Summer English Camp in Korea

With summer vacation next week, I have getting all the last minute details together. Based on my winter camp, I realized my students preferred having NO ppt, so I tried my best to not use ppts in my camp.

My camp is themed on Kingsman because my kids are always quoting it and asking if I watched the second one yet. I haven’t. With the theme of Kingsman, the kids overall goal is to make it into the Golden Circle by passing a series of tests.

The Schools Camp Schedule:

I only have 1 week for summer camp. Monday-Friday from 9am until 11:35am.

Although having breaks is not required, I am going off the school schedule to give my kids 10 minute breaks after each 45 minute period. Sometimes the kids don’t want to take a break during the designated time period, I don’t mind changing the scheduled breaks around, but some teachers might be more picky about this.

Also, the kids might want to continue doing an activity after 11:35. I’m willing to keep doing the activities if I have time as long as the kids are having fun.

My Plan for Camp:

Monday: (Spies need to know their allies)

Activity 1: I want to do mainly Ice Breaker games that get the Kids talking. They take as many pieces of toilet paper as they want, and only after they have their TP I tell them that’s how many things they have to say about themselves.

Activity 2: The kids will play identity theft because spies have to pretend to be someone they aren’t. This game is similar to telephone, what is said goes through multiple people and you want to have the same thing by the time it reaches the last person. The main difference is that there are multiple things being said instead of just 1 thing.

They introduce themselves to a friend and steal their friends identity. They have to say the same thing their friend said to a new friend, and then take the new friends identity. This goes until they have talked to everyone.

Activity 3: Students pick a balloon and blow it up. They write their name on the balloon. While standing in a circle, they kick the balloons about until the music stops. After picking up a balloon, students find the owner and introduce themselves and give back the balloon. This can be done multiple times.

Students go to their seats and pop the balloons. Inside are coloured pieces of paper with an animal on it. While going to the front of the room, students have to act like the animal and other students need to guess what animal it is. This divides students into teams based on the colour of the paper.

Activity 4: Students sit in their teams and make team flags. I provided them with coloured pencils and markers.

Activity 5: Students play fish bowl with the theme of movies. Write down movies on papers and draw them randomly. The round is finished when there are no more papers in the bag. Use the same papers each round.

Round 1: The students describe the movie on the paper without saying any words in the title.

Round 2 Students give a 1 word hint.

Round 3: Students act out the movie.

Tuesday: (Kingsman can uncover secrets)

Activity 1: Picture Scavenger Hunt. I will give students slips of papers with clues on them. The students need to find the item or place and take a team picture with it. They will come back to me and show me in order to get the next clue.

Activity 2: I will show the awareness test video of the moonwalking bear to my students.

Activity 3: Students will learn about hiding messages through coding. I’ll use the acrostic poem style coding first and have them practice.

Activity 4: Students will write a coded message and make a paper airplane. They will try to throw their message to a teammate. If it makes it to their teammate they get 1 point. That teammate has to get it to their other teammate for another point etc. If their final teammate decodes it, they get another point. If they miss and it hits another team, their message was ‘intercepted’ and they lose a point. If that teams ‘interceptor’ decodes the message, that team gets a point.

Bonus Round: Students will be taught about the Caesar Shift to code their messages. (A->B, so the word ‘at’ would be ‘bs’ lol that was a happy accident) They can shift as many times as they want, and do the airplane messages.

Activity 5: Extra Time: Students can either find hidden messages in pictures like the arrow in FedEx, or they can continue playing the airplane game.

Wednesday: (Spies need to be persuasive and athletic)

Activity 1: 4 Corners. I’ll ask students to choose between 4 things, 3 things, or 2 things. If they can’t choose they stand in the middle of the room. People in each corner has to convince the people in the middle that their choice is the best. When no one is in the middle, I’ll have them choose between different things.

Activity 2: Can You Distract Me? Team competition. Each team will have a turn to pick one member to read a tongue twister. The other teams will try to distract the reader, or mess them up. If the reader can read the entire tongue twister without getting distracted or messing up, their team gets a point.

Activity 3: Sports Relay. Students will go to the gym and compete in a team Sports Relay. They will assign each member of their team to an area. One will try to spell HORSE with basketball each hoop gets a letter,another will throw a horseshoe around the pole, the 3rd will try to make a cornhole, and finally the last one will juggle a soccer ball while spelling ‘soccer ball’. Each juggle gets a letter. The first team to finish wins. They can play the games until the camp is over.

Thursday: (Spies need to find their enemies)

Activity 1: Students will colour in and design their team’s Clue board. Students can take as long as they need.

Activity 2: Students will play Clue Master Detective.

Activity 3: Students will play Werewolf.

Friday: (Spies need to follow orders and catch the bad guys)

Activity 1: Students will see which team can make the best no bake cookies by following a recipe. The recipe is in the form of a receipt and a schedule.

Activity 2:  Students will do a competition against the 2nd graders. If they hit the red button before the 2nd graders get the flag they win. If they are hit with a water balloon, they ‘died’. This is the final test to see if they can make it into the Golden Circle.

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Banking Problems While Living Abroad

When I moved abroad, I opened a new account in South Korea. What a lot of foreigners noted was that SK’s banking system is a bit behind, but obviously when you get used to how it works, it’s fine.

I’m writing this because recently I’ve had a whole mess of banking issues. They are mostly because of my home bank, and things that led up to these problems but I figured I could give info on banking issues I’ve had in SK too.

At the end, I have advice from what I learned.

