Day 326 - Tickets Home and Forward Thinking

Yesterday I got an email from my program with the information for my plane tickets home to America this July. Since I'm extending my grant for another year, I'll only be home for a month. In just 51 days, I'll be on my way home. I've already got a list of food I want to eat and things I need to stock up on before coming back to Korea in August!

I applied to stay at this same school -- yes, the school I am constantly complaining about. I talked to the other English teachers this week, explaining that things can't continue like this. What I mean is the disrespect and complete lack of manners. It's to the point now that I realize they're probably not going to be enthusiastic about what we do, but they still enjoy seeing me because it means they're not memorizing standardized test prep.

Last semester didn't seem so bad. Maybe because this semester I resolved to actually *teach* them something. Next semester I'm going to go back to just giving them a period to be high school students. They enjoy playing games, they enjoy the contest with the other classes, so I'll focus more those than trying to salvage their English skills in the waning years of their educational careers (again, probably not going to college, so they're done in 3 years, tops).

In other news, North Korean refugee classes are coming to a close -- just two more and a field trip with the kids to the Seoul zoo. While that volunteer opportunity is wrapping up, Doyup has approached me, asking if I would be available for his military English class. A handful of the soldiers at his base are studying English for a military scholarship to go to the States and one of the big things they're studying is "English for daily life", or conversational English. They're excited to meet a real, live native speaker to use these skills on, so that would be a fun opportunity to take advantage of living in Nonsan.

In ooooother news, I'm planning a jungle safari in Malaysia with my college friend during my long weekend in June. How many people can say *that* for their job?! She's doing an English teaching grant with the same program as me, but in Indonesia instead of Korea. She mentioned last year wanting to travel more before going to grad school, so I suggest she check out my program. Now we're both out in Asia, soon to be trudging through the rain forest in search of elephants and orangutans. Small world.


Day 312 -- Examples of Student Reading vs Writing

What my students can read or translate:

"There were some places of worship in the city, and the deep notes of their bells echoed over the town from morning until night. The sun was shining brightly and cheerily, and the air was warm. The streams were flowing with bubbling water and the tender songs of birds came floating in from the fields beyond the city. The trees were already awake and embraced by the blue sky. Everything around the neighborhood, the trees, the sky, and the sun looked so young and intimate that they were reluctant to break the spell which might last forever."

What my students can write or speak:

My name is Jong Woo Nam.
I'm hobby is computer games.
but have to study.
because I'm go is good a university.
So I'm jest a minute my hobby computer game perform
So me sad.
University success it's me hobby to one's content joy."


Day 310 - More Teaching Woes and a Cute Student Encounter

Despite drastically dumbing down my lesson (the 2-3 kids in my class who have any kind of English skill to speak of complained that it was elementary level) the majority of the students still said it was too hard. Since I'm drawing dialogue, grammar, and vocabulary directly from the book at this point, I don't know how much simpler I can make things. The co-teachers are starting to get pissed at me; I get frustrated that the students can't handle even the most basic English, and maybe the co-teachers think that I blame *them* for the students' amazingly terrible English skill. Which I don't at all -- I know how impossible it is to teach them, so I can totally empathize with their situation!

Anyway, yesterday I was clearly upset after struggling through one of my worst classes. A little, mousy girl -- always quiet in class, but clearly tries her best and hangs on every word I say even though she doesn't understand 80% of them -- lingered in the classroom. I went about cleaning up after the students, collecting papers and erasing the white boards. She came up to me, unable to make eye contact, and softly stumbled through an attempt at an apology in English.

I was really touched that this girl -- a girl who never misbehaves in my class and always tries her hardest -- took it upon herself to apologize for her classmates' terrible disrespect. She was clearly at a loss with her English, so she switched to Korean, apologizing that they were loud and bad. I hugged her back and told her she shouldn't worry, that she's a kind student, that she should keep studying hard. Tearing up, she reached into her pocket and handed me the cookies she had probably brought to school as an afternoon snack, told me she loved me, and rushed out of the room.

For all the rotten, frustrating students there are, every class as at least one of her. Maybe they won't grow up to be international CEOs or translators or whatever, but I like to tell myself that I'm significant in their lives for *some* reason, even if it's not English.


Day 308 -- Taiwan and Teaching Breakdowns

Okay! So, about a week ago I had a big post typed up about teaching in Korea and how to do so, but I guess the proxy ate it because it never got posted. Shame.

During the quarterly exam period, I went on a trip to Taipei, Taiwan with another girl in my program, Shannon. It was just the right amount of time for it and I definitely recommend it for a layover or weekend trip. Any less than the 3 days we were there and we wouldn't have felt like we "saw everything", but any more time and I think we might've gotten bored (if we just stayed in the city). One country off the list! Others include:

Thailand (when things settle down)
and the cities like Hong Kong and Singapore.

I've still got a few more vacation periods so I want to knock off as many as possible for I go home for my month break in July!

Travel and recreational life is great. Teaching is not so much. The students are so poorly behaved and they're so resistant to learning English. Without motivation they'll never become skilled, without being skilled they'll never be confident, without confidence they'll never have motivation, and the circle continues. I'm not sure how to break the cycle -- I'm not teaching them anything that's not in their textbooks (I'm not even teaching conversational English anymore! I'm only teaching-from-a-text!) but they're still unresponsive.

Before, I thought maybe my lessons were too hard, that what I was teaching was beyond their abilities. So I changed my teaching style and concentrated on just practicing the vocabulary, grammar, and dialogue that they learn in their regular English class. They're still completely unresponsive just like before -- so if it's not me, then what am I supposed to do?


After today's class (Monday, which is my WORST day in terms of student attitudes) I just broke down. I told the co-teacher that if the students were going to be rude, disrespectful, and not attentive, that they needn't come to my classroom in the first place. I swore that if they continued behaving like they did today, I would not teach them -- I'd put a movie in and they can do without their native-speaker lessons.

The teachers empathized, apparently concerned that I was worried the students hated me. I could care less if they hated me or loved me -- so long as they're respectful and polite in the classroom. But I can't help them if they don't help me help them. Right?

I understand these students are not the best and brightest that Korea -- or even Nonsan -- has to offer. I'm not asking for smart students who can converse with me. Or even string together a sentence. I'm just asking for some effort. I do nothing in my class that I couldn't do in Korean because it's important to know how to explain things in Korean for these students. I am only expecting them to memorize two line dialogue: "Are you interested in (books, movies, animals, etc)?" "Yes/No, I am (not) interested in ___."

The teachers don't discipline them beyond slapping them with their whipping rods. So ridiculous and ineffective. Students are shocked when I kick them out or make them move seats in the classroom. Any kind of punishment that's not corporal, really.

ahhhhh what am I supposed to do with these kidsssss! I'm still convinced that if I just figure out what drives them, I'll be able to effectively teach them English. But until then! AHHHRGGGHFHDJKSLALV