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My 1st Day Teaching in Vietnam

It’s so hot here. So hot. So jungly. Me and my heat rashes are definitely going through an adjustment period!

 

My morning walk...gorgeous but fucking hot as fuck
My morning walk…gorgeous but fucking hot as fuck

 

My first day of teaching was yesterday…..

 


The Flipside

by Fred Colton

They were supposed to practice writing Mandarin characters but Luke always just sat there and drew dicks. 4,000 hanzi to learn and not a single one Luke couldn’t turn into a thin veiny phallus. He incorporated scrotums as needed to help with the curves and slants. Slid the drawings to the other students and everyone chewed off their bottom lips off to stifle the laughter. Hanzi made of cocks. Just twisting and snaking around each other.

Mandarin, mandatory since kindergarten. Mandatory in over one hundred countries. Kids, Mandarin is your passport to the world. Learn it and you can trade stocks in Paris or be a professor in Capetown.

“Or I could just stay here and keep winning races,” Luke told his parents, and his brother Bob, and the bowtie in the guidance office.


How To: Prepare for and Pass the Epik Interview

Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I'm not just going to tell you exactly what happened in my interview, because that doesn't seem fair. What I can do is tell you all the dumb things I wish I hadn't done and the useful things I wish I had done, in hopes that you will have a better time of it than I did.

First off, make sure Skype works on whatever computer you plan to be in front of during the interview. I know this seems obvious, but trust me on this one: check and double check so there won't be any unforeseen technical difficulties. You know what they say about people who assume.


Probation, Farts, and Broken Electronic Devices: My First Day Ever as a Teacher

Yesterday was a big day for me. For the first time in my life, I got to work in a field that truly interests me: teaching! I was really nervous, and since I only had one week of training in Seoul, I was pretty unprepared.

To make matters worse, I was pulled aside before the class began and told that I was “on probation” for failing this one module of training we had to cover in Seoul. That definitely didn’t help to quell my nerves, and made me feel really uneasy about operating in South Korean business culture. To me “on probation” sounds so sinister. WHY ME?! But basically, what probation entails is nothing more than the Seoul trainers re-evaluating a video of me teaching in four weeks. Hopefully no big deal. And hopefully by then, they’ll pass me. If not, I get sent home.


The (not so) Good Earth


Age Ain’t Nothin But A Preference

Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. The host for this month is Rebecca Thering, and here‘s where you can read the rest of this month’s posts. I’ll be posting a new ESL-related article on my blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please contact Dean at dean@reachtoteachrecruiting.com, and he will let you know how you can start participating!


Open Class? More Like Horror Class!

My title, unfortunately, doesn't work very well as a joke when translated into English, as 공수업 means "open class" while "공수업" means "horror class". Poorly translated puns notwithstanding, what is open class? It's basically a sort of open house, a chance for parents to observe teachers and students in their natural habitats. In a word, it's stressful. In two words, it's very stressful.

I'm not sure why, but somehow the addition of just a few new faces sitting at the back of my classroom makes me forget how to put words into normal human sentences. I feel like Jack Donaghy in the 30 Rock episode where he has to act on live television: what do I do with my hands? Can I have two coffee cups? Where do my hands normally go when I'm standing?

Blackout Poetry (Part 1)

This week I did a lesson on blackout poetry with my intermediate level high school students! Normally the project is done with texts from newspapers, magazines or novels, but I was worried about the vocabulary being too broad/out of reach. I wanted my students to focus on having fun, being creative, and playing with the language, rather than looking up/learning new words. So instead, I typed up a batch of their weekly English essays, omitted the names, and returned them for use with this assignment! Not only did this assure that the vocabulary was appropriate, it also made the assignment more personal and interesting!


RTBC Day Thirteen: What’s in your edtech toolbox?

So, I totally fell off the wagon with this 30-day reflective teaching blog challenge…which I started back in September or October of last year. But I’m BACK on board!

Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rate them on their perceived (by you) effectiveness.


EPIK Help Part 1: How to Fill Out the Epik Application

The snow is melting, yellow dust has begun to float in from China, students are shedding their winter padding coats, and you know what that means...EPIK application time! Or, you know, spring. Whatever you're into, really. Dumb jokes aside, I've been meaning to do a series of posts with advice for aspiring EPIKers for a while, and like they say, there's no time like the present.

Honestly, you probably don't need any help with the application itself. It's pretty straightforward, if horrifyingly long and annoying to fill out. They've changed the format a bit since I applied, but the basics are the same, so I'll go through the whole thing and point out whatever seems important or confusing.

