Monday, September 26, 2011

Random thoughts of no specific connection point whatsoever

Isn't it funny how you can think you're being perfectly clear, but no one actually understands you?  You and pantomime, speak slowly, enunciate, try different languages, but, sometimes, you're just not going to be understood.  Life is a strange creature, my friends.  I think I'm going to see if I can dig up some notes from Freshman year for my Interpersonal Communication class (don't expect me to actually know the material, it was an 8am class), because I'm slaughtering some rule somewhere, I just haven't found it yet.

Somewhere in my building today, children were learning "Yellow Submarine,"and, just in case you've managed to avoid hearing that song all these years, I've linked it for you.  I find it interesting that while teachers in America are busily blocking all websites that lead to that song and finding a deity to pray to that their students will not learn that song, the teachers here in Korea readily teach it.  Of course, this same phenomenon also let me get away with using "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" (the Daft Punk version of course) as a teaching tool today, so I guess I can't complain too much.

Here, watch this video of my fourth graders playing Zoo.  It's guaranteed to make you smile (because it's one minute, ten seconds of kids having unadulterated fun).

Oh, and shout out to whoever is reading my blog in Russia and also in Colombia.  I don't know who you are, but I'm excited to have had you check this out.  (Unless you're my friends just using Hotspot shield.  I mean, that's cool too, but not nearly as exciting.)

[Insert several unspoken prayer requests here.]

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Something to write home about

Today, I went to the grocery store.

I was looking for honey.

I asked in Korean for the saleswoman to help me find it.

She took me to the honey.

I bought the honey.

Today, I won.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Superheroes (Part 1)

Soooo... I'm doing this Superhero project with my Saturday class.  Hopefully, by the end, the kids will have learned to think critically enough to make an actual comic strip and/or book.  I wanted to show you some of the superheroes they drew.  Tell me which one you'd want protecting your city!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Here, of all places?

The past week-and-a-half or so, I've been tutoring the three kids who we chose to participate in the city's "English Golden Bell" competition.  (It's a sort of quizzing scenario, but that's about all I know.)  I was a little annoyed about it when I was told that I would be doing it, since I had just told them that I was not allowed to head up the English club, since my contract says I have 22 teaching hours a week, and I would have to be paid for teaching more than that, but whatever.  I decided not to push the issue, especially since this is a clearly limited situation.  Plus, it's kind of nice to have more people around that I know are fluent enough to be able to have a real conversation with.  (I can't tell you how tiring it is to try and decipher broken English... not that I want them to stop trying... it's just exhausting.)

So, this morning, I was working with the student who will be competing in the written portion.  Basically, I just read him riddles, and he writes the answers down.  No biggie.  (Listening comprehension.)  So today, we started into the famous people portion of my study materials.  We did Michael Jackson and Helen Keller (she's really big here, which always makes me chuckle... if only they knew...), and then we were almost out of time, so I thought I'd throw him a gimme and read the one about Jesus Christ.  "This man is the central figure of the Christian religion," it started, but the kid continued to give me a blank stare.  I read the whole paragraph twice, and at the end he looked at me and said, "I really don't know."  I finally remembered how to say "Christian" in Korean (기독교), but even that only resulted in him writing down "Aesu," which does resemble "Jesus" a little more...  Anyway, I got him talking about it, and it turns out that this kid really hasn't even heard of Jesus before.

In a developed society, rampant with Christians, this concept blows my mind.

I know I cannot just let this pass me by, but I have absolutely no idea how to approach this issue as a public school teacher.  I'm not sure how to bring up the idea of Jesus to him again, nor how to take time and explain all the ideas that go with Him.  I'm considering asking him if he would mind if I pray for us before we start each tutoring session (although I'm not entirely sure that's legal... but oh well), but I'm not sure how that will go over.  This kid is extremely intelligent and skeptical of most things that come his way.  If you have any ideas on how to approach this, please let me know.  Please be praying for him too (his surname is Park, but that's about all I know, sorry... he's assigned a number to be known as in class, although I'm working on learning names).

