Monday, March 24, 2014

Day 1: Badger Blogging Blitz

[Badger Blogging Blitz (BBB) 2014: Ashley ...meanwhile in Korea...Vicky Outside the PyxisMaggie The Traveling FlamingoDrew The Hungry PartierRebecca Rebe with a Clause]

Today is Monday, March 24th. The weather today is cloudy and cool (high 63, low 39 degrees Fahrenheit). I woke up feeling reluctant. Monday, you bastard. Koreans have a name for Mondays - 월요일 병 - which translates literally to "Monday sickness." 

Daily Recap
Today was a good day, despite it being Monday. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the 6th grade classes responded to the spelling activity, and I got to try several new games with my after school students. Lunch was fantastic per usual and my co-teacher SK and I had some good laughs today.

5:45AM: Alarm clock goes off. It's crazy, I know. I always lie to people when they ask me what time I get up. I listen to NPR's hourly newscast via iPhone before pulling myself out of bed. Fried eggs, toast, and a banana for breakfast. I wash down my calcium supplement with a glass of water (which I boiled via electric tea kettle the night before). After the dishes are clean, I drink my last yogurt drink and play an old episode of NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour "The Shambolic VMAs And Hollywood in The White House" as I get dressed, etc. I head out, grabbing the garbage bag that's been sitting by the door for the past week. 

6:35AM: Walk to school. Sunrise is around 6:30AM, and this morning was beautifully crisp. By the bridge, they're making good progress on the building they've been working on the past few months. Brickwork is finished and I suspect they'll be done in a couple of weeks.

7:25AM: Arrive at Doam Elementary School. It's pretty quiet, though I see one of the fifth graders is already in his classroom. I boot up the computers and head back downstairs to the teacher's room to make copies of the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" coloring page for my after school 1st/2nd Grade class (lesson plan generously shared with me by Rebe!). The last copy is coming out when I hear the the door slide open; it's the new first grade teacher asking me about doing more extra after school classes in April. I say that I feel busy working at both Doam and Doji, to which she replies, "But the parents want After School English." I should have plainly said, "No," because she kept fighting me but it was early. Ahh, tomorrow -- I'll deal with that battle then.
7:45AM: Lesson Prep. I look over my lesson plans and make sure things are up to par. It is one extra step to reorient myself into the Doam lessons after teaching at Doji the past two work days. After a bit of clicking around the folders on my desktop and looking through the textbooks, I pull down the Korean-brand Scrabble game boards to prep the spelling word activity for 6th Grade. For some reason, I expected to have to stick all the letters onto the tiles (it's a Korean brand after all) and yep. 

8:25AM: My co SK is ten minutes early today. We say a quick, friendly good morning and SK lets out the usual exasperated groan as she makes her way to her desk. The groan that sums it all up haha. I'm on Scrabble tile set number three by then. 
8:45AM: I always wait fifteen or so minutes after SK gets to school before going over to her desk to talk about the game/activity for the day's lessons. For 3rd Grade, there is a TEE Name Tree activity from the textbook that'll take up at least ten minutes and for the end of class I have a hidden picture game planned. For 6th Grade, I have an Intro PPT since it's the first section of Lesson 2 and an abbreviated version of Scrabble that will get the kids spelling the new vocabulary words. She notes my voice - I have a bit of a cold that developed over the weekend - and darkly says,"Doji..." It was too perfect. Soon, we hear chattering in the hallway. The day begins.

Here is the Doam timetable:

Period 1: 9:00-9:40AM
Period 2: 9:50-10:30AM
Period 3: 10:40-11:20AM
Period 4: 11:30AM-12:10PM
Lunch: 12:10-1:00PM
Period 5: 1:00-1:40PM
Period 6: 1:50-2:30PM
Period 7: 2:40-3:20PM

I teach 1st-6th grade at Doam. Most of the grades are divided into two classes. For example, 3-1 is my first third grade class (3rd Grade, Class 1). Here is our basic class structure:

1. Greetings: "Hello, everyone!" and how are you, what day is it today, and how's the weather questions
2. Motivation: a quick warm up game/conversation that reviews and practices the key phrases and vocab 
3. Book Lesson
4. Game/Activity

9:00-9:40AM: 3-1 Class (Lesson 1-5: Wrap up). "Hi. Hello. What is your name? I'm Miso. My name is Miso. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you, too. Bye! Goodbye!" The TEE Name Tree activity has the kids punch out six leaf-shaped name tags. They write their names on the leaves and then go around asking each other, "WHAT IS YOUR NAME?!!!" and exchanging leaves. I have never heard that question  asked with such aggressive enthusiasm. The kids in the book look so calm and pleasant while our students wild beasts. But once they get settled back down, we hand out glue for them to paste their friends' name leaves onto the Name Tree in their books, which they really enjoy doing. The Guess the Picture game was okay -- they like guessing, but I haven't figured out a good way to choose who gets to guess the answer when they all are begging me to pick them.
9:50-10:30AM: 3-2 Class (Lesson 1-5: Wrap up). I was finishing up the fifth set of Scrabble tiles when 3-2 arrived to the English Room. One of the little boys comes over and starts helping me put the tiles into the bag, saying each letter as he drops it in. Eventually a gaggle of cute girls comes over and starts asking me about the pictures I have hanging up. "Abby Teacher, your family?" The class and activities went more or less the same as 3-1. 
10:40-11:20AM: 6-1 Class (Lesson 2-1: Intro). "Is Ted there? Speaking. Who's calling? This is Yuri. How do you spell it? Y-U-R-I." I hate this lesson. The focus is English phone conversation, something I don't even like. SK told me at lunch that the students were wondering why they were learning this when they can just speak in Korean. I agree with them. Why should they have to learn English phone etiquette, essentially a different dialect of modern day English? Chances are slim it'll ever be truly helpful for them. Oh well. The Scrabble spelling activity works marvelously well firstly because the students really responded to it. I was hoping they'd at least humor me and follow directions, but they do much more -- they like it. I give each team a bag of Scrabble letters which they use to spell out the new vocab words in Scrabble form; each word needs to be connected into the word grid. The second part of this activity I am thrilled about is that everyone is able to contribute. Even the lower level students could look at the spelling list and match the letters and form words. Both classes wanted to keep playing after we said it was time to clean up.

