Archive for the ‘2.5’ Category

First Grade Shenanigans

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

My first grade boys are making me laugh which is good, because my second graders are almost making me cry. We’ve had so many schedule changes recently which doesn’t bother me normally, but since these schedule changes could affect the date of my last class I’ve tried to stay on top of them. I found out on Friday during first period that next Friday most of the classes were cancelled, which meant that this week was going to be my last class with 2.5 and 2.10. I was really really sad.

It was a good class. I managed to wrap up a lot of loose ends within the class and talk to a fair number of the students one-on-one. Sam was there for that class as well as others, and she managed to meet most of the students I regularly blog about. She also got a fistbump from fistbump kid, and had A NICE LOUD CONVERSATION with THIS KID (who we’ve decided we’re now calling Caps Locks Kid because it just fits).

After class I chatted with one student about Model UN for most of the break period, then went outside to find a student I had seen walking normally just minutes earlier hobbling around with one crutch shoved under his armpit, his walking eerily reminiscent of my friend pretending to be an urchin in Oliver Twist at my sixth grade summer drama camp.

“OH NO WHAT HAPP– wait. You didn’t have a crutch five minutes ago.”
“Haha yes I got you teacher.”
“Which poor student did you steal that from? Can the student walk?”
“Yes” he said, shrugging nonchalantly “he’s fine. This is my secret tool.”
“How is it your secret tool?”
“Teachers see me and they say ‘Oh DG, are you okay? You should rest’ and I say ‘okay’ but really I am okay.” Then the bell rang and he hobbled off, yelling over his shoulder “Goooooodbye teacher!”

It’s hard losing my second graders. I’ve got a teacher facebook set up and I’ve given them all my email, but I’ll still miss them, probably more than they’ll miss me. One student last week started up in her seat and exclaimed that they wouldn’t ever have another foreign teacher. While this is not necessarily true, especially if they take English classes in University or go to a private academy, I am the last foreign teacher they’ll ever have in public school, and for some of them the last foreign teacher ever. I’m the end of a long line of foreign teachers they’ve had that have, hopefully, tried to instill in them a love of English, learning, and cross-cultural exchange. They’re growing up and moving on to bigger and better things, though they have to get through this next year first. At least I get to keep some of my students, though next semester I’ll be wary of students on crutches.


Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Articles are hard. Think about it. Why do we say “I ate a cookie,” but we say “I ate pizza?” Or “Who’s that? Oh, she’s the Queen of England,” “Who’s that? Oh, he’s a teacher.” Don’t even get me started on “Let’s go to Seoul” vs. “Let’s go to the store” vs. “I want to go shopping, let’s go to a department store” vs “I’ve always wanted to visit the Washington Monument.” They’re all places, for Pete’s sake.

The point is, articles are easy for (most) of you reading the blog because (most of) you are native speakers of English. It’s intuitive for us, but for many people learning English it’s one of the most frustrating parts of writing – because many languages, Korean for one, don’t have articles. There are “rules” about when to use the definite, indefinite, and zero article, but they’re not hard and fast, and there are are so many exceptions that you have to wonder why we bother.

As I mentioned before, I spend two weeks teaching students articles. It’s… definitely not their favorite. Every time I put 관사 (article) up on the board, the class collectively groans, and there’s always at least one student who melodramatically drops her head into her hands and fake sobs.

It’s the week before midterms, so we’re doing a review game in class. Students are broken into groups of 4 or 5 and have to answer questions and “bet” points. If they are right they receive the number of points they bet, and if they are wrong they lose that amount. It’s been going over pretty well. One of the questions was “please fill in the missing articles in the following passage: I saw __ bird. __ bird was in __ tree. I sat on __ ground under __ tree.” In order to get the points, they had to get every article right.

Every. Single. Group in 2.5 answered this question correctly. That’s 27 kids, broken into 6 groups. When I asked them why they chose those articles, one kid promptly rattled off “Bird – unknown. Bird – known. Tree – unknown. Ground – Unique. Tree – Known.”

So proud of my kids right now.

What Makes You Happy?

Friday, July 13th, 2012











My Role

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Something I’ve been struggling with since I’ve arrived in Korea, is what exactly my role is as a Native English Speaking Teacher. I feel like many times we’re asked to be, or we assume the role of the fun fun NEST who plays games and acts as a stress relief, but am I okay with being just that? I didn’t realize until a few days ago that I’ve finally decided.

