Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Challenges in the classroom

So as much as I love my new job at Hyun-il Middle and High School, I have been dealing with some challenges which at times have been a real battle. Today is Tuesday and my most difficult day at school. I walked into work this morning telling myself it was going to be a good day, and praying that my students would listen and participate. Sadly it was not the case.

Let me recap quickly...I have 10 classes in middle school and 10 in high school. I have 6 co-teachers in total. High school is awesome and the students participate for the most part. My middle school classes on the other hand never cease to amaze me with their lack of interest and sleeping through anything capabilities. On Tuesdays I have my 3 most difficult classes with a co-teacher that rarely shows up and when she does show....well she might as well not have come. I get little to no help with translating or discipline. Today she told me, "Savannah you shouldn't worry about the students being loud and rude, just keep teaching." This is not acceptable to me so today I decided to write her a letter in which I will make her feel that she is needed and beneficial in my classroom. Although I feel that getting a replacement co-teacher would be the best option, I think thats not a possibility. Therefore I have to work with what I have got, hopefully I can make her feel important enough to get her to come to class and actually help me to improve it.

So as you can see my day didn't go so well. All three of my classes with this co-teacher were a joke. She came to the first class we had together but the students still misbehaved horribly. Then she didn't come to the other two classes. This makes life for me and the students even more difficult because sometimes the students need a little help with translating. The main problem is that I can't even get the students to be quiet for 1 minute to give them instructions for a game. They are constantly up running around, throwing paper at each-other, bullying one another, and yelling while others are speaking. I got extremely angry during 2 of the classes today, sending two students to the hall and having to yell pretty loudly and bang on the chalk board to try to get their attention. I don't like being mean, but I think I may have been a little too nice from the beginning and therefore the students see no consequences for their actions.

So after watching youtube videos all night on discipline in the classroom and how to effectively teach I have come to the conclusion that I need to try another approach. I also think that the students are not bad children, but maybe their level is low and therefore they are acting out or they have no motivation to do well because they do not receive a grade in my class. I have decided not to take the anger approach but rather implement some rules and consequences that I should have started in the beginning. I want the students to feel motivated and have fun. I found an awesome website called edutopia.org which discusses what to do when students misbehave. The only problem is that it is so difficult when the students don't speak much English. I know that if I spoke Korean or if my co-teacher would help me to effectively teach and lay down ground rules my classes could be so much more effective. All I can hope is that my co-teacher reads the letter and is willing to put in the effort. I really try to focus on the few good students who want to learn in the class but it is so hard when they can't even hear me speak because everyone is so loud. I hope this gets better soon, I find it very disheartening to try so hard and still have constant issues with these classes. Hoping for the best~

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another year in Korea

It has been far too long since I have updated my blog. Since my last post about China so many events have happened that I can't discuss them all in detail. Basically, here is a quick rundown of the last 7 months. In May I had the chance to go to Taiwan, I traveled there by myself. It was amazing! Taiwanese are lovely and caring people. I spent my week there in the far south in a small town called Kenting. This place had an amazing feel, relaxed and beachy vibe. I stayed at a hostel called Afei for half of the time, although not the most comfortable I highly recommend staying here. You can rent surf boards and motorbikes and the people who run the place are amazing. There are always people hanging around locals and foreigners alike, who are up for anything! I met a girl named Moe who was visiting from Japan, we ended up visiting many places together. It was nice making a new friend.

After returning from Taiwan I was very unhappy being back in Korea. For about a month I was having hard time being at work. The Intstitute was hard enough to deal with on a daily basis, but after being on vacation I didn't want to be there at all. I was thankful to have a few close friends/coworkers (Ellen and Nia) who were always there to boost my spirits.

I used my summer vacation to return to Washington for 3 weeks in July. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I had decided a month before in June that I would stay in Korea for another year, so my trip home really refueled me. I felt better emotionally and mentally about coming back to Korea.

