Archive for the ‘Changpyeong’ Category

Newspaper Article

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Only one more blogpost today, I promise. However I’ll be traveling tomorrow through Monday because of midterms, so just think of this as your payment for those long cold days with no updates.

I wrote an introduction about myself for the school newspaper, and my rockstar co-teacher helped me recruit (i.e. saw students in line for the ATM and dragged them over) students for a picture. They look so thrilled. The newspaper was published today, so here is my introduction!

“Introduction to Changpyeong High School – Emily Potosky

I came to Korea in the fall of 2010 as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, a program that promotes intercultural exchange through teaching, with the intention of staying for only one year. However through my experiences living with a homestay family, traveling all over Korea, studying Korean, and most of all teaching my students, I realized that I was not ready to leave. I enjoy both being a teacher and being a student too much, so I decided to stay in Korea for one more year. I had heard from Ms. Sicat about how amazing Changpyeong High School was, and thus applied to teach here.

Last year I taught at Sapgyo High School, in Yesan county, South Chungcheong Province. That was my first introduction to Korean high school students. I am very impressed by the work ethic of the average Korean student, and after finishing two weeks at Changpyeong High School, I am especially impressed by the caliber of the students and faculty here. Even after such a short amount of time, just by observing the students and the teachers I can tell that Changpyeong High School takes education very seriously. I am honored and excited to spend this year as part of a faculty that puts so much effort and enthusiasm into quality teaching, because education is not only a means for improving job prospects, but it is also a means of improving yourself. I believe that all foreign language study, not just English and certainly not just American English, is important, because it is one of the best ways to learn about other cultures and other people.

As a teacher and a fellow foreign language learner I strive for communicative competence. Communicative competence can be loosely defined as the ability to communicate through knowledge of grammar as well as knowing the appropriate time to use certain utterances. It is impossible to learn a language just by memorizing phrases and grammar points – you also need to know when to use them! It is both possible to say something grammatically correct but completely contextually wrong, and to say something grammatically incorrect but nevertheless understood and appropriate for the situation. My goal as the native English teacher is to impart contextual knowledge to the best of my abilities, because I believe that it is more important to be understood than to be grammatically correct.

I am incredibly excited to get to know all of you. So please, I invite you to come practice speaking English with me outside of the classroom whenever you have the time. I am sure that I will learn a lot from you this year.”

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Time Magazine recently published an article entitled “Teacher, Leave Those Kids Alone” which dissects the problems in the Korean Education System.  It’s an interesting read, and with midterms at school coming up, the issues in this article are something I’ve wanted to address for awhile.

At Changpyeong High School the first class technically starts at 8:50 am, but every single student is at their desk at 7:30 doing a listening class through the Educational Broadcasting System, or EBS for short (한국교육방송공사) which is an educational television and radio network. This is not something that’s just limited to school – EBS has their own radio station which I’ve heard blasting in cabs and in teacher’s cars, and at any point in the day you can go to the EBS cable channels (that’s right, channels) and view educational material. While there’s nothing wrong with having educational cable channels, this is a good indicator of how important education is considered in modern Korean society.

After EBS classes, students have normal classes from 8:50 am until 3:20 pm, with a short break for lunch. They have twenty minutes for lunch, and the rest of that hour-long lunch period is self-study time. Afterwards there’s a thirty minute cleaning period, followed by more late-afternoon and evening classes, which I do not teach.  I’m honestly not sure how late students have class, but from my apartment I can hear the bell ringing until ten pm.

The majority of the 850 students at school live in the dormitories because some of them come from very far away to attend this school, but also because it gives them a chance to study. They live in eight-person dorm rooms, but rarely spend any time there because they study until at least midnight if not later in the classrooms or in self-study rooms located all around campus. Then they wake up and do this again.

My students don’t have weekends – there are classes on alternate Saturdays, and even on free days they stay at school and self-study. They can go home about once a month, but some students can’t because they live so far away, and therefore only go home on major holidays. They spend three years doing this, my poor teenagers, so that they can get into the top universities in Korea.