Thanks, I love you, and you should watch the video that is linked to the title of this post.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

In case you have extra money laying around...

This is not my usual charity, Compassion International, but it is one that is still reputable and making amazing strides around the world.

Kiva (more info here) makes micro loans to people to get them started/to the next level/over that hump, etc.  I don't know the full approval process, but I do know that there are hundreds and hundreds of approved loans that you can look through and give to.  It has over a 98% payback rate.  You don't actually end up with your money back... you can put it toward another loan or donate to Kiva for a tax deduction, but hey, it's $25 (minimum) - are you REALLY going to miss that?  I thought not.

Seriously, check it out.  I think you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An unexpected reflection

I had plans for a somewhat whiny/culture-shocky post here, but there's a far more pressing matter that I want to talk to you about.

I was recently given my school computer, which pretty much is a lovely black square that sits on my desk at school, since the programs run in Korean and the internet barely works, but the first time I got the internet to run, I noticed that its previous owner (another teacher) had graciously left it bookmarked to several helpful pages one was Waygook (I'd already found that one), which has been absolutely essential in helping me plan my lessons, but another was the blog entitled "Ask a Korean!"  I'm not going to lie, I haven't been very faithful in reading AAK (mostly because I haven't really had enough time nor energy to be too faithful about most things), but the last post I did read really struck a nerve with me.

Those of you who I've gotten to talk with lately (and those of you who are good at paying attention to details and reading between the lines) will probably have picked up on this already, but please, bear with me.

During my orientation time, one of the things that I was warned about is that at some point while I'm here, the odds are that one of my kids will commit suicide.  I want you to take a moment and click on the title of this post and read the AAK post that begins to talk about this.  He is starting up a series on the whole thing, and I plan to be watching it closely.  This is something that is really on my heart, because I care about my kids so much.  Please please please pray for my kids.  They (and their families) need it.  Once you're done that (and if you have the time),  read this from my friend Bri's blog.  I came across it while waiting for this video to load into my blog... it really meshes well with what I'm dealing with.

I'm posting a video of my sweet kids.  Watch it, and pray for them as you do, please.  It's only a few minutes of your life, and it could entirely change theirs.

Love you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In spelling Seoul, alphbetizing is crucial.

It's been a while, I know.  I'm sorry.  Here, have some pictures of my trip to Seoul (and by some, I mean a lot):
This made me so happy!

I was so excited to get Subway!  This is the first one I've been to in Korea!

We ate in Taco Bell!  (This is also the closest one to us.)

This is food the Koreans prefer.  This was in this amazing outdoor market.  It was the closest I felt to being in the Asia everyone likes to portray in their pictures.

We went to a palace that I can't pronounce the name of, but it's spelled: Gyeongbokgung Palace.

I hung out with James and Laura all day. :)

The palace throne room

The ceilings were amazing!

Kids in their traditional 주석 clothes.

Yours truly

other parts of the palace

We had "standing room only" tickets, which just means, "We don't have fire codes on public transportation, so squeeze in kiddies, because we can make money off you still." :)

You make cool friends traveling that way, though... all in all, I pretty much prefer it.
Love you all!

Monday, September 12, 2011

추석, 9/11, and the Beatles

A lot of things have been on my mind lately.  First off, 추석 and 9/11 fell on the same day this year.  It's very interesting, because they're pretty much celebrating the same thing.  
추석 is about giving thanks to ancestors for providing the harvest, but my pastor here suggested that Christians should view it as an opportunity to thank G-d for his blessings: life, family, friends, etc.  Some friends and I were talking about this at lunch yesterday, and we decided that that is the best way to remember 9/11... not with capitalism or anger, but thankfulness.  We are not guaranteed our next breath, and yet... ... ... there it is.  G-d has blessed each and every one of us in some way, so, whether you're celebrating 추석 or remembering 9/11, do it correctly as a living sacrifice to G-d.  (PS, click the title of this post for a sneak peak into one family's 추석 celebrations.)

