Birthdays and Chuseok

Whoosh time really flies when you work  8 hours a day with kids. Here I am, almost a month into it, and it feels like it´s been one, long continuous day. This last week in particular, with monthly tests, birthdays, and events has been really exhausting. I didn´t even have time to go running this week 😦 I basically come home, eat, and go right to bed. It´s pretty sad.

Still, I really am enjoying being here and can´t wait for my first paycheck. This weekend is actually a four-day weekend because of Chuseok, the Korean autumn festival. So, today  (Thursday) the kinder kids came dressed in traditional costumes which was outrageously cute and we made traditional rice cakes (songpeyon).

Then yesterday (Wednesday) was my first birthday party. Sarah´s parents came and brought cake, fruit, candies and it was all laid out on the table, followed by a rigorous photo shoot. Quite the spectacle. Birthdays are important here. She got gifts, and even brought gift bags for the other children. After photos and cake, the parents and Korean staff left and it was MY job to clean up and make them do their textbook. GREAT. But, the kids did look very cute.

Today, I found out Cedric will not be continuing at LCI. I can´t deny I may have let out a shout of joy. I believe he is a good person, deep down, but the dynamic in my class is so bad and I spend so much time handling him, this is a HUGE relief. He really is one of the worst children at the school and doesn´t seem to have any remorse when he calls the teachers bad names, hides, hits other kids, the list continues.

I am very excited for this upcoming four-day weekend and also VERY excited for Halloween at school. It´s quite the production. Teachers have to decorate classrooms, perform a song with the kids, and help them go trick or treating around school. We even get costumes that school rents for us. I chose a witch ( my first time being a witch actually..) because I volunteered to do the haunted house and because the other options were really bizarre for the most part.

I´m stoked. I love Halloween.

Man, when all you do is teach kids your dreams get really strange. I dream about what song my kids could sing for Halloween, or hear them calling ¨Grace Teacher!¨on repeat. It´s really dizzying and I feel like I´m losing my mind sometimes. Hoping this long weekend gives my brain a rest and provides some quality rest and relaxation.


Itaewon and Hiking

This weekend was very relaxing and a perfect mix of night-time and daytime fun. Friday night I went out to dinner at a lamb galbi place which was amazing, then out for some beers with the teachers in Suji. It ended up becoming quite the dance party at Underground and I stayed out later than planned, but a good time was had by all.

Saturday I ventured to Itaewon (the foreigner district in Seoul) in the afternoon to see Sora, a girl I met my last month in Chile (I was pretty proud of myself for going on the metro alone and making all the line changes). She is originally from Seoul, but I met her through Rodrigo and went to her birthday party, at a Korean restaurant, in Santiago, Chile. It´s a whole crazy connection. Anyway, we met up and spoke mostly in Spanish, occasionally some Spanglish, and it was really nice to talk about Chile, and the differences between Korea and S. America. We ordered some very tasty mandu (fried mandu and some mandu with clams in broth…yum) for dinner, then had a few beers. I love having a Korean friend to order me food.

So much fun to make  these types of connections around the world.

Sunday I went hiking near Suji with Rachel and David. It was a gorgeous sunny day and it felt great to be outside. It took about 40 minutes or an hour of climbing up pretty steep, but it was shady and cool. A great day hike.

At the top, there were some great views of Suwon, Suji and parts of the Seoul Metropolitan area.

Itsy Bitsy Spider and English Superstars

Week three is almost at a close. Don Kwon, our recruiter, came to visit on Monday and took us out to lunch which was nice. Good to meet him in person.

I think this week was actually better than last week at school. Cedric (I call him the Destruction Ninja) is improving, but still causes problems. The Korean staff seems to be alerted to it now though and even the head director got angry at him today. Ideally, I think he should not go to this school, but that is not in my control, so therefore I need to find a way to manage him. When he leaves the classroom, doesn´t write in his book, hides under his desk, speaks loudly in Korean, and throws blocks or doesn´t clean up, it can be a lot to manage. If Cedric is having a bad day, I end up looking like the Wicked Witch of the West by lunch time; frizzy-haired and crazy-eyed.