The article mentions that the government is putting restrictions on hagwons (private companies where students go after school and study some more either one-on-one with a tutor or in a small class) and stopping them from operating after 10 pm, however many student who attend boarding schools or schools in the countryside don’t go to hagwon so this restriction will not change anything. Though the government is taking a good first step in reducing those hours, ultimately it’s not going to stop students from studying, as is evidenced by my students. We have to change the mindset that 14 to 20 mindless hours of study a day is better than 8 hours of sleep, and we have to relieve some of the pressure that the students are under.

I have midterms this week. This puts me in a bit of a strange situation, as it’s a time of rest for me, because not only do I get to travel during this time period, but I’m giving students self-study time for half of the class, which means that I get chunks of 25 minutes where I’m sitting in class reading a book and observing the students either frantically study or pass out. Homeroom teachers and subject teachers are also stressed because they have to write the midterms, prepare the paperwork, and because how well the students does reflects on their abilities. I’m basically the only relaxed person in the entire school besides perhaps the cafeteria staff.

I just finished teaching one of my first grade (high school sophomore) advanced boys’ classes. Half of them fell asleep, and half of them started studying. One student started snoring which was the catalyst to start a conversation with the awake boys. We talked about midterms, their dormitory life, their studying and sleeping patterns, and how nervous they are for this test. At the end of class I wished them luck, and one student said “thanks for the self-study time. Please pray for us.”

It is no longer 1950. Korea in the past had such a short amount of time to industrialize, so every single person was valuable and had to do as much as they could. I remember an old-quote about Korea in the post-war period – “Most countries work 9 – 5, we work 5 – 9.” Korea is developed, while it is important to keep up the Korean work ethic that has come to define this country, we can’t put all that pressure on students. Something has to give.

Changpyeong – the Slow City

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

I currently live in a Slow City. I had never heard of a Slow City until coming to Korea, where I somehow managed to live in one my first year and another one my second… which is especially funny because out of all of the possible F*bright placements in Korea, only two of them happen to be Slow Cities. It is rather difficult to be classified as a Slow City. You must have a population under 50,000, your area must not have any chains or fast food restaurants, your area must have minimal traffic, and you have to exemplify a “slow, peaceful, way of life.” What this means, is that I don’t have a single kimbab restaurant in my town, nor do I have a phone shop, or even a GS25, and we get a lot of tourists on the weekend coming to check out this “slow peaceful country living.” Which also means that I get gawked at a lot by tourists, who assume I’m another tourist. Which in a way, makes me wonder… who has more of a claim to Changpyeong? I live here, true, but they have the advantage of being Korean and they’ve lived in the surrounding area longer. I may live here, but I haven’t done a whole lot of exploring… in fact, I think I spend just as much time in Gwangju as I do in Changpyeong! Can I really therefore claim that I’m less of a tourist then the people who come here for lunch, wear super short shorts that scandalize the old women making rice cakes, take pictures of the “beautiful rustic natural Korean scenery” and then go back to their homes? Also is this really a traditional, Slow City if it’s become a tourist attraction?

Whatever it is, Changpyeong is very proud of their Slow City reputation. I’m currently sitting in the one coffee shop in Changpyeong lesson planning. This coffee shop is independently owned (so, see, it’s not a chain) and it’s called “Sloth’s Coffee.” This joke works on multiple levels – first of all a Sloth is a slow animal (ha. ha.) but secondly, Sloth could be pronounced in multiple ways with the “o” sound being pronounced as 러 (lah) or 로 (low). Though anyone who knows English and Korean would say that the first option sounds more natural, the residents and owner have chosen to pronounce it the second way, so that way this coffee shop’s name is actually “Slowth’s Coffee” – because it’s a Slow City. Ha. Ha. ㅎ_ㅎ.

DSC00091  View of my town from my bedroom window.

DSC00095   View of my town from the back of my apartment complex.

Whatever it is, genuine Slow City or hidden Tourist attraction, I still like it!

You know you work at a rigorous academic high school when…

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

17 of the 80 contestents in the Damyang County English Speaking Competition are from your school, and the next biggest number from any school is 8.

Em in Asia! 2011-09-14 01:12:22

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

I feel like a real teacher.

I teach 19 hours a week, and I’m at school on average 7 hours a day (though I have been staying late), so that means I generally only have 2 free periods a day. Lunch isn’t even really free because students come for conversation practice , and honestly that’s been the best part of my day.