Sweet baby in her 추석 clothes.
Also, I'm going to show you this absolutely adorable video, which may help you understand why I love the kids here so much:

Entirely unrelated, every lesson I teach here in Korea comes complete with a song for the kids to sing (which is pretty much their dialogue set to music).  Unfortunately, these songs are very juvenile, and are not so much teaching English as they are propagating memorization.  We're pretty sure the fifth and sixth graders hate their lives for those few minutes surrounding the inevitable singing.  Therefore, I have scoured the YouTube and come up with this alternative for teaching past tense (enjoy!):


Love you!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

All I want... for my kids to get the best education possible... despite themselves.

The 6th graders (highest level of Elementary) sit for these huge exams at the end of the year that will ultimately decide the kind of job they can get.  These exams will determine which schools they can go to from here, which determine the colleges they can get into, which determine the job they can get.  The majority of them are 11 in American age, and not thinking about things like this.  All they're thinking about is that they want to comb each other's hair or hit each other or even flirt with each other.  I totally get that.  I mean, the book we're using is pretty boring.  But, I feel like it's my job to care about this stuff for them when they can't.

SO... can you help me out?

1. Will you commit to praying for them?  I've got roughly 31 kids in each of 5 sixth-grade classes.  They are known by their number to their teachers (1-31), so you can even just pray for them with the date of the month (mostly).

2. Will you hit me with some ideas as to how to make past tense and comparative/superlative language fun?  I've got a couple ideas, but they won't last forever.  The kids aren't used to doing anything resembling independent/critical thinking, but I think that that is one of the main ways that they'll internalize the material, so such games are okay, but remember that it's baby steps!

One of my sixth-grade classes.  Zoom in on this picture (by clicking on it); it's worth it to see all the poses these kids are in.

I'll keep you posted on how they're doing (whether you like it or not). :)

PS.  Click on the title of this post to be linked to a video a fellow American made to teach my upcoming lesson on comparatives.  I think you'll like it, and my kids will definitely be watching it. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Silly 미국 사람, squid is for kids!

Two oopses today:

1. I started reprimanding a kid for tearing pages out of his book and throwing them all over the room.  I was in the process of telling him to go stand in the back, when the rest of the class started yelling "disabled" my way.  Oops... turns out the kid is Special Ed... they just don't separate those kids out here, which is really a shame, because he spends all day in his own world, tearing pages out of his book.  I wish there was a way for him to, you know, learn something.

2. They served squid at lunch, and I went for it, not wanting to make trouble.  Well... as it turns out, squid is neither kosher, nor something I can digest, apparently.  As a result, I spent the rest of the day in a decent amount of pain, and am seriously considering skipping this dinner idea.

Any bets on the next stupid thing I do?

On the bright side, we've got a 5-day weekend coming up for a huge Korean holiday (Chusok).  I know I'm going to the beach on Saturday, and I think I'm going to try to work in a Seoul trip too.

Also, here's some more kid cuteness for you:

I finally got to teach the 4th graders again today.  One of the kids in the front row was goofing around, so I goofed around with him before the class started.  He made a silly face, and I made one back.  He made a cutting motion across his throat, so I asked him why he was dying.  He pointed at the kid on his right and said, "He poisoned me!"
"Why did he poison you?"
"Because he wants to see me go like this: [insert dramatic choking scene here]"
"Why does he want you to choke?"
The kid replied, totally deadpan: "He doesn't.  I'm lying."
"Why are you lying?"
The kid grinned.  "Because I'm a liar."

Haha... I wanted to talk to the kid about not lying, but I was too busy trying not to roll on the floor from laughing. :)
Love you all!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The only lesson that has stuck

Another snippet for today:

My sixth graders are... a handful... if you will, but I've managed to make one lesson stick.  Yesterday, I caught a boy giving another the middle finger.  I called him on it in class, and then talked to him afterward.  I gave him a long lecture about how that is very rude, and you should never show it to another.  I told him that if I saw it from him again,  I would involve more teachers.  Then, realizing I'd been talking for a while and he had just been nodding, I asked him if he understood.

