Archive for the ‘2.4’ Category

What Makes You Happy?

Friday, July 13th, 2012











Inflating Hopes and Happiness

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Here’s a reminder to myself to think things through. Would it be cute to have pictures of all of my students holding tiny balloons with the things that make them happy written on them? OF COURSE IT WOULD BE. Is it practical, feasible, hygienic, or quiet? Not at all.

For my first second grade lesson of this semester, we talked about happiness and Bhutan, and whether Gross National Happiness was a better or worse scale than Gross Domestic Profit. This was all in conjunction with the things I usually do during my first week of lessons, like take individual pictures of the students and have them write self-introductions on flashcards.

This week I decided to pretend that I had kept with the theme of happiness all semester and made my final lesson also about happiness. We used the amazing Balloons of Bhutan project (which we briefly referenced during the first lesson as a way to introduce the idea of GNH) and watched the last half of this Ted video, where Jonathan Harris, the artist, explains the project and shows pictures of the people he interviewed.

Then, I had all of the students answer five questions that were similar to the questions that Harris had asked his interviewees, and then gave them all a balloon to blow up and told them to write down their own “recipe for happiness” (i.e., what makes them happy) on the balloon.

Mass chaos ensued, pictures of which I’ll post in a gigantic balloon-filled blogpost on Friday or Saturday.

Within the whirlwind of activity that has been giving students balloons meant to be filled with water (and thus are much thicker and harder to blow up. whoops), there have been some very sweet moments, one of which I want to take a moment to detail.

I was walking around 2.4′s classroom, second grade boys, feeling rather motherly as I helped twist balloons around my finger, both tying them and cutting off my circulation in one go, when  I saw a student named HS who had finished writing out his recipe for happiness and was waving around his balloon, showing it to anyone who cared to look. I walked over and asked to see what he had written. A smile lit up his face, and he shoved the balloon at me. On it, he had written “my crush on KD.” I asked if she knew, and he looked shocked and replied that of course she didn’t know. Fair enough, I countered, and told him that he had made a good choice. He laughed.

Soon after this conversation, students finished up writing on their balloons and I told them to gather for a class photo. As they were all lining up (and by lining up, I mean scrambling over each other to either hide in the back, or sprawl out in the front for the picture) HS shyly asked me if he could have another balloon. I told him not to worry, that he didn’t have to show his message, and that he could hide it with his hands, or tilt the words away from the camera.

The photo I eventually took is incredibly silly. The students wouldn’t stand still, so I took it while they were still in motion, jumping over chairs and hanging off of each other. Some of them are hitting others in the face with their balloons, some of them are jumping up and down in the back, and I have a few students hugging each other. If you look carefully you can see HS to the right, one hand making a peace sign, the other hand carefully cupping the words so that it looks like blank balloon, with a half-smile on his face.

Soon after that the bell rang, and the students went wild. Whereas my female students had tried to keep the balloons inflated, by taping them to their desks or giving them to friends, my male students actively tried to destroy them. They decided to see who could pop the balloons the loudest, by kicking the balloons, punching them, or by smacking them into each other’s faces. HS was one of the few who decided not to pop his, and as I left class he was still cradling his balloon protectively in his hands.

Teacher’s Day

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Today is Teacher’s Day, which means that unlike childrens’ day (where children don’t have to go to school) we go to school and do our thing as per usual. However, since I arrived this morning there have been random bursts of song coming from various classrooms, cakes produced out of thin air, and flowers arriving in the teacher’s office. Probably the cutest thing I’ve seen today was when a bunch of male third grade students came back into the second grade building to give their old homeroom teacher a present.

First period I taught 2.2, and they were very sad because they had bought their homeroom teacher a cake, but though he was very flattered he wanted them to eat and enjoy it and so wouldn’t touch any of it. They then asked me if I wanted some, and I tried to give them the same reasoning that their homeroom teacher gave them, and they wouldn’t take no for an answer, so we finished class 10 minutes early and ate cake. Then fourth period I taught 2.4 who told me it was Teacher’s Day (but didn’t wish me a happy Teacher’s Day) and when I asked if they got something for their homeroom teacher they responded “no,” so it’s not all cuteness and cake over here.

Neither American nor  Korean education is perfect, but in my opinion if there’s one thing that Korea does unequivocally better it’s acknowledging and respecting teachers. From my experience this is shown internally (how students and teachers interact, how the administration deals with teachers) and on a broader scale (in terms of salary and prestige being a teacher is a highly sought-after job).

