Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day 4: 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 Thursday, March 27th. The weather today is sunny and warm (high 70, low 45 degrees Fahrenheit). The sunshine gives the dirt playground at Doji a dusty yellow glow. 

Daily Recap
This morning's sixth grade classes were painful. There's about 80% more Korean in my classes at Doji than at Doam (my Doji co-teacher basically translates everything I say). The 2nd and 3rd grade classes went really well, which is good, because it wasn't the easiest day.  

6:30AM: Alarm clock goes off. I was up late last night catching up on the BBB posts from the other Badgers; the fresh perspectives and different daily routines are like food to me -- really good stuff. The late night energy surge made it hard to fall asleep. NPR's hourly newscast, calcium supplement, banana, coffee, and packed toast again.

7:20AM: It takes me about ten minutes to walk to the bus stop that'll take me to my second school Doji Elementary. I'm not sure what the bus schedule is, just that it comes every ten minutes or so. It's a reliable bus, too, one that goes to the Icheon E-mart (which is essentially a Target super store), so my morning bus ride is actually quite stress free.

The Korean buses have screens that play short episodes of popular shows, such as Running Man and Larva. My students are crazy about Larva ("Lar-buh"), and it does have an endearing gross quality about that I'm tentatively on board with. The episode I'm most familiar with was so over the top nauseating, I couldn't stop watching. The two main larva are fighting for dear life as this stocky bug hoses them down with his armpit sweat. They can't escape and start getting dehydrated, withering away as the salt sucks the moisture from their larva bodies. As a last effort, they manage to tip over a can of soda; the yellow larva laps it up and immediately waste violently shoots out from his rear end, fighting back the sweat until they are are equals like the twin wands in Harry Potter. It keeps going from there, ending with the larva being flung up into the air, through the roof of the house, and far up into the sky. It's an animated series.

8:06AM: Arrive at Doji Elementary School. The bus ride took a little longer than usual, about 35 minutes. Fifteen or so of my Doji students get on the bus one stop before we get off at the school and most of them bow and say hello to me. We scatter walk across the dirt playground and I tell one of the fourth graders that I like her dancing cat sweater. I get inside and main entrance and literally pull a calf muscle trying to take a picture of my indoor shoes for this post. The picture turns out blurry and spoiler, they're just red Toms shoes. The principal startles me as he suddenly appears by the lockers, and I give a deep, nervous bow and greet him in Korean.

Outdoor shoe teacher lockers
My indoor shoe bag
8:10AM: I head up to the English room. I'm expecting my co-teacher SH to be there, but he isn't. I open the blinds, turn on the lights, and turn on my computer. I would definitely come to Doji earlier if only for a couple of things: I think it makes my co-teacher SH feel badly if I get here before he does and I cannot find the switch that turns the Internet on. It's somewhere behind SH's desk and while I've done a bit of digging, there aren't any power strips; I think he unplugs the actual chord from the router or whatever. I also have tried to figure out how to power up his computer but have given up. I mentioned last week that I had tried to do this for him to maybe see if he would show me, but he just said, "Oh really?" and boots up his computer. I think he doesn't mind doing it himself. With no Internet, I gladly refresh my memory on the 6th and 3rd grade lessons by going through the textbooks.

8:33AM: SH arrives. First words, "Abby, I'm sorry. I'm late." I ask him about how the week's been going and he says it's been good. I let him get settled and update the links to the "Day 3: BBB" post. The Coin Flick game for 3rd grade require copies, so I ask him where the copying machine is. We head to the end of the hallway together, to the computer lab. The copier is occupado, so I tell him I'll make copies on the break between 2nd and 3rd period. When we return to our classroom, I realize that I've left my UBS drive at Doam. Not a huge deal because I had emailed today's lessons to SH, but I had fourth grade lessons on that USB I knew I would have to remake in the afternoon. Blerg.

Here is the Doji timetable:

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

I teach 2nd-6th grade at Doji. Sixth and fourth grade have two classes of each grade. For example, 6-1 is my first sixth grade class (6th Grade, Class 1). Though I have less classes, I teach roughly the same number of students at Doji as I do at Doam (bigger class sizes). Here is our basic class structure:

