Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Open Class


Today is Open Class Day for me. What does that mean? It's similar Parent-Teacher day in the States, where parents are invited to the school. However, with an Open Class, parents are invited to sit in class while it's being taught. ...... No pressure!

So, not only is this my first time teaching (this year, this experience), but now I must teach a regular class while the parents watch. I don't know if they'll understand what I'm teaching or saying. I'm not sure how many parents will show up. I'm not sure if my students will show up on time to class (they usually don't). I'm not sure how the students will act if their parents are in the class with them. For instance, they might be quiet, but they might be too quiet and not participate. Hmmm...

So I am thinking about these things and trying not to worry. Honestly, I'm not that afraid about it. I just have to do one class. Some of the other teachers have done much more than that this semester. Of course, they all speak fluent Korean and must interact with the parents outside of these scheduled events.

My Facebook post:
Last night, I had a dream that I failed miserably at it. Scared? No. Those kinds of dreams actually show you how to overcome your obstacles, not tell you it's impossible.

That really does sum it up. I've got God on my side, and I'll do my best today to put my trust in Him and work well with the kids. Besides, my mentor teacher said she'd help me out (especially with formalities) today.

'Til next time,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When You Grow Up...

Sometimes, when I look at the first graders, I can't help but imagine what kind of people they might grow up to be.

The smallest girl in the class is a really good student. She works hard and always follows the rules, yet still plays with her friends well.

One of the boys loves making sound effects. In fact, on  the student roster, I wrote "SFX maker" under his name in order to remember him. He enjoys communicating this way. I wonder if he'll go to college and study the arts and become a director.

A few of the girls can be really sneaky. I think, in the kindest way possible, of their futures. Maybe they'll be advocates or work in PR.

I see some scientists, sports enthusiasts, fashion designers,  and successful businessmen/women in this class.

I imagine one future businessman losing his temper at a board meeting and threatening to cut the salaries of his subordinates. (Maybe that kind of thing wouldn't happen here. What happens when a Korean businessman loses his temper)?

As for the kids whose parents think it's best to dye their kid's hair wine red or light brown (some guys have highlights)... and to pierce their ears (the boys, especially), I suppose they're perfectly capable of becoming movie/music stars.

I wish I could see them all grow up. Every one of them. See what they'll become.

'Til next time,

Monday, June 18, 2012


The kids at school are usually called to attention in a military fashion. If you've taken Taekwondo, you might've heard the phrase, "Chariot!"  I'm not sure, but it seems to be the equivalent of, "Attention." Kids should stand (or sit, depending on the circumstances) with hands at their sides and face forward. Usually, every chanting request made by the teacher is followed by a chanting response from the students. With my first graders, I say, "Look at me! Look at me!" The students must respond, "Look at you! Look at you!" There are and movements for this chant.

Some other chants and gestures the kids must do include putting their hands on their head, closing their eyes, or clapping a certain number of times. During assemblies, the military-style chants are used to get everyone's attention. Some days, I feel like teaching my students the English equivalents. I suspect they already know, "Attention!"

'Til next time,


Ah, so my MT tells me I already knew about the teachers. Even though I don't remember now, I have to believe this is possible. If she told me, for instance, in the first week of school then that explains why I don't remember. Well, I met the new teacher today.

The new teacher is actually the original teacher. She had a baby and was on maternal leave. Just like the other teacher who came to school late. ...I honestly DON'T remember being told this. Still, I can't be mad. Maybe it was announced in Korean during one of the meetings I was somehow allowed to attend. Can you tell I'm still bothered by this? I'm trying not to be. No worries, I'll get over it!

Yes, so this new teacher. She speaks English very well (and of course thinks that she doesn't). She seems very friendly, and a good teacher. This is good because her class is a very rowdy one. A few minutes before I was scheduled to visit her class, my mentor teacher got a phone call. After hanging up, she told me that the 4th grade teacher had been changed, and that this new teacher would like to meet me today. I thought maybe I'd be told not to come to class that day, so this news was a bit surprising, but welcoming. I went upstairs to meet the teacher.  I guess we both had a lot of questions for each other. We paused between greetings before delving into the topic of English class.

I look forward to getting to know her. I don't know if we'll get to know each other past the topic of school. I now know that not everyone is privileged to such turnouts. (One of my friends, another TaLK scholar, goes on weekly dinner meetings with some of the other teachers at her school. They just hang out and talk).

It seems like I have bitterness towards this topic. Really, I'm just finding it hard to make Korean friends (and keep them). Luckily, the internet allows me to keep in touch with those I've met in other cities and towns in Korea. As for Jecheon, I may just have to wait for something that could come later... or not at all.


This last weekend was kind of hard. For many reasons. I'll get started.

You know that saying, "You are your own worst enemy?" In my case, not only that, but the weapons I use against myself are enough to make anyone want to give up. Anyone without confidence, that is.

So, as I face this obstacle once again- this SAME obstacle I thought I was overcoming- I am finding it hard to summon the strength to defeat it for good. Oh, this is why it's been reappearing. I never defeated it, I just turned around and walked in a different direction hoping to avoid it.

If life is about finding out who you are, then I have never found it an easy task. If life is about an important journey that we must all take, then I have never known where I was going, or why my past is so important to my future. My biggest supporter should be me, right?

What will I do with myself after teaching here? That is the big question of the hour. ...And even through all the turmoil my mind has wrestled with this weekend trying to figure it out, I was able to receive some lovely advice from a friend: Get a new outlook on life. So I ask myself, why have I always thought of discovering "the next step" as a painful process. Sure, it may never stop being tiring, but at least I should take advantage of this mystery and make use of the energy in a positive way.

