Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Badger Blogging Blitz: Day 3

[This post is Day 3 of a weeklong blogging event, Badger Blogging Blitz 2014, during which myself and five other UW-Madison graduates are posting every day about living and teaching English in Korea. The original event was created by past Badgers in Korea in 2012. Here are this week's previous posts: Day 1. Day 2]


Badger Blogging Blitz 2014 Day 3

7:14 - I wake up before my alarm but not because I feel rested. Go to the bathroom, crawl back in bed and read some blogs.

7:52 - Turn off my alarm (after having snoozed it a few times). I'll get out of bed soon.

8:02 - Jump out of bed to brush teeth, get dressed, eat a banana.

8:14 - Leave for school. The ground is wet, it must have rained during the night or early morning.

Almost to school. Yes, that's a couch and some office chairs that remain outside. Some older men are usually hanging out there.

8:25 - The same first grade girl from yesterday greets me with a hug when I walk through the hall -- I could get used to this! Such a great way to start the day! I walk into the office and YH arrives about thirty seconds after me.

8:35 - Co-teacher YJ gets in and grabs the English key from our office. I ask how she's feeling. "Not so good" she says, and I can hear in her voice that she's still very much sick.

8:51 - Today I've got third graders with YJ, so I go to the English classroom to write the day's objective and activities on the board. I take a plastic cup and put it in a mystery bag, as the new lesson is called "What's this?".  YJ doesn't do any talking today, as she's still really sick.

9:01 - I use the bag as an attention grabber, walking around the classroom asking "What's this?" over and over while letting many kids touch the outside of the bag to guess what's inside.  We learn "It's a cup/box/pen/dog/bird/kangaroo" today, using the book and CD-ROM.

3rd grade: Lesson 2, Period 1

9:42 - After the first class leaves, YJ grabs the teacher's set of big flashcards from last year's 3rd grade book to see if we have picture cards of the items they're learning in this lesson. (We got new 3rd and 4th grade textbooks this year, and my one complaint is that they didn't come with big, durable flashcards like last year's books. Those were so handy and useful for various games/activities). I'd actually thought about looking for these flashcards yesterday, but ultimately didn't. We find all six items, between the 3rd and 4th grade units from last year. I use these in the next two periods for extra practice, and during our BINGO game at the end.

11:22 - We finish third period. This school year there are only three classes of third graders (not the usual four), so we're done with third grade for the day. I erase the chalkboard. YJ tells me next time I'll do period 2 with them. The next time I'll see them is next Wednesday, so that must mean she's going a bit out of order, as she'll teach 3rd grade again this week when I'm teaching with my other co-teacher. Just before I leave, she asks me to send her my after school schedule.

11:24 - I type of my after school schedule in my office and send it via Messenger to YJ. I love this period on Wednesdays because YH (with whom I share an office) is gone teaching fifth grade, so I have the office to myself for a period. The time goes by eerily fast, though.

12:10 - The bell rings so I head to the lunchroom. Here's today's lunch:

Cubed radish kimchi, mandu (dumplings), sauce to add to the rice or for dipping mandu, rice with veggies and a little meat, soup, apples

12:28 - Three grains of rice fall from my spoon onto the lunch table, right next to my tray. I see and almost just grab it with my hands and throw it back in my rice bowl, but decide I'll pick it up with my chopsticks when I'm done eating with them. Maybe that's the most polite thing to do.

12:32 - A teacher grabs the box of kleenex from the small table where the principal and vice principal eat every day. (Those two eat at 12:00 every day and get the box of kleenex at their table for the duration.) One of the lunch ladies normally comes and gets it some point after they leave, but it's still there so a teacher moves it to our table. The teacher directly across from me - she's new this year, and the oldest person in our school I've been told - takes a kleenex and swiftly reaches her hand across the table and picks up the rice I had previously dropped from my spoon. Elders are highly respected in Korean society, so I'm assuming it probably wasn't the greatest that she just cleaned up after me. Whoops. The fact that I had planned on picking it up in a few minutes was useless.

12:33 - I look around, all of the teachers who haven't already left yet are all eating dessert: our apples - some are finishing their second slice already. I'm still working on the rest of my meal, but I decide I won't finish all of the rice today so I begin eating my first apple half.

12:36 - I start spooning the rest of my soup's broth into the big bowl so that I just have to dump the one bowl when I take my tray up. I still have half an apple left, but I'm going to take it with me because the remaining four teachers are all finished eating. They're all waiting on me, and I hate that! I'm supposed to hurry up and just be done so we can all leave together. But me being a westerner who grew up in a country very much focused on individualism would rather they leave when they want to leave so I can take my time and enjoy the food, not eat super fast or not finish food I'd like to finish only for the sake of the group, as collectivist Koreans would do. Maybe I'm looking into this too much.