I’ve been staying at the office really late these past few weeks. It used to be because I would study for Korean for one or two hours, but these days I simply don’t have the time. I get most of my Korean studying done between 10 and 11 pm at home. Most of the time I’ve been staying late it’s because I’ve been meeting with students for various things, or preparing stuff for my lessons.

This week we had a national holiday on Wednesday, and exams on Thursday, so I knew that I needed to get all of my stuff done on Tuesday unless I wanted to come in on Thursday (which I did anyway for separate student stuff, but that’s beside the point) but I kept getting sidetracked by various teacher favors, and student letters that I had to edit, so by the time it was 5 pm I was still at school. At this point, a non-English teacher with relatively good English conversation skills who will remain unnamed walks over to me and asks what I’m doing.

Anonymous Teacher: “Emily! What are you still doing at school?”
Me:  ”Oh I’m normally here at this time. Today I’m creating materials for my new lesson.”
AT: Looks at my  materials “Oh wow, you create all of your lessons?”
ME: “…  Yeah I do. Powerpoints too.”
AT: “You have powerpoints for all of your lessons?! I never create a powerpoint, I just use the textbook.”
ME: “I don’t have a textbook, and I create my own curriculum and lessons, so I’m rather free. See, this week I will teach noun suffixes.”
AT: “Suf-fix?”
ME: I briefly explain what a suffix is, and then show the suffixes that I’m planning on teaching. “Because our students are high level, and they must learn many different words in order to do well on reading comprehension tests, I try to teach them patterns that can work as shortcuts in vocabulary acquisition. For example, this suffix,” I point to ‘ness’ “is used in over 3,000 English words. It changes adjectives of quality or state to nouns. If they know what “ness” means, and they can guess the word attached to it, then they can guess the meaning of the whole word.”
AT: “I think that the students will not like this. I think they just want to play with you.”
ME: “… Well, we’re only learning 9 suffixes, and I also created a game that they will play after we learn all nine. It’s based off of Connect 4.” I explain Connect 4, and show her the connect 4  game board, and the Connect 4 game pieces that I have to cut out.
AT: “Don’t you think that’s a little childish?”
ME: Clouds start to cross my face and my eyes start to narrow.
AT: “I mean it’s a great idea, but maybe… well have a good day!”

I am so sick of this. I am sick of being told (by non-English teachers, and by people who aren’t my students – I tend not have a problem with the other English teachers or the students that I teach, mind you) that my purpose is to “play” with students and entertain. My school pays a fair amount for me to be here and to be an English resource. I may not have a set curriculum, and I may not have give out tests or homework, or grade, but my purpose is to teach to the best of my ability. Do I have culture-based classes? Sure, once in a blue moon, tied to some form of critical content whether it be a grammar point or vocabulary practice. Do we have classes based solely on games? Sure, very rarely, normally when there’s some sort of technological failure or right before or after a major exam. Do we watch music videos? We’ve only watched one this semester, and it was to practice similes and metaphors – they had to do a lyrics fill in, and all of the blanks were the nouns in the similes. Now am I ragging on teachers who do these things? Of course not, but it’s just not my style.

On the other hand, games or activities are useful. You can’t just lecture at a class, especially if you have no grading power, and want it to stick. Having a game, or a craft, or some other activity gets them to see how this grammatical construct, or vocabulary, can be used in proper context, and they can also have fun with it. Does creating games take a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth it? Generally, yes. Even if a game appears to be “childish” the fact of the matter is, for a EFL learner, the simpler the rules of the game the better. The less time is spent explaining rules, the more time can be spent actually playing the game. And Connect 4 is by no means a childish game.

Today due to weird scheduling the past few weeks, I did my suffixes lesson for the first time. I greatly underestimated the amount of time needed to go over the part of speech change (or lack thereof), meaning, and examples of all of the roots, so we didn’t have time to play the game, which made it a very dry class for the students. I explained to my two classes, 2.5 and 2.10, both of whom are normally incredibly energetic and do great with tactile but terribly with listening or writing-based lessons, that today there would be a lot of writing. I explained that as Korean students who have to memorize vocab lists every other day, learning shortcuts like these, tricks, will make it easier to not only learn new vocab, but also guess the meaning of vocab that they have never seen before, that if they combine this lesson with my Latin roots lesson, and if try hard to remember this, they’ll start to be able to recognize these patterns. You know what? Even though there was no game, even though they will not be tested on this, and I don’t give grades, these classes focused, and did a really great job. Of their own free will when I would write a suffix up on the board they would brainstorm and call out examples of nouns that had these suffixes, and thus started to interact with and apply the concepts. One of my students thought of “intimacy“ for “acy” (changing an adjective “intimate” into a noun of quality)  and another student remembered “antidisestablishmentarianism“ from my lesson hook, and used it as an example of “ism” (a philosophy, ideology, or doctrine).