So, to all my fellow teachers out there, happy Teachers Day!

Other people that Andrew Jackson is not…

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

He is not…

Isaac Newton
or Mozart.

(Me: Guys, this guy is an American, we only have Americans on our bills. These people you are stating are not Americans! Students: Teacher – Isaac Newton was American! Me: Noooo he was British. Students: Oh.)

Nor is he Bill Clinton.
or Obama.

Also Ulysses S. Grant is not Taft (But Teacher, Grant and Taft same! Both fat American presidents!) and Benjamin Franklin is not Gandhi.

Brought to you by class 2.4.


Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

What do the following words (or phrases or names) have in common?




Edgar Hillaire Degas











Rhinoceros (rhino)

Pierre Auguste Renoir

Ministry of Employment and Labor




Mill “On Liberty”

Korean Red Ginseng



Gustav Klimt



Magna Carta


and Superstition

They’re all words that my 2.4 class wrote down as a part of Bowl of Nouns (a game similar to taboo, but the students make the words).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any of these words in Korean, and I only know some of them in ASL, a language I claim to be fluent in. With some notable exceptions (Ministry of Employment and Labor – taken from a poster on the wall) the students took these words either from their vocabulary lists, their textbooks, or their memories.

Em in Asia! 2011-11-22 02:53:12

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

I just knocked the metaphorical ball that is my classes out of the metaphorical park that represents awesomeness. Gosh.

Final exams are in two weeks, so that coupled with the quick temperature drop has been rough for the students, so a lot of them are sick and they shuffled in looking like zombies (guess those survival plans didn’t work quite as well as anticipated?) but they’re troopers, and it helps that I’ve got really active lessons planned for first and second grade all this week.

I feel like I’ve broken through a wall with my second grade boys. One of my favorite classes, and the class that I’ve always really wanted to befriend before I lose them, is class 2.4, and I’ve always felt like I liked them more than they liked me, but I think that might be changing. Today we were practicing big numbers and money, which I was frankly worried about because whenever I introduce material that they should already know they tend to become too cool for school and think it’s too easy, and I started off the class with going over numbers, but they got really into it. We went over hundred, thousand, hundred thousand,  million, hundred million, and billion, then went over penny, nickel, dime, and quarter as well as all of the bills. I asked them who was on the coins and at least one kid knew (including, who was on the fifty-dollar bill), and they asked me what “e pluribus unum” meant. We then played “The Price is Right” and they went bonkers.

*I show a picture of a diamond ring*
I don’t know? I found it on google?
Seriously guys, just guess.

*I show a picture of a Pizza Hut pizza *
Okay everyone, it’s a large Pizza Hut pizza from America.
I just said “large.”
No look at the picture guys! THIS is the pizza.
We don’t have bulgogi pizza in the states. LOOK AT THE PICTURE.

At the end of class I told them to cheer up and to not to be too stressed, I know that it’s a difficult time for them but I want them to rest and be healthy. The students quickly reassured me that their demeanor at the beginning of class was not because of me and I chuckled and said that I knew, but it made me sad to see them so tired.

Now that the suneung is over the second graders are literally counting down the days until they become third graders and their lives get even more swallowed up by school than they already are. All I can do is just watch, try to offer support from the outside, and make sure the students know that I care.


Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

After 2.4′s class today I got stopped by two of my competition kids who thanked me for helping them during the competition and wanted to tell me that they along with one other second grade girl placed! Considering there are only 4 high school winners, that is not bad at all. Yayyyy Changpyeong!

Their prize is that they get to go to Australia on a paid vacation February 2nd – 10th. I told them to buy me a kangaroo, and they responded that they’d get me a koala also. I responded that I hate koalas (vicious little creatures) but thanks for the offer. Then there were high-fives all around.

I really like class 2.4… I just wish they liked me as much as I like them. Recently I had a conversation about different types of classes with the ever-awesome Sam Morrow – first grade girls are the most receptive and willing to listen and easiest to discipline, second grade girls you have to earn their respect but once you do they’re super thoughtful and will listen, and first grade boys are crazy and have lots of energy. They’re all relatively easy to cow, though, and for the most part there’s a reciprocal amount of affection there. The girls’ classes are the easiest to work with, and that makes them really really nice, but second grade boys are honestly my favorites. However, I think generally I like them way more than they like me. Thus is life.

Today I taught 2.6 (girls, science track), 2.4 (boys, society), and 1.1A (girls, advanced, not tracked yet) and it was the first day of my Scrabble week. It’s been fun walking around in the halls carrying my six sets of Scrabble boards and hearing students from other classes whisper 오! 좋겠다!