"Yes, teacher."

"Okay.  What did I say to you?"

"Teacher say I should not make hand gesture.  Teacher say I am very rude."

Darn straight, little boy... darn straight.  Is it bad that I am actually starting to look forward to taking things away from the kids?  hahah... I'm horrible.

PS.  Click on the title of this post for a list of all of Bart Simpson's similar encounters.

For Alex

Alex asked me about playing my violin here, so today I will write about that.  (And the rest of my Sunday, I think.)

Sooo, Sunday morning, I showed up at church at 10:30 for the chamber orchestra practice, and realized that I had left my tuner at home. (Boo.)  The only other player there was the sax.  By 10:45, two flutes had shown, and just before 11:00, the cellist showed up, started tuning, and immediately popped her A string.  She didn't have a spare, so she played on three strings.  They stuck a lead sheet in front of my face, which made me rather happy.  I was afraid I would be reading complex classical music, an intimidating thought in a land of serious classical musicians.  However, improv is something I am pretty okay with, and, as a result, I had a GREAT time.  We played a couple praise tunes I didn't recognize, but we also did Shout to the Lord and Draw Me Close to You.  We played with some of the hymns too.  I was especially thrilled to hear Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, since I had done that in Suzuki and knew the harmonies, but what made my day was when they started In the Garden.  That was my lullaby growing up, and my one of my late grandfather's favorite hymns.  All-in-all, the violin experience was unprofessionally perfect.  I love playing, especially in a group where the audience can't tell if I'm out of tune (thank you, Mr. Saxophone player in a C-instrument dominated group).  :)

After church, we went on a culture trip to a traditional Korean village (you may have seen pictures of this on my Facebook page).  What I DIDN'T tell you was that the pastor was totally trying to set me up with this Korean guy, Ricky.  The pastor made me ride in Ricky's car, and designated us as a group by ourselves... so I spent the whole day with him stuck to me like glue... ... ... it was awkward to say the least.  At dinner, Ricky poured my cup full of water and everyone else's half full, which I'm told is sort of a profession of love, and he traded seats with a couple of people so he could sit next to me.  Ohhhhhhh the stresses of trying to politely rebuff advances while avoiding starting another world war...

Anyway, here are some photos of my trip (click on them to make them bigger):

This is the water wheel at the entrance to the village.

People actually live in the majority of the village.  It is the responsibility of the oldest son in Korea to move to a home near his parents' grave and live there for three years after they pass.  There is a burial ground in this village, so that is the reason why most people live there.  It's so pretty though, it's almost worth giving up all the amenities of modern life.

These are warriors that are carved from trees and placed at the front of villages to protect the residents.

This is me at the doors to one to one of the museum houses.

Part of an upper class compund

This is a lower class home (you can tell by the roof).  The middle class compounds have a combination of both styles.

Rice fields forever - they smell really good!  I wanted to go running through them, but the bases of the stalks are totally submerged in water, so that would not have been a good plan.

You know me and tiger lilies.  If it hadn't been for the nasty white bugs on them, I probably would have grabbed one and tried to root it, but, alas... nastiness prevailed, and they're all safely waiting for another awesome photo op like this one.

Okay!  I love you all and will continue to take posting requests via email, Facebook, or blog comment. :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day One.

One of my 4th grade classes
These children and I share sentiments on today.  It was absolutely cheer-worthy.  I got invited to eat grapes with the teachers, and, on my way there, I remember thinking, "I love this!"  It caught me off guard, because I've never before loved trying to teach a large group of children, but I think I'm doing well.  The kids in the picture are cheering because they had just brutally killed off one of the players in the "Can you help me?" game, but whatever... I got them interested in the lesson, and by the end of it they could all ask for help in three ways:
  1. Can you help me [name]?
  2. Can you help me with [noun]?
  3. Can you help me [verb]?
Therefore, I call the day a success. :)

I'm reteaching third grade their alphabet... if you have any good ideas on how to do that, please let me know!