At the end of 2.5′s class I praised them and told them that I knew that it was boring, but they did a great job focusing and thank you, and then they agreed that it was a little boring, and then applauded. They also booed when I told them I wouldn’t be teaching them next week, due to YDAC.

The thing is, my students are not idiots. Nor, really, are any Korean high schoolers (“er” is another suffix that I taught them – there are roughly 2,311 words suffixed with “er” according to Wikitionary). They are not children. They are not people that would appreciate me spending all of my class time “playing with” them. They are teenagers who are driven to succeed, otherwise they wouldn’t be at my school. Is it important that my class is stress free? Heck yes, there’s no denying that a lot of this behavior is not fully healthy. However, these students want to learn, and I’m going to do my best to continue to teach them – by teaching them valuable, useful things, and by practicing it whenever possible through games.

I Will Remember You.

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Sports Day is always awesome. Because I’m the foreign teacher and they never make the foreign teacher judge any event (except when I got roped into helping with a dodge ball game because the other judges went to lunch. That was fun) I spent the day roaming and talking to teachers and students. I’ll be honest, I barely watch any of the sports on Sports Day, I just relish the extra time talking with my students.

A lot happened on Sports Day so I’ll be blogging about it in installations, but first I want to blog about a student:

The most memorable, and most enjoyable, part of Sports Day was the long and in depth conversation I had with these four boys. They’re all from 2.5 (no surprise there) but they’re the more quiet ones. The one all the way on the left’s name is Solomon. Really. His parents named him after King Solomon. He’s interested in speaking English, and comes up and talks me at the end of class a lot, but oftentimes gets drowned out or shouted over by some of the louder personalities in that class. The one all the way on the right is Hongdae. The one to the left of Hongdae is Hongdae’s friend, and while they don’t seem as close this year as they were last year, I tend to think of them as a pair. The last student (in between Hongdae’s friend and Solomon) is the one I want to talk about.

Class 2.5 had not won a single event, and they were very disheartened, but they had one more chance – basketball. They made it to the semi-finals, and were just waiting for the third-grade boys’ semi-final match to end so that their team’s match could start. I told them that I’d cheer for them (spoiler – they lost anyway. 2.10 swept the floor with all the other 2nd grade boys’ homeroom classes in almost all of the events, it was kind-of sad), so we sat down and chatted while we waited.

Hongdae asked me to teach him some swear words in English, because I “look like the type of person who uses swear words. Just kidding. Fist bump?” and then the other student started telling me about his previous foreign teachers.

When he was a first grader in middle school (7th grade) he had a male American foreign teacher. One day the foreign teacher got mad at him (he wasn’t sure why), called him over, and started beating him with one of his indoor teaching shoes and swearing at him in English. The foreign teacher was fired, and a new female foreign teacher was hired. My student had a good relationship with the second foreign teacher, and always visited and talked to her. Recently on Teacher’s Day this student went back to visit all his middle school. His foreign teacher didn’t remember him.

This student had related his story about the male teacher almost without emotion, but looked so disheartened after he told me about not being remembered. He quickly bounced back and changed the subject to what I normally ate for Thanksgiving (he really wants to try a turkey one day. I told him he could buy one at Costco. I then had to explain Costco, which was a lot more difficult than I originally anticipated), and then it was time for the basketball game, and we went and cheered for 2.5.

This student is so sweet, and so sincere, and in my mind is every teacher’s dream student. He pays attention in class, tries hard and participates while being respectful of the other students, and many times comes and talks to me at the end of class to ask for clarification, or with a cultural question. He was in my advanced class last year, and participated in the Korean Students Speak project. He’s been disappointed multiple times with his foreign teachers, but he still tries to connect with them. The thing is, I didn’t know his name.

So I went home, I looked through my students’ mugshots, and I found him. It took me a bit to place him, because his picture is really blurry, but I found him. 형우, I will remember you.

Black 기분

Friday, May 18th, 2012


This week. This week.

My 기분 has been weird all week, and throughout the day as my thoughts continue to brew in my head, they just get darker and darker, and more bitter. Nothing tremendously bad happened, but it’s a black 기분 day, and it doesn’t take a lot on these types of days to make me upset.

