Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time teaches all teaching

It's beginning to look a lot like teaching!

(picture of my co-workers)
Today was my first somewhat successful day. I may not know what is happening but I am starting to get a hang of this. I had to teach three classes. One of the classes was my class of thirteen year olds that I have not enjoyed teaching.

I tried something different. I started the class off with an interactive review of the grammar. The grammar was "-est". For example, "biggest" versus "big" and "tallest" versus "tall." I got two of my students to stand up and said, "Steven is the tall or tallest?" then "I am the short or shortest?" I think it got the message across! Then after that interactive activity, they seemed to pay more attention in class.

I am starting to realize the difficulty of being a teacher. I think that in school they should make every student teach a few classes. It might help students realize what teachers have to go through and the difficulty they face. Especially the ones that care and are under appreciated by students. I wish I had made more effort in certain classes where the teacher really wanted to help the students.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Teaching Rollercoaster Ride!

What do you do when you wake up at 5am in the morning in S. Korea?

You call your lovers in the US to watch the sunset while they watch the sunrise behind you. (DUH!) In other words I woke up at 5am! Had a nice video chat using the wonderful Google video chat option in Gmail. Then I went to the gym by myself around 10 am. Sadly, I did not have my running shoes because they were in a locker with my co-workers shoes and I did not have a key to that locker. I did some casual exercises and once again was offered to take the cycling class. (I couldn't because I had the wrong shoes!)

When I was leaving the gym, another random women named Yongsan started to speak to me. She is a house wife that just moved back to Korea from living in Rochester, Mass. for a year. She had just joined the gym last week like me. We had a short conversation, decided we would see each other at the gym again and get coffee sometime. This is exciting because that means I have another Korean friend who will be able to help me learn Korean! (I'm starting to think that maybe it is better that I make a lot of Korean friends instead of Americans. Not that I have seen many in my area.)

I get to school with no idea of what I will be doing...AGAIN! (I'm starting to learn that I will just have to adapt to the Korean style of doing things last minute.) Dana (my co-worker) tells me that the director wants me to give a presentation to the staff at 7:30pm. (I start freaking out because I have no idea what they are talking about). After we went back and forth trying to understand each other, I came to the understanding that I would be exemplifying my lesson plan in front of my colleagues. (Since I will be teaching two new books to four classes on my own they wanted me to show them how I would be teaching the classes.) I started watching the Korean training video for the book (which didn't help since I don't know Korean yet).

I was told I would be given all day to prepare for the meeting. Next thing I know, I was put in a class to wing a lesson again. Apparently, my director had to speak to some parents and needed someone to stand in for her. Then I had to teach a class that I thought wasn't permanently being given to me. I have come to the conclusion that I will be teaching this class because they keep putting me in the class to teach it. The class is difficult to teach because all the students are at different levels and some are faster than others at learning. (This will be a new challenge for me as a teacher.)

The rest of my day was spent creating an activity for the my presentation. (Which didn't get finished in time but i will get back to that).

Around 7pm I had my favorite girls come by to say "Hello" and talk to me. First, it was Bebe (I think that's her name...) and her group of friends which I really enjoy speaking with. Then my two little ones, Elle and Jennifer (picture to the left), came by to ask me some questions and practice their English. They took pictures of me with their cell phones and told me I was pretty. Then Elle gave me a Christmas present! A Spider man key chain mirror! (It really touched my heart)
The kiddies said goodbye and it was presentation time! I said a frantic prayer for survival and did my thing. Pretending that my boss and co-workers were little obedient and interactive children. I gave the presentation and they said I did a great job. ::SIGH::

Now to finish creating my lesson plan activity... then all of a sudden my co-workers and boss really wanted to help me color my drawings! We all worked together and then had a Korean take out dinner in the office. It was so nice to spend time with them and fell like a part of the group.

I'm starting to think I might be able to get a hang of this! Guess we will see what tomorrow brings!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

From Downtown to Church

Weekend Recap: I went to downtown Daegu with Violet (my other director). We went downtown in search of a cell phone only to find out that I needed to have a foreign ID card. Looks like I will have to wait on the cellphone until next week.

I did do some shopping and bought a Korean learning book and some Korean socks. Then had a nice Korean meal with Violet and we talked about how we would start teaching other on Fridays before classes. She will be teaching me Korean using my book and I will be teaching her English using one of our teaching books.