Anyway, so I'm cleaning up my plate so we can go, and I want to get more of the broth from the tray into my bowl, so I tip my tray slightly. I transfer a few more spoonfuls and... plop! My second apple slice slides into my cubed radish kimchi sauce.  I'm center stage, since everyone was watching me anyway - so they make a gasp sound and say stuff in Korean. One holds out a tissue, and I reach into my pocket because I have some in there.

12:38 - On that note they stand up and take trays over. I stand up and wipe off my apple, then trail behind and make my way over to dump my bowl and leave my spoon/chopsticks/bowl/tray in their respective spots. When I set down my bowl on the top of the tall stack the whole thing falls over! There are two kids who work this part of the cafeteria each day - one helps you scrape food into the bin, and the other stands by the trays/bowl part to make sure everything's stacked right or something. So now he must deal with this and re-stack the bowls. Sorry! I tell him. And awkwardly exit the cafeteria...

12:44 - My co-teacher YH still isn't back in the office even though he left lunch before me. Must be elsewhere.

12:57 - YH comes into the office. I ask about the locked cabinet, if the first grade teacher really accidentally locked it shut yesterday, just to (attempt to) make small talk. So he gets up and starts trying different combinations. It's awkwardly silent. I'm thinking Wait, does he think I needed it opened now? While it would be nice to have the 8 rolls of toilet paper I just bought and brought in last week that are inside, it's not pressing. Don't need it now. So I'm watching and he's squatting down in front of the cabinet, focused, trying different combinations. The moment gets longer. Finally he says, "I don't know what to do.  I'll have to call the school office later, or something." I secretly wonder how long it'll stay locked for, but I'm relieved he's stopped pursuing it for the moment since that had never been my intention.

The now locked cabinet. We don't know the combo or where the key is

Most of my attempts at small talk with my co-teachers result in miscommunication, so usually I keep most thoughts in. (One day last week when in the elevator with YJ to go up to teach the sixth graders on the fifth floor, I said "How was driving in today?" or something like that, because it had been really foggy that morning. She said "Oh, today? Just do the activities from the book, reading and writing. I also have a worksheet we should do, so we'll be busy." So in that case she just heard me wrong, but I didn't cut her off and explain that's not what I'd asked because although she'd messaged me last week the pages she wanted us to do today in 6th grade, the worksheet was news to me. So I wanted to let her continue and listen to anything else she'd tell me about the class before we started teaching it in three minutes.)

13:18 - It sounds like my co-teacher has turned on a soccer game. I'm working on this post because my daycare class today isn't until
15:40, so I have time for the planning I need to get done.

13:46 - I switch gears and work on daycare lesson plans for next week.

13:51 - My co-teacher turns to me and says "Ok, let's talk about fourth grade tomorrow".  He did not teach English last year, so I've only co-taught with him six times so far this school year.  I'm still trying to get used to his style.  I read through the Teacher's book yesterday and played around with the CD-ROM, so I know what's coming. But he opens the student's textbook to chat about the period. (Note: The English textbooks are not a resource for the students. There's not a list of key words for each chapter -- just the activities that will be done in class each day. The students need a teacher to explain each activity to them. And all of this explaining/activities you should do are in the Teacher's book. You usually could never look at a page in the student's book and know how that was supposed to fill 40 minutes. So you read the Teacher's book -which although there is lots of Korean, there's enough English that you can figure out most things.)  Anyways, point being that he obviously hasn't looked at the teacher's book yet, because he's trying to explain to me what we'll do by looking at the student book and directions, figuring it out as he goes along. I just nod and go along with it.

He doesn't think all the students will use dialog for the activity part, so he says maybe we should play a card game (I guess they used cards today in class -- but I was teaching 3rd graders, so I don't usually know what they did). Did I have any ideas? So I suggest "Go Fish". He's never heard of it, but I used it with some different grades last year. I explain it to him (hopefully he understands so we can do an example for the class tomorrow to teach them how to play), and he says we can try it.  He also prints out a worksheet with a few main words and phrases from the unit, so that students can practice writing in their notebooks. It sounds like he wants to do this tomorrow, too, but I'm not sure how that'll fit in with everything else. We'll see.

15:08 - My co-teacher YH leaves the office to go to a teacher's meeting. I'm looking up ideas for future 2nd grade classes -- new games and content.

