Saying goodbye to the 6th graders~

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A few girls I managed to grab a picture with in our last class.

This was my first year at a new school and I saw my second set of students graduate. My 6th grade babies are moving on to middle school.  I dreaded this day for a while as I really enjoyed teaching this group of kids.  It is sad to see your students leave, but that is a day that must always come.  They were my favorites for the past year and provided a lot of fun and great memories for me.

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Winter camp with Jungmyung High School

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Awesome group of kids at 정명고등학교!

This was my second camp with Jungmyung High School. I was a little worried about what type of camp I needed to do. The teacher in charge originally told me that it needed to be a writing and reading camp. So as usual, I over planned the entire camp. Continue reading “Winter camp with Jungmyung High School”

Advice from Kids: Diet Solutions

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Sometimes I wonder if I should use myself as an example in class. Whether its good or bad, it certainly proves to be interesting! Last fall when we were learning should and shouldn’t in fifth grade I tried to think of a way to make it interesting. So I made a little cartoon of myself on a diet and asked my students to tell me 5 things I should or shouldn’t do.

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Gangneung, Visiting My Second Hometown

 

 

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Gyeongpo Beach

October happens to be a month that has a few extra holidays in it. Which one of those days turned out to be my new school’s birthday, so  I had the day off. I was thankful for this as it enabled me to go to Gangneung to see my old students. Logistically, my two schools are very far apart and I debated for a week or two, as to whether I should rent a car or not. I decided that I would leave it up to fate and boarded the bus to Gangneung that Wednesday night. When I arrived in Gangneung it was 8:30 P.M., and I was in luck all of the little rental car shops were open! I must have been blind during the year I lived there as I never noticed there were about 10 rental car shops in front of the bus terminal. I decided to go into the shop that looked like it had the door open. (I later learned it was just a piece of plastic off to the side of the door.

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A Year Ago Today…

A year ago today I boarded a plane at JFK Airport and met new EPIK friends in San Francisco before boarding our plane to Incheon International Airport in South Korea. Thinking back on the past year it is interesting to see how far I have come and how much my life has changed. A year ago, I went through orientation and upon completion was ushered by bus to a city in my province. I remember meeting my co-teacher the first day and  the car ride back to where I was going to live was awkward but friendly.  Fast forward to now and I can say that my co-teacher, 라미, has been my biggest supporter. She has been there every step of the way and  has helped me with anything I had a question about.  I’ve learned about cool new apps to make my life easier, she has helped coordinate camps so I can go on vacation when I wanted, she has given me many rides to places I needed to go, and countless other things. I’m truly going to miss working with her and though it was the first year teaching for both of us, I think we worked well as a team and I will be sad to say goodbye.

My kids. What can I say? I remember waiting to be told when my first class would be held. I felt nervous and uncertain the first day I walked in to see my kids.  I felt nervous three different times, at three different schools. But I overcame that quickly and tried to teach to the best of my ability making mistakes along the way. My kids taught me a lot about myself, especially some of the rowdy ones. My patience wears thin quickly when I’m not being listened to; however, as the year went on I was able to control my patience better. My older apathetic to learning English kids reminded me of myself. They reminded of me of what I was like during classes I hated. They weren’t going to listen to me even if I told them ten times and you know what at the end of the day I came to terms with that. Outside of the classroom those kids were just as lovely as the students who paid attention.

Today we were supposed to have graduation at all of my schools. Because of the snow my main schools graduation was moved to Monday. My other two schools graduation ceremonies are on Tuesday, however, I will not be able to go to them. I already asked to go to the other middle school one , but was denied that request. In many ways, that breaks my heart that I can’t see all of my graduating students receive their diplomas. But, I am glad I took the time and foresight to say goodbye to my other schools in December when I knew classes were winding down.

For the last week I have been debating how to say goodbye to my main school. I love my students and I wondered should I just give them a hand shake, congrats and goodbye. Just wave goodbye to the kids? It didn’t sit well with me to be untrue to myself and my nature. I’m a very affectionate person and I like to say goodbye with a hug, if you are close family or a friend your receive a kiss on the cheek, unless you are one of the few who gets a kiss on the lips. Today while we were practicing congratulating the graduating class I hugged a student. The principal then said that we can shake the kids hands or give them hugs. When we sat back down I turned to two older female teachers and asked them if they thought it would be okay if I gave the kids a kiss on the cheek goodbye. Would it be strange?  They smiled and said nowadays that isn’t seen badly in Korea and to go ahead. I feel glad to know that I can be my authentic self on Monday. The kids might be squeamish and some do not like hugs, like one of my sisters does not. But at least I will feel I have said goodbye to my students that have become like extended family to me the way I want.

A year ago today I would not have imagined that I would get so attached to the teaching staff at all of my schools, nor to all of my students. Especially my middle school students. I bonded with some elementary students, but not as many of them. Of course with all endings there are always new beginnings. I will be moving to a different part of the country to start teaching at a new school and to experience the process all over again. As always a year moves quicker than we think and we learn more about ourselves than we expect.