Page 1:


Here It Goes Again

It's finally the first day. In theory vacation is something you're supposed to enjoy, but the allure fades after the months drag on. I'm not great at self-motivating, but I also hate feeling as if I'm not accomplishing something, so vacation always ends up either driving me crazy or making me gloomy. Or both! Such a lovely combo those two make.

Proper classes don't start until tomorrow, so I get one more night of fitful sleep before I face the students once again. Today was just the entrance ceremony and a chance for the students to collect their textbooks. The one stressful thing about the ceremony is that they bring all the teachers up on stage, in groups of about ten, to introduce them to the new and returning students. Last year I didn't realize this was going to happen until I was being pushed onto stage, but fortunately this year I was more prepared.

How 20% of the School Day Got Me 100% Success

Presenting Their ProjectsThe leaders at Google believe that people are happier and more productive when they spend 20% of their time at work on a personal project, something that interests them, gets them fired up and invites the creative juices to flow. So, for part of Winter Camp 2015, I gave my students the opportunity to do just that! For two weeks they worked one hour each day on an independent project of their choice, and finished by presenting to their classmates. The only catch was that they had to use English in SOME WAY. From creative music videos to a detailed analysis of different educational systems arond the world, they produced some amazing work!


“Shake It Off” Music Video Contest Winner


How is a gear shift like a grammar point?

Next month, I will buy my first car. While this is an exciting and very grownup-feeling thing to do, it's also a bit terrifying, for a variety of reasons. Not only will this be the most money I've ever spent in one go, but my future 2005 Chevy Kalos has...a manual transmission.

So, I recently started learning to drive stick. We started simple, in one of the few traditional student driver locations: a semi-abandoned parking lot.  On the way there the friend I'm buying the car from gave me the basic walk-through. This is the clutch, this is when you should shift, that's the noise you don't want to hear, etc. I'd also been given plenty of advice from friends and family, so I felt...entirely unprepared and marginally terrified. 

The Madness That Is Winter Camp

Last Friday was a very good day for me: it was the last day of Winter Camp at school, and the start of a 5 week holiday. So it’s not surprising that I was in a pretty good mood. But, distracting me from my happiness was the horrible feeling of an entirely achey body, eyes which would barely stay open, and a general ill-feeling. Why? Because after 10 days of Winter Camp, I was exhausted.


Wait for Me Until I Become You

Recently I’ve been giving my students mini essay assignments each week on various topics to improve their persuasive and creative writing. Below is the work of one of my strongest students. I asked him to write a letter to his future self in the year 2020. Check it out! It’s pretty great!

future

Dear myself in the future,

Hello, myself. I’m yourself. Precisely, I’m yourself in the past. I heard you’re 23 years old. Though you are older than me, I will not treat you politely. I have many questions. Most of all, what is your college? Seoul University? Really? You did a good job. And, did you go the army? Where? Katusa? Oh, I think you’re very good at English.


5 ESL Games for All Levels and Ages

As an ESL teacher working with middle school, high school, and adult students, I am always on the lookout for games that are fun and appropriate for a variety of skill levels and ages. Below is a collection of games that I’ve found to meet those standards! If you have any ideas of your own, questions, or feedback, feel free to leave them in the comment section!

1. Dots

IMG_1884Materials: Paper with pre-drawn dot grid, pens/pencils, dice


The only thing to fear is change itself…. Wait…

It was only temporary…but…last week, in the immortal words of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, my new Korean life got totally flip-turned-upside-down. Now-I’d-like-to-take-a-minute, just-sit-right-there-and-I’ll-tell-you-how-I….how my…forget it. How things changed.

Long story short, part of my Winter Camp involved me teaching at an elementary school reading camp for a few days before going back to teach at my regular middle/high school. Sidenote for those not in-the-know: a winter camp is a  two-three week period between regular semesters where kids come to school anyway to study more. The camps vary in theme and content, sometimes being determined by the school and other times by the Native English teachers. Generally speaking they’re supposed to be lighter and more “fun,” but in the end the kids are still there to study and learn English.


Conscious Streams of Consciousness on a 13-Hour Flight

I am in Seat 41A on United Airlines flight 88 to Newark Liberty International Airport. I am about four hours into a 13-hour marathon from Beijing, which began in Incheon. Before that, a 42-minute express train from Seoul. Before that, a two-hour, 50-minute KTX from Busan Station. Before that, an 11-stop subway ride from Hadan. Before that, my friends’ apartment, graciously donated to me for the night.

The coffee I drink to keep me awake–as my body and mind attempt to adjust to the endless night across the East Siberian Sea–is measurably worse than the coffee I could be drinking at home, ground from beans from Costco in Centum City. It’s even far worse than the Americanos I have the luxury to complain about from time to time. But it tastes considerably better than the mysteries I chose to leave to imagination when I quit on Korea years ago.