SK Banking, Things I’ve Noticed:

  1. .If you want to buy something online, you have to get a specific type of card.
    1. They don’t automatically give you that card, and you have to ask for it. You would think banks would automatically give the more convenient card. . . but no.
    2. My card doesn’t let me buy anything online, and I can’t use it for buses or the subway.
    3. There’s an app to buy bus tickets in advance, but I can’t use it! (I’m planning on switching my card soon)
    4. Banks usually close around 5, so teachers have to go during the school day since we don’t even get out until 4:30/4:40. (We usually go at lunch)
  2. Bus/Subway Card.
    1. I have a separate card just for the subway and buses.
    2. I have to refill that card every now and then when it gets empty.
    3. BUT WAIT to refill that card I need cash (which I almost never carry).
    4. I have to take out cash to put money on my separate card. You can do this at a refill machine or a CU.
  3. If you want to be able to send money to your home bank account conveniently, you have to open a completely separate account.
    1. Send money from your Korean account to this separate account.
    2. At certain times of the day, it will them send that money to your home account.
    3. Not on weekends, and only to the 1 home account, so if you want to send money to different accounts you have to send it to the main home account and them to the other account.
    4. I use this because I have to pay off my student loans.
  4.  Online Banking
    1. You can do stuff online, but you have to go to the bank to set it up, and they can also put it on your mobile.
    2. I use the app on my phone.
    3. You can withdraw, deposit, or transfer on your phone, but I never figured this out (it’s been a year)
    4. I go to the ATM for everything.
  5.  Automatic payments
    1. You can make automatic payments, I do this for my phone bill.
    2. However, as an EFL teacher, it depends on your school if you can do automatic payments for everything else.
    3. If I could, everything would be automatically taken out on payday. This would make it so much easier, but when I tried to do that, I was told no.
    4. The no, is because when I move, it could get confusing for the school trying to switch everything over to the next teacher. Instead it’s easier for all the bills to be sent to the apartment without a name listed, and whoever lives there just pays them. This makes sense, but it can be inconvenient for the current teacher.
    5. At my home account, I could’ve set up an automatic payment online, but I can’t do that here.

Banking Issues I’ve had recently:

The lead up:

I have no Credit Card: I hate the idea of using money I don’t have, and think it’s an open road to getting in debt,  I should say more in debt cause college is awful. Call me a grandma. I just don’t like it.

My debit card expired while I was in Korea. My bank sent a new one to my parents house, and due to safety concerns, they said I could pick it up when I visit this summer rather than send it to me in the mail. Instead they just told me the information I needed.

Recently, I got Lasik, there’s a blog about that, and I had money for it, but I didn’t have enough in my Korean account to go back to Seoul before payday. (In Korea you get paid once a month)

The Problem:

My mum transferred me money to my US account, and everything seemed fine. I went to the ATM to take out the money. . . but wait. MY CARD IS EXPIRED. I can’t take out the money.

I go online to just transfer it to my Korean account thinking no big deal this is fine. BUT WAIT! I can’t send money to a different country online. FML

I’ll have to talk to my bank about this when I visit.

I thought about it, and finally realized I could ask a friend for help. I send money to her home account, and she gives me money to my Korean account. BOOM problem solved.

Except my home account is ridiculous. I send the money online, and it puts it on HOLD saying it can’t verify my identity… WTF

My bank KNOWS I live in Korea, I’ve used this computer MULTIPLE times for banking things. I have to login with my ID AND PASSWORD yet they “can’t verify my identity” I’m calling B.S.

Naturally, I call my bank, but the time difference means they are closed. So I have to call tonight to deal with it.

Advice:

  1. Before coming to Korea, if your card expires before you go home, just get a new one in advance.
  2. Talk to your bank about transferring money abroad before leaving.
  3. If you notice an issue with anything. Address it before it becomes a bigger issue.
  4. EVEN if it’s just an annoying thing that “you can deal with”. Annoying grows.
  5. If there is an easier way to do something use that way. Ask to go to the bank during lunch. It’s better than dealing with everything later cause there might not be time.

 

 

 

 

 

South Korea Education vs Stereotypes

When people hear about education in South Korea, it’s usually focused on long school days, staying up late to study, testing, and NO play. However living in South Korea as a teacher, I get to see part of what it’s really like.

Every school is different, and it also varies based on school level. My school is a middle school.

I’ll talk about the school day, clubs, testing, after school, and field trips.

I will say this first though, my students are learning stuff in middle school, that I didn’t even learn until high school. i.e chemistry (periodic table etc), algebra, geometry, etc.

The School Day:

Students are in school Monday- Friday from 8:50AM until either 3:20 or 4:15pm

Monday and Tuesday we have 7 periods, so the kids get out at 4:15

Wednesday-Friday we have 6 periods so the kids get out at 3:20.

Each class period is 45 minutes, and the kids get a 10 minute break between classes.

Lunch is from 12:30 until 1:40, and kids can eat, stay inside, go to the gym to play, or play on the field.

Monday-Thursday are all classes.

Friday morning are normal classes, and after lunch the students have club activities.

This is about a 7 hour school day, with almost 1 hour of breaks, and an hour lunch. Students spend about 5/6 hours in class per day with the exception of Fridays.

With the stereotypes of  a long and hard school day, this school day seems rather similar to my middle school back home.

Club Activities:

The school has 40 different clubs that students can participate in.

Some include:

Dance, Badminton, Soccer, Baseball, Basketball Ping-Pong

Singing, Guitar

Building Computers, Watching Animation Films, Programming

Science, Chemistry

Gardening, Magic, Board Games, Drawing, Tracing, Debate, English, Student Council

etc.

Students pick a club to join at the beginning of each year, and every Friday they go to their clubs after lunch. Occasionally, we will have a club day where there are no classes the entire day, and students/teachers can visit each others clubs and join in. They can get prizes at different clubs and stickers on a sheet for teachers to make sure they participated.

**As an EFL teacher, I got to visit each club as well, and students who wanted to share their club with me explained to me in English. This is a laid back way for students to use English and share what they like to do. As a teacher, I got to learn about my students, and I enjoyed seeing all the different activities and joining in.

Stereotypes never talk about club activities, but I find it interesting the clubs meet during the school day so it doesn’t take from students time outside of school. Growing up, for me clubs would meet before or after school.

Testing: 

1st graders at my school have no tests. They have their core classes, but they can also pick classes to take each semester.

2nd and 3rd graders have 6 Tests a year. We divide the year into 2 semesters, so they have a midterm and a final both semesters, and they have an English Speaking Test at the end of each semester as well.

On test days, 1st graders have normal morning classes, and 2nd and 3rd graders have their tests in the morning before lunch. After lunch students can go home.

This is for middle school.

There is a big test that high schoolers take, and on that test day a lot of middle schools close. This is because the middle school teachers monitor the test. With no teachers to teach middle school, the schools close for a day.

Honestly though, tests are tests no matter where you go no one likes them.

After School:

Most people know that after school in Korea, a lot of students go to a hagwon (Cram School/Academy). However! People don’t realize that there are academies for almost everything! Students can go to academies for school subjects like English, Math, Science etc. but they can also go for things like dance, singing, piano, flute etc. Some go to an academy because they are behind in a subject, some go because they want to.

