Sunday, July 27, 2014

Is it wrong to request a substitute?

So while it’s summer in Korea and the public schools are beginning holidays, I’m here at my school working as usual, and planning a trip to Nepal. Since I will be away on a Friday when classes are held, I have a substitute coming into my class. The way substitutes work at my school is, since there’s 7 other foreign teachers, we fill in for each other’s classes, based on a schedule the office provides.
When I was in Canada, the school district I worked for allowed teachers to request substitutes, which is a fair practice. Here, the administrators determine who subs based on the schedule and their secret magic formula, which none of us truly understands how it works.
So about two months ago I went on holidays to China and missed a Friday. Most of my students survived the day without me, my classroom was intact and the students were happy to have me return (which was super nice to see). One of the foreign teachers who substituted for my oldest and most fluent class however gave them troubles. They claimed the teacher yelled at them the entire class, read answers right from the answer book, and that they could not understand the way this teacher spoke. This concerned me a bit, but I let it slide.

Lately that same teacher has been getting complaints from parents about his classroom management and demeanour towards the students. I had lost most of my trust in that teacher after hearing my students describe their experience on that Friday and a few recent actions have dwindled any trust or faith in that teacher’s abilities that remained.

The class that particular teacher is substituting for me in the near future is a difficult class to manage. I have found what works and feel as though I only trust a few teachers with them. Am I being too protective of my students?!? Last time in my sub plan for that teacher the students had 3 pages of work to complete in a 40 minute time period, which if I were there would take approximately 30 minutes to complete with 10 minutes of conversations to practice their speaking skills. They completed 1 ½ of the assigned pages. The class coming up has 11 pages and 10 questions to get through. I barely manage to complete that amount in 40 minutes, but it is doable. I just don’t trust that the substitute will even complete half of the work.

In a country where any form of confrontation is looked negatively upon, should I be able to request a different teacher as a substitute?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Just Can't Let It Go

Frozen castposter
Retrieved from:
So Frozen is still a hit here in Korea. My young students request "Ursa Song" almost every day. I feel very fortunate to have found Elsa's Song Let It Go on 10 hour loop so I can play it during the break without having to be in my classroom.

Since every week I am in a new active zone, and I have to admit that I wasn't overly thrilled with the Fluency Build Up zone with a theme of A Hunting We Will Go, I took the same fluency concepts and made Lesson Plans for Let It Go. I am willing to share, but I don't think I can put the documents online due to using images of the characters which are copyrighted.

A screenshot of one of the basic worksheets.

I feel like I have sometimes not had as much fun as I would hope to in active zone, but I really enjoyed these new lessons. The students were having fun, and although that meant I had to listen to Let It Go for 2 days straight, the excitement and learning that I witnessed made it worth it.

I was so proud of my students. They asked me if they could take home the lyric sheet I had made up to "practice" and "read with". I was amazed at the ability of my lower level students to follow along with the proper English words and their drive to want to practice the song more.

A screenshot of the lyrics
It's in these moments that I realize why I am a teacher, to watch the excitement, the growth and the motivation in my students to learn more and do better. There was no test at the end, there was no competition, it was individuals working together to increase their English fluency. This is what I want my classroom to be like.

What is a "Real Teacher"?

So I’ve been working in Korea for a little over 4 months now and I am loving it!

Of course there are the good days, the days that go according to plan, and the days where I wish I could run away from the students and never see them again. I am in a school with 8 Korean teachers, who teach in English, and 8 foreign teachers. This week I used an interactive whiteboard, which I was told has not been properly used since no one knows how to. They just make a PowerPoint presentation and use the pen to click, which is still amusing for most students. But when the power is in the students hand to move an image, WOW! They are sitting quietly with their hand up AND listening intently. Amazing!

I was talking with some of the foreign teachers I work with, talking about teacher things, like students we like, students we really try to like, lesson plans, ideas, and all the usual things. I have heard time and time again that I have some neat ideas and that “It must be so nice being a ‘real’ teacher”. “You know how to use an interactive whiteboard because you’re a ‘real teacher’. You know where to find fun and engaging activities because you are a “real teacher”. Yes it’s true. I really am a teacher, but so are they!
We all show up to work in the morning, prepare lessons and engaging activities and we interact and teach, or some days we attempt to teach, our students. We all talk about “our kids” and the proud moments we have of them! We are all teachers.

Maybe their university training did not lead them into pursuing a Bachelor of Education or an education related field, but I can confirm with them that some of the “real teachers” out there do less teaching than they are doing. Just because I have training to be a teacher back home does not mean I am a better teacher in a different country with students who are learning to speak English. I know I have a different approach and access to different resources in my network of friends who are teachers, but we are all real teachers, teaching real students, real things.

