Archive for the ‘school festival’ Category

The School Festival and How I Became a Celebrity

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

The blog title is only slightly tongue-in-cheek.

Once a year, on a glorious day, class is canceled and students showcase their talents in a giant school festival. I love it,  because as a teacher I really only see my students’ in English class. It’s always wonderful seeing students doing things outside of academia, especially when your students don’t have very much time for it. We dedicated the whole day to it, cancelling all of our classes. The first part of the day (10 am to noon) showcased various free and low-cost activities sponsored by the student government and various homerooms, the proceeds of which went to charity. There were paintings in the hallways done by students, four first grade homerooms showed movies, there was a ring toss, an area where you looked at unlabeled pictures of babies, children, and teenagers and guessed which student or teacher it was, 2.5′s class captain had a tarot booth, there was a student-sponsored flea market, etc. I sadly, was only able to do the ring toss, because I was too busy doing last minute band practice.

That’s right, band practice. I performed at the school festival. As the singer for a band. A band made of teachers.

We practiced a few times, in the band club’s classroom. The teacher’s band was the worst kept secret, as some teachers told some students, and the students that didn’t know could hear us practicing because we used amps and we have a relatively small campus. I ended up singing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles backed by two of the English teachers on guitar and bass, the music teacher and a Korean teacher on keyboard, and one of the science teachers on drums, then I hurriedly ran off stage and they played a really awesome Korean song.

The grand stage.

Such a hardcore rocker…

I hit all the notes, and I didn’t fall on my face, so though I’m not a great singer, I consider this a success. Of course, now I can’t get the male students to stop yammering about it. The female students seem content to tell me that I did a good job and leave it alone, or politely pretend like it never happened. On the other hand, almost every male class I’ve walked into at least one student has either quoted the Beatles at me, or sung random snippets. However no other class has taken it to quite the extreme that 1.6A did.

Class 1.6A exemplifies everything that is good and fun about teaching first grade boys. It’s one of my advanced classes, so it’s smaller and I teach them in a special classroom in the library as opposed to their homeroom. There are only fifteen students, and they are always energetic. One time due to unfortunate scheduling I didn’t see them for six straight weeks. The next time I saw them, when a student saw me walk into the classroom he fell to his knees and threw his hands up in the air. He proceeded to scream YEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS at the top of his lungs for what must have been a straight minute.

I should have been expecting it, but it caught me by surprise when all fifteen students jumped out of their seats the minute I walked in and sang the full chorus of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” They then pointed at the whiteboard which they had come early to decorate.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when viewing this image.
1) This was drawn by fifteen year olds. When I say “first grade” I mean they are first year high school students.
2) The super stretched-out stick figure in blue on the left is me.
3) I never got a conclusive answer as to who the other figures were.
4) Please note the “Trick or Treat” on this board.
5) Please also make note of the “rock on” hands in the top left.

As it’s the week before finals, I’ve been giving all of the students half of the class to study individually. The students knowing that I do this, normally bring their study materials. After the surprise musical number, I settled the class down and noticed that not a single student had brought their books. I asked if they wanted time to study, and they yelled that NO they wanted CLASS. Also, they wanted TO HOLD MY HAND.

I don’t think I’m ever going to live this down.

Em in Asia! 2011-11-16 20:31:50

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

We had a warm spurt for late October and early November. It almost helped me forget that this time last year I was getting sick every other week and absolutely freezing.  Alas, now winter is here in full force, and everyday as I walk to school I can see my breath. I also remember this time last year my coffee intake went way up, because I couldn’t stand to be outside for more than thirty minutes at a time, so whenever I met my friends we had coffee.

Seriously though, all I want to do is wear sweaters and eat soup.

This has been a stressful week. Yesterday I took a team of four students to YDAC, a Youth Diplomacy Action Conference that was thought of and created by a fellow f*brighter. Jeollado (broken into two parts, Jeollabukdo -north- and Jeollanamdo -south-) generally has less resources than many of the other provinces (especially Gyeonggido, the province that surounds Seoul) so this Jeollabukdo-residing f*brighter decided to create a diplomacy simulation that was targeted towards high school students in Jeolla. It was ridiculously fun.