Some students go to 3 different hagwons after school, but . . .

NOT everyone goes to an academy! 

A LOT of my students go to a PC bang after school and play computer games with their friends.

Some students go home and don’t do anything.

Some students stay at the school for a while and just read in the library or hang out in their homeroom with friends. OR they might be doing a sport, and they are at practice.

Some students go bowling or just meet up with friends and go downtown.

So while the stereotype is that students study all day everyday, that’s not exactly true, it depends on the student.

Field Trips!

Students, especially 3rd graders, get to go on a lot of cool trips. I previously wrote about the trip to the Olympics.

1st Graders:
Get to go to different companies around the city, and see what it’s like to work there. This is like job shadowing in a way, but some companies do it more like a tour.

They also have a week long trip, and students get to pick where they go, so each year it’s different.

2nd Graders:

Have a long trip as well, students get to pick where they go. This year they went to Seoul, and went to Lotte World.

3rd Graders:

They get to go hiking, they can visit high schools to help decide which h.s. to go to, they can go rock climbing, etc.

3rd grade students are in charge of getting to and from the field trip location. At the location teachers take attendance to make sure students are there, but when the trip is over, students can go wherever they want, they don’t have to go back to the school.

All grades could do a homeroom camp-in. Students would sleep in the school with their homeroom class for a weekend. Sometimes the schools have special activities, sometimes it’s just a chance for students to bond.

***As an EFL teacher, if your students go on a field trip, you might be able to go with them if that’s the only grade you teach that day. For example, I only teach 3rd grade on Fridays. The 3rd graders went hiking on a Friday, so I got to go with them.

AGAIN, each school is different, but this is my school!

Feel free to ask any questions~

Getting Smile Lasik in South Korea

I’ve been wearing glasses or contacts since middle school, and my vision continues to get a little bit worse every year. Back home, I always believed Lasik was too expensive especially on a college student budgey, so I never thought I’d be able to get it.

Now in Korea, I can finally get my eyes fixed! This process started with me just saying I wanted Lasik to a friend at my school. . . you know when you are just talking about something you want, not thinking it would ever actually be able to happen? I was asking her about where she got her Smile Lasik done so I could look up the hospital later. Next thing I knew, she scheduled an appointment for me to do the tests to get Lasik!! I’m so happy she did that cause I don’t think I’d have the courage to have done it myself.

My friend talked to the doctors over the phone, and she wrote down information of the different options they have for me in English.

Lasik: Recovers quickly but is vulnerable to external shocks. About 1.5 million won

Cost: $$$

Recovery: ***

Weakness: ****

Pain: ***

Lasek: Slow to recover but strong against external shocks. About 1.5 million won. She wrote: If you do Lasek, you have to live in darkness for 2 weeks! lol The pain is said to be very sever and the sensation is like putting your eyes on an onion!

Cost: $$$

Recovery: *

Weakness: **

Pain: *****

Smile Lasik: Complements the pros and cons of Lasik and Lasek. It costs 2.7 million won.

Cost: $$$$$

Recovery: *****

Weakness: *

Pain: *

Lens Insertion: Usually only people with REALLY bad eyes do this one.

Cost: $$$$$ maybe more…

Recovery: **

Weakness **

Pain: ***

Four choices, and I decided I wanted the Smile Lasik! I figured I could go to the test appointment and get the surgery in September when I get a pay bonus for renewing my contract. It turned out I could barely afford to get it done within a month of the test appointment! I went with the famous doctor which was a little bit more expensive, but I feel safer with my choice.

The Test Appointment!

You have to reserve you appointment by doing a 50,000W deposit. I gave my friend the money and she transferred it to the hospital for me. This goes towards the total fee of 2,700,000W.

Imagine every eye doctor appointment you’ve gone to, and all the tests you’ve done over the years. This appointment does all of the tests and more, and it takes about 1 hour. Now imagine sitting in the office for that long with nothing to do. I was doing the tests, and my friend came with me because they had to dilate my eyes, and in case there was no one who speaks English. She is seriously the nicest person ever. It’s amazing.

They tested for dryness in the eyes, eye diseases, anything and everything that could disqualify you from being able to do the surgery. Have no fear! If you aren’t able to do Lasik/Lasek/Smile Lasik, you might be able to do the lens insertion! My results were good overall, but my vision is worse than I thought. I have -5.5 and -5.25 vision, but I’m able to get Lasik Smile!

They had me sign the consent form (in Korean) after they explained it to me (in Korean/Some English). They then found an English consent form right before we left and gave me that. This form tells you of things that will happen, usually happen, and might happen. It also says what they will do if any of the things on the paper happen.

If my vision regresses I can get an enhancement procedure again for free!

At the end of the Test appointment I paid 100,000W which goes towards the total fee of 2,700,000W.

Before the Surgery:

Before the surgery I was told to prepare special vitamins, and bluelight glasses (for using tech). I had no idea where to find these things, but my friend just had me transfer her the money and she bought them for me.

Today:

Today is the day of the surgery! My friend and I are going to Seoul this morning and will eat lunch before going to the hospital. At the hospital they are supposed to run last minute tests before the surgery, and tomorrow they will check my eyes to see if the surgery went well. There will also be follow up appointments in 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, and 3 months All for FREE. Today I will pay what’s left of the total fee. So today I pay 2,550,000W.

After my surgery I will update!

***Update! 

Saturday I had my surgery! We showed up, and the place was PACKED! So many people were there which made the waiting time SUPER long!

First, we checked in and they checked my eyes one more time. Between the last appointment and this one, my vision in one eye went down from -5.5 to -5.75. After they checked that, we were sent upstairs to the doctors surgery waiting room where we stayed until they called me back. I went to the patient waiting room, and read the surgery procedure page. This says (in English) what they’ll be doing during the surgery so people don’t freak out when it happens.

The Surgery:

I laid down on the chair, and they covered most of my face with something like that bib texture from the dentist. They put washed my eye out with water, and put drops in to numb my eye. The chair moved so I was under the machine, and then they turned on the machine. After that piece I came out from the machine and the doctor did his bit. His bit terrified me because at this point you can’t see anything but a bright white light and the outlines of some things.

