Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A day in the life

                        Hello everyone, I haven’t written in a while and I feel obligated to considering that I only have a few posts. I haven’t gone on any huge ventures lately and in fact I don’t want to write about them in this post. I would like to invite you to see what a busy day is like for me. I am writing this on Tuesday March 25th. Today I have grades 3rd-6th from 1:35- 4:30 each grade back to back for 40 minutes a pop.

Where it all begins 
                       I start a bit earlier than that though. Get up at 7:00 exercise, breakfast, coffee. After getting ready for the day I spend the rest of the time lesson planning. Today took a bit longer than most days because I had to make some more Power Points than I typically do. I leave my apartment around 10:15 for the bus.   
The one on the right

    I live on the outskirts of the town near a bunch of construction (it makes sleeping in nearly impossible). I left my apartment early because today is a market day. Any day that ends in a 1 or a 6 is market day in Boeun. The street that I walk down to get to my bus is filled with more buses, bikes, cars, and the occasional 4-weeler.  As I made my way down towards the busy street I saw this flying overhead.  

                       When I first came to my town and saw things like this it was to say the least a little unsettling. Now after the time that I have spent here I react to it in the same way as the Koreans