1. Greetings: SH says, "Bow," and the students bow and say, "Hello, teacher." SH returns the greetings, "Hello, students." Nobody particularly likes this - including, I greatly suspect, SH - but it's what has been established. Some of the kids play comedian and act confused about who they should direct their bows and hellos to, switching quickly between me and SH. Kids are fun. 
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: 6-2 Class (Lesson 1-7 & 2-1 start: Wrap up & Intro). "What grade are you in? I'm in the sixth grade" & "What will you do for the talent show? I'll play the guitar." SH had emailed me that the students would have a test today but the plans had changed, which I realize mid-lesson. The structure of the Doji textbooks annoy me. The fifth and sixth grade books have seven sections per lesson, which is one too many in my opinion. Anyway, I feel like Buster when SH blows through game time to Lesson 2 from the last section of Lesson 1. We get through the first third of the Intro PPT before the end of class, and it took us twenty minutes with all the translating and translating tangents in Korean for every slide. I feel fortunate to have a bi-lingual co-teacher but the "you speak, I'll translate" was exhausting and made me feel extremely inadequate today. 
9:40-10:20AM: 6-1 Class (Lesson 2-1: Intro). "What will you do for the talent show? I'll play the guitar." The Intro PPT goes smoother with this class because they are much more participatory than the 6-2 class. I am excited for the MASH game (Who will you marry, where will you live, what car will you drive, and what will be your career), and the students understand that they need to pick three things they like and one thing they don't for each category, but they get caught up with the MASH letters. They think they have to write words that start with each of those letters SH tells me after class. Tomorrow, we will skip the PPT and give the MASH game another shot. 

10:20-10:40AM: Doji has a twenty minute break in between Periods 2 and 3. Most of the kids rush outside during this time to play a quick game of soccer and to jump rope. I'm about to go make copies of the Coin Flick Game for third grade, when SH says, "Wait a minute, let's go together" It strikes me as only a little bit odd because last week when I would go to the bathroom or roam to the water cooler, SH would ask me, "Where were you?" when I'd return. It doesn't feel like he's keeping tabs on me or anything like that -- he's making sure I'm okay and I think that he is maybe a little curious about what I am in fact doing. At the teacher dinner a couple weeks back, he and the other teachers were not only shocked to find out that I drink "alcohol" but that there is alcohol in America. I know. Some of the sixth grade boys come into the computer lab as the copies were doing their copying and I had somewhat of a one-sided conversation about computer games with them. Baby steps. We are returning to our classroom when SH hands off the copies to me so he can sprint to the teachers' room. He's in charge of the morning broadcast that airs during this break. The man gets no breaks!
10:40-11:20AM: 2-1 Class (ABC Recognition). Ah, to be home with Toonbo ABC's and Tin Foil Shadow Letters. This was by far the best class of the day because there is no textbook, just my lesson plan. They aren't as into Toonbo as the Doam kids but soon enough I will convert them. I caught SH humming the opening "dee dee dee dee dee dee dee ooo wee ooo wee" later in the day. After Toonbo we play a Chase the Alphabet game, which is a powerpoint memory game they go nuts for. I use repeated phrases ("What letter is this?" "Are you ready?" "Watch carefully" and "Where is "G"?), so SH doesn't have to translate the whole time. The sound of shimmering tin foil is music to my ears. We go through the alphabet on the board and I tell them they can choose their favorite letters to make, which turns out to be a great idea. It is neat to see what letters they choose - some methodically choose "A, B, C" while one boy had "f, x, s, O [a balled up piece of tin foil]" while others spell out short, three-letter words. Absolutely fantastic. 

11:30AM-12:10PM: 3-1 Class (Lesson 2-1: Intro). "What's this? It's a kangaroo." The kids come in all sweaty from P.E. and one of kids tapes his sweaty bangs up with actual tape. What a goof ball. The Intro PPT is successfully engaging, though on the "What?" slide, one of the boys says, "What the hell." I swiftly look him in the eye and say, "No," and move on. He knows that it has a negative connotation, just like the kids know that "F*ck you" is not a good thing to say, but they're kids and it being a second language, at this point, I don't believe they understand how offensive it is for them to say those words. The Coin Flick game is a lot of fun -- the kids really get into saying the key phrases. I like being able to walk around and give a little bit more individual attention. As they line up to leave, one of the little girls hands me an origami box. I thought she was just showing it to me, but she gestures that it's for me :D Once they're all gone, I ask SH if he saw the argument between two of the boys during the game. This is something my Doam SK and I would talk about because it's a way to process the day. SH takes it as criticism. He says that maybe in a few years he will be a better teacher. I regret the comment immediately because I'm the type of person whose next thought is, "Well yeah, of course in a few years you will be a better teacher because you'll have more experience." I try to recover that conversation but was too late and don't do well with making people feel better. I think he's a good teacher. But this sort of set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. 

Paper origami box from one student makes me feel better

12:10-12:30PM: Lunchtime. I enjoy all the hellos from the kids waiting in line; they are so darn cute. SH and I sit down at the teacher table with our trays. Almost instantly the teacher next to me makes a comment about my short sleeves (mind you, it's 70 degrees out). I wonder if the teachers wearing mini skirts and nylons are constantly being fussed over. But it is funny when one of the teachers joins our table bundled up in a parka, hood up. SH didn't have to translate that conversation haha. Kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew) was the soup of the day. SH says, "Every day, I miss this taste."  