Now to ponder what the next year will hold. I will keep my eyes open and enjoy the journey.

Implementing thought provoking lessons

I like to challenge my students. I like to make them think outside the box. When I teach alone this definitely fails on me. However, when I am able to teach with my co-teacher the meaning isn’t lost in context and I can talk about interesting subjects. I think the students can get to know more about me through these types of lessons.

I have come up with four lessons, one I have not presented yet. I do not know if I will be able to do it before school lets out on the 31st. As I am not sure when my last day of classes at the middle school are. However, even if the lesson flops, at least I have brought interesting information to them.

I will say I am lucky with my co-teacher who lets me present to the class on varying topics. Some of the earlier lessons I did were on the Evolution of Marriage in the USA and Mass Shootings in Schools. As always with a topic, some kids will tune out the lesson as it is a video and powerpoint driven lesson. But a lot of kids find it fascinating as well.

Some of the other lessons I started was a lesson on beauty through music. To me this was a lot of fun and it was interesting to hear the kids feedback.  I used Sean Kingston’s – Beautiful Girls, Mika’s -Big Girl, Pink’s -Perfect, TLC’s – Unpretty, and Christina Aguilera’s -Beautiful. Depending on the class the videos were or were not shown. The one I didn’t show was TLC’s Unpretty and Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful video was not shown to my first grade middle school students.  We did listening exercises and also watched videos asked their opinion of it after. I did warn the students before watching videos if there were things that may upset them. The beauty lesson served as a point to stop making fun of people who are different in my second grade middle school class. In Christina’s video there are two men kissing and in the back of the class I could hear snickering. So when it was over I asked the students why they were making noises and faces at that scene. I told them just because they aren’t used to it or don’t like it doesn’t mean it is okay to act that way and in fact they were hurting me by doing this. My co-teacher helped to translate. I have gay family and friends and if you are making fun of the couple you don’ t know you are also making fun of the people I know. Let me just say the point went home because I referenced back to myself.  This lesson did serve well through all of the classes, with some students wanting to know the names of the songs.

The older lessons on the Evolution of Marriage and Mass Shootings in Schools were received in different ways.

The Evolution of Marriage lesson came about in less than 2 hours of planning. That is very short notice and not very accurate for many people, however, my co-teacher and I are required to have an English class for the teachers. It is just me and her. So one day I was running out of ideas and for some reason interracial marriage popped into my head. With that I was able to make it into the Evolution of Marriage. My co-teacher thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was interesting to see and thought it would be good for the kids to have more of a cultural lesson. The Evolution of Marriage proved to be an interesting lesson because many of the students did not know at one point it was illegal to marry someone of a different race in the USA. They also didn’t understand how that could have happened. The interesting point on this lesson was that although it was mostly an information driven lesson, I did let the kids ask questions as well. To make it seem more real I included photos of interracial couples, including my previous relationship.  However, the title stems from the similarities of the marriage debate. I actually presented this lesson before the US Supreme court was deciding on Same-Sex marriage. That was my building up to point. Because the arguments in same-sex marriage are the same as the ones that were used for interracial marriages. Some of the kids really liked the lesson and I asked their thoughts at the end about same-sex marriage and interracial marriage. Some were willing to state their opinion and others were not. I told them that was okay, I was just curious of how they think.

The Mass Shootings in Schools was a lesson I asked my co-teacher if I could present on. It is a topic that is not talked about in Korea and lucky for most Korean students they do not have to worry about someone walking into a school with a gun. I made a powerpoint and covered three school shootings that were powerful in my lifetime: Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook.  I picked these three for several reasons. Columbine happened when I was in 7th grade and I remember how things started to change after that with the implementation of a school officer. The year I was graduating college Virginia Tech happened. Sandy Hook happened the year before I moved to Korea and happened in my home state.  The kids were shown a powerpoint presentation and news video clips. My co-teacher helped translate questions and what happened as their were no subtitles. Most of it was just small snippets,but I told them how mental health is also important and most shooters need a mental health professional and did not have one. I asked the kids if they have anything like this. The war drills that they practice for we don’t have in the USA. Instead we have lockdown drills for school shootings. I told the kids they were lucky to know that they would never really have to think about his problem. A lot of them thought the USA is a scary place, but I said it seems like it happens often, but it is still a safe country you just need to stay out of bad areas mostly.  My students paid more attention to this lesson even though some parts were hard to understand. I find it is a culture point worth talking about as news about shootings in the USA have become more frequent.

