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