Sunday, March 28, 2010

First day of school :D

So I woke up around 4:30 today and couldn't get back to sleep. I hate jet lag! It sucks because I went to bed around midnight so I'm not sure why I'm not sleeping longer. Anyways I took a shower and messed around online till it was time to go. For the first week I'm going to keep my clothing business casual and after that based on what other teachers are wearing I will change. From what I've seen so far I'll probably be ok in jeans and a nice shirt.

At around 7:15 I left my house, I stopped by what is now my favorite bakery to buy some breakfast (one sweet bread like pastry that taste like its from a German bakery. Seriously everytime I take a bite I'm reminded of Germany and it only cost about a dollar). I caught the bus about 7:25 or so and was at my school by 8:00. I was really early because the teachers aren't suppose to be there until 8:40 and I couldn't remember the code for the teachers room so I chilled in the hallway until about 8:20 when one of the teachers arrived. My co-teacher Elli came about 8:20 and we went down to the Vice-principal and head teachers office to say hi. Everyone no matter what their level of English (mostly only a word or two) tried to speak to me communicate with me and say whatever they could. I really appreciate the effort they put into making me feel welcome. I tried to use whatever Korean I know as well I could see how happy this made them. As soon as possible I want to take some more Korean classes. After hanging out in the vice-principals office and being introduced to whatever teachers stopped by, I went with Elli and the head teacher to the broadcasting room. Now I thought this would be an intercom system but it was a legit recording studio with a painted background, 2 different camera angles, 2 different podiums and Korean flags on either side. Haha I introduced myself to the entire school this way. Afterwards we headed back to the vice-principals office where I met my two other co-teachers, Kim Chae-Ran and Lee Ji-Su. Both fairly young (30 and 26 respectively) and both really nice. I don't have first period mondays so I just hung out in the office for another 40 mins. Than at 9:40 Chae-Ran came and got me and we started the day.

Here's my very own desk

The way my schedule works is that I teach grades 4-6th grade and meet each class once a week. So for example I had four 6th grader classes today and tomorrow I will have one last 6th grade class and then four 4th grader classes. Each grade as either 7 or 8 classes per week. I have a prescribed book and each week I will make a lesson based on what the class is going over that week. My school is in a poor section of Bucheon called Ojeong so the students levels aren't as high compared to other schools. The students come from poorer families so they can't afford to send their children to as many Hagwons (private academies) as other areas. That being said I had some students whose English ability are almost nonexistant and others whos speaking and comprehension are very good. In all cases most of the students were really nice and I had a fairly high participation.

My first and third classes were the easiest to teach and the 2nd and 4th the hardest even though the content was the same. My co-teacher said she really likes my style of teaching and that I know how to motivate the students, so that made me feel really good. I really liked working with her and we have a good repport. I feel like were doing an equal share in the classroom and that shes there to help out when I don't know what to do or if the kids don't understand but she let me run the class how I wanted and I didn't feel like I was simply a tape recorder. I asked her if it was ok if I changed the lesson plans in the book and she was all for it. She said that as long as I got the correct content/message, then how I run the lesson is up to me. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel like a real teacher not just a show monkey for the school. If I think I can present the material in a better/more interesting way then I can.

6th grade English class

Chae-ran Sungsangnim

I'm not sure if this will be the same for all my co-teachers but I'm hoping it will work out that way. I'm co-teaching the 4th and 6th grades with Chae-Ran and than just the 4th grade with Elli (though she wants to use whatever lesson plan I use with Chae-Ran) and then I will teach the 5th grade solely with Ji-Su.

Ji-Su Sungsangnim

Head teacher. He wanted me to take a picture of him and then he turned away.
Yummy orange juice. Looks completely different from American. I think its less processed. Whatever it is, its delicisous.

After work I Elli drove me home because she takes English classes near my house and we got dinner right before her class at a place called the Chicky pub. I didn't know this before hand but the food served there is usually the food Koreans eat when they are drunk, mainly chicken wings and fries so I kind of felt bad taking her there. Anyways when we parked we drove into this parking what looked like a storage facility. You know the place where you can rent a space for storage for 6 months or more. I couldn't even open my door so I wasn't sure how I was suppose to get out but Elli simply pushed a button and the whole thing started moving down. Yes thats right we were in an elevator for cars. When we got the our floor the doors opened and we just drove out and found a parking space. Trippy!

Heres some of the nice things I was told today:
Your so pretty, your so beautiful (5 different teachers), you have a small face (co-teacher - this is apparently a good thing in korea), I evy Americans because they have big eyes (one of my students. Apparently this is also a good thing. Some of my students when they saw me put their hand up to their face and shaped their fingers around their eyes then said waaaahhhh like they were impressed. Silly kids). Haha dang Korea is good for my ego.

The drawing one of my students drew of me. Notice the giant eyes and even the nose ring. LOL

First days

So I moved to Korea two days ago and I'm still adjusting. Heres a photo of my cousins at my going away party, me and parents at the airport and my dogs waiting in the car before I left. They jumped in and didn't want to come out even when I walked back to the get something (normally they follow wherever I go but this time they just waited in the car).