I legit held my breath and didn’t breathe at all during this piece. That tells you that it was really fast cause I suck at holding my breath lol

They then repeated the same thing for my other eye, and put contact lenses on my eyes to numb the pain. Overall, I didn’t feel any pain. I was just a bit scared.

After surgery:

I could already tell I could see better, but everything had a bit of a halo.We bought the medicine I needed at the pharmacy, and then went to my friends house and rested for a bit before going out that night for a walk.

Next Day:

We went back to the doctors and they checked my vision.

Before: Left Eye: -5.75 Right Eye -5.25 Both Eyes: Astigmatism

Now: Left Eye 1.2 Right Eye 1.1 NO MORE ASTIGMATISM

After checking my vision they took out the contact lenses that numbed the pain. The sensation was strange and I had to blink a lot to adjust but overall it was fine.

Now:

I can see wonderfully, and everything is great! I have to take care of my eyes, so I have Artificial Teardrops, a vitamin pill, bluelight glasses for tech, sunglasses obviously, a steroid drop and an anti-bacteria drop to keep my eyes clean and strong!

Thoughts:

Waking up and being able to see is amazing~ I could do that before, but that’s cause I slept in my contacts all the time lol Now it’s in a healthy way! I’m super glad I did it, and now I just need to struggle til payday and all will be well again lol

Teaching with No Lesson Materials

Something I never considered when I came to Korea, is that I would have no lesson materials. I assumed it would be organized, and I would be basing my lessons off of a book. What I’ve learned is that books are for the Korean teachers classes, or Elementary schools, and some higher level schools also use a book. . . but not mine lol

Because there is no book, I get to make ALL of my lessons about what I want and how I want. This can be a gift or a curse based on how you look at it.

When I first started it was definitely a curse.  

I came halfway through the school year, which can be difficult because you don’t always have a way to find out what the previous teacher taught. For me it wound up that the help booklet the previous teacher made me, had been thrown away by mistake.

So on top of the fact that I was learning how to teach Middle Schoolers, I had no way of finding out my students English levels until halfway through the second semester. Therefore, a lot of my lessons were hit or miss, USUALLY miss.  I’d make it too easy, or too hard.

I would ask teachers for any resources that could help me plan lessons, and I got resources from a previous elementary teacher. I made lessons based off of it just to find out as I’m teaching it that it was for elementary not middle school.

Overall last semester I just struggled my way through it, and didn’t get ahead until winter break. This was due to the lack of materials.

Now I think it is definitely a blessing:

Now that I’ve gotten my footing, I am SO happy that I can teach what I want. I have so much flexibility with my teaching schedule it’s amazing.

For example, last week with my 1st graders I realized they didn’t know how to ask questions with the verb “to be”. This week I was planning to teach a Holiday lesson, but switched it last minute to “how to ask simple questions”. If I had to follow a book I wouldn’t have been able to make a change like that so last minute.

I can control the pace of the class more easily. If I had a book, we might have to speed through some things just because it’s what’s required. Because I have no book, if I notice one topic makes students struggle, I can go more in-depth on that topic.

BUT WAIT! How did I get my footing? I was legit struggle-bussing!!

I took the advice of my high school French teacher. “Steal other peoples lessons. If they have more experience than you, learn from what they’ve done, and make it your own.”

I got the google drive of the previous teacher, and I got the google drive of the previous travel teacher. I picked the topics I wanted to cover, changed them to fit my style of teaching, and re-organized them so I could do a theme of the month (previously the teachers wanted each week to be totally different, but my mind doesn’t work like that).

I also had students tell me what they wanted to learn about during winter camp and the first week of school. So while I did take lessons from other teachers I also made my own lessons based on what the students said they wanted to learn. Again I put it in the Theme of the Month format.

I EXPERIMENTED. I had 2 ideas of how I could teach the kids. With 3rd grade I tried one way, with 2nd grade I tried a different way. I ended up hating the way I used with 3rd grade. THAT’S OKAY! I just switched the way I’m planning their lessons for the future. No harm no foul.

Overall, I think that although it can be difficult at first, teaching without a book gives teachers a chance to be creative with their lessons, and lets them use what works for their students. Don’t be afraid to take and change other peoples lessons! Just use whatever works best for you and your students!

 

 

Making Friends Abroad

For a lot of people, packing up and moving abroad can be hard, scary even. The idea of leaving everyone and everything you know behind is scary. But what about starting over? Not knowing anyone is also scary and lonely. Most people that go to teach abroad don’t look at it as a career, they think one or two years and then they’re done. Because of this, they might not worry about lasting relationships that much.

Something that made me very nervous before coming to Korea was how could I make friends? For exchange students it’s easy, you go to school, you make friends, you join a school club you make friends etc. But for a working adult? I had no idea where to start. I googled, I looked at youtubers and no one really talks about it, so I was even more nervous.

Here I’ll talk about hardships I’ve faced in trying to make friends, what I’ve done to overcome them, and ways I’ve made friends.

Hardships:

Age.

In Korea, age is very important. This is shown by using formal speech when talking to someone older than you, waiting for the oldest person at the table to eat before you eat, and other ways as well. But if there is a big age gap, people might not view you as a friend. A large majority of Koreans think that if there is an age gap you can’t be friends which has led to people questioning some of my friendships because of age differences.

Location.

Where I live, I haven’t met anyone my age. Mainly this is because I am college age. When I came, I was 22 (Korean age) which is when Korean men can go into the Korean Army, or when everyone goes to college. However, there is no college in my city which means everyone my age is gone. The people closest to me in age are the high schoolers who are 17-19, and anyone else I’ve met is 27+.

Also my town lacks places to meet people. So unless you know people already it’s hard to meet knew people.

Foreigner.

Not surprisingly, the fact I’m a foreigner plays a hand as well. In the west if your a foreigner people will still talk to you because we see people who look different all the time, people might not even know if you’re a foreigner. But because Korea is so homogenized seeing a foreigner if obvious. Because it’s obvious people will assume you don’t speak Korean, so a lot of the time they won’t bother talking to you. Most people forgot the English they learned in school so this kind of makes sense. . . I mean for most people if you don’t think you can communicate with someone would you still try? If they do talk to you it takes a lot of courage because they will try talking to you in English. If Koreans see a non-asian looking foreigner they will usually assume they know English (unless your in the French district in Seoul).

Gender.