The last lesson I never got to implement. Timing got in the way and so did end of the year. I wanted to use the TED Talk by  Shane Koyczan entitled” To this day…for the bullied and beautiful.” (You can watch it here.) I had made a powerpoint about bullying in English and wanted to show this as there are Korean subtitles though they aren’t perfect.  My powerpoint is not 100% finished either as I wanted it be thorough and close to accurate. I even made a worksheet with questions and quotes from the talk asking the students opinions. This was translated in English and Korean by my co-teacher and I. She said the subtitles aren’t perfect but they are okay. Unfortunately, I was unable to do this with my students because we ran out of free time to do so. I was also going to include a anti-bullying paper activity that is popular to drive the point home. But alas it is a project for another way. You can watch his animated video here.

This is one of the joys of teaching middle school. I can do topics a little bit more interesting and that may grab the students attention. Not all of them are perfect lessons and they need work and improvement. Some of it is above their level, but many of them still find it interesting. One thing I have found is it is okay to talk about things you like to your students. If you think it is a good idea try and run it by your co-teacher to see if you can teach it. Maybe you can’t go into a lot of detail but you can cover some of it. I think it is great learning and teaching a language, but I think culture and society needs to come into the equation as well. Because what one country talks about another doesn’t. What is being done little by little is opening minds…no one has to accept your point of view, but you are showing them there are plenty of things to learn and talk about. So I encourage other teachers out there as well to teach what you like and be creative! I’m still learning how to be a teacher. How to be a good teacher and plan good lessons that are engaging. That comes with experience, but the most interesting lesson I had was talking about my family.

Delivering Coal

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Our school does a lot of community service. Now most of the time I’m not aware of the community service as it happens on days or hours I am at another school. Which is a shame because I like participating with my students.

Because my school is located in a small town it is easy to do little things for others. Winter is fast approaching and a lot of Elderly people live alone. The service was to deliver and stack coal for these households to prepare for winter. All the students were given gloves to wear and were instructed to make a chain to pass the coal along and stack it nicely.

Well the girls were complaining about how heavy the coal was while holding it with two hands, while I had one in each hand. Unfortunately the passing would pile up quickly because we didn’t pace ourselves well. And the students were yelling at each other one was especially heated since it was a bit of a mess. It was fun to watch them take the coal and smear it on each others faces. I was with my first grade middle school students doing this for about half an hour.It was a lot of fun and great to see a local person benefit from their help.

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A Fork in the Cake

For the past few months a few of my third grade middle school girls have been asking me to cook for them. I normally go away on the weekends and they study for exams so it has been hard to organize a get together. Well, at the beginning of September we decided on September 28th, to cook. The girls requests included baked spaghetti and coconut cake.

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The baked spaghetti cost more to make than the cake just because of the cheese alone. Luckily, the local Homeplus happens to sell ricotta cheese. Two of the girls came shopping with me and were surprised how quickly I go through the store and that I know where everything is, haha. I was surprised by the request for baked spaghetti because baked pasta is actually pretty popular in Korea. Although there is a cheap version which in my opinion tastes like shit or you can go to an italian restaurant and get some baked pasta. They don’t sell anything like lasagna here though.

I’ve never made baked spaghetti, but I figured it was similar to lasagna just different noodles. I found a recipe online but only used it for some ideas and a baking temperature. However, I did notice that the author of the recipe said they use cinnamon as their secret ingredient. I have never had cinnamon in pasta before and I added some and you don’t notice it at all. It might just enhance the sauce. So we put ground beef and sausage in the suace as well as I thought it should be a more authentic baked spaghetti.

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I even made them poor man’s garlic bread. You know, a regualr piece of toast with butter and garlic powder on it and you throw it in the oven. They thought it was fantastic.

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The girls were eager to help, but I told them they were in charge of the cake. Making pasta alone is much easier. I have to commend them as they did a fantastic job following the instructions in English and trying to use a measuring cup they have never seen. Granted they waited until the end to mix all of the ingredients instead of intermittenantly, but that is okay.  The funniest part was hearing them exclaimin Korean, “How many calories are in this?”

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I forget that they have never baked and don’t own ovens, so they have no idea how much butter and sugar goes into most baked goods. Making the frosting was the funniest part as frosting is mostly powdered sugar and butter which scared them but it was yummy. They tried coconut milk for the first time too, the girls didn’t even know Homeplus sold it.

While the cake was baking they somehow managed to lure their homeroom teacher’s 5 year old daughter upstairs with her lego kit. (He is my neighbor that lives downstairs.)While the cake baked they were playing and drawing.

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When it was finally done and I was trying to pop it out, it started to break a little which was irritating me. No one wants to look like a bad chef when guests are over. I finally managed to flip the cake out and realized part of the bottom was stuck to the pan. I looked down and saw a baby dessert fork. “Why is there a fork here?” The girls started laughing about the fork. I asked who used it, no one knows how it ended up inside

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The cake went down well and everyone took leftovers home, after I had been seranaded for 2 hours with kpop songs.  Thanks for an entertaining day girls.

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I learned two lessons:

1. Always watch for forks.

2. Never put a butter based frosting on a hot cake…it melts. (Butter is always fantastic anyways.)

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Drawings that they left for me.

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