The day started with an uneasy feeling, and I accidentally prepared the wrong lesson for one of my classes. I managed to realize and correct my mistake before the students noticed, but it still threw me off balance. I then went to teach my favorite class (2.5) and at the end of class I heard that for Sports Day they had given the German teacher a class jersey to wear. Now. The German teacher and I have a strange relationship, one I’ve been meaning to blog about, but suffice to say I’m not pleased. They then asked me which class’s jersey I was going to wear. No one’s, that’s who. They then looked kind of guilty, and told me that next year they’d give me a jersey, and I told them that next year I wouldn’t be their teacher. I didn’t mean to guilt trip them, that wasn’t my intention at all – I was just stating a fact. However, it’s always been a dream of mine to get a Sports Day jersey, and I’m 0 for 2. It doesn’t help that the German teacher’s been at CP for half the time I have.

Then I went onto 2.10 who after a week full of teaching never really stick out in my mind. They’re one of the classes that if you ask me to describe them, I just can’t really think of anything to say. Terrible, I know, but when you teach 24 individual classes sometimes the details blur. They were just the icing on my terrible cake-of-a-week. Not super bad in and of themselves, but fidgety, consistently talking, and sleeping. There was a quartet in the back that were especially bad – while what they were doing was perhaps no worse than any of the other students’ actions, they weren’t attempting to hide their actions.

Don’t worry, I’m not going all third Spiderman movie on you (see, I can still make jokes. The true tragedy in that movie is that Peter Parker takes himself too seriously), plenty of good has happened today as well. I just need to accept this black 기분 for a little longer, and then let it disperse.

Grandmother Teacher

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Class 2.5 is nuts. They always are to some degree, but it was raining today which means they can’t go running around outside which just sort of adds to the insanity. Today in class we practiced speaking and recognizing large numbers. After finishing up the lesson I gave a lecture on why knowing your numbers in English is important.

“Okay class, understand?”
“What?! I’m not a SIR. Do I look like a man?”
“No, sorry. Sorry. Um… what do we say for woman?”
“You can just say ‘yes teacher.’ We sometimes say ‘ma’am’, but we really only use that for 아줌마.”
“You are an 아줌마.”
“WHAT? No I’m not!”
“No. You are an 아저씨.”
“No I’m not! Do I look like an 아저씨?”
“Okay fine, 할머니.”
“chhhh, guys, really?”

Then after class I chatted with some students as I was packing up my things, and upon turning around I saw that a student had snuck up behind me and had written on the chalkboard “grandmother” with an arrow pointing to me.

“I AM NOT A GRANDMA! Seriously, how old do you all think I am?”
“Eighty. No wait. Nine-hundred-and-ninety-million-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine-thousand-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine years old.”

Well. They learned their numbers at least.

The Return of Photosky

Friday, March 16th, 2012

I think I’m sick AGAIN. Eurgh. Right now all the students seem to either be coughing, or have eye patches due to some contagious eye disease… I hate winter. Even though two of my favorite second grade boys classes are on Fridays, I did not want to go into school today. I scrapped my original lesson plan (a kind of intense one about similes and metaphors) and decided to just play scattergories to try to recover my voice. I forgot how into scattegories the students get and how much I have to yell to get their attention so that backfired but it definitely propped up my spirits.

When I entered 2.5 I immediately started teaching, but students told me to go look at the board. I turned around and saw this


I thought that they had forgotten my Latin roots lesson, and it just about made my day.

Microcosom of Personality

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Receiving these notecards is, as always, so interesting. Not only do I learn a little about my new students, but I learn a little more about the students I’ve already taught and it helps me distinguish them and helps me see them as an individual student rather than a member of the class, which I’d like to think that I already do but when you teach eight hundred students, some of them only once every two weeks, sometimes some of them slip through the gaps and you find yourself not recognizing them. Hopefully with my new mug shot system (I took pictures of all of the students holding up a white board with their names on it – they say that Changpyeong is a jail, so the mug shots are rather fitting) and with these notecards I’ll be able to keep better track of all of my students.

It’s so interesting to see what students choose to share with me. I leave it very vague:

1. Hometown (not much room for creativity here)
2. Favorite music (genre/artist)
3. Hobby
4. **Random Fact**
5. What do you want to learn in this class
6. What is your goal for this year and the future [1st grade]/Name three things that make you happy [2nd grade]

As simple as it is, this separates out the students fairly well because even if a student answers every question with nary a thought, generally he or she has something (normally a hobby or music preference) that will give me pause. The student who wants to impress me, who wants to study English more intensely, who wants to make me laugh, or who really wants me to know him or her tends to be amazingly creative with his or her answers, and often has me immediately reaching for my camera to look for his or her picture.