Today I’ve already taught 3 50 minute classes, I’ve updated and made changes to some lesson plans, I’ve spent time reflecting on every single class I taught and brainstorming solutions to problems, I’ve gone to make copies – and taught the man who makes copies the difference between “hi” and “hello” in English and who to use them with, I’ve helped an English teacher with some grammar questions, and I’ve coached students for the upcoming English competition (which I will be going to for three straight days) all between the hours of 8:30 am and 2 pm. I have one more class left, and as much as I may complain that I have no time to lesson plan, I love my crazy schedule because I actually feel like a faculty member that’s pulling their own weight.

Changpyeong Introductions

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

I’m halfway through my second week at Changpyeong and things are so different from how they were at Sapgyo High School. Two English teachers and the vice principal came and picked me up at orientation and we had a very long car ride to Changpyeong (a small town outside of Gwangju) so I was able to ask my super-awesome rockstar co-teacher (more on that later, I do literally mean rockstar) some questions:

“So what sort of reward systems do the teachers normally use?”
“Oh sometimes we give them candy, but mostly you can just praise the students.”
“Well then what sort of discipline strategies do you use?”
“Sometimes teachers will yell at students in class, but I prefer not to because they might lose face. Instead I just talk to them afterwards.”
“Oh, so no corporal punishment?”
“… um. No. That’s illegal.”
“Oh. NO right I know that right, I didn’t use it, I swear, it’s just that at my last school the teachers knew it was illegal but did it anyway.”
“Yeah” awkward laugh “my school was kind of the ‘gangster’ school. For example, I had to lock up my belongings to make sure they wouldn’t get stolen. I think my headphones got taken once… does that ever happen here?”
“… no we don’t have locks. Our students are really well-behaved…”
“eh heh heh heh yeahhh.”

In all seriousness, I loved Sapgyo High School for all it’s strange quirks, but man, was it ghetto. Here the students follow dress code, no one steals things, no one has a tattoo or gauged ears. And the ENGLISH oh my goodness the ENGLISH level of the average student is incredible, especially considering this is a rural school. What happened is over the years more and more high level Jeollanamdo (name of the province I’m in) students started coming to Changpyeong, so it’s actually become kind of like a magnet school for gifted students. English is viewed as very important at Changpyeong, so 15 out of the 60 teachers are English teachers, which is an insanely high percentage.

For my first lesson, to get the students used to me and to test their English level, I had them write self-introductions on flashcards. First I introduced myself with pictures, then I told them they had to introduce themselves (without saying their names, because we would be playing a game later where we had to guess who was who) in full sentences. We brainstormed things to talk about (i.e. hobbies, family, career goals, etc) and then I let them go write for 5 minutes. I didn’t give them a sentence structure to follow, and other than my self-introduction I didn’t provide an example.

Some are funny: 

“Hello. Let me introduce my self. But I didn’t say my name. Um, I’m play a important role in class. My favorite subject is mathematics. And I’m good at leading classmate. Once upon a time I’m legend. I fought 1:100. I won.”

“When I was born, in 1994 Agust 11st, Typhoon named “더그” hit my region. So I think myself I am Tyhoon’s guy.”

“I don’t like K-pop because it’s so camericial and just dancing. My birthday is April first. It’s foolish day so sometimes my friends are don’t believe that true”

“my nickname is too sexy to introduce myself but I guess all of them in this class would know that.”

“My hobby is shower in dormitory (not home)… I proud of my self and I love me <3.”

Some are sad:

“My hobby is computer game. My hometown is Yeong-am. I want to go home.”

And some are really just sweet:

“First I’m happy for you to teach us this time. Students in Chang Pyeong can be mischievous sometimes, but please understand and embrace them and I’m surprised because my sister lives in Washington DC as a faculty of embassy. And I want to leave Korea because this country’s atmosphere is so rigid, hierarchic. And… I hope you adapt to this school well.”

“I want to rebuild the world.”

I teach way more hours (19 a week) so blogging probably won’t be as regular, but I’ll try to update as much as possible.

I’ll post pictures of my town when I get my camera cord in the mail (whoops).