Friday, September 26, 2008

Desperate for cookies, open class and life in general

I'm desperate for something sweet. Cookies, cake, ice cream--you name it. Right now I'm eating some corn flakes, the Korean variety is really sweet, and fantasizing about chocolate chips. The Koreans don't use milk products often in traditional cuisine but for foreign foods they lay it on. Between that and not being able to really read the labels I'm out of luck for cookies. I'd settle for some soy ice cream though and I might be able to find that. It's just a matter of knowing where to look I suppose.

Today I had an open class. I usually try not to talk about work on the blog but my whole world has revolved around this event for a while. Well, not my whole world but it's been on my mind quite a bit. Once a semester the Korean moms come to class to observe the teacher and the performance of their kids. It went flawlessly--the kids performed better than they normally do and surprised me with their quick, correct responses. Needless to say, I was relieved. For part of the class I had the moms sit with their kids while they worked. When I gave the homework ('Can you play baseball?' written once in class and fill the page for homework) the moms would erase a letter they felt wasn't tidy enough. In most cases, this was actually helpful since I could go around and help each student faster. However, 2 of the moms made their kids cry. One was the mother of my best student. She kept erasing every other letter and telling her it wasn't tidy enough (I may not know Korean but I can read body language). This kid is usually such a happy go lucky kid, never makes a fuss, participates and doesn't acts out. I've never seen her cry, even when she gets something wrong or falls down. I should note that she also has the best hand writing of the class. I can't imagine my mother doing that and it reminded me again of the strong cultural differences. I understood her desire for her daughter to be perfect but she really is a model student. Thank god it was the kids favorite meal for lunch today. A breathing exercise, stickers all around for good behavior and yummy food had everyone cheery again.

I have a love/hate relationship with teaching that honestly changes by the minute. I'm thrilled when students start understanding material and their successes genuinely make me happy. However, the discipline aspect constantly frustrates me. Part of the problem is that I rarely acted out in class as a child. I loved school and I always have. I just don't get the mentality, why would you want to waste an opportunity to suck down information? Granted, everyone is not like this. The worst moments for me are spent repeating things like: sit down, get out your pencils, put that in the rubbish (the Brit/Kiwi teachers introduced that word instead of garbage and it wasn't worth trying to teach them a different one), NO HITTING, no speaking Korean etc. etc. Advice on discipline anyone? Getting kids to be quiet faster? I must say, the sticker reward system for not speaking Korean all day (a point every time you do speak Korean) is working wonders. They are such lame stickers but they live for them! They also rat each other out which is hilarious.

Yesterday, I got the most expensive box of books of my life. It cost my parents $67.50 to send me books--that was the cheapest, slowest rate! My guidebook's shipping rates were oh so wrong. I wanted the novels but what was even better were the kids books. The books at school are so boring--I mean there are more fun ways to learn about colors and directions. I asked my parents to include my favorite kids books (under the condition that they return to the states with me) to bring to school. Today I read Oh were they ever happy . They loved it! Not a single kid spaced out or started doing something else in the middle of story time. They wanted the story read 3 times! I stopped and explained any word that was confusing (brush, ladder, fence etc.) and then kept going. They giggled and gasped, pointed and chatted excitedly about the book! I think they also got a kick out of the fact that I read the book when I was their age. I'll probably read this book for a week or two before moving onto another story. Unlike native speakers, they don't get everything the first few times through so they like it read and repeated to them until they can catch every word. If I run out before the year is out I'm going to the English language book store in Seoul, they had a great collection.

So this has been a rather long ramble about teaching. In short, I enjoy it though I crave big words and speaking quickly at the end of the day. Sometimes I feel like I could do it forever, other times the day couldn't end fast enough. Apparently it gets easier after a few months but it's hard to imagine that.

My maintenance guy is here to replace my sink/fix it..something involving a box and a drill and a wrench. We'll see how that goes...


Nancy K said...

LOL Glad your open class went so well. You'll have to ask YuJong to help you find some cookies that don't have milk in them. It sounds desperate to me!

Josh said...

you are the most ridiculous sister i have..... when I read your blog, it is like hearing you talk!! I'm glad that you finally got your mega box o books, I know that you very much miss your literary crack :-p

Hope your voice is recovering!!!! I know that not being able to talk continuously is torturous for you

SETH said...


Josie said...


For discipline issues, I suggest you use 2 things I know work (not just because I learn about them in my education classes but because I have implemented them as a camp counselor): positive reinforcement and the positive wording of class rules.

Each time your students do the right thing, praise them up. Let them know that you love it when they do something right. This will keep up the awesome behaviors and start to deplete the not so great ones.

Try to word your rules in a positive way. Instead of "no hitting," try "respect your classmates" or "keep your hands to yourselves." For some reason, this always seems to help out American kids, so I'm sure it'll do the same for your Korean students.

I hope that helps!

Alex said...

Josie, that does help! I got similar advice from other English teachers in Korea this weekend. That and a point system where bad behavior loses kids points or something along those lines. I find that with problem kids, when they do anything right or well, showering them with praise keeps them behaving well all day. Too much negative attention and they just give up.

Anyways, I had no idea you were reading my blog! It's nice to see old friends online. :)

Sarah said...

I am playing catch up on your blog tonight. I know it's late. Discipline is an aweful monster at first, but hang in there- it does get a lot easier even though that's hard to see sometimes. Be consitent. Move around the classroom- don't stay glued to the front; this is more important than you might think. Also, have a routine. The routine should include a warm-up- something they know they will have to do every day when they come in- and they know you will hold them accountable for it. It should be something that will keep them busy while you take attendance, and take a deep breath before class. It should also be something that either brings to mind something you did the day before OR that introduces them to something you will be learning that day. I know advice is never a substitute for living and learning, but these two things helped me get through my first year. The accountable part is important though- which is more work for you, but it pays off. Oh yeah- and practice routines like passing out crayons or working in groups or whatever YOUR STUDENTS do that can cause disruptions. Okay I am really going to stop. E-mail me if you need to vent about teaching. I'll be thinking about you.