My kindergarten got a new student Wednesday, named Ella. She does´t….speak. Like at all. Which, actually, is refreshing in my class of rambunctious hooligans.

Itsy Bisty Spider song with hand gestures and B-I-N-G-O with clapping have been successful. It keeps them focused and is a good way to start or end the day.

English Superstars has been effective too I think. There is WAY less English spoken in the classroom, but there is still a long way to go. I made the board myself (yay for more unpaid work) and take away their name if they speak Korean. Last kid standing gets a sticker and a candy.

I also read them a story about a dog and a cat. The cat misbehaves at school, but the dog listens, and in the end, the dog and cat make school rules together. I think it made sense to them. Now I say..¨Don´t be a cat! Be a dog!¨And I mean, I like dogs better anyway, so it works out well.

On the whole, I think Kindergarten is improving, but I still think in comparison to the other Kindergarten classes my class is speaking the most Korean and  is the most flat-out disrespectful. We´ll see where we are in a few months.

I still am making little mistakes  at work (forgetting a worksheet, etc). But on the whole, it´s MUCH easier. And I LOVE my newspaper classes on T/R. They are so smart.

It´s amazing how when you work with Kindergarten, you´re life becomes centered around things like putting away books, and singing Baa BAA Black Sheep. You start to feel totally insane.

In other news, soccer last Sunday was fun, but seemed like a bit of a commitment for me (2 hour commutes?) Plus, they didn´t really like the girls playing (We spent most of the game on the sideline). It´s truly a men´s league with basically no girls playing, and it´s full field and pretty rough. We´ll see if I come again. Maybe just practice.

The weather is getting a little cooler. I´m excited to go to Itaewon (the foreigner district) this Saturday for dinner.

Over and out!

Teachers being silly on a Friday:

Hallway at work. Exciting I know.

¨Grace Teacher, WHHHHHYY?¨

Week Two Finished. Bam. Done.

This one was a long one, mostly because my sleep schedule is getting re-organized and I´m having trouble getting to bed on time. But ALSO because Kindergarten had some ups and downs this week. Monday was good, but Tuesday was tough, and FRIDAY was the ultimate breakdown (more on that). We had a few kids missing this week because of illness, which was good because the class size was smaller and I could give more individual attention. On the whole, I can feel order being restored to the classroom. They sit and listen during Storytime, they ask to go to the bathroom (which is happening less), they stand in line for the bathroom (mostly) and get through the activities without TOO much distraction.

However, the result of having to follow so many rules has been that I am now the monster teacher. Friday, they got mad at me and said they missed Christine Teacher, mostly because I told them they needed to listen in class when I was talking. Really mean, I know. Being told No hash´t been easy for them. It´s a bummer. And it´s really hard for me to feel like they don´t like me. They all got sad and put their heads on the desk because I told two of the girls I´d change their seats if they could´t pay attention and stop falling off their chairs. MONSTER TEACHER. Sigh. But, some of the students seem happier. Order suites them. They come up to me and hug my leg and draw me pretty pictures. But, there is still a long way to go with this group. They are very tight-knit and if one is sad, the whole group is sad. It´s a very girl heavy group (only two boys) and the emotions run high.

So, like I said, Friday. Cedric had some ups and downs this week. Some days were terrible (tantrums in the hall, breaking my toy box, throwing blocks, lying, running, hiding….all of it). Even a simple task, like finishing his work or seating in his seat, put him in a fit of rage. It’s incredibly distracting. I probably spend half my time managing him or trying to be one step ahead of him. So finally, on Friday, when it was time to clean up and go home, he decided to, instead of putting his books in his backpack like the rest of group, throw them on the floor, stomp on them, and try to tear them. Now, these are EXPENSIVE books. The kids all thought this was hilarious, including Cedric. I wanted to make sure he had to stay behind to clean up the books, but I needed a little backup. So I called in one of the Korean teachers and explained the situation. She got really angry in Korean, and he proceeded to have a full on FIT. He pushed all the boxes off the window sill, threw himself against the wall, screamed, cried, punched…the whole shebang. All the kids watched in shock.