How could gender be an issue in making friends?! For some reason in Korea, you can’t just be friends with a guy. I have a guy friend, and people consistently suggest we date, or ask if we are dating. I cannot be seen with a guy by my students without them thinking he is my boyfriend. But this isn’t just other people.

The white horse. Something I learned from looking up stuff on Korea is the white horse. I’ve heard a student say something about this too (he said it to me and his friends legit pushed him to the ground and hit him because it’s insulting and not appropriate to a teacher. He later apologized). Some Korean guys call white foreign women a white horse. This is because they sexualize foreign women just like how western guys sexualize asian women. Because of this there is the assumption that any foreign woman is a for lack of a better word, a slut. Some guys want a foreign girlfriend just to say they have a foreign girlfriend which means when you meet someone, do they mean it when they say they just want to be friends? or do they want something else?

So why not just make friends with other girls? I’ll mention this later.

How did I overcome those hardships?

I honestly can’t do anything about most of the hardships I have. My age is my age and I’m a foreign woman. I could transfer out of my city, but I love teaching my boys, and I legit just learned most of their names.  So what have I done?

I studied:

When I have free time at school, I can study Korean and learn new vocab words. After school since I can’t focus at home I go to cafes and study Korean when I have time. Lately I haven’t been going to cafes because I’m saving money for LASIK though. However, studying will make communication with people a lot easier, and it will make me more inviting to people when they know I’m trying to learn Korean. Students can talk to me casually outside of class and ask questions about my culture or about me they can’t ask in English. There was a teacher who I could never tell if she liked me, but since she found out I’ve been studying Korean, she’s been amazing. Being able to talk to people is the first step to making friends.

I stayed busy:

Staying busy is a distraction from feeling lonely, and I know that, but it also gives me a chance to interact with people who I may later develop friendships with. During school, I try to stay busy, but when I don’t feel like studying, I’ll think of fun lesson ideas that I could do with the kids either in school or in English camp. I then go around and make that game or whatever myself.

Teacher have asked me if I was lost, or what I was doing because I’ve gone around the school looking for things for a scavenger hunt. Students and teachers have asked me what I was doing because I was stopping on and cutting up cardboard boxes for a game. Teachers have sat down with me to write numbers on Jenga games. Students have helped me color and cut up cards for a game. Teachers have seen my desk look like an architect teachers desk rather than an English teachers desk. Most recently I had teachers ask me why I’m putting numbers on the walls, and what game it’s for. . . I had no idea what they were talking about because it wasn’t me lol BUT the point is, if people are curious about what you are doing they will ask you about it. Friendship starts with a single conversation. Be weird. Make people curious.

I learned my students names:

Students have opened up loads to me. The student-teacher relationships are fantastic this year. Last semester I tried learning names. Students had name cards, but I made the mistake of having students keep their name cards. This semester I am keeping ALL the name cards and bringing them to class. I teach eight 3rd grade classes, seven 2nd grade classes and 2 first grade classes teaching a total of about 450 students a week. I see the students once a week in class, and I might see them in the hallways. Some students know I speak Korean, most don’t. But learning their names has done wonders in the classroom.

Students are more likely to say hello when they see me. Students will come up to me just to make sure I know their names. Students have sung the “remember me” song from Coco to me. Student’s have told me “I’m disappointed in you” when I forget their names. But this opens up conversations IN ENGLISH to the students.

I think if a teacher doesn’t learn any of their students names they should NOT be a teacher. This says that the teacher doesn’t care about their students. If they don’t care why should the students care about them? 

ALSO other teachers will see how you are with the students! Teachers like to talk about the students. Know who they are talking about! You have something in common, it’s having the same student! I’ve been asked multiple times “What’s the students name in # grade class # with (describes student)” Because I’ve learned the student’s names teachers will use me when they’ve forgotten a name. OR Teachers want to tell me something about a specific student “Do you know ___? In class today . . . ” Sometimes I miss what the teachers said, but I hear a name and ask what happened and BOOM I’m in the conversation. 

I got involved in school activities:

I go to all the events I can manage. Right now I’ve turned down a few due to lack of money . . . lasik . . . but I  go to all the hweshiks 회식/school staff dinners. With these I don’t really choose where I sit, I just go wherever I’m placed, but this means I can meet teachers I don’t really get a chance to talk to. Sometimes this can be really awkward at first, but as the drinks come, the nerves go and it becomes easier to converse with teachers I don’t really know that well. I keep my phone handy in case there is something we want to talk about that I don’t really understand.

My school also has a 20/30’s group, the “young teachers generation meetings” where we just meet get dinner and some drinks. Sometimes we’ll go to a bar after, so it could go for 1-4 rounds (by rounds I mean places, eating dinner is round 1 bar is round 2 different bar is round 3 someones house round 4 etc). These are fun because these teachers are closer to my age, and we have more in common. The meetings can be pretty last minute, but they’re always fun! Sometimes they are for a reason like someone got married, we want to see the cherry blossoms etc, sometimes they’re just for fun. Since we started these meetings I feel more comfortable talking with these teachers at the school. At first only one teacher would invite me to these meetings, but lately the other teachers have started inviting me out as well.

Last Novembers volleyball tournament was a huge game changer for me. There was a Rotarian I know who said Sports bring people together it doesn’t matter where you’re from, and he was right! Last school year, one of the gym teachers came into my office looking for teachers to join in and play volleyball for our school. She was about to leave but turned around, went to my desk and asked me to play in broken English. I was really surprised since around this time people didn’t really talk to me, but I jumped on the chance. After the first practice, the volleyball team went out for dinner, and after dinner  2 of the gym teachers ask if I wanted to get a beer with them. THANK GOD I SAID YES! Although one now works at a different school, the other one and I have become really great friends, and I don’t think I would have renewed my contract if it weren’t for her. I probably hang out with her more than anyone else.

This year, a different gym teacher came into my office and asked me to join the badminton club. That club usually has about 8-12 people there and never have I ever seen badminton taken so seriously, it’s a legit workout! However, that club has even more teachers I barely talk to. The longer I’ve been involved in that club the more I’ve been able to talk to the teachers there. 

Usually, at lunch I would sit with the teachers, and not be in any conversation, but now I have so many teachers I know who I can talk to that makes the school seems a lot friendlier.