I had to choose a team of four students (I chose one second grade boy and girl and one first grade boy and girl to show an accurate representation of our school, and also to try to combat the gender division/grade division in school) and they had to write a mock resolution. We wrote one on global warming:

A Resolution on Global Warming

1. Whereas, the world became industrialized and the use of fossil fuels increased; and

 2. Whereas, carbon dioxide is increasing because of using fossil fuels; and

 3. Whereas, cars and factories, the source of greenhouse gases are increasing; and

 4. Whereas, harmful greenhouse gases lead to changing climate which causes abnormal weather and melting icebergs; therefore

 BE IT RESOLVED THAT Factories in developed countries should decrease their carbon dioxide emissions by 35% within 10 years.

Then the students had to prepare a 5 – 7 minute speech expanding on their resolution, as well as read resolutions that the 8 other schools had prepared and think up some counter-arguments or points to support them. They also had to later on in the day read a mock situation and respond to it.

I was really proud of not only my students but also all the students from the other schools that came.  My students seemed to really enjoy the conference. It was also fun just being able to hang with them, and having them want to speak to me in English.

On top of all that, today is the SCHOOL FESTIVAL! Oh man, I’m excited, even if many of the students aren’t. Turns out the reason why we don’t have classes today isn’t entirely because of the festival – all morning classes are cancelled for the school-wide essay competition. What fun. Also, there’s currently some school drama going down, because they had to cut some of the acts in the school festival due to time restraints, and ended up cutting some of the homeroom dances/skits, so now some of the students are mad at some of the faculty. Anyway, I’m still excited. One of my YDAC kids (Future Diplomat – referred to him a bit earlier) is apparently performing in the my school’s shortened rendition of Grease as “로저” which translates to “Roger” which is apparently Putzy’s name in the musical. I’m SO EXCITED to see FD as Putzy, it’s going to be hillarious.

Sports Day

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Two weeks ago we had Sports Day. Sports Day is actually two days that consist of sports competitions where homeroom classes compete in different sports tourney-style, and a school festival (what might be more accurately termed a “talent show”) where students danced, sang, rapped, and cross-dressed in order to win the crown of Ms. School Festival.

One student told me that Sports Day was like their Prom. At first I took issue with this statement – Prom is a formal dance, and there is nothing formal about Sports Day. Sports Day is full of screaming high school students dressed in matching jerseys competing in various sports in the hot May sun, to claim that out of all the classes at their school their class is the BEST AT DODGEBALL.  American Prom is not like Korean Sports Day at all. American pep rallies are more like Korean Sports Day. However, the sentence was not that “Prom is like Sports Day,” it was that “Sports Day is like Prom.” I was being too hasty. Sure, Sports Day and Prom are incredibly dissimilar, but the sentence still stands. Korean Sports Day is like American Prom, because it is the only school-wide event that all Korean schools have. It is the closest thing to American Prom just by default.

In terms of daily routines and student body make-up my school is a bit atypical. From what I can tell, in Korea for the most part you have lower-level high schools and upper-level high schools. Within the schools there are divisions based on ability, but for the most part everyone at an upper-level high school will go to a college (or a good college), and everyone at a lower-level high school will either go to a mediocre college or won’t go at all. My school has both: an advanced track full of absolutely brilliant students (example: I asked them to give me examples of superpowers, and one student said “telekinesis”), and also many students who have elementary-level English. This means that some students are shooting for the top 3 universities in Seoul (SKY), and some probably aren’t going to go to college.

The average day (for an advanced track student) at my high school consists of him or her getting to school anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30 am, and not leaving until 10 pm. She has her eight-or-so classes in a row, studies through her lunch period, and then takes supplemental classes in the evenings. After the supplemental classes she self-studies at school, then either takes the last bus home, walks, carpools with her homeroom teacher, or she goes to the dormitory where she decided to live because that means she can stay at school later. When she arrives at home, she studies some more. My host sister is an advanced-track student, and the only days my host sister comes home “early” (around 7 pm) it is because either she is too sick to stay at school for supplementary classes, or she has a meeting with her private tutor.