The entire staff realizes how hard he is (they spend much of their time scolding, chasing and disciplining him). I mean, I hate to say this, but I actually do hope he is expelled. It is just too much. There is not one kid in the school that is at this level of misbehavior.But if he isn´t, I will need to find some serious inner Zen to deal with him. By the end of the week, needless to say, I was exhausted. Most of my other classes went smoothly…with a few forgotten handouts and small things. Newspaper class is so much fun. We are doing movie reviews.

I actually really  like my job. I just am having an epic battle with Kindergarten.

So yes, Friday it was time for some Galbi and beer. I´m not sure what I´m up to this weekend. I may have found a soccer team??? Exciting. Okay time to get moving. Maybe explore Seoul a bit.

Here´s some more photos for your entertainment.

Cute teachers at dinner!

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Today was a HUGE improvement. Bathroom Bear was a huge success (You have to take the stuffed bear to use the bathroom or get water or talk to Cindy Teacher). They ended up going one at a time. I felt a sense of order slowly seeping into class. Play time was less chaotic, the energy was just better. There was less yelling…..just….so much less hectic.

They lined-up properly when asked (for the most part) and clean-up time was a vast improvement. But I mean, it´s the little hurdles. This week my focus is just lines, bathroom, asking politely, and general order. Next week I´m going to attack the amount of Korean being spoken….that will be tough.

Cedric still had a melt-down, but that was because Cindy Teacher (The Korean staff) took away his toy. He also left the classroom once without asking and hid, but none of the other kids followed suit. Plus, Cedric did SO well the first half of the day. He finished his workbook on time, responded in class. I see light at the the end of the tunnel.

I´m hoping this wave of positivity can hold for the week. Or at least until Friday.

Like I said, baby steps.

Here are some pictures of my daily life.

My classroom:

Grace Teacher, room 10

Can you tell what their favorite part of the day is? Play time maybe?

Suji at night

First Week Recap

What a week.

There´s a lot to say but I´m going to try and summarize as best I can.

I got moved in and settled on Saturday and Sunday and tried my best to catch up on sleep although the teachers decided to go out for a pretty long night in Seoul Saturday night so I spent a while recovering Sunday. Still, it was great to hang out with the new and old teachers and we had some pretty delicious meals interspersed during the weekend. Going out lead to a pretty rough cold that just is starting to get better today. It was hard to start my first week teaching feeling ill, but such is life.


Where do I start? Monday was scary. First day teaching, you just sorta get thrown in. There is A LOT to remember.

Everybody starts the day with Kindergarten at 10am. The bell rings and in come the kids, giggling and squealing into your classroom. My class is 7-1, so one of the older kinder classes, but one of the lowest English levels. Kindergarten is split up into different periods of about 15 to 30 minutes each. One day might have Storytelling, then Theme Book (a text-book), then play gym for 15 minutes, etc. But everyday you start out with the same ritual, asking each child ¨How are you today?¨and they pick one of the emotions on the board, and they get a star for their answer. Next, the student who has Show and Tell that day, helps me put up the day of the week, and day of the month on a velcro board, and then I pick volunteers to answer ¨What will tomorrow be?¨ ¨What day was yesterday?¨ ¨What is the weather like?¨

Each time they do well they get a star by their name and the stars add up to stickers, which earns them prizes. After that is Show and Tell, and the Show and Tell student gets to pick students to ask her questions. Basically, you spent a lot of time giving and erasing stars.

Because I was new, the first day was pretty good behavior wise, but I had seen from watching Christine that these kids can be TOUGH. By the second and third day my kindergarteners had started rebelling; not listening to directions, getting out of their seats without asking, leaving for the bathroom and water without asking, yelling, hitting each other, speaking in Korean…..everything they shouldn´t do. I got really angry a few times and it scared them a little, but I´m not sure I quite have them pinned down yet. I have to find the balance between the mean monster and a teacher they like and can trust. It seems they have formed some bad habits that will be hard to correct after 6 months. Based on teacher reports, I´m pretty sure mine is one of the only kindergarten classes that is this tough (also one of the bigger classes).  I was told by my supervisor that they need to someone to whip them into shape. Great.