A Message To Korea From A Student

In light of my recent post on exam stress, I thought it was quite fitting to share a video I saw on YouTube today. The video was made by a Korean middle-school student called Jason, and it shows his message to Korea: a depressing discussion of the Korean education system. 


Stress, Tears, and Tantrums… It’s Exam Time.

reactiongifs.com
reactiongifs.com

There’s been a pretty negative atmosphere at school during the last week, and there’s one reason why: exam week. It’s the students’ final exams before the end of semester, a time when stress levels peak for pupils and teachers alike. Luckily for us foreign teachers, we are only in charge of one written exam. Apart from that, we’re not too involved in the tests, even the English one. But that doesn’t mean we’re completely removed from the drama when it’s exam season. During our time at the school we’ve seen students crying, parents crying, arguments, breakdowns and complaints.


Vlog Entry #11: Fall School Festival

Each year, on a Friday in October or November, public schools all over Korea host something known as Sports Day or School Festival. Students spend the day playing games (or in my school’s case, trying a bunch of different sports) and making crafts. Meanwhile, the teachers retreat to the adult cafeteria to enjoy a variety of tasty Korean dishes and several bottles of rice wine. Then, in the afternoon, everyone gathers to watch group after group of students perform their favorite songs and dances.


Teaching Language Means Teaching Culture; Or, Teaching Away from a Pudding-Normative Society

Brief note: Back in 2012, during my final year of university, I took a class on literacy in the US that really broadened my mind. For my final project I researched the ways that language and culture interact in the ELL classroom, and since I feel like I actually made some good points, here it is, slightly edited for your reading pleasure.

Sneak Peek Korea – Halloween Madness!

Sneak Peek Korea is a video series in which I made videos into all the extra footage I get that doesn’t make it into a proper video, and is largely unedited! I film a lot of my life and want to share as much as I can with you, because you seem to like it! :) Before I would just scrap extra footage I didn’t think was good enough for it’s own video, but I hope to instead provide little sneak peeks of my life in Korea, unscripted. Let me know in the comments if you enjoy these kinds of videos!


Tough TEFL Love


The Double Whammy

This past week marked my third full month living in South Korea, and nearly-third full month of teaching middle and high school ESL. Up until now, pretty much all of my blogging efforts have gone toward recounting the many wonderful, new and exciting things that I’ve seen and done. I’ve hiked some killer mountains and stood in awe of glorious views. I’ve biked to the beach and back, soaking up the sun in the Korean countryside. I’ve been to several festivals, gone


Beautiful Fall Leaves in Gyeongsangnam-do!


Her Midnight Run, My Empathy

My best friend’s replacement pulled an infamous “midnight run” last weekend.

Midnight_Run

Her escape wasn’t discovered until, presumably, she was on a plane bound for her home in Australia. Our only indication of this, a presumably-hastily-written email to her recruiter. A “mea culpa” of sorts. Oops.

If we were to write an obituary for her Korean death, it could read: You were only 23, with so much left to see, so much left to do. Or: what was your name again?

She was here such a short time that perhaps only one photo, taken during my friend’s goodbye dinner, is the only evidence this girl ever set foot in this country. Well, that and her suitcase, which she left in the apartment, as well as some ramyeon wrappers and empty soda bottles.


Weekly Quote Collection 2: Questionable Advice

While teaching advice, we had a few gems.



Problem: I don't have any friends.


Suggestions:

"You should make boyfriend!"

"Well, how can I meet him?"

"PC bang!"

Okay kids. I'll just hang around the PC bangs until I meet my Prince Charming.



Problem: I'm going to meet SHINee.


"You should bring your soul."

"You shouldn't say ugly. You should say handsome!"

These ones I actually quite liked. How could I not bring my soul if I were to meet SHINee?



The other thing I'm teaching this week is "which do you prefer" and after one day it's already been great.


"Which do you prefer, eating or sleeping?"

"I prefer eating, because my mouth wants."

Then I asked the same student again: "Which do you prefer, singing or dancing?"

"I prefer singing, because...my mouth wants."

Food for Thought

This New York Times article, Toward Better Teachers, is a brief, well-balanced, thoughtful piece on some of the complexities and challenges of teaching. I most strongly agree with Bruni’s final point that, although teachers deserve greater support, compensation, and respect for their work, they also owe the people from whom they’re demanding those things a “discussion about education that fully acknowledges the existence of too many underperformers in their ranks.”

What do you think?


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