people stay married. She has a 23 year old son who she won’t allow to have a girlfriend until he finishes his schooling. This made me think about how back in the states many parents may have influences on their children but ultimately it’s up to the child to do what they want. It seems here in Korea (and in Asian culture in general from what I’ve heard) that more children respect their parents and would not date or get married too young if their parents didn’t agree with it. It’s very rare that Koreans get married before 25 years old and the age to get married is getting higher since more people are focusing on their education and getting a job first. As I was sharing what American couples do she told me that it is very uncommon for Koran couples to live together before marriage and especially if they haven’t been dating for a long time.

I had asked Eunhye (my co teacher) previously about why Koreans want to speak English and she had told me that historically the U.S. has always supported Korea and they are seen as the brother/father country to Korea. Eunhye said that the U.S. is the leader of the world and a characteristic of Korean people is to follow the strong and this is why they follow the American’s ways- including English.

Today I talked with Sunny Lee for about 45 minutes after school and learned quite a bit about the immersion of English education in Korean schooling. She said Koreans want to learn English for three reasons:
1. To get a better job.
2. To enter a good University
3. To have the ability to speak with foreigners.

Sunny Lee herself is studying English in her Master’s program because she sees more job possibilities including teaching English conversation at the University level. The Korean government has recognized the problem with many Koreans not being able to speak English and they want their children to learn through listening, reading, and writing. I was curious to find out what other languages are important to learn here in Korea. Being able to fluently speak English (followed by Chinese, then Japanese, and then Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Mongolian, German, etc.) creates the most opportunities. Sunny Lee told me that China is developing rapidly and Koreans are thinking that Chinese will be more important in the future. It was so funny when Sunny Lee was trying to tell me how many people there are in the world and we both laughed as she wrote 660,000,000 on paper and asked me how to say it. She then wrote that 160,000,000 people are Chinese. This was to further support her statement about China’s booming economy!

Back when Sunny Lee was in school there was no English in elementary education and English officially started in middle school. English education in elementary schools started only 10 years ago so this is still fairly new. At my school I am the only teacher who is teaching English to the 1st and 2nd graders which is really interesting to me considering the years considered to be “early childhood” years are the BEST years for learning a foreign language. The Korean government is starting to see that “young learners” are capable of learning English and that this is an optimal time to do so. I was surprised to see there isn’t more emphasis on learning English during these ages, but apparently they are starting to increase (adding one more class a week) English next year.

I absolutely love learning about the educational system here and think it would be incredibly interesting to get to look at other educational systems around the world. Education is definitely my passion and there are so many wonderful and interesting things involved with it. Teaching in Korea is an amazing experience and has absolutely solidified my desire to be a teacher. J

Another wonderful letter from my mom full of lavender, newspaper/magazine articles and
a cute Halloween picture of dogs from Hiller's advertisement. :)