Posts Tagged Education
Some days are more interesting than others; today was neither dull nor particularly colorful; but that doesn’t mean I didn’t come away with a few indelible sound-bites.
The start of my day was not especially promising. First, I overslept, not by much, but enough to be forced into eating a granola bar on the way out the door in lieu of a proper breakfast. When I arrived at the fitness center I had 50 minutes to workout and shower instead of the usual hour and 20 minutes. Again, not a huge deal. I weighed my two options: 1) alter my regimen, omitting several exercises, or 2) speed things up and squeeze in my normal routine in 30 less minutes. I went with the latter option, jumping from one thing to another without any recovery time. Halfway through and I was still feeling good, albeit eventually I had to reduce the weight on some exercises due to a build up of lactic acid. The gym that I belong (is belong to strong of a word?) to is better than adequate, and even though they lack some exercise machines and free weights that I am accustomed to back home, the spas, saunas, and steam rooms make up for it. After finishing my last set of dips I rushed to the locker room to shower before heading to work. I don’t always feel comfortable showering, especially when a guy who scrubs people down (apparently he is employed to do this) is lurking, but after 7 months I have gotten used to being a nude foreigner among a sea of Koreans. A coworker told me a story of a former coworker of his that went to the sauna to relax. Apparently, this guy kept his shorts on because he wasn’t keen on the idea of going in naked. When the infamous back scrubber caught sight of this he rushed over, pull down the guys shorts, and waved his finger back and forth while saying, “No, no, no.” After showering I felt absolutely exhausted from the intense workout and a wave of nasuea and dizziness struck. To make matters worse (for the people around me) I forgot my deodorant and cologne at home. Leaving, I felt horrible, and instead of taking the fifteen minute stroll to work I took a cab.
It was at lunch with a group of female coworkers that I began to feel better. While eating a bagel and cream cheese the conversation turned to the “c” word. Some people adamantly refuse to even utter the “c” word. Personally, I don’t have any real qualms about saying it. The “c” word is widely considered one of the raunchiest, most distasteful words in the English language, and everyone at the table held this opinion … or so I thought. Out of nowhere, a very nice, sweet young teacher announced that she calls her dad a cunt all the time. Directly to his face? Sure, just joking around. “My dad calls me a cunt too,” she explained nonchalantly. From this moment on my day began shaping up nicely.
During our daily foreign teacher meeting the manager of the hagwon came in to make a few announcements. He stressed how important listening is to learning a new language and how our students needed more practice doing this. Up to this point, I was nodding my head in agreement. He went on to explain that young children learn language by listening and mimicking what they hear. Still nodding. Then came the curve ball, the Michael Scott moment: “You guys know Helen Keller right? Yeah, that’s how she did it. She listened.” I didn’t nod, and kept it to myself that Helen Keller was deaf and blind.
When I walked into my first class I realized that I had a new student. Nothing gets me more excited in the classroom than seeing a new student because it means that it’s time to choose an English name. Sometimes, much to my chagrin, a student will come to the academy already with an English name; most of the time though the student picks a name in the first class. I’ve learned that I have a tremendously powerful influence during the selection process and I’m not ashamed to admit that I utilize this power. I figure I am doing the student a favor, bestowing them with a cool name. Selfishly, this is really great practice for when it’s time to officially name a child. The little guy immediately took a liking to the name Tupac.
I have been in South Korea for just about two weeks now, but it feels like I have been here for several months. This is probably due to a catalog of fresh experiences, though I am starting to get into a very loose routine. Some things that were challenging my first few days -ordering food, not offending people, buying trash bags- are now less challenging, and I have a network of people that I can go to with questions and for advice. Up to this point I have been doing teacher training at the school where I am working. This post will entail the Daegu experience as seen through the eyes of Mr. Daniel.
I am teaching at an English academy. Parents pay money to send their kids there because they want them to be worldly and know how to speak English fluently, or because they are unable to find a babysitter that won’t beat their children, which to the disappointment of many of my coworkers is strictly against Avalon policy. After spending an entire day in their regular school these kids then come to this academy several times a week. You don’t have to be a child psychologist to figure out that if children are pent up in a classroom environment to long they grow restless, tired, and down right violent (I refuse to give most of my students access to scissors). Adding to this, most of the students do not understand English very well. My greatest challenge in the classroom will be to try to get these Korean students to refrain from speaking Korean, and to maintain the comfortable rapport that I am trying to establish.
During my first week I sat in on classes and observed and took notes on other teachers. This is intended to be a way of seeing first-hand how teaching is done at Avalon and perhaps what you should avoid doing. Naturally the students were curious as to who I was and what I was doing, a grown adult, sitting in a play school sized chair in the back of the class. Sometimes the teacher would introduce me and what I was doing there and when they didn’t I used it as an opportunity to continue the suspenseful uncertainty and would sometimes put on a pair of sunglasses and cross my arms in a serious pose. My observation notes went from detailed critiques to complex doodles as I realized that the only person who was and who would ever be reading them was me. At the tail end of the week I became antsy and started interacting with the students more and assisting them with in-class assignments. Some of the time they just wanted to talk to me about where I was from or what I was like, but more often they would blurt out random things like, “Teacha gimme mahney”, or “Teacha what that bump” while pointing to their own neck (my Adam’s apple?).
This week I have been executing lesson plans in my coworkers’ classes. Basically, I have been doing the job of a regular teacher, but it is much different when you are only doing it on a temporary basis with a teacher in the room observing. I will be replacing Kirsty a very nice young Scottish woman. This means that not only will I assume all of her teaching duties, but I will also inherit the rest of her life in Korea. Her appliances, which I have been waiting for since I’ve been here (television, washer, refrigerator) will be mine, as well as her cell phone and presumably friends. When I have been coteaching in Kirsty’s classes I have made a point to try to get to know the students a little better because essentially they will be my students starting on Monday. I have been introducing myself while telling the class two things about me: “Hi I’m Daniel. I’m from New York and I like basketball.” I go around the class and ask them to tell me two things about themselves. Usually what happens is everyone copies the first person. If Angelina (all of the students have a designated English name) likes to read Harry Potter and does not like her sister you can bank on half of the class liking Harry Potter and not like their sister. When I tell the students I am from New York it generates a lot of excitement, as does showing them my passport. I found this out when I took it out of my pocket when I was searching for something to write with. You would have thought that my passport was a some kind of magical toy, and the last one of its kind. This kept them attentive and occupied for a good ten minutes.
On Monday the real fun starts.
Some notable quotes from students:
“My parents eat teachers.”
“You look like a monkey.”
“Avalon teachers are rich to drink soju.”
“KFC is like heaven.”
“Avalon burn to the ground with fire.”