Scrabble is really really hard for EFL students, even advanced ones, so to break it up a bit we actually played two different games – Ultimate Scrabble and regular board Scrabble. Ultimate Scrabble is a class-wide version of scrabble, where you split the students into groups of five (so, in my class of thirty I had six teams) and every round it is a team’s turn and the teacher draws a letter and puts it in the letter bank on the board. Every turn a team has a chance to make a word. If they make the word they get the corresponding number of points scrabble style (E is 1 point, Q is 10). However, they are not just limited to using the word bank, they can also “steal” points by rearranging other team’s words, which then not only gives them points, but subtracts points from other teams. For example, if the letter bank has the letters ARSTMTILE Team 4 can say “STAR” and receive however many points. Then it’s team 5′s turn, and they draw the letter P, so the letters remaining in the bank are MTILEP. Team 5 can either “steal” Team 4′s points by rearranging STAR and adding a P to make it PARTS, or they can create a new word, like TIME. Theoretically, they can even do both if they think of it. The girls thought this was fun, but difficult. The boys went ballistic.

When I say ballistic I mean like, screaming, standing on chairs in order to see the board, and students actually coming up to the board and using color-coded chalk to show how they were rearranging four words and taking letters from the word bank to create three new words. And yes, that actually happened, multiple times in fact - one student in one turn got his team twenty-five points and caused three other teams to each lose five points. Other students were coming up with words like TOXIN and ANNOY. It was ridiculous. I’m so excited to keep doing scrabble this week, even if I am going to end up throwing out my back.


Sunday, June 19th, 2011

It’s Monday. My feet are blistered from walking around Seoul this weekend. I’m drinking instant packet coffee-sugar. I think the first graders have a recorder test, because even just sitting in the teacher’s office far away from the homerooms I can hear strains of recorder floating through the windows, all conflicting with each other like some sort of gaggle of weird atonal plastic geese.

Mondays are weird. I only have two classes on Mondays and they’re 1st and 2nd period back-to-back. Today’s a giggly sort of day. In my first class (2.4, 2nd grade lower-level boys) the students had written on the board “Welcom Emily! Today let’s party!” I told them that, alas and alack, if only we could, but we had to study instead. However we could have an ENGLISH party. Crickets.

We studied “future tense” and I taught them how to make cootie-catchers (which I called fortune-tellers for the purpose of the lesson). I had the students write four sentences in English (today you will _____, tomorrow you will ____, next week and next month). It was super cute, because though my students honestly could not give a rat’s ass about English future tense, once they realized that we actually would be putting the sentences inside the fortune tellers, they worked their little butts off and finished their sentences!

In case you’ve never played with a fortune teller/cootie-catcher (sad, deprived little childhood) basically it’s a fun little origami thingamajig that tells your future. In Korea they call them 동 성 남 북 (North South East West) and instead of putting four colors on the outside flap they put the points of the compass. The students loved learning the American version, and then spent the rest of the class asking me how to spell certain colors so that they could do the fortune teller correctly [“TEACHER! HOW YOU SPELL PURPLE? P-u-r-p-l-e. AHHH thank you!], and without prompting went around to other students and told their fortunes entirely in English! I also had multiple boys call me over so that they could tell me my future. Apparently tomorrow I will accident, and next week I will die. Hmmm.

Also apparently one student is keeping a countdown of when I will leave. “Teacher, only 3 more classes yes?” “Yes I’m sorry” “Oh. Very sad.”

I had another class immediately afterwards, so I went over to 1.4 (1st grade co-ed intermediate, one of the two classes I’m doing my pen pal project with) a bit early because many of them like to chat before class. They didn’t see me come in so I snuck into the back where two boys were arm-wrestling and surrounded by a cheering mob. They got super excited and insisted on showing me their left-handed arm wrestling skills.

Creeper award of the day: one of my first grade advanced students bursts into 1.4’s homeroom right after the bell rings screaming

“teacher hiiiii!”
“Hi! How are you?”
“I’m also fine, thank you.”
He then, with absolutely no segue shouts out the name of my apartment complex and giggles
“uhhh how do you know that?” I then pretend to look freaked out, though I’m really not. Since there are so few foreigners in Yesan, almost everyone knows where I live (and I do mean everyone – the kids at my hapkido studio all know where I live too) because they’ve seen me walk in or out of my apartment complex.
“I am stalker.”

At least he’s honest?