The plane ride over here was nice. I had a really good seat that was a window and the guy next to me had the aisle so I didn't have to bother two many people when I wanted to get up plus it was near the back so I could stand up and chill without feeling like my butt was in anyones face.

The food was really good. For the first course I had Bibimbap which is rice mixed with sesame oil, red pepper paste and vegetable. REALLY really good. Later on they served little sandwiches and then for the final course I got chicken with rice, which wasn't as good but it came with anchovies which surprisingly were

Heres a picture as we flew over/near Siberia

I arrived in Korea around 5:30 pm Korean time and was picked up by some sent from my recruiter. He didn't speak English at all but he was really nice.
Notice him watching TV will driving. He is not alone in his craziness. I've seen plenty of drivers here who do the same. Though I have yet to be in a Taxi here, I'm told most do this as well. Also check out the ceiling, it's quilted leather. Anyways after driving for an hour through traffic we arrived at my apartment in Bucheon. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the size of it (I had feared I would be living in a hole) but it is/was none to clean. I've tried cleaning it but there are just stains everywhere. Heres a couple of photos I took the day after I arrived. I also made a video but I'm not sure how to upload it seeing as how youtube doesn't allow anyone in Korea to upload videos to their site and how bloggers video load link isn't working. I'll try again later.

Notice how disgusting the walls are.

After we arrived, we waited about 20 mins for my co-teacher to come and then the guy left. My co-teacher's name is Elli and I really could not ask for a nicer teacher. That same night she took me to E-mart to buy some needed supplies. I got my settlement allowance right away (which I've heard from other teachers here can be a nightmare to get) and then we had coffee and talked about the job. She left around 11 pm with plans to meet the next day so she could take me to get my health check. Before she left she wrote me a note on a sticky note with her number and instructions in Korean to call the number if presented with the note, that way if I ever get lost or am in trouble I have a way to contact her. Isn't that ridiculously nice? Shes really worried something will go wrong and I'll have no way of handling it because I don't speak Korean but so far day to day life has been pretty easy, those Korean classes I took at the cultural center before I left really helped. Haha living in Korea is good practice.

After she left I tried to go to sleep but due to jet lag and being woken by how cold it was, I got up at 1 am, 3 am and 5 am respectively. After that I knew I couldn't sleep so I decided to take a walk around my area. I live in probably one of the best locations in Bucheon, its right next to the Hyundai departments store and there are tons of stores, bars and anything else you can think of nearby. That being said there were also a ton of drunk people stumbling around at 5 O'clock in the morning. Heres a picture of some interesting Engrish I saw.

Haha I might go in here just because I like the name. Anyways couldn't do anything till stores opened which was around 10 O'clock so I just bummed around my apartment until then. I didn't have hangers to put away my stuff or a adapter for my computer so I was really bored. But when I eventually went to the store I was able to bust out some Korean. I didn't know how to ask for any adapter and the guy helping me didn't speak English so I pointed to a wall socket, asked Miguk? which means American and he came back with my adapters (which were cheap only 50 cents or so). At around 11 am my co-teacher shows up and we walk to the hospital. I probably should have looked up what a health care check in Korea is but I didn't so I was in for a surprise. Once we got there (after walking through a nice park which I will have to explore someday) I had my blood drawn to test for aids, gave a urine sample, saw the dentist (who said I need my bottom right and top right wisdom teeth pulled), had my weight and height and eyesight checked and finally had a couple of xrays taken of my back. Haha I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't that. Afterwards I was starving because due to the health check (your suppose to fast before hand I hadn't eaten since the plane ride the night before). So we met up with my co-teacher's cousin and went and got some Shabu Shabu. It was once again Amazing. First you eat the vegetables and meat with a spicy broth. Once thats finished they fill up the broth and bring out some noodles that you cook then eat. After that they cook some rice, egg and onion in the bottom of a pot and eat that as well. Lastly we had a small cup of coffee to finish it off and it all cost 9 dollars/person. Yay Korea!

Afterwards my co-teacher and I caught the bus and took it to my school. It takes about 30 mins with lite traffic so in the mornings it will probably take 50ish minutes to get there but we'll see tomorrow. My school is in a sort of run down part of town but I won't know how the actual classes are until I start teaching. From what I can tell from what my co-teacher has said and from the way I've been treated so far, I think it will be alright. We walked around the school, I found out where the principal, vice-principal and 3rd grade teachers room (my room too) is going to be. As we were walking back to the bus stop we actually ran into one of my future students and her mother. Both were super cute though the little girl was really shy. When her little brother noticed he got this look of astonishment on his face, pointed at me and said really loudly "waegookin" which means foreigners. Haha I didn't take this badly at all but found it really funny. Korea is ethnically homogeneous so little kids might not have any interactions with someone who
doesn't look Korean. That being said I have come across some slightly racist behavior such as the fact that my school didn't tell my landlord I'm a foreigner because he might not rent to them if they did. However I realize the things I've come across is due to ignorance and preconceptions more than anything else. Anyways I'm crazy tired and have to get up early tomorrow to start my FIRST DAY of school. Woot! I have more to write about (that was only friday night and Saturday. I did tons of stuff today (Sunday) as well). Here a couple pictures of my school. Night :D