After dinner and having a few drinks with Violet, we went back by her school campus and picked up my stuff that I left there (I had to have someone fix my lock on my door so I had to take out anything valuable out of my room and with me). Then her father picked us up and drove me home. Violet was getting sick so I ran upstairs and gave her some of my Lipton chicken noodle soup that I had brought here with me. (I thought it would help because it always makes me feel better). Then I had a web cam conversation with my friends to end my night.

Sunday: I went to church!I went to Daegu Pyunggang Presbyterian Church and got to listen to the sermon in English through a headphones. The whole service was in Korean which made it weird for me. I did enjoy the service and meet a couple of nice people. The church serves lunch after the service and it was quite strange. The rice was purple....

I think that's a good recap....sorry it's not detailed...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Some pictures...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Teach to Party

I thought today would only be about partying and not learning but once again I was in for a rude awakening.

I started my morning at the gym where a random korean woman started speaking to me. She thought I worked at the gym. (Do I look like an American trainer? Maybe it was because I wanted to do my own stretch and exercises) She tried to talk to me by asking me general questions (Most Koreans do this because it's the only thing they remember). I found out she was studying at University and is an English tutor. (That was very surprising). I ended up excusing myself to go shower so I could get food and go to school. I took a shower in a room that reminded me of high school or prison shower rooms where everyone showers together. (I know I had no worries about dropping the soap but for some reason I made sure I didn't, haha) In the elevator, another random women tried to speak English to me and all she was able to say to me was "Where are you from?" and "Have a nice day." I told her I was from Washington, D.C. and she emphasized the Statue of liberty. (I just agreed because it would be to difficult to correct her).

My co-worker and I picked up my favorite food (triangle sized kimbap) and coffee and walked to school. I tried to speak English to her so that I could be of assistance in strengthening her English but it didn't work out very well. (I am continually being told that I am very nice. I think it is because I don't mind if they have trouble speaking English.) The point of me being here is to help them learn and practive speaking English.

I got to school and thought we were having an activity day but what that meant is we are still teaching but also having a dollar party. I didn't know what I was supposed to be teaching but this time I could definetly wing it. I did review for about two classes and taught a lesson in two other classes. I felt like this time I was really making progress with the kids! Then they would get money for how good of a student they were from the prior months and could buy candy and such. If I asked them "How much is this?" and they answered correctly then they would get a $10 card. (Sorry I did not take any pictures...) All the kids got a korean dish named: 떡볶이= dduck bok ki > (it is a Korean dish that is spicy but delicious).

There was a group of girl where one girl named BeBe spoke VERY GOOD English. I like her a lot. Then there were the two girls (Elle & Jennifer) that try to speak to me everyday. They are around eight years old. They keep telling me I am pretty or cute. The other girl BeBe explained to me that American's have small faces (supposedly). I really enjoyed today because this time I felt like I really was utilized by some of the kids. Some of the kids don't answer me but giggle and shy away. I will try and get this on tape.

Now, time to help the teachers clean....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last Minute Testing and Teaching

I don't know if you would consider today my fourth day teaching. Let me start from the beginning:

I woke up this morning to a Skype call that partially made my day but also made me miss home. I then met up with two of my Korean co-workers to go to the gym. The gym is called Pop's Italia Gym and it is going to cost me W198,000 for three months or I could pay W90,000 for one month. I agreed to pay W198,000 tomorrow in cash for the three months but now I am thinking I will pay W90,000 for a month and see if I want to continue going there. The gym was VERY different then my gym at home (LifeTime Fitness). It was much smaller and no one runs on the treadmill! All they do is walk! (I would not pay that much for a gym and just walk. I can walk outside for free!) I did a Body Sculpting class which made me realize how out of shape I was. I had tons of endorphins and had to run back to my apartment to change clothes. It's a good thing I ran back because I got a call from my director. She told me she would call back in half an hour for my help for an interview. I had no idea what she was talking about so I waited and got ready in case that meant she was picking me up. My phone rings and it's a gentleman on the phone whom I am to interview to work at GnB. I am to converse with him to distinguish whether or not he can speak English well. He speaks moderatly well but not to the level of a normal American conversation. I would hire him because at least he could understand me where as my co-workers are not exactly able to. Then I get to school late which doesn't matter because my director isn't even here. I am hungry and so I try to ask my co-workers where I could grab some food. They agree to take me to Home Plus Express (Yes, they agreed meaning they didn't understand what I was saying exactly).