From watching the kids, I can tell they are a tight-knit bunch. They care about each other, and have strong personalities that clash. This, combined with their low-level of English, makes them a real challenge. This week was particularly hard because I was unable to focus on the dynamic of the classroom as much as I wanted to because I had to remember all these other tasks (correct homework while in class, take attendance, mark their star sheets, collect some books but not others, put in weekly letters for their parents, follow the right text-book instructions, use the right cds, find the library, take them to the play gym….etc). All this stuff will be easy in a month or so, but for the moment, I feel like I´m always forgetting something.

This Kindergarten class has been keeping me up at night. I have a lot of experience with 5 and 6 year olds and have always done very well with kids, and this is the first time I´ve felt a little over my head. But, there´s a few reasons for this:

1) The kids don´t understand a lot of what I say because of their low-level of English and because they are speaking WAY too much Korean at school. So, even if I´m strict they don´t understand WHY. I would like to maybe implement an English Superstar system, where kids that don´t speak Korean all day get a prize. We will see.

2) They are expected to sit and work in their books for HOURS. They are 6 years old! Sitting there that long and working is crazy, but it´s my job to help them complete their work or I get in trouble. I need to find a way to help them have fun doing their work and give them games where they can move around.

3) Their previous teacher was very sweet and let a lot slide (not that I blame her…my goodness) and I don´t.

I don´t accept yelling, hitting, rude behavior, leaving the classroom without asking, and not listening to instructions, or not cleaning up when asked. Therefore, I´m gonna be the bad guy for a while.  Which is no fun.

4) I have a few problem children. Cedric is, for the moment, impossible. He runs out of the room and slams the door, he hides, the has tantrums on the floor, he yells, he hits other kids, and he refuses to do his work in class. This is really distracting for the other children. He is my biggest challenge. I still can´t get him to look me in the eye. Oi vey. And the rest aren´t angels either.

One of the reasons I´m talking so much about my Kindergarten is because I spend so much time with them, but also, because they are the ONLY class I struggle with. The rest of my classes are a breeze. The truth is, these kids are smart. They finish their workbooks quickly, and then find ways to get into trouble cause they are bored. These are cute, fun, bright kids and I just have to be clever and find a way to make the classroom an organized, fun, and structured environment. God give me the strength.

After lunch (12:30 to 1:30…yay time for kimbap!) and kindergarten until 2:30, I have 1st grade and 2nd grade MWF and on T/R I have Reading Club (different ages) and Newspaper class. I LOVE Newspaper class. I have two periods of smart fifth graders who read at a very high level. We read articles from Teen Times every week, talk about them, practice new vocabulary, and write essay which I correct. Awesome. My other 1st grade and 2nd grade classes can be a little wild, but the kids are sweet and want to please. I have a lot of fun with them.

I think the best thing that happened this week is I now play Do This, Do That (Soccer camp anyone?) when there is five minutes to kill (Kindergarten too) or hangman with new vocabulary. These types of games help the kids to have fun and move around a little bit.

Well, looks like I wrote a novel here, but there was a lot to say. I also went to the doctor for a check up this week and should be getting a bank account soon.

The good news about this job is it is very active. The day goes by really quickly. You barely get five minutes between classes and only 2 or 3 hours a week of prep time. But, it also means my mind and body were spent by Friday so today I relaxed, tried to get better from my cold, went to the grocery store, bought new rainboots, and rested.

I´ll have more pictures of school to come, but for now here are some pictures of Suji!


Kimbap display at Lotte.

Lotte Mart:

Downtown Suji, can you see the sign for my work at LCI Kids Club?


Finally got the keys to my place. Only had to spend two nights in the motel, which is great. I´m pretty much moved in and feeling much more relaxed now that I have my own space. My next door neighbor is another LCI teacher named Rachel. She has been really nice and helpful with everything which is awesome.

Took a 3 hour nap today and I´m feeling much better. Last night I woke up at 6am again and couldn´t fall asleep so it was very needed.

My scary piles of books and instructions…

Here´s some photos of the new crib.