12:30-4:45PM: Conversations with my co continue to go haywire all afternoon, plus I get an email from my Doam co-teacher that puts a wrench in any hopes of the day ending on a high note. I don't need to go into the conversation details; simple mishaps and misunderstandings that come from a combination of the language barrier and the fact that we've only worked together for now five days. My face is sore from smiling; SH eats a lot of chocolate (which he shares with me) -- we're dealing. It was just one of those days. Then, the email I get from my Doam co-teacher SK is about the two-day GEPIK (Gyeonggi-do English Program in Korea) teacher training I have to go to next week and the open classes I will be having in April - for my extra after school classes I teach by myself. She will tell me about the paperwork I'll have to do for these open classes on Monday. Horrible, horrible news. I'm already nervous and stressing. 
4:45PM: Get me home bus ride. I plug in my iPod and admire the origami box my third grade student had given me. 

Daily Questions (See updated "Day Four" questions here): 

1. What have you learned about yourself through this experience?

Through my experience in Korea, I have learned that it is important for me to stop thinking about what "I should" do.

"You should take advantage of the time you have here and see as much as you can." No, no. I'm going to see the things I see because I want to see them. I'm going to do these lesson plans because I want to be prepared for class because I love seeing my students engaged and excited. 

2. What has been the most difficult aspect of Korean life to get used to?

The language barrier has been the most difficult aspect of Korean life to get used to. I often think that I talk just as much in Korea as I do back home. That the language barrier covers up my social awkwardness and packages it up as a cute foreigner quirk. The logistic challenges of a language barrier tilt toward likable when I don't have to feel badly about zoning out at lunch and focusing on what I really care about anyway - the food.

But what I've realized, and what I've found to be the hardest and saddest part about not speaking Korean, is that I can't sufficiently express my gratitude for the kindness I've encountered. The people I've met here have been so generous to me. I can't speak enough about how lucky I feel to have this experience and opportunity to go about my work and personal life with people that are so genuine.

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


  1. What a great description--reading your guys' BBB posts has been like food for me too! Hah, I recently saw that Larva bit on the bus for the first time (and then many more repetitions)! Found it here: but I really like how you described it.
    Ok, so your Doji 5/6 books are the ones that we have for 5/6.
    Nice 2nd grade class! Is "Chase the Alphabet" a standard game I could find on Waygook? Awesome, awesome origami box! I know just what you mean about conversations going haywire. Luckily he'll have many more days with you, and will quickly see what a hard-working, kind person you are ^^
    Big bummer about the open classes. I'd forgotten that we'd have to do those again this spring. No word about them yet at my school, but I'm sure they'll come. If you do one of your regular lessons, it will exceed expectations! You could even nearly repeat one of your best lessons/games that you've already tried out -- the observers would never know the difference. Hopefully the paperwork is the formal lesson plan... fingers crossed!
    Today's F-R-I-D-A-Y!

  2. Thanks for all your comments, Rebe! The Chase the Alphabet game is on waygook but I don't remember where. Here it is from My Drive:

    I didn't realize we have Spring open classes, too. I guess it's good, but there's a bit more hoop-jumping leading up to it. I think I will be "sneaky" and repeat a lesson/activity I know they've liked. I hope your Friday's going well! It's after lunch and I have one class left -- yay Friday!

  3. Love the Arrested Development reference! Hitting the right amount of Korean translation in class is truly an art form. I've only had one or two teachers who really got it. Although it hinders your plans sometimes, at least they try to be involved during class. More than half of my co-teachers do almost nothing or don't even come at all. I have the same 5/6 textbook, and now I really wish we'd done the MASH activity!
    On the language thing, I wouldn't feel too bad. My Korean doesn't seem to result in any less miscommunication. Also, speaking to my coworkers almost exclusively in Korean limits what we can talk about and how I can participate socially (can't ever keep up with native speakers!). It also limits how indirect and gentle I can be if there's any kind of problem. So, I''m sure I end up unintentionally offending people just as much. (I didn't have time before, so I'm going back through and reading all the entries now (: )

    1. I'm still shocked that you communicate in Korean at school -- the social stigma of talking to you in English also really surprised me. Thanks so much for the words of support -- that was one of the hardest days I've had at school so far. I went home feeling like a bad person; words of wisdom from you and Rebe help so much! And yeah, the whole co-teacher situation is crazy. I feel like everybody's school does it differently. Do you prefer teaching alone or working together, co-teaching? I'm always changing my mind about what I'd prefer //