My Advice:

  1. Don’t pass up chances to hang out with other teachers unless you are truly unable to go. I’ve only turned down one chance and that was due to lack of money, but I also had a conflict in my schedule. I prioritize relationship building over nearly everything.
  2. Invite people out. Don’t be the only one being invited. Relationships cannot be one sided! I struggle with this the most.
  3. Be willing to do people favors! I’ve been asked to watch classes because the teachers have gone to the hospital, and I’ve been asked to dog-sit 3 times and I always accept. Honestly though I would keep their dogs if I could lol Doing favors helps build merit, and it let’s people know they can rely on you if they need you!

A Year Ago vs Now: Life in Korea

Around this time last year, I was getting ready to come to Korea. Getting my visa, finishing up at my job, and planning my life in Korea.

Obviously I couldn’t plan my life in Korea, I did look stuff up online, but everyone’s experience is different and I couldn’t have known where I would even be in Korea. This is me looking back on things I believed would happen vs what happened.

Before coming to Korea, I thought. . .

  1. I’d be the only foreigner in the area.
    1. During interviews they emphasize the fact that there aren’t a lot of foreigners and people would stare because of this.
  2. I’d teach elementary schoolers.
    1. I thought this because everything on their website and everything in conversation is geared towards teaching elementary students
  3. I’d learn Korean REALLY quickly.
    1. If I’m the only foreigner it would be necessary to learn Korean to make friends and to live a normal life.
  4.  I’d make a lot of Korean friends really easily.
    1. As an exchange student it was really easy to make friends.
  5. I’d get involved in my community by volunteering.
    1. This is just something I wanted to do.
  6. I’d have books to teach from.
    1. Legit everything I found online seemed to say they gave you materials and books to use for class.
  7. I’d be in a big city like Seoul.
    1. I really figured it would be like Seoul or Busan because those are what people hear the most about.
  8. I thought I’d have 1 coteacher.
    1. The wording on the program website makes it seem like you will only have one coteacher

What actually happened. . . 

  1. There is a big foreigner community where I live!
    1. I don’t really hang out with them that often. Honestly I feel like I don’t fit in with them and when we meet in a large group I feel left out or like I shouldn’t be there. They’re all really nice so this might be the age gap (I’m the youngest), or I might just be bad at socializing… #sociallyawkward . . . lol
  2. I teach middle schoolers!!
    1. Honestly EVERYONE who didn’t get an elementary school was shocked. In orientation or in interviews everything is geared towards teaching elementary. They graze over middle and high school to the point that people don’t even think it’s a possibility that they will be placed anywhere but an elementary. What I’ve noticed though, is that if you have more teaching experience or training, you tend to get placed in a middle or high school. This doesn’t always work out as some people are trained in early childhood education but then go to high school. (I’ve noticed a lot of people in high schools tend to quit).
  3. I did learn a lot of Korean, but ultimately it feels like I’ve learned very little.
    1. This is mainly because I should study more, but I just don’t always have the motivation. Usually I study a lot one month, feel burned out the next. My studying habits are very inconsistent.
  4. Yes! I did make Korean friends! Not a lot, but the ones I’ve made are really good friends.
    1. It took a while for me to make a friend. Most people thought I didn’t know any Korean, and since they don’t speak English they didn’t bother talking to me. Other people knew some English but weren’t confident in their English abilities so they didn’t talk to me. This is part of the reason it took so long for me to make friends. I’ll do another blog about this.
  5. I do not volunteer, BUT I did get involved!
    1. I joined a dance hagwon, I go to a piano hagwon, and I joined the badminton club. Last semester I also played volleyball.
  6. I have NO BOOKS.
    1. Depending on how you look at it this could be a gift or a curse lol I’ll do another blog about this.
  7. My city is not huge like Seoul, but also not tiny.
    1. My city has a downtown, a beach, a lake, golf courses, mountains, bars, a movie theater, a food district, and lots of different apartment areas, but there’s only 1 club, and it’s usually dead. Why is it dead? Because EVERYONE is my town is either “too old” for clubbing (27+), or too young (high school-).
    2. In summer I love my town because almost everything there is to do is outdoors, but that means in winter, there’s not much to do (this is when I joined my dance hagwon).
  8. I have 5 coteachers, and another foreign teacher who comes to my school one day a week.
    1. I have a main coteacher who I go to if there are any issues, or if I have questions about program things, or requirements. The other coteachers I go to for the lessons, or tests, or if we’re just having a casual conversation.

*** These are my thoughts about what would happen in Korea vs what actually happenned

Testing in South Korea

It’s test time! At my school, I am doing speaking tests right now as well as preparing for midterms and it is hectic!

A quick reminder on grade levels in Korean schools:

Elementary: 1-6

Middle School: 1-3

High School: 1-3

Testing at my middle school starts in 2nd grade, so right now I am doing speaking tests for the 2nd and 3rd graders. I also had to prepare a couple questions for the 3rd grade midterm based on my lessons. So how does the testing work?

The Speaking Tests:

I look at the speaking tests as a chance to show my kids that they can do well in English. I believe tests should NEVER discourage students in a subject. The speaking tests are based off of what I taught students in class, and I give them 1-2 weeks in advance to prepare for the test.

Before the test:

I give either a class period of 15 minutes at the end off class to go over the tests and prepare for the tests.

Students can ask me or other English teachers to edit their test answers or dialogues at any time.

Students can also meet with me at lunch to help them create their dialogues/answers.

I will go to each homeroom the Friday before the testing week and ask if they have any questions.

The Day of the Test:

My room is split by sliding doors, so the front is the English Room, the back is more like an office. I take the kids who are testing into the office section and do the test there. I’ve found this to be less distracting for the kids and it goes faster than when the kids wait in their homeroom for their turn to take the test.

If a student does poorly on the test because they didn’t prepare and it’s evident, I will talk to them a little bit in Korean, usually along the lines of “I told you to ask for help if you needed it. Why didn’t you ask for help? Next semester ask me if you need help.” This is generally to the third graders.

If there is time at the end after the tests are done, we play a nonsense game so the kids can relax a bit.

**There will always be a couple students who miss the test, need to redo the test, or something happens, I just talk with those students and figure out what we need to do to get it done.

2nd Grade Speaking Test: 

This test is with a partner. Each month they have a overall theme, and at the end, they build a dialogue using anything we learned in that month.