Here is to all the interns, teachers, and people who teach who do not feel like you are a "real teacher". 
 I hope one day you realize that you really are a REAL TEACHER.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Let It Go and Frozen

Okay, so lately in Korea it has been colder than I thought it would be and I have been FROZEN. Also in Korea they love the movie FROZEN! And when I say love I mean love it, adore it, basically worship it. Every time I am out wandering the streets and shopping I can hear the song, Let It Go, 5 or 6 times within an hour time span. So here are some entertaining variations of the song.

The first one is about Korean Winter Soup. Most of my students ate tteokguk (pronounced like duck gook with a strong t / d sound with the two t's at the beginning) with their families to celebrate Lunar New Year at the end of January. This video was introduced to me by my younger students but all of my students have seen it.

This next video was one I showed to my advanced students about the danger of Google Translate, and how sometimes things don't translate very well. If you have not listened to the original song 1 million times and memorized the lyrics, you may need to listen to it first to understand some of the flaws with the translation.

Anyways, It's Friday night now and Valenti's Day so I best be going. But I hope you enjoyed these videos and I strongly encourage you to see the movie Frozen.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Olympic Bulletin Board

I never realized how exciting making a bulletin board could be until I had my own classroom. It is definitely challenging making a bulletin board for ESL students ranging in age from 8-16 and from beginner to advance in English language ability, but I am proud to say that I think and hope I have achieved a friendly bulletin board to all thee ages and abilities.
Here it is.  My Olympic bulletin board.

I printed the Olympic logo from the official website and printed it at 250% to enlarge it.

I also created a medal count board that will keep a medal count and provide a visual for students who may not watch the Olympics to see how many medals different countries have.
South Korea is at the top of my medal board so students can see how many medals their country has earned. I know I do not have all the countries on the board, but I do have the top 12 finishers from the 2010 Vancouver games.

Finally I made an "Olympic Torch". I was inspired by this page at Red Ted Art.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The View From The Top

So it’s not really the top, it’s just the top floor of the school which is where my room is located. I am in room 303 and have a beautiful view of Sasang and Deokpo at most times. On a clear day I can see the mountains surrounding Busan and the river that comes in from the East Sea (or as the rest of the world refers to it the "Sea of Japan") to Gimhae Airport. In the evenings I find myself getting distracted by the lights outside in the distance and can’t believe the view I have.
A view from the Rooftop Patio of the Dorm looking out at Sasang

During the day the view is beautiful as well. With a south facing wall of windows I get the warmth of the sun in all day, which is nice since it is winter and cool here. I find I do not need my heater turned on all the way because it will get too hot in my room. I have heard though the blessing from the sun in the winter turns into a nightmare in the summer when it is hot and humid outside, but I haven't experienced a Korean summer yet.

Looking out my window and down the hill/mountain

To the right hand side is Gimhae Airport

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Bit About My School

My school is located in South Korea, on the southern coast in the City of Busan. Busan is a very large city so there are a lot of different areas. My school is located in the Sasang area between Deokpoe (sounds like duck-po) and Modeok (Moe-duck) on what I would call a mountain, but it could just seem like a mountain because I came from flat Saskatchewan. Some call it a hill, some call it a mountain, whatever it is, it is a steep walk up. There are railings on the side to help you drag yourself up, at least that’s what I use the railings for.

I am very fortunate to be in what is called an English Village.  The goal of the school is to have an English immersion experience for students while they are here, so the classes taught in this building are all in English. There is a Korean teacher that speaks English and a Foreign teacher paired up with each other so that creates a great support system and allows for great communication about students and possible strategies that may work with some groups or individual students.
My school.

Another interesting aspect of my school that I love is called Active Zones. We have classes in my classroom Monday and Tuesday, but on Wednesday the Monday students come to the Active Zone and on Thursday the Tuesday students come to Active Zone. Friday is reserved for extra classes and more advanced students. Right now I have been fortunate enough to teach a promotional class in the Cooking Active Zone on Fridays, which means every Friday I get to make or bake something with my students. Last Friday we made Brownies in a Microwave and they tasted surprisingly good. The purpose of active zones is to provide lived experiences for students to be able to apply the English they have learned in the classroom while in a different learning environment. So far I have done the Non-fiction Reading Active Zone, the Sounds Active Zone, Words, Science and Cooking.
Preparing for Words active zone- tongue twisters for the more advanced students