So this, my Facebook post, sums it up.
"Another dose of culture shock. Not being told anything is bothering me this much? Well, back to the drawing board. Maybe I shouldn't try to make friends at school. REEEEEEEEAAAAAALLLLY wishing Seoul wasn't so far away. Or Chungju. Or Jochiwon."

A friend asked what happened. I tried so hard to keep the story witihin the unwritten "acceptable paragraph length of Facebook responses."

i started making friends w/ a few of the younger teachers. then on friday i found out one of those teachers was leaving the school for good that day. usually, i don't get informed about stuff at school, but i somehow thought something like this would be announced early. i dunno if the other teachers knew beforehand, but how couldn't they? i dunno the story, dont even know if it's ok to ask... but if you make a friend you care about them a bit, right?"

There wasn't time on Friday to ask why this teacher was leaving. I walked into the teacher's classroom and couldn't summon of the courage (rudeness) to interrupt the steady flow of rummaging through papers and writing a million notes. Ok, I did say something.  Are you leaving? Today's your last day? A quick "yes" and then back to rummaging. "Oh," I said. The next reply, not from me, was (a seemingly careless) "Goodbye".

..Let me interrupt to mention that Korean people, for some reason, want to wave hello and goodbye with both hands. I reminds me of Mickey Mouse. That is all....

So, I felt dismissed from the scene. I left to go catch the bus home. I don't know if I'll be voluntarily told why this teacher left. Today is Monday, and I usually help teach in this teacher's class today. My mentor teacher hasn't said whether or not I'm suppose to help teach today. Like stated above, I'm not often told things. Yet, I somehow manage to play along as if everything is normal. Is this the right thing to do?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Last 10 Days

Hey there! Long time, no ... see! Haha.

What's been going on? I'll tell you.

Last week was pretty interesting. Wednesday was a national memorial day for Korea which meant no school. So on the Tuesday before, the school had a parent-teacher dinner. I'm not sure how it was set up, but I suppose a few parents RSVP'd to join the school teachers and administrative staff. I was invited, too. We took up the entire restaurant, minus two small rooms that were separated from the main room by a sliding door. We feasted on dak galbi (forgive me, I'll have to look up the correct spellings another time), nengmyun, mandu, and whatever else the host felt like lavishing us with. Of course, there was alcohol all around....

After the dinner, my mentor teacher's husband "appeared out of nowhere" (again!) with his two "outing buddies."  Yes, that is what I will now call them: The Outing Trio. They appeared in the parking lot across the street, and we all talked and laughed about random things explained in broken English and Korean. I suppose at some point my MT's husband's stomach growled because he asked me where the nearest chicken restaurant was. Of course, this is not my side of town, but thanks to the errand-running adventure with the third grade teacher the previous week, I was able to oblige. "BHC...." I trailed off, trying to remember exactly where down the street it was. "BHC!" he exclaimed excitedly. I had picked a good brand. He praised me and quickly urged our small group (the trio, my MT, and two other teachers from the dinner earlier) to start walking. The BHC turned out to be a delivery-only shop, so we turned around and headed to the next best looking chicken restaurant, Hoo-La-La.

On Wednesday, I'd intended to eat dinner with one of the teachers from last night (I really wish we could all hang out more often), but I ended up boarding a train and going to visit Nurse Linda from the TaLK orientation. She lives an hour away from me, and I really wanted another chance to enjoy her and her son's company. They picked me up at the train station, home to a nice-looking building despite the area looking almost as scarce as a ghost town. This was a country side town. Her son, nicknamed, "Optimus Prime," ran towards me as I crossed the tracks. To him, I am "Shannon noona" (older sister Shannon). On this trip, I got to meet Linda's parents and see their lovely home. We spent the day grocery shopping, eating, playing, talking, studying Korean, listening to music, taking pictures, browsing the internet, and visiting a Buddhist temple. All of it was truly a great experience, but part of me wished that I could do one more thing that day. I got home late. 9PM or so. I'd been torn between getting to know an old friend and getting to know new ones. The new ones are closer to home. Having dinner with them this night would probably have been enjoyable, too. Sometimes, I dislike having to choose between these kinds of situations.

The rest of the week went by nicely. There was a bit of trouble teaching the first graders, but the source of the problem is an old one that lies deep within me. It's completely a part of my personality, and one that will take more than a few lucky "good" days with them to overcome. On Saturday, I and the other foreigners of Jecheon set off to Seoul to see the musical, Wicked. The play was performed by an Australian cast, and subtitles were displayed on message boards on either side of the stage. My group had nosebleed seats. We couldn't see the actor's faces in any detail, but that didn't stop the play from being totally exciting!

A few of us also managed to visit a Latin festival for about 30 minutes before the play. My friend Lein and I did sooooo much walking Saturday and Sunday. Between riding the subway back and forth across the city and walking around exploring everything (in an attempt to escape boredom, kill time, or find food), this trip kept us quite fit! Our group spent the night at a hostel in Hongdae, and on Sunday Lein and I broke away from the group again to grab breakfast and go visit the Trick Eye Museum. I hope to make a video of the that part of the trip. As soon as it's completed, I'll post the link here.

Lein and I also went home a bit early so as not to feel totally exhausted on Monday. I've decided that sleeping on the train is no longer enjoyable. Too much anticipation thinking that you'll miss your stop. Even with a timer, it's just like trying to sleep on an airplane, seat-wise. ... I take that back. The train seats are spacier and recline better. Still....

'Til next time,