For the test, they built a dialogue mixing the 3 themes together. Travel, The Earth, and Fashion. Mostly they talked about going somewhere on a vacation, the weather in that place, and what they should wear because of the weather.

They had a whole class period to build a team dialogue before I gave them partners. With 2 different dialogues meant for 4 people, this gave them more ideas of what to say. They picked what they liked from the 2 dialogues and made it fit 2 people instead of 4.

They then had to memorize the dialogue they built. This can be challenging for some people trying to memorize a dialogue, but most students were able to do just fine. I think there were only about 4 students who were not able to memorize all of it out of 254 students.

2nd Grade Grading:

I have 5 categories I base the grades off of. My co-teachers picked the categories and I wasn’t allowed to change any of them.

  1. Attitude: Just be happy 20 points. (Basically just show up for the test and say hi) (I’ve had students say they don’t want to take the test and just leave like….really? at least sit down and get the 20 points)
  2. Pronunciation: Everyone starts at 20 points, I take off points if I have to ask a student to repeat a word, or if it takes me a bit to understand what they mean.
  3. Fluency: I honestly have no idea how to grade Fluency for second graders so they always get 20 points. Unless they say nothing.
  4. Grammar: Everyone starts at 20 points. This can be tricky to grade if it’s a phrase like “to be in a” that they are missing, so I take off points if they are missing the grammatical pieces. “To be” is -1 verb, “in” -1 preposition, “a” -1 determiner. I took the linguistic approach to grade it as fairly as possible.
  5. Content: Everyone starts at 20, but what if one dialogue has 7 lines each and another has 5 lines? If a student only remembers 1 line out of 5 they get 25% of the 20 points so its mathematically fair.

The 3rd Grade Speaking Test:

The 3rd graders complained a lot last year about having partners, so this year they got to take the test by themselves. Honestly they still complained, but this time it’s because they don’t have a partner. So far I think they do better with partners because they are pressured to practice and prepare.

This semester we had “How to Get a Job” and we did mock interviews. So, for the speaking test I had them prepare answers to 5 interview questions. This can be hard because they want to give one sentence answers and that is really hard to grade. So I told them they had to give me longer answers or I would ask them more questions.

So what happened?

On one hand some students didn’t prepare anything. Every answer was “IDK” except in Korean. For these students I would ask the questions in Korean, and if I still got IDK from the students then I’d move on. If asking the questions in Korean helped, but their answers were still too short, I’d ask extra questions to try to get longer answers.

On the other hand, some students rocked! There was one student I almost asked him 1 question because his answer was SO good. I decided to ask a second question just to be fair, and it was ALSO AMAZING!  The students definitely varied, but I think I’ll go back to having partners later on.

Grading:

***Side note, grading the 3rd grade speaking test was a pain, lots of math was involved to keep it fair.

  • Attitude: Just be happy 20 points. My favorite thing to grade!

Every other section was split points based on how many questions I asked.

  • Pronunciation: Same as second grade.
  • Fluency: If I had to ask the questions in Korean I took off points.
  • Grammar: If one question had perfect grammar, and another had a ton of grammar mistakes, their would be a cap on how many points I could take off.
  • Content: This is why I had to split points. If one student only had an answer to one question and got a perfect, when other students were able to answer all the questions I asked, it wouldn’t be fair grading. So each question could only give a certain amount of points.

Midterms:

For midterms and finals, I am usually asked to make 3 or 5 multiple choice questions for the students. I will also be a test monitor the day of the tests, and that’s as far as it goes.

***Students assume I make their entire test and usually complain to me about it being hard, but my response is always “I DIDN’T MAKE IT, DON’T BLAME ME”

Each School is different, but this is my most recent experience for testing in Korea!

School Relationships and Hard Days

Teaching English abroad has been a dream of mine for a few years now. While I love my job, I don’t want people who are planning to do the same job to think every day is a walk in the park. Teaching is teaching no matter where you go, and like any job it has it’s ups and its downs.

What matters isn’t the how many ups or downs you have in a day, its how you remember the day. 

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that before coming to Korea, I worked in a Preschool/Daycare, and that I have experience working with people of all ages, and what I wrote above always holds true even on the hardest of days.

  1. Issues that may come up when Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  2. How to create stronger relationships with your students.
  3. How to stay positive as a foreign teacher

Most people will assume it’s always the kids that cause problems, but there is no such thing as a bad child (I believe this to the core)

  1. Foreigners aren’t allowed to teach by themselves for legal reasons, so some things that happen due to this is butting heads with your coteachers.
    1. I have a different teaching style/teaching philosophy compared to my co-teachers. 
    2. When problems arise due to a difference in opinion on how to teach something, or how to handle a behavior issue, COMMUNICATE. Explain why you feel strongly about it. This is what I struggle with the most, but it usually helps to at least explain yourself to get some negative feelings off your chest.
    3. Don’t just lie down and show your belly! If you really disagree about something BE PERSUASIVE! (I really struggled with this at first, but lately I’ve been holding my ground more.)
    4. However, if you were wrong, accept it and if you can, fix whatever it was you were wrong about. This helps keep the relationships strong!
  2. Miscommunications
    1. You are in a setting where English is NOT the first language. This is to be expected. That being said . . .
    2. I will talk to teachers individually to go over something and to get it approved. AFTER it has been approved I might show it to the same teachers in a group, and all of a sudden it’s awful and everything needs to be changed. This one drives me up a wall, I get so annoyed by this.
    3. Sometimes I tell students to do something and they pretend they understand only to show me 2 seconds later they have no idea what I said lol This one makes me laugh a little….
  3. Disciplining the Boys
    1. I hate having to discipline my students. At heart I know they’re all amazing kids. But still, any school has some form of discipline, and it’s just tough love.
    2. As a foreign teacher it can be really odd having to actually discipline the students though. What is ok? What is not ok? When should you give discipline? How much is appropriate?
    3. I’m so happy my kids are well behaved for the most part. I’ll have them stand in the back of the room, or put their heads down after class in silence, and occasionally I will lecture them, but overall I don’t have to do much.
    4. Discipline is for the same reason in any country; kids aren’t listening, kids are talking over the teacher, kids are using bad words etc.
    5. Legit my kids are sweethearts. When they aren’t listening to me, sometimes I can just lean back and they will yell at each other to pay attention. It’s 대박

I tried to keep my thread solely to things that happen as a foreign teacher, but clearly issues also arise that any teacher would face.