It’s a really, really interesting way to while away a few hours.

Without further ado, some of my favorites…

2. Favorite Music:
“My favorite music is hip hop. For example: Let’s get it started.”

3. Hobby:
“My hobby is go outside illegally” [he probably means break school curfew. probably.]

4. Random fact:
“I’ve never had a girlfriend”
“Changpyeong is garbage”
“I have met you before in English contest in Damyang”
“Learning how to draw pictures. I love magazine. I want to be a fashion businessman!!”
“I don’t know why I have to study hard.”
“I like ants and spiders.”
“I bought kimchi refrigerator.”
“My favorite animal is donkey.”
“I want to marry with TOP ㅋㅋㅋ and I love one piece.”
“My good point is height.”
“Today wish is eat real food (because I have a food poison disease) so I just eat rice and water.”
“I like word ‘metal’ and ‘tiger’.”
“My nickname is koala.”
“I’ll get new face. I’ll do plastic surgery. 쉿! It’s secret. Don’t tell anyone. I’ll live new life. Forget me.” [preeeettttty sure this is a joke...?]
“My face is look like moon.”
“I like “BREAD” my nickname is 빵순이. I love BREAD very much give me some bread right now!!”
“I’m unique.”
“My hobby is creating strange food. I love meat a lot.”

5. What do you want to learn in this class?
“I want to learn even profound topics, too (justice, philosophy…)”
“I want to learn about America’s roadside food.”
“I want to know foreign cute, handsome boys or men.”

6. What are your goals for this year/the future?
“I will be a super daddy”
“Becoming a master of NTS (National Tax Service)”
“My goals are going to Korea University and being rich man. Because I can do anything with money.”
“I’ll master hearing English.”
“My goals: traveling whole the world and making the finest Korean film.”
“I want to make a girlfriend.”
“I go to Yonsei University because I want to become a dentist, so, after 10 years if children have a decayed tooth, I treat them with kindness.”

6. What makes you happy?
“Your love”
“I will soon go to home.”
“Family. Friends. Freedom.”
“I’m proud of very very positive. Im thankful for something from little to big always. Maybe I’m most happy girl not this class but also this school. When I reading books, playing with cats, and do my best something I’m happy.”
“What makes me happy is chatting with my friend eating snacks, ice cream or noodle, and taking a walk with beautiful countryside landscape also makes me happy.”

There are so many more, but I can’t type them all, and I haven’t even finished teaching my intro lesson to all of the students. The more I teach the more optimistic I get – these kids are going to do something great one day. I’m excited to see how they develop over the next semester…

The Price is Right… again

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Like I said a few blog entries ago I’m doing the Price is Right with my students to practice big numbers and prices, and it’s been going surprisingly well.  I thought it’d be too easy for them, but they’ve been getting really into the cultural aspects (I’ve been showing pictures of coins and explaining who each person is, the name of the coin, the value in both dollars and won, explaining the buildings, and also the symbols and America’s motto). It’s also been really nice to see my lowest level kids, who granted are not low level at all, really break out of their comfort zone and shout out the answers to things.

The way that second and third grade students are divided into homerooms is based on whether they’re 이과 (Egwa – science) or 문과 (Mungwa – society). If they’re science track, they take a lot more math and science courses, and if they’re society they study language and social studies more. It’s very strange to see where students fall on either side of that line because some of my best English speakers are science track, including Future Diplomat… However, there are some programs (for example, some of the top university’s medical programs) that will only take students who were science track in high school, no matter how high a society track kid’s math and science suneung scores are. However, I haven’t heard of any liberal arts college program turning away science track kids for this reason… it therefore makes more sense regardless of your actual interests to be science track in high school, especially if you want to keep your options open. As someone who is obviously a liberal arts/social studies/society fiend, this makes me really sad.

One thing I’ve noticed with the second grade society track boys is they all have a strange fondness for using German, at least in English class. Something that distinguishes Changpyeong High School from other high schools (at least, that I know of) is the amount of foreign language offered at school. Sapgyo only had English and Japanese, and hanja (the study of Chinese characters – not the language itself). I’ve had numerous students speak German to me as a joke, and today by the end of class four teams had switched from English numbers to German numbers. “Team 1″ had switched to “Team Eins” so I started calling them Einsteins, which made them giggle. I totally would’ve been that kid in high school. <3 문과