Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Oboe Recital and Demo Classes

It's my third November in Korea and the weather is getting cooler.  We still haven't dipped below 32 so naturally I find the weather to be really pleasant these days.  I've only used my heat a few times so far.

Suji, the suburb where I live is well known for being home to many affluent families and even some famous celebrities. (Gong Yoo and Juwon, can you believe it?) It's not surprising that many of my student's parents are doctors, lawyers, dentists or the like.  This past week I was invited to a concert by one of my kinder student's moms. She is an accomplished oboist and gave free tickets to everyone at LCI.  So, last Wednesday some of us piled in a car and braved Seoul traffic for an hour and a half to make it to the concert at the Seoul Arts Center in Gangnam.  Gangnam Style!!! The music was beautiful and she played with such emotion. Afterwards we all got a picture together.  Then, the six of us crammed back into one SUV for the ride home. My butt still hurts just thinking about it  >.<

One of my my coworkers who is Korean American had a cough so she watched part of the performance from outside the auditorium.  Now, Jessica Teacher and myself were the only foreigners in the audience.  My coworker overheard other concert-goers saying, "Wow, she must be really famous! Americans even came to the performance~"  I'm glad I could lend my distinguished presence to the event. Hahaha!

The rest of the week was a bit more stressful.  The Korean school year starts in March and parents are  already starting to enroll their children in next year's kinder program.  Unluckily for me, since I've been teaching at LCI the longest, and for Megan, it means we have to do Demo classes.  What is a demo class? Well, I have to teach kids I've never met before who are at various English levels while their parents sit in the back of the room and watch.  Maybe it doesn't sound so bad, but I get so stressed out being the center of attention.  It doesn't help knowing that my performance determines whether or not the kids will come to LCI next year.  (Under Pressure! dun dun dun duh duh dun dun) Some of the kids that come do really well and participate a lot.  Others are completely terrified of being in a classroom or they're completely terrified of me because I'm a foreigner and they've never met a foreigner before.  I know I'm big and tall, but I'm not that scary, I promise!  We usually take the kids to the play gym for a few minutes first so we can have fun together.  Once I crawl around with them in the plastic tubes and go down the slide they warm up to me really fast, though ~ ^^

In anycase, the first demo class is over and there is just one more next week.  Deep breaths and it will be over soon. As Wilson Phillips said so expertly, "Hold on, for one more day."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Happy Halloween! (Long Time No Post)

Hello friends and family!

It's been over two years since I last posted anything here. Oh the shame!

My third Halloween has come and gone at LCI and our school does Halloween really big.  The entire week leading up to Halloween is spirit week complete with crazy hair day, sports day, pajama day, and backwards day.  I rocked crazy hair day with a long and curly fire-engine red wig.  I was surprised how many of my students seemed to think my hair grew a foot and changed color overnight.  My second grade class didn't believe I was wearing a wig until I took it off as proof.

I was busy decorating the classroom all week with my student's artwork, and some of my own, for the classroom decorating contest.  We made masking tape mummies, witches, ghost windsocks and some jack-o-lanterns.  All the time I invested definitely paid off because I won the competition and the kids enjoyed all the decor.  Give me some construction paper, scissors and glue and I'm a happy camper.

The Thursday before Halloween all the teachers stayed late and decorated the entire school for the big party the next day.  The school director bought us lots of pizza and beer for dinner.  Ashley and I were in charge of turning the play gym into a creepy haunted house for the kids.  We blocked out all of the light using big black sheets and black paper.  After the transformation was complete, we ventured through the obstacles we created and got a little scared ourselves.    ^^

Halloween day finally came and I transformed into Minnie Mouse, ears and all.  I think my students enjoyed my costume but kept calling me Mickey Mouse.  For some reason, my students all think Mickey and Minnie Mouse are both called Mickey.  Mystery still unsolved.  In my class I had two Batmans, a Spiderman, a Power Ranger, a blue Ninjago and a witch.  Too cute for words, but getting six little people to pose nicely together for a good picture is nearly impossible.

Ashley and I hid in the haunted house for almost two hours and scared all the students who dared to enter.  I had a lot of fun jumping out from behind a black curtain and yelling, "Boo!" It's really enjoyable to see which kids are brave enough to enter the haunted house and if they can make it all the way through.  There are five boys and just one girl, Hayun, in my kinder class this year.  The boys like to act tough, but when it came time for the Haunted House, Hayun was the only one to fearlessly enter and conquer the darkness.  All the fun came with a price, though.  Ashley and I are now covered in bruises from crawling around in the plastic tubes.  But given the chance I'd do it all again.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Survived Open Class!

Hello all!

I've been so busy over the past month(s) with school work, open class and exploring Korea that I haven't been blogging very faithfully - tisk, tisk.  However, now that open class is finished, I can finally relax.