It’s easy to think that the non-advanced students have an easier time of it. Many of them don’t take supplementary classes, or leave as soon as those classes are done, and I’ll end up riding the bus home with them. However the non-advanced track students also have it pretty rough, because even if they get to leave earlier (“earlier” meaning a very few students leave at 3, but then most of them leave between 5 and 7) many of them have part time jobs and work until really late. I saw one of my students riding a motorbike delivering pizza to my apartment complex at 9 pm on a weekday. He stopped and chatted for a minute, and then told me that his shift ended at midnight. It always makes me sad, because the students who must have jobs have such a steep disadvantage compared to the advanced track kids who have the time and ability to spend all day studying.

The advanced-track students competed in an English essay contest. The essay prompt was “your school life.” All of the quotes below, are what my advanced students have to say about the Korean school system (these are direct quotes, though the bold emphasis is mine):

“…sometimes I feel, our school’s color is gray, mood of depression and silence, though general school life, the teens’ time, is green, mood of fresh and dynamic.”

“We students are still teens. We are not adults. We have to sleep for enough time to reset our brain (take a rest to our brain) and grow well both physical and mental. However we spend sleep time doing such difficult things, we don’t have enough sleep time, so we sleep in class.”

“Sometimes I think I’m like ‘A bird in the locked cage’. Yes I know, school is not cage but like preparing courses to fly away. However, in my opinion, we have not had any adversity or ‘real’ problems because we merely have learned many subjects to enter famous university from high school, we cannot fly away because we have not faced and not tried to solve this problems. We need real experiences, not superficial knowledge.”

“Nowadays I feel sometimes today is yesterday because it running always same pattern. Go to the school, attend the class, eat meals, and go to the self-study. I’m so tired that pattern.

“My first wish is entered good university but it is not my only wish. I wanna be a prom queen and I wanna watch some movies with boyfriend but in real life I have to bear it down for a while. Oh not for a while, for 3 years! Grown ups told me that when I entered university in Seoul my life gonna stunning but I have to pay that in high school. “

However an underlying theme that every single student mentioned was how important their friends were, and how they would not be able to get through school without them.

“I’m sure that my airbag is my friends. When I’m stuck in my gloomy they come to me and cheer me up and makes me amused. This is can be because we play on the same team and they through the storm with me. The hands, what they give me could be a good windbreaker. We are competitor but we never think that we are rival. We play this little bit boring and annoying game together.”

This bond between students has never been more apparent than on Sports Day. When I arrived at school all the students were running around in brightly colored jerseys that they had designed and ordered for their homerooms, and the teachers were all wearing casual clothing and hats. Not a single student was late, and everyone was enthusiastically stretching and getting ready for the day. Normally when I come to school my students look like zombies, and one of the goals of my class is to have an activity that is so energetic that it helps wake them up for their next teacher. On Sports Day the students where more alive than I’ve ever seen them. As I was the foreign English teacher, I wasn’t given any duties so I was able to wander around and interact with my students outside of the classroom.

Sports Day was the absolute best thing I have experienced in Korea – it really showed me how talented, skilled and multi-dimensional my students are. Considering how much time they spend sitting and studying, my students are GREAT athletes! They also can rap, dance, and sing really well! Most of my interactions with the students happen in the classroom, and on average the English level at Sapgyo High School is pretty low. Many of my students become frustrated in the classroom because they feel that they are not able to communicate. Even my advanced-track students get frustrated, because they have all these great ideas or logically formulated opinions that they can perfectly express in Korean, but either cannot articulate, or are only able to do so poorly in English. I know from daily experience exactly how frustrating this can be. However, Sports Day meant that I got to hang out with the students not as my English students, but just as people. They explained the games to me, and showed off their skills. I also saw how many inter-homeroom class friendships there were, which was somewhat surprising because students spend so much time with their fellow homeroom students, but also a nice byproduct of teaching a school with only 500 students.

Sports Day pictures forthcoming.