*** Tips to stay positive!

  1. Each day is a new day. If a kid didn’t behave in class yesterday, it doesn’t matter today.
  2. Find humor in anything! Sometimes kids do something they shouldn’t, or something you don’t like. They’re kids! Look for the humor in it!
  3. If you had a really hard day, think of something good that happened, and focus on that!
  4. If a class went wrong, try to change what went wrong before the next class rather than mope! If the next class goes better, then you already made an improvement as a teacher!

 

*** Tips to build relationships with your students!

  1. LEARN THEIR NAMES! Yeah, you are in a new country the names are really different, but TRY! Show them you are trying! It can even change their attitudes towards English if you learn their names!
  2. If they tell you something about themselves REMEMBER IT! I have written down students birthdays on my calendar and they are so happy when I give them a little candy for their birthday!
  3. Talk to the kids in the hallway! It’s easy to hide in the office when you don’t have class, but try to walk around the school during break time or lunch time so the kids can see you and say hi!
  4. Tell the kids something about yourself! They might be more interested than you think they will be. I started going to a dance hagwon, and the kids look for all my dance videos on the hagwon’s Youtube page.
  5. Go to the classroom BEFORE class starts! There is a 10 minute break between classes at my school, and I’m there the whole break! I play English music on the computer and when the kids walk in before class they have a chance to talk freely to me.
  6. Talk to the kids who are in trouble! (secretly) Usually when a kid is in trouble, they are standing outside a room staring at a wall. Or if they are in a lot of trouble, they have to go to a certain office in the school. I like to talk to them a little bit. I’ll ask what happened, why they are in trouble, etc. Once I happened to have a chocolate in my bag, so I gave it to the student (this student legit never participated in my class) and that made all the difference to him. Started to participate and even got competitive about English.
  7. Try to learn some of the local language. A LOT of teachers who go abroad are only looking to travel, or take some time off their normal jobs, so they don’t bother learning the local language. However if you learn a little bit of the language, some students who wouldn’t normally talk to the foreign teacher will feel like they can at least approach you.
    1. I look at it like YES I’m here to teach you English, but if I can’t do that, I can at least share a little bit about my culture even if we are talking in Korean.

Spending Habits in Korea

Finishing college, changing jobs, and moving to a new country are guarantee ways to change how you spend money. In college everyone is broke. With a new job, there is a different pay level. In a new country, things that would normally be cheap may be expensive and vice versa.

These are the ways my spending habits changed in Korea.

** Bonus** I give tips on how you can save money~

Before: 

Before coming to Korea I was working at a Preschool/Daycare. I had just graduated from college, (was still on that 6 months no paying back loans thing) and moved back with my parents for that break between graduating and moving to Korea. YAY free housing!

Typically, I would pay for

Gasoline, it was around 2.50 at the time so maybe 20/week for gas I’d fill up every other week.

Breakfast, if I ate at home it was free, if I ate on the way to work maybe 5$

Lunch, if I packed a lunch it was free, eating out usually was 5/7$ (only get one thing)

Groceries I could easily spend 20$ on groceries. Walk in for one thing and “need everything.”

Clubbing, maybe once a month I’d go out with friends for clubbing 15-20$ we would drink before going out to save money.

Other Activities maybe 40$ a month?

Now:

I STILL have free housing due to my contract, but I do pay for utilities.

Housing Bills: 70$ish? water, electric, gas etc. legit only home to sleep, eat and shower.

Student Loans: 205$ per month, but when I’m able to I pay more.

Dance Fee: 100$ it used to be 80$ per month. This averages to 5$ per class.

Travel: I like to go to Seoul, so that’s about 40$ round trip.

Taxi’s: the fare starts at 2.80 but is really slow to go up. The most I’ve paid was around 11$ because I went reeeaallly far away. Usually if I stay in my city, I only pay 3$

Groceries: oh man oh man…. Groceries in the states are so cheap! Here I can buy 5 things and it’s 40$. Legit the cheapest cereal that I’ve found here is 7$. Eating healthy by cooking at home is expensive! Instant foods are super cheap though!

Eating Out:  Since cooking is expensive, I like to eat out! The bapburger place is 3.50 max, and it’s super tasty! Or at a decent sized sit in place the average is 7-10$ (get like 4/5 sides and main dish)

How to Save Money in Korea!

Recently I decided to get Lasik Smile! My eyes are really bad, and I only have one pair of contacts left so…. I chose to get this surgery! I’ll talk about it in a different post~

BUT it’s 2,700,000 Won! That’s $2,700.00!! So this is how I’m saving money!

  1. BUDGET! Look at how much I have, look at how much I will have on payday, look at how much I need, do the math. How much is left over? Look at events, and their costs. Can I actually afford to go to that event?
  2. Got Picky with what events I go to.
    1. The more my Korean improves the more I get invited to things. Unfortunately, since I need to save money I can’t be paying for so much stuff like traveling to Seoul or eating out all the time.
    2. If it’s something I really really want to do, or I feel it will help build the relationship I will go.
  3. Stopped eating out.
    1. I’ve been cooking using whatever I have, so I’ve made
    2. French Onion Soup,  Mac n’ Cheese, Kimchijjigae, Manduguk, Kimchi Fried Rice (buy the instant foods in bulk!)
    3. Image result for jjapaghettiImage result for shin ramen
    4. … I know not the healthiest, but hey the school lunch is SUPER healthy! so… it balances out?
  4. Stopped taking taxi’s (unless I’m really late)
    1. I’ve been walking everywhere since the weather is nice, I find it’s also refreshing.
  5. Don’t even walk into a grocery store unless I know exactly what I need.
    1. Get in, Get out, Be cool, Don’t look back.
  6. At the store, look for the 1+1 or 2+1 sales!
  7. Make Chai at home!
    1. Usually I go out to a cafe and study Korean.
    2. Lately I’ve been making my own chai, and not studying at home.
      1. Legit how do people focus in their own homes??
  8. Use CASH not CARD!
    1. It’s easier to see how much you’re really spending when it’s visible, so this really helps!

Usually at this point in the month, my account is under 1,000,000 Won ($1,000), but because I’ve been strong, and stopped spending so much I should be able to save enough for my surgery!