After deciding to renew my contract and returning to Korea from visiting home, I wasn't sure if I should leave the Institute or transfer. I didn't know what to do at first, I really wanted to stay in Andong. I kept going back and forth....'maybe I want to stay at the Institute...but then someone would tell me..'Savannah, don't do that...you are not happy there!' I knew that I couldn't stay there if I wanted to keep myself healthy. Even though I was at a point where I could handle work, I knew that I really wanted to be in a real classroom. It was really hard for me to step outside my comfort zone and decide to leave. When a my friend and her boyfriend decided to leave Korea for good, I jumped at the chance to take his job in Gumi city. I knew his situation and the fact that he loved his job at the middle and high school. It was a big difference from teaching elementary kids (which I love) and online teaching...but I had to go for it!  So sadly, I had to say goodbye to my good friends Ellen and Eddie, but I have benefited greatly from moving to his job. I currently really like Gumi, this is my second week of school. My coworkers are amazing!

Oh yes, and before moving to Gumi I used my renewal vacation of 2 weeks to go to Thailand!~ I went with my friend Jill from home....the trip was great. I loved Thailand and plan to go back someday. We saw elephants, monkeys, beautiful beaches, and I drank so many mango smoothies. The only thing is that I got the worst food poisoning of all time that started the day we left. I barely remember my 5 hour layover in China...I was so out of it. The food poisoning lasted for two weeks!!

When I came back to Korea I only had 5 working days left at the Institute before coming to Gumi! It was such a relief to know that I had made the right choice in leaving Andong and moving to Gumi and I felt at peace with my decision during that last week at the Institute. I packed up all my stuff (way toooo much stuff) and hired a truck to move it all to Gumi. Ellen came with me to Gumi in my moving truck and I was happy to spend her last weekend in Korea together. Ellen and Eddie left for Bali and their big backpacking trip around Southeast Asia...before relocating in New Zealand. I am hoping I can make it there before they move again!

Well basically that is a wrap up of my life the last 7  months. I really like my new job at Hyun-Il. My new apartment is way bigger than my last although there are no kitchen counters. That makes thing a little difficult. I live right behind the train station so I can travel around Korea much faster. There are many foreigners in my building so I have already made some new friends.  This weekend I may be going to a film festival in Busan, it has been a year since I have been to that city. I am currently feeling good about my next 11 months in Korea....the only thing is I wish the exchange rate would get better so I can send some money home!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My trip to China, and other wonderful things!

Wow, I have so much to catch up on! At the end of January I went to Beijing, China for 1 week with 3 of my friends. Ellen and I went to Seoul earlier in the day so we could go to Itaewon (the Westernized part of Seoul) to get some yummy food and hit up an English bookstore called What the Book. So after a 3 hour bus ride we arrived in Seoul and took the subway to Itaewon. We went to a small restaurant called Petra, thanks to a suggestion from my friend Alana. Anyway, the place was super cheap and amazing. I got a falafel wrap with vegetables and tsatsiki sauce. It is really nice to go to Seoul every once in a while and get different food. In Andong, where I live...there are not very many options. Although today I went to an Italian-ish restaurant with my friend Jinsuk and got seafood carbonara and it was actually not bad. I will never understand why their garlic bread is sweet though.

So after going to Petra we went to What the Book and browsed around for about an hour and a half. I swear I could spend all day in a bookstore its kind of a problem. This bookstore is also nice because it has a lot of used books as well. So me and Ellen took forever trying to figure out what books we were going to buy...I just settled on one so I didn't have to lug even more stuff to China with me. We then made a trip to Starbucks which is a necessity when going to a bigger city, they don't have one in Andong. Mmmmm...peppermint white chocolate mocha! After that we hopped on the Subway for 1 hour to Incheon, where the airport is located.

We stayed the night in Incheon at a hotel so we could catch our flight the next morning. Our flight to China was only 1.5 hours so we got there by noon. We then took the subway all the way from the airport to our hotel in downtown Beijing (about 1/2 hour). Our hotel was directly next to the subway station which was nice. Sadly when we got to the hotel they had lost or never received mine and David's reservation....so we had to sit in the lobby for 3 hours until they figured it out. Once we finally got to our room, it was pretty nice and I was thankful that everything worked out.