15:25 - I unlock the English room and start setting up for my second graders.  We're going to play some games today about shapes.

15:40 - Class should start now, but nobody's here. It's not unusual for them to be a few minutes late, though.

15:44 - I'm still the only one in the room. Could they have forgotten? Did the schedule change? This part's a little frustrating because I can't call or message someone on my own, I'd have to leave the English room and hunt down my co-teacher for help, so I decide to wait a bit longer.

15:47 - I hear loud footsteps. They're here. Six boys burst into the room!  Where is everybody? We start singing the Hello Song. Afterwards, three more boys come in. They're eating some ice cream treat/afternoon snack and have tons of energy, running around the room. They're loud and playing with each other, nobody wants to look and pay attention to me nor be in their seats. Where are the girls?? There are usually more than 20 kids.  You'd think it would be easier to manage the kids today since there are fewer, but it's extra crazy today.

16:02 - We finish our start of class routine and sing the Dream English Shapes Song that we learned on Monday to review before playing some shapes games. I'd wanted to play an erasing game, where I draw some shapes on the board, two people come to the board at once and each have an eraser. I say a shape name, and they try to erase it first. Except when I was setting up I realized there is now just one eraser at the chalkboard of our English room. No clue where the other ones went off to, so I changed the game so they had to draw the shape I say. Correct shapes get a point, and being first gets you another point.

The boys took to rubbing their hands all over the chalk board and getting them chalky, and then touching people or things. When two boys were up for their turn, the rest were talking loudly goofing off with their friends. Some were standing up at the board rubbing their hands all over it. Utter chaos. There is a Korean teacher sitting in the back of the room this whole time, but she lets them misbehave more than I would, and they don't listen to her either. I really wish I could show you how crazy this class often is. Maybe I'll try to take a video tomorrow or Friday if the opportunity presents itself. Let's just say that on some days (like today), if you saw a scene of me trying to teach or get them to do an activity, you would think it was an indoor recess!

16:13 - One girl comes into class and sits down. We're now playing an online shapes/colors catapult game which they're actually way more into than I thought. After a team correctly answers a question, there's an animation of that team shooting stuff via catapult at the other team's castle, so the boys really like watching that. There is shouting and screaming. One boy is standing up on his chair shouting so loudly.

16:23 - We finish singing the Goodbye Song and everyone leaves.  I do some sweeping and line up the desks, and then lock up the classroom.

16:36 - As I get outside and start walking home, I decide I must either sit at the park and read for a while before going home, or go directly home to change and go for a run. The weather is too perfect right now to be indoors. I opt for the run.

16:47 - I get to my apartment building - have something in my mailbox. It's a utilities bill, around $9 for the last month. I'll pay it tomorrow after school via a transfer at an ATM.


17:01 - I leave for my first run since fall, I'm so excited.

On the run. I like to get off the sidewalk for this little stretch, so I go down rock stairs and run along the stream until the path goes back up to street level

17:28 - I get back to my apartment building. It was a slow run and not as long as I'd like to be going, but it's been a long time since I've run, so I'm pleased and feel good. I stretch outside for a few minutes before going inside.

17:36 - Record my quick 10-second video for my Give it 100 project (stretching every day with the hopes of being able to touch my toes) and upload it to the site.

17:45 - Hop in the shower.

17:49 - I can't believe I've accomplished this much before 6pm. It feels great! Running always feels so good! I'm so excited for spring time now. I eat a banana and mix my daily glutamine + probiotic into my water bottle.

The rest of my night consists of blogging, Duolingo French, snacking on gf pretzels and almond butter, reading blogs online, and more blogging. I'm about ready to post this, and then I'll make dinner (eggs + a little meat), and I'll call my friend again at 9:40. Then reading my book in bed and a nice bedtime no later than 10:30 for me!

Day 3 Questions:

1) What teaching methods have you found to be most effective with your students?

Younger students like games and competition, though it's interesting how each grade and age group have games that will and won't work for them. 

With my 2nd graders, I have to use very simple games that can be easily understood without an explanation in Korean because I teach them by myself. The other week when we learned "How are you?" I made a simple PowerPoint memory game. I had three pictures on the powerpoint, so we said what each one represented ("I'm happy. I'm sad. I'm hungry.") and had them look at it for a few more seconds, then I went to the next slide which was blank, and finally to the following slide which had the original three pictures with one covered up by a ? box. They understood that they were to say the phrase for the hidden picture "I'm happy", for example. (On this day it was back when their homeroom was in the English classroom, so their regular teacher had a bag of small chocolates she handed me to give correct answers. Everyone was super into it then!) So that's one example of a simple game that can be understood without explanation.