11:30AM-12:10PM: 6-2 Class (Lesson 2-1: Intro). Same deal ^^
12:10-12:30PM: Lunch. I was enjoying my meal when I noticed a group of four teachers huddled over another teacher's dirty lunch tray, sort of collectively wiping it clean with paper towel. So, yeah, that was strange. It's funny to me that I noticed it because later in the afternoon SK came back from a meeting and said, "They are nuts." Apparently this collective-teacher-paper-towel-wiping-lunch-tray event was a test run for a new idea to conserve energy. The argument is that wiping the trays will reduce the amount of water required to wash them, which will reduce energy costs. Starting next week, every student and teacher will have to wipe their trays clean with paper towel when they're done eating. "What about the trees?!!" was SK's response. Indeed, "What about the trees."

1:00-1:40PM: 1st/2nd Grade After School Class (The Itsy Bitsy Spider). Warm up with "Outer Space ABC's" which they ask to listen to, "One more time!" I then read them "Snail, Where Are You?" as a review from last week. Transitioning to Itsy, I draw a snail on the board and ask them what letter it starts with. Then I start drawing a spider, which they know right away, and I again ask them what letter. Ssssss. They LOVE the Itsy Bitsy Spider video, and a quarter of them do the actions with me. There was no way a role play was going to happen with this group so we move along to the coloring sheet. Next week, we'll finish those up and make them into puppets. 
1:50-2:30PM: 3rd/4th Grade After School Class (Jenga English Game). Two of the kids come in early and start asking about Frozen songs so we listen to and sing to "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?" and "Let It Go." They get ahold of my Itsy sample puppets at which point they are using the rain puppet as falling tears -- it is pretty awesome. The Jenga English Game is really fun. I had gone through and wrote one letter, from A-J, on each block. Each letter was then assigned a question or a word. For example, "A" was assigned, "What is your name?" If they pulled an "A" block from the Jenga puzzle, they would have to answer, "My name is ____."  
2:40-3:20PM: 5th/6th Grade After School Class (Substitution Game & Jenga English Game). The substitution game takes a lot of prompting at first. It starts off with a long sentence. I chose, "Nine blue cats ate ten very red apples." The idea is that they can change one word at a time, making the sentence as crazy as they like, as long as it's grammatically correct. For the Jenga game, I let them assign sentences to the letters. Letter H got, "I'm crazy!" which is maybe comparable to calling someone a "butthole" in America. Lots of laughs. 
3:20-5:30PM: SK and I chat a little bit before she gets a phone call and has to get back to work. I quickly glance over tomorrow's lessons and go down to the teacher's room to print some things. The vice principal makes sure I got some Korean donuts (YUM) while I am down there, and I bring some up for SK. Finally, I get to blogging. SK left around 4:45 and around 5:30, I power down my computer. 
5:30-5:50PM: Bus ride home. One of my students gets on the stop after I do and we sit next to other talking about everything. I ask how she is and she says she is tired. I say that I am tired, too, and that I am a little sick. She acts out throwing up and I say oh no, just a little sick. When I ask about her brother, who graduated from Doam last year, she starts telling me that her father, sister, and brother carpool home -- she's so animated when she talks that I sometimes  forget we don't speak the same language. I love talking with her! 

Daily Questions:

1. What has been your most surreal experience in Korea so far?

Last month at the goodbye dinner for the Doam teachers moving on to different schools, I had a conversation with the first grade teacher that hit me hard as my most surreal experience so far in Korea. I was feeling kind of badly because we were situated at the end of the table and I was separating her from the rest of the group. So it was the end of table, the first grade teacher, me, and then the rest of the staff. I could sense a bit of panic in her eyes. But she speaks English well and she eventually told me that her daughter was thinking of going to UW-Madison! I was thrilled. 

We continued talking, and I asked her about her daughter's major - Art History - and then I mentioned that I studied art and film in college. She got really excited and said that her younger daughter also studies art and that she has an art opening coming up in Insadong, an artsy section of Seoul I adore. I asked how old her daughter was - 25 years old. My age. 

That was my most surreal moment because for a split second I thought that her daughter could be me. It's one of the few moments in Korea where I've felt my heritage boil up. It's strange, but in a foreign country with literally every aspect of life turn upside down, the found things in common are important. And all the things her daughters and I had in common just made me feel like I could have grown up here, that Korea could have been my home, and I would have still been me. This is odd maybe to say, but I think the first grade teacher thought the same thing. 

2. What would you have told yourself before you got on the plane in Chicago, given what you know now? 

Honestly, I feel like I had a good head on my shoulders when I stepped onto that plane. There's ton of information  and knowledge I attained once I got here, but that's part of the experience. Knowing beforehand could have been theoretically helpful I suppose. It's not realistic though. And truly, knowing about something - such as the ever-changing school schedules - didn't prevent frustration, challenge, or low points for me. My researched knowledge did make some Korean customs and habits recognizable but not necessarily easier or less awkward. Living and learning, priceless. 

Fabrics of My Day

Badger Blogging Blitz (BBB) 2014:
Ashley Wendorf: ...meanwhile in Korea...
Vicky Lee: Outside the Pyxis
Maggie Flamingo: The Traveling Flamingo
Drew Binsky: The Hungry Partier

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