Sunday, April 18, 2010

Very Bad Blogger! March and April Update.

Oh I started off the year with so many good intentions for this blog. But any of you who know me, know I am a terrible procrastinator. In fact, as I write this entry I'm procrastinating planning a lesson for a class I have in two hours. You're Welcome.

(Note to reader: I will continue to blog about my trip to Malaysia, but not today)

I returned safe and sound from Malaysia and was back at work on the 16th of February, teaching an advanced English class. It was a like every ESL teacher's dream. I had about 12 students, all high level english speakers, all very keen. I taught them about formal academic debate, argument structure and making objective, logical statements. (Believe me, we had some interesting discussions about the topic "Couples should live together before they get married" - quite a different perspective from the one that's in North America right now) At the end of the two weeks we held a formal debate where I divided the students into two teams and randomly assigned them to the negative or affirmative side of the topic "Children with Mental Disabilities should be Fully Integrated into the School System". It felt so strange to give them their assignments for research and have them take off with it, no help needed from me! I was very proud at the end of it. It was also a rare pleasure to get to learn all of my students names.

The regular school year got into swing in March, with lots of changes underway. There was the usual circus of losing 1/3 of the teaching staff to mandatory reassignment and gain that many new teachers as well. In Korea, teachers must change school every 4 years to ensure that remote schools are staffed as equally well as schools in larger cities. Sounds great in theory, but it's a logistical nightmare: many families wind up with a mom or dad who lives in one city during the work week and travels home on the weekends. If both parents are teachers, often the children live with their grandparents. So we had lots of good-bye dinners and then lots of "welcome" dinners. My supervisor, Son Hwa-Ja, was reassigned, but thankfully another teacher I already know and who has excellent English was promoted to fill Hwa-Ja's place: Choi Young-Ju. Choi Hyun is still my main co-teacher, but she's a bit absent-minded and her English isn't great, so it's nice to have another person to go when there are questions or problems.

On top of the staff change up, I was ousted from my beautiful "English Zone" classroom which I had enjoyed so much last year. Mr. Jo, our progressive vice-pricipal, signed our school up for a pilot project introducing a western class schedule to Korean High Schools. The goal is to make the education more student-centered (as it is in the west), where students choose their schedule to fit what they want to study or pursue for a career, rather than the current Eastern teacher-based philosophy. Part of the change involves having teachers stay in one room and the students travel to different rooms based on the subject. Ironically, this changed occured for every Korean teacher, but went in reverse for me. The Korean English teachers now have their own homerooms, (including the English Zone, which is now Mr. Lee's Homeroom) and I travel from English classroom to English classroom depending on the class, carrying all my lesson supplies and handouts with me. Until the projectors were installed and working, I also had to recreate my powerpoint presentations on large poster paper and magnet them to the chalk boards!

As an incentive to schools to take on the new system, the government also gave approx. $2 000 000 in funding to schools for renovations and upgrades. Awesome stuff, except that our renovations weren't finished on time, so for the first two weeks of school I had no office or desk to work at. I usually sat in an empty teacher's conference room, freezing my butt off. (BTW, March was unseasonably cold for Korea this year, we had snow on March 10th and temperatures frequently dipped below freezing at night. Now you may think, "Why Lisa, aren't you a tough Canadian girl? A few degrees below zero is nothing!" but you would be an ignorant Canadian who takes your insulated/CLOSED doors and windows and effeciant furnace for granted)The lack of desk also meant I had to carry all of my materials with me everywhere, as I had no where to store them. So I brought a backpack to school everyday full of my resources. Thankfully, soon a desk was provided for me. Unfortunately, my office is a completely different building from all my classes, so I'm still lugging alot of stuff around with me during the day.

Oh well, having adjusted to all the changes now, the semester seems to be going just fine. It's hard to believe I'm already on to the 7th week. April 1st was the beginning of my last 6 months in Korea, time sure is flying. Lots of fun stuff has been going on socially, but in an effort to keep these entries short and more readable, I leave it here. I tell you about my rocking social life, and more about Malaysia, soon. Honest!

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