Saturday, March 6, 2010

wow...SUCH a busy week. there is no way i could blog about all that happened this first week of teaching, but i will try to highlight the best parts:

i spent tuesday and wednesday at my main school, bongmyeung elementary. while there, i will co-teach grades 3-6. over the course of mon/tues/wed, i will teach a total of 12 hours. even though i only teach 3-5 hours per day, we are required by our contract to be at school for a full 8 hour work day, to total to a 40 hr work week. my teacher there is named ms cheon & she is absolutely the sweetest woman i have ever met. she takes such good care of me and is so good at explaining customs and traditions that i am unfamiliar with, and making sure i am comfortable no matter what. there is another conversational english teacher who is there 2 days a week...her english name is sarah. i teach with sarah on mondays (grades 3-4) and with ms cheon on tuesdays and wednesdays (5-6). i met some 5th & 6th graders on wednesday and they were awesome! i gave a short "about me" powerpoint presentation with stats that are interesting to koreans: age, height, shoe size, blood type, etc. the kids especially loved the pictures of my family (and dogs!) and friends back in america. they think all of my friends are very handsome and that my brothers are so tall! i also included this slide to try to clear up the korean-who-doesn't-speak-korean confusion:
i seriously thought long and hard about do you explain such a confusing concept to young kids with a low english level? the best answer seemed to be "use visuals" and this was all i could come up with. it seemed to work, though, and the kids were so gracious and receptive. they were thrilled to be able to run up to me and practice "hello" and "goodbye" in the hallways. they are so cute!

it's a really strange thing...being a foreigner. especially in a culture like korea, with such a rigid hierarchy. elders and superiors are respected, and that's that. i'm not used to having people bow to me...and likewise, i'm not used to bowing to others! my favorite is when the kids run up to me and bow. but then they get really nervous to use their english or really don't know any at all, so they just keep bowing. over and over and over again. hahaha. it makes me dizzy!

on wednesday, i asked ms cheon about lesson plans and class structure and she gave me this shocked look. her exact response was: "i do not want you to be burdened with the planning! you are new here and you should be comfortable! i will teach and you will just be my helper. you will walk around when we have group activities and help the children if they have questions." so basically i have the easiest job ever. no lesson planning. i will "assist" 3-5 hours per day, then sit at my desk for the remaining 3-5 hours of the day. this is such a good chance for me to study korean! i hope i use the time wisely and don't waste it...discipline is the key!

on thursday and friday, i work at sinan elementary school. i will spend 10 hours teaching there (5 hours each day) and then run an after-school free-talking session with the really bright english students. it's a great way for them to interact with a native speaker and practice the vocabulary they are learning in the classroom. i am actually getting overtime for the after school sessions, so i will also get overtime pay. nice! my teacher there is named soon-joo, and she is also awesome! i got so lucky with my schools...i really couldn't ask for better head teachers. my job is really easy at sinan, too. i will mostly be responsible for games. i just use the lesson taught by soon-joo and design a game that will reinforce the new vocabulary words. i am really excited about the free-talking classes and i hope that i can help the students grow in their english abilities.

i had alot of really interesting things happen that were school-related this week, but they are too numerous and long to share. in summary, one of the directors of sinan offered to allow me to move into her house and live there for free within an hour of meeting me, one of my co-teachers at bongmyeung officially adopted me as her little sister and made me hug it out in the middle of a crowded walmart-like store, and i was offered soju shots by the head of bongmyeung at our faculty dinner (which happened to be roasted duck...delicious!). needless to say, it was a week to remember.

one of the first questions asked by one of my many co-teachers was: are you a christian? since i gave her an affirmative answer, she has been asking me alot of questions. she tells me she is really interested in the bible and christianity, but not sure that she is ready to really commit yet. she has already completed a one-year beginners bible study and will soon begin the intermediate bible study. i am so nervous because i know that she is watching me like a hawk...just trying to get a good feel for what the christianity thing is all about. i hope i don't do something stupid to really screw up such a prime opportunity. she is really curious and i just pray that i can help continue to steer her in the right direction. would you guys pray for both of us also?

with all of the great things that have happened at work this week, i still love getting to spend time with the other native teachers. we pow-wow'd on thursday night to swap stories, encourage each other, and just have fun together. i really love these people! friday night, john, ben, andy, and i cooked up a delicious fiesta. we spent the evening unwinding with tortilla chips and chimichangas and tacos. it was beautiful! and tonight a few of us spent hours talking over pizza and cokes (with a little break for wii sports). i genuinely enjoy these moments...they are what bind us together and make us family.

i also got to spend some time with soo-in today. she is so sweet! she shared stories about her first week as a sophomore at university and i told her about my experiences as a new teacher. we laughed and sympathized and discussed with each was wonderful! she continually blows my mind with her english abilities...she really gives me hope! 1-that it's possible to become really fluent in a second language, and 2-that i can help my students develop a strong foundational english that they can build upon during their middle/high/university years. also...we just have alot of fun together! she asks me questions about english words she has heard but needs clarity on, and i ask her ridiculous questions about korean. hahaha. i don't know how she puts up with some of the dumb things i ask her. she's a saint!

as a final story, all of my teachers meet me and say "wow, you look very young!" hahaha. but they have explained that this is a good thing...that the students will really love me and that everyone wants to keep their youthful look. on friday, i was in the cafeteria and had just gone through the line and was walking towards my table, when i heard a korean yelling behind me. the lunch lady had literally chased me across the cafeteria to my table carrying a huge soup ladle. i was so confused. but she came to me and said "sonsangnim?" or "teacher?" and dumped the whole thing of soup in my bowl. come to find out, she thought i was a student (at an elementary school, mind you!) and had only given me the student portion of food, instead of the teacher portion. hahaha. it was hilarious. i expect stuff like this to happen often. i love those moments.

lots that i have left out, but there will be lots more to come as i go into this next week. please pray for me as i continue to situate myself and really start interacting with my kids this week. i have over 1000 students total that i will see every week, which is scary and overwhelming and awesome and exciting all at once. i hope all of you are well...please drop me a line when you are able! or facebook me.

be strong and courageous. do not be afraid or terrified...for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
- deuteronomy 31:6


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