We walked to the little food market and I bought some instant noodles (ramen) and some korean Oreo cookies (they were cheaper than Oreos). I came back and relaxed because I was unsure as to what I would be doing today. I was then asked to give my co-workers class their final test. The final test was supposed to take up the whole class time. They didn't do a bad job on the test but it didn't take the whole class time. I didn't know what else to do so I tried to converse with them but there is one kid in that class that will not listen to me. (Same kid, Daniel). About three of the kids told me they do not like English. One was Daniel and I asked him why. He had no response. Thus explains the importance of speaking English. You want to make fun of me or mess with me then learn English!

I retreat to the teachers lounge only to be told that in five minutes I have to teach another class. The class is loud and full of rowdy kids who seem pretty smart. They respond which is what I like. That class made my day. The kids even helped me teach the class. I think they like me.

Next, another last minute teaching assingment to reveiw and test my co-workers class. I am to review the test material for 10 mins and then give them their final test. I reviewed for longer than 10 minutes.... Meaning they only took part of their test which they did very poorly on. I really wanted to help these kids! It was painful to see them fail on something they could do so well if they had extra help or studied.

Maybe I should just put today's behavior by students at looking forward to having a day off for Christmas. I know I am definetly looking forward to sleeping in. It's not like I get to celebrate Christmas here. I'm hoping to find something to do for Chrsitmas and New Years. I don't have that many days off to enjoy. Hoping I can go to Taiwan for New Years, but I have a feeling I may not be able to...

More to come tomorrow!

I then was told that I will be teaching two storytelling books in the beginning of Januaray. I will be teaching four classses that will need to have the stories memorized by the end their last class because they will be presenting the stories to their parents. I guess this will prove whether or not I can teach... Praying I can do a good job and that my kids can learn these story books.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Third Times the Charm...

I'll give you a recap of my weekend. Nothing really exciting. I missed my chance to go to church because I overslept! Must try this coming weekend.

I had my two foreigner friends (Will and Tim) come over to my place on Saturday evening. On Sunday, I went to Seomun Market where Will and I got lost. The benefit of being lost is I found a cheap iron for 15,000 won. Then I got home early to watch another movie and go to bed.

My third day teaching and I got asked to teach a class and review. I didn't really know what to do. I had to give a test which the kids did not do great on. I don't know how the Korean teachers do things which make it difficult for me to know what to do. Luckily, one of the kids tried to help me out. Yet, there was one child named Daniel who kept being a nuissance in the class. I don't know what I am allowed to do to kids when they don't behave. I kept telling him to settle down. Then since we had a min left in class, I figured I could do one game of hangman with their vocabulary words. They lost and so I went over homework and collected their books like I thought I was supposed to. I checked their expression of the day and let them go.

When I handed all the books to my co-teacher, she seemed displeased. She told me they were going to have a test and therfore i was not supposed to keep their books. I asked earlier and they told me I am supposed to collect their books when they finish them! Then my director came in and told me in broken english not to play Hangman but go over parts in the book. For example, read over the material, check kids pronounciation and reading.

My last class, I was told would be at 5:50 but once again it was miscommunication and was at 5:15pm. I felt a little more prepared and decided that if the kids think it's boring then they will just have to deal. I am there to try and help them learn. If they don't want to learn then tough. I made a word search to take up some time. They thought it was difficult. I think I am going to make my own version of worksheets to test their knowledge and see if they are really paying attention to me in class. Next class, those kids are going to have to prove to me that they understand this stuff. I will have to think of a way to make some killer worksheets. For now, I am exhausted and want to go to bed. I will find out tomorrow what I will be doing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day Two: New Campus, New Teaching

It was my second day teaching and it was a totally new experience! The first thing I did was run to Home Plus (a store that is like a Walmart here) and buy slippers because all the Korean teachers teach in slippers. I bought some slippers for 5,000 won and then ran to my main campus. (SIDE NOTE: There are 1,700 GnB schools in South Korea. Each school is considered a campus. My main school is Yongsan Campus). When I got there I had 30 minutes to try and figure out what I was supposed to be teaching that day. I was told that on Fridays I would be teaching at another GnB campus. The director of the Bolli Campus, Violet, came and picked me up. She was very friendly and spoke English very well. In her opinion, she is not a good speaker or driver. (I won't say anything about her driving but in my opinion everyone in Korea drives crazy). She took me by Dunkin Donuts where she usually picks up donuts for her co-workers and we chatted for a bit.