I'm continually amazed at how into a game even the 5th and 6th graders will be if it's for points.  And these aren't points that cumulate and result in a prize. The winners usually don't even get candy.  No, these are just meaningless points for that particular game.  I remember one day last semester when we were playing some PowerPoint review game with a 5th grade class, and the students were going absolutely nuts when they got questions right (as in cheering/screaming, hands-in-the-air celebration), and really upset if they lost points or didn't get one right.  After a particularly enthusiastic reaction from a team, my co-teacher laughed and turned to me and whispered "They're not real! It's just points!".  Really funny for us, but we're not about to point it out to them how silly they're being -- we're lucky that meaningless points still work for motivation!

Routine has been a key element with my younger daycare classes. We always start the first 15 minutes of class with the Hello Song, the song for whatever day of the week it is, and then I ask everyone "How are you?' and "How's the weather?".  Then some movement review "Stand up, jump, turn, clap, raise your hand, sit down, etc." before a review song. Class always ends with the "Goodbye Song".

One final random technique I'll share: The first week this school year I couldn't get the young ones to listen and repeat new words for the life of me. Not interested. But two weeks ago when I started saying the words in funny voices - really low, really high, - or making a hand motion while I said the word, then they had fun copying me. Because it was a sort of game. The younger ones also like to touch and interact, so I try to give them as many opportunities to be moving or doing something with their hands, rather than sitting in a desk and listening (which wouldn't happen anyway -- they never stay in their desks no matter what I'm doing).

2) Do you think you're making an impact on your students' English ability?

Yes, I think I am positively impacting my students' English abilities. To what degree exactly, I'm not sure, as they would be studying the same phrases/words from their textbooks with their Korean teacher if I were not here.  But I can fix some incorrect directions they've been hearing from their Korean English teachers ("Let's listen it again.", for example) and offer my English knowledge to anyone that asks.  They also get to hear a native accent when they have class with me, and that's good. Unfortunately most already have "page-eee" (page) and "or-an-geee" engrained in their minds. I try to correct the pronunciation and get the younger ones to say r's and l's correctly. I exaggerate my mouth and sing along to all their songs and chants so students can watch my mouth. And when I make eye contact and stick my tongue between my teeth on an "l", I will see many more students putting their tongue closer to the right spot when they repeat the word with said "l", trying to imitate me. (When most Koreans say an "l" sound their tongue is not between their teeth, and thus it comes out sounding like some type of "r".)

The students are also a bit more excited to see me around school, since I'm a foreigner (a rarer sight in the rural parts of this country), so that gives them some extra motivation/excitement with studying English.  I'm definitely impacting my little after school daycare 1st and 2nd graders because my classes are exposure to English that they wouldn't have otherwise in daycare. This year I have 2nd graders 4 times a week after school, so I'm excited to see how much I can teach them before I leave, starting from scratch.

Apart from English ability though, my presence has expanded their cultural knowledge.  Korea is a very uniform country. People tend to look and act similarly, and the people are proud of their "pure blood".  So I'm happy to sacrifice myself, in a way, and be the token foreigner for them, just so that these kids have some exposure to someone of a different race and culture. I try to introduce cultural things when I can, to both my students and my co-teachers.

I also try to impact my students' lives in a positive way, which if it doesn't affect their English ability but makes them happier, more confident kids, then great. My school is poor, and many of our students don't have the best home situations, so they're dealing with other problems outside of school. Thus, I try to hand out as much praise and smiles every day that I can -- anything to make them feel safer and happier at school, to encourage and lift them up. I feel privileged that I have the opportunity every day to make a difference in these kids' lives.

BBB Bloggers 2014

I have been loving everyone else's posts so far this week - so fun to read. Each person offers a unique perspective, some really great experiences/observations that I've left out, so I encourage you to check out my fellow Badgers' posts:

Abby @ Bodging For Apples II

Ashley @ ...meanwhile in Korea...

Maggie @ The Traveling Flamingo

Drew @ The Hungry Partier

Vicky @ Outside the Pyxis


And you are still very welcome to comment with a question if there's anything you'd like to know! The whole group will answer it at the end of the week.  Thanks for reading!
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1 comment:

  1. Oh man, lunch time. So awkward. I always feel like my clumsy use of chopsticks must horrify and disgust my coworkers, though I'm sure they rarely notice or care. Lucky for me, everyone just eats at their own pace, and they come and go as they please.

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