The next morning we woke up at 8am to meet our tour guide for The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven, a silk factory and  a pearl factory. It was a very long day but everything was amazing. We also had a very good Chinese meal with lots of vegetables...I think it may have been the best meal since I have been to Asia. There was this one dish with scrambled eggs and tomatoes...my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Most of our time in Beijing was spent walking around and checking out the city. I spent a lot of time in grocery stores because there was so much American food. I found a grocery store that reminded me of my Food Co-op back home, lets just say Ellen and I were in HEAVEN. I was able to pick up many things to bring back to Korea such as beans and lentils that I cannot find here. Clothing is also very cheap in China so of course I had to go shopping. I went to a park on Chinese New Year where they were having a HUGE festival with thousands of people. There were vendors everywhere selling all different kinds of food and everything rabbit because it is the year of the rabbit. I am talking rabbit masks, rabbit socks, food shaped like rabbits....rabbit craziness. I found a vendor that was selling beautiful scarfs for the equivalant of $3.50 USD....so I bought about 10 of them!!!

A few days into our trip we planned to go to The Great Wall. We had to wake up at 6am to catch our shuttle. We went with other people, one girl who was a teacher in Korea as well, such a small world. We were so smushed in the shuttle it wasn't the most comfortable ride. We sat like sardines for about 3 hours, and when we arrived the wait was well worth it. We hiked for about 1.5 hours up because we stopped to take so many pictures, and 45 minutes back. We didn't spend that much time there, but it was beautiful and the highlight of my trip to China. There were barely any people there so we had the whole wall to ourself it seemed like. The view was beyond breath taking...and it was hard to take it all in. It wasn't until the next day that I had registered in my mind where I had just been. I never thought that I would see The Great Wall in my lifetime. Overall my trip to China was wonderful. The people are caring and welcoming, just like in Korea. I am sooooo happy I was blessed with the opportunity to go.

 Our delicious meal, and the yummy egg dish.
      Stretching Silk at the Silk Shop

The Temple of Heaven

America: written in Chinese by a cute little man with a water paintbrush on the sidewalk.

Me, Eddie, Ellen, & David on The Great Wall

The Great Wall

The Forbidden City

Roots Reggae Bar ~ So thankful for live music!!

At Ditan Park on Chinese New Year

A fruit called Boboboboeeee or something like that, delicious.

Ellen and I with our aloe and coconut drinks from the grocery store.

The year of the RABBIT!

Just enjoying a Tsingtao with David, fun night!

Being in Korea has allowed me to experience other cultures, and is giving me the opportunity to travel.  I leave for Taiwan on May 5, 2011 for 5 days. I am ecstatic, and cannot wait to go surfing and lounge around on the beach all day. Also I will be coming home from  June 29- July 17th. Can't wait to see all of my wonderful friends and family especially during the best time of the year in Washington, SUMMER!!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Work, sleep, work

January 11, 2011

Today I was walking to work with Ellen, we usually walk to work and sometimes home...it's 2.5 miles each way and it is good for us. Anyways, we were walking across the walking bridge and what do we see but a poor little fish lying in the middle of it. Well it was kind of a big fish. The water was probably 30+ feet below, so we decided since it was suffocating that we should save it. I took off my gloves, picked it up (fish blood all over my hands) and decided to toss it back into the water. I think it lived...well I hope so. So after doing our good deed for the day, we started to think....hmmm...how did the fish get there? We then remembered that we had seen fishermen before fishing off the bridge. I looked up to a lone fisherman staring our way, we had thrown his fish back into the water!!!! It was so funny, but he looked kind of pissed off so I said sorry and kept walking. It was very odd that he just left the fish lying there half alive, not in a bag or anything. That is pretty much the only super exciting thing that has happened lately haha. Actually I take it back, I am super excited about reading Blue Like Jazz, I am already almost 1/2 way through it in 3 days.

The job at the Institute is becoming somewhat redundant. I feel like all I do since this new schedule is work and sleep. I am hoping I adjust to it soon and don't want to sleep everyday until 11am!! Staring at the computer for most of the day is hard on the eyes....and the job itself is challenging when some students do not want to participate. I only have 1 or 2 classes like that though and I think it is because their English level is really low. I am praying it will get better. I have been spending my extra time at work reading and calling friends, so that is nice. I have one student, his name is Yeong Jay and he is so cute. He is about 7 years old and he always wears a cute stuffed animal hat. Today it was a white tiger hat...it made my day. I am thankful for times like these, it reminds me why I am here.

I am leaving for China at the end of the month yayayayay!