Here's a something I learned about Korean culture from "Culture Smart! Korea" by James Hoare: Koreans will ask you many questions to try and establish common links with you. The culture is all about group identity. Therefore, I learned she liked Britney Spears and we both want to learn each others language. She was very kind and helpful. She answered one of my prayers, to find a church. She told me she would make a call and get me in touch with a church she knew about that has English service. She said she would help me in anyway she could and would like us to be best friends. (I have no problem with this).

We arrived at her campus and she introduced me to her Korean staff (Anne, Grace and ____). One of the staff has an education degree and if I need any help or have any questions, she said she would be more than happy to help. They gave me an outline of what they needed me to to do for each class and what I needed to cover. I had six back to back 25 minute classes and two 50 minute classes back to back. All my classes were mainly very young children from Kindergarten to Elementary school age kids. I had to focus on their comprehension, vocab and pronunciation. For vocabulary or memorized speech, I discovered I could play hangman. Otherwise, I mainly repeated words or phrases and then had the children repeat them back to me. In the beginning, the children didn't really respond much. I started to feel like I did my first day of teaching. When I got to my last two classes, things changed. I was mainly guiding the lesson and not reviewing. The kids were more active and seemed to really comprehend what I was saying. It was the best end to my day of teaching.

Afterwards, Violet took me out to have a real Korean meal. She notified me that next Friday I would not be teaching because it is a holiday. Instead, she wanted me to meet her family (her husband and 2yr old son) and show me around Daegu. She wants to help me get a mobile phone and cook me food. I have no problem with this and am looking forward to spending time with her family and staff.

This was exactly what I needed. I want to learn Korean language, martial arts and get involved with a church. Thanks to Violet, I have a feeling I may be able to achieve these goals. (She already helped me understand my washing machine!). I hope the other new school that I will be teaching at is as welcoming as Violet has been. We will see what happens this coming week but for now I am going out looking for more foreigners to meet in Daegu and try out a church. I will let you know how my weekend adventures come along.

Adventures soon to come and hopefully a link to all my pictures....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My first day of teaching

My first day of teaching I taught two classes. I don't think I did a very good job. I try to plan things out but I soon discovered my first class was very bright. They seemed to really understand the material.

For my second class, I was told they had not received their new books so I had review the whole book. The second class was a class of teenagers. They said they were all 13 years old but that's in Korean years. (For example, by this coming year, I will be 24 in Korean years. In American years, I am still 22.) Meaning that the kids should be around 11 or 12. They seemed very disinterested and I had no idea what to really do. I tried my best but it seemed like my beginning as an English instructor was due to failure.

I believe the problem is that I don't know Korean. Even though I'm not supposed to speak Korean, I think it would help. If they don't understand me then I don't know what I am to do. I am teaching the class by myself. When the children don't understand, they just give me a blank stare.

I put up a status on my facebook about my first day failure (i.e. feeling down because her first day of teaching didn't go as planned) and received a lot of great feedback from people I did not expect to hear from. I was told:

  • "If everything went as planned life would be simple. Don't let it get you down, but don't take it for granted."
  • "In teaching you will have your good days and your bad days. Learn from the bad days and you will have more and more good days. Its all a learning experience. It will get better. Just don't give up."
  • "Plans are only guidelines. Remember you're dealing with a bunch of (if as of yet greatly undeveloped) minds and personalities that will change the best of plans. You have the ability to roll with it and adapt to suit."
It was great advice and really made me feel a lot better. I am hoping that my next day at my main campus will go more smoothy. I believe the problem may be in the communication between my main campus director and I. She tells me what to teach and it's not always the correct books or materials. This can cause a problem. I hope that somehow I will find a way to resolve this issue.

I will write more soon...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weekend Adventure to Busan

After being in Daegu for about 2 days, I decided to take an adventure and go to Busan (Pusan).

I met someone on which is similar to but it for travelers to meet other people that like to travel. Another niche social network but it worked well for me. (I know it sounds crazy and you must think I'm living a little bit dangerously but I'm in Korea. I don't exactly know anyone and it was dangerous coming here alone in the first place!)