Field Trip
Open class, in case I haven't explained it before, is a day where my Kindergarten student's parents come to school and watch us. Originally, I was supposed to go in May, but my open class got pushed back to June because I got some new students recently.  It seems like I am acquiring a new kindergarten student every month. In March I had only three students, then four, five and starting tomorrow I'll be up to six!  I love having more students in the class so my kids have more play partners.  BUT, it takes at least 1-2 weeks for a new student to adjust to the school.  It is a little inconvenient when a 4-year old student starts late.  Before they can even try catching up on the English expressions, numbers and letters we have already learned, they need to learn to share, not steal blocks, say please and thank you, and to not use their friends as punching bags or scratching posts.  I really wonder what goes on in some of these children's heads.

Anyways, so we practiced and practiced for open class.  The rehearsal we did the day before went really well and I was feeling pumped.  Unfortunately the real open class didn't go as well.  Half of my student's were really shy in front of the parents and the rest were just like crazy little bunny rabbits.  The girl who was scheduled for Show and Tell that day is the smartest girl in my class. I mean, this girl is reading English and Korean at 3 years old.  Alas, when it came turn for her Show and Tell, she was so nervous that she said nothing, absolutely nothing....gah! Luckily, the parents are all really understanding and know that young children can't always act on cue.  My director said that I did a really nice job in any case, so I am satisfied.  

staff party!
The real fun last week started with our celebratory Staff Party.  Our school director is so generous!  To thank us for our hard work on open classes, she took everyone out to eat beef kalbi with beer and soju.  Good times were had by all.  And, the party didn't really stop because the next day was a Korean holiday - Memorial Day - so there was NO SCHOOL! Whoo hoo! The night was filled with drinking, a little dancing and a lot of laughing at the bars in Suji.  We ended our celebration at McDonald's with some late night/early morning french fries, ice cream cones and even Big Macs for a few.  Plain ice cream cones are only 500 Won = 50 cents!  The chocolate dipped cone is only 700.  Yes, please!  Fun fact: did you know that in Korea McDonald's will deliver food for free.  Once I figure out how to give my address in Korean, I am definitely going to do it, just so I can say that I did (-:

The next day, most of the staff went to a baseball game in Seoul.  It was crazy fun!  The Korean fans get really into the games. Everyone comes dressed in team attire, bearing coordinating noise makers and ready with an arsenal of team cheers.

Hmmm...this post is getting long and boring.  Maybe I'll edit it later. lol.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Buddha's Birthday in Busan

View from Busan Tower
This past Monday marked an important day for me - my first day off from work.  In the states people were observing Memorial Day, and in Korea it was Buddha's birthday.  The other teachers and I decided to spend the extended weekend in Busan, South Korea.  Busan is a sunny, southern port city full of happy people and beautiful beaches!  Many others had the same ideas as us, foreigners and Koreans alike, because the trains and beaches were full of people from everywhere.  It was a glorious weekend! I cannot wait to go back!

Gwangan Bridge at Night
I didn't pack a swimsuit for my year in Korea because I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to go swimming.  How silly was I!  When we went to Haeundae beach on Saturday the sand was scorching and the water was cold.  I lasted for about 30 minutes watching everyone else sunbathe and jump in the water before I took off to find some swimwear myself.    Armed with a 9,000 won ($9)  pair of men's swim trunks, my tank top and a sports bra I embraced the Little Mermaid inside of me.  I was in paradise for the entire afternoon. Some of the highlights included: a leathery gentleman, wearing a blue thong on a jet ski, patrolling up and down the beach, multiple Koreans and foreigners asking to take pictures with one of my coworkers in her bikini (=, the Russain man wearing a speedo and posing next to us for over three hours, and talking to random Korean people swimming in the ocean.  My biggest regret from the weekend is not reapplying sunblock after changing into swim clothes.  I do not think I have ever burnt the back of my hands like this before!  And, now all my students ask me, "Why Teacher is red?" lol

Nasty pants !
The whole point of our weekend trip was to get a break from school and our students for a few days.  That would have been too easy though.  Thanks to my students, I spent most of the weekend with pink eye! Unable to find a doctor's office that was open on Saturday, I want to give a big THANK YOU to the elderly couple that owns a little pharmacy on Haeundae beach for hooking me up with some fantastic eye drops.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
We visited a really cool Buddhist temple right on the ocean.  Every inch of the place was covered in bright colored lanterns to celebrate Buddha's birthday.  What a beautiful place!

ttfn <3

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Happy Teacher's Day

Hiking Field Trip on Children's Day
May is already my favorite month of the year, and yet, Korea managed to make it even better. This month is chalk full of holidays. It's only the 15th and we have already celebrated Children's Day, Parent's Day and Teacher's Day.  These holidays are a great opportunity for families to spend more time together.

You may have guessed it - today was Teacher's Day!!! Student's are supposed to thank their teachers and wish them well.  It's the sweetest thing! Consequently, this also usually results in student's mom's buying presents (sometimes shockingly lavish ones) for teachers.  My school in particular sent out letters to families stating a no-gift policy. Apparently some schools now close on Teacher's Day because of bribery issues and mounting competition among parents to have the best gift.