I went to my school Friday and had to watch training videos to prepare me to teach. After watching many videos, I had to go by the hospital and get a physical to show I'm not a drug addict. I went with this new Korean teacher who speaks good English. She lived in NJ for about six years for college and won't start working until after January. It was nice talking to someone who could understand me. My director does not speak very good English or at least she doesn't understand me all the time. (I discovered later that she can read English better than speaking or verbally understanding it). I was tired and got home to catch up on people and finish moving in all my stuff. I still had a little jet lag to get over.

I decided to take a shower which from my video you can tell is very strange. I have discovered that if I stand close enough to my sink then it will be like an American shower (meaning I don't have to take down the hose thing.) I went to bed and decided early in the morning I would meet with my friend from TravBuddy (Will) and his friend (Tim, whom he met at a bookstore) to Busan. I live near the Jukjeon metro station. I met with Will and then we went to the Daegu Train Station:
(I will have to create a page where you can see all my pictures. All my videos are on my youtube page). It took about 45 minutes to get to Busan. We passed a lot of beautiful scenery that showed the country life on South Korea. When we came into Busan, we decided to check out the fish market. The Jagalchi Market (my video) is known for having lots of fish and a very fishy smell (I wonder why...haha). We ventured through the Russian district where it welcomed foreigners. We eventually had to ask for directions but we got to the fish market!:
We found another level to the fish market that was a restaurant. We ordered Sashimi, some Hite (beer), and other food. I ate snails or it may have been sea urchins... Then after a very big meal, we ventured toward the Haeundae Beach (Here's my video). After venturing around we found a fair. All South Korean fair have for games are the stands where you throw something to pop a balloon. (I don't have a picture, sorry). We tried to go to Snow Mountain that is an indoor skiing place but it was closed. We went to all the hot spots that were listed in my lonely planet "Korea" guide book. We went to Ol'55 and the Vinyl Underground. They weren't as exciting as they said but we had fun anyway. Our last event of the night was experiencing a No-Rae-Bong (Korean Karaoke Room). You pay a small amount and get your own karaoke room. Will and Tim drank enough to be able to do it but by the end of the night we had all lost our voice. We went to our hostel: The Actor & Tourist Guesthouse that is run by Mr.Lee. After sleeping in heated beds, we awoke to a new morning of adventures and friends. I got up first and searched for breakfast. I found McDonald's and then almost got lost trying to get back to the hostel. We met a new friend there who was from Holland (I believe) and had just traveled from Russia. HE had been in Busan by himself for a week. The next day he would be leaving for Japan. He came with us to visit the Beomeosa Temple which has Buddha's bones and a lot of history. (This is when my camera died...)After the temple, we went to the cliffs and my friends have a lot of pictures that I will have to add at a later date. It was beautiful watching the sunset from the mountain. There were tons of ships on the water and it made me realize how beautiful God created this earth.

We grabbed a bite to eat and then headed back to the train station. On our way, the guys were talking about this thing that people eat in the Philippines called Balot. (It is basically a chicken egg but the chicken is in it's trimester and you're eating a baby chicken fetus.) Funny thing is, we found a place on the way that served Balot! I couldn't bring myself to eat it but my friends did. We caught the train and eventually parted ways.

That should be a summary of my weekend in Busan. My next entry will most likely be about my first day teaching English to Korean kids at GnB Yongsan Campus.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Hello All! This is another personal post about my adventure to teach in South Korea. I arrived after a 13 hours flight then was put on a 5 hour bus. I arrived in Daegu around 1 am and waited for my director to pick me up. They picked me up and told me my apartment was not ready so they had me stay with them at their home for the night. The next day I was able to sleep and get online. I had to wait until around 7:30pm for them to pick me up and bring me to my new home. They picked me up and we went to my new home. Here is a clip of my apartment:

After we put my stuff down, we went to the super market. They bought me some household needs and groceries. Then we went to WABAR (The Western Ice Bar). It's located next to the campus in which I will be teaching at. I had a weird quesadilla that had onions and cheese in it. Then I went home and tried to get ready for my new adventures.

My first problem here as that I couldn't get any money out of an ATM. After speaking to another foreigner on TravBuddy, I discovered that when you use the ATM, you want to find an ATM that takes foreign cards. After learning this, I was able to get money out. I guess My next post will be more descriptive....