Luckily though for me flowers, food, and little trinkets were okay to accept.  ^-^  Over Monday and Tuesday I received many little gifts from students and I feel so special!  I was especially excited to receive a new scarf, a bottle of white wine, and a cute new headband.  The gifts are very nice, but the best part is getting homemade cards from students - they're too adorable!

That's all for today! I've got some essays to grade and it's already after midnight (-:

Homemade card with Hello Kitty stamps
To Chris teacher
I'm Elly
I love you <3

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Snow in April?

How I imagine springtime (image from Google)
Korea - I love you, but can we stop with the cold/wet weather already?!?!  Normally I love Minnesota! Spring in Korea is supposed to be warm and gorgeous with little to no rain.  I am patiently waiting for all of the cherry blossoms to bloom!

Right now I am in the middle of correcting essays.  I had my fifth grade class write about their dream jobs and I am so happy that everyone took the assignment seriously!  Apparently I am teaching future archaeologists, robot scientists, MIT professors, psychologists and food scientists.  What an honor!  ^-^  I also had the students ask their parents about their jobs and if their parents love their jobs.  One of my students wrote (paraphrased) "My dad is a police officer and my mom is a housewife.  My dad loves his job and my mom says hers is so-so." Grading essays is always entertaining, it just takes a long time!

C is for Chris Teacher!

Uggg, now it's past midnight and I still have to prep for first grade.  Prepping for kindergarten is always my favorite.  Usually it is simply an excuse for me to color pictures and flashcards with my fancy new crayons.  My little ones have learned letters A-G, colors, numbers, shapes and classroom objects so far.  They are just like little sponges.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Time for Class!

I've been in Suji for a month now and I think I am finally starting to get a hold on teaching.  I have to confess that I was secretly hoping Korean children would be really well behaved little angels, or at least much better than American students tend to be.  However, it turns out kids are kids no matter where you are - talkative and full of energy!

two of my darling kindergarten students on our field trip
The place where I work functions as a kindergarten school during the day and as an after-school academy (hagwon) in the afternoons/evenings.  Everyday I teach a kindergarten class from 10:00 to 2:30.  Right now I only have three students. Can you believe that?  However, on Friday I was told that starting this Monday we'll have a new student in our class! I'm excited!  Having a small class can be really nice because each of my students get a lot of individual attention.  However,  for the kids sake, a variety of students to play with would be a great thing.  Also, my kindergarten students are only five years old in Korean age.  That means they are really only three or four years old according to Western age. (Link to Wikipedia explaining the difference: )  Essentially, then, I am teaching preschool age children in an immersion setting.  All's I'll say for now is that it's a good thing they are so darn cute!  ^-^

Chris Teacher's Desk
I will also confess that I definitely cheat sometimes and sandwich Korean words in between English. For example, "That's the boy's bathroom.  Namja Hwajangshil ! Boy's bathroom!" when everyone tries to run and wash their hands together in the boy's bathroom.  I also think that my knowing some Korean helps a lot.   My students usually still talk to me and each other in Korean even though I almost always talk back to them in English. I think a few accidents were avoided because I understood "I have to pee!"  LOL!  Although one of my students still has issues with peeing their pants because she doesn't like going to the bathroom....

On M/W/F I teach first and second grade classes until 6:30.  Those days definitely feel the longest!  On T/Th I teach third, fourth and fifth grade until 6:45.  It's amazing how much English these kids can speak after just a few years.  I really like teaching elementary age students...if only they didn't talk so much ! (-;  Although, I suppose losing my voice for a week did not help much!

Also, I have to give major props to Korean students in general. They have so much homework everyday and jam-packed schedules. Starting in third grade the students usually bring a backpack with roller wheels because all of their books are too heavy to carry.  In one of my classes I had my students write about being stressed from school and what changes they would make if they could, etc.  It really helped me understand their schedules.  Most kids wake up early to study, go to elementary school, then come home and do homework for a couple of hours.  After that, Korean students usually go to some type of private academy (hagwon) that focuses on English or Math.  Sometimes they don't even get to eat dinner at home because they are at a hagwon.  When they finally do get home, they have to do their homework from the hagwon which may take a few hours as well.  Then, it's off to bed to start all over again the next day.  Although this is not the case for everyone, one of my students told me that her friend doesn't get to bed until 3 A.M. sometimes!  
Teacher's Room

Finally, I forget to explain why I am calling myself Chris Teacher.   There are already two other Christine's at LCI.  Story of my life (-;  I am getting much better at not turning around anytime someone calls the name 'Christine'.  Also, I've always wanted a nickname of some sort (Christiney-Beany does not count as I firmly believe a nickname needs to be shorter than the original!) so in the end I think it's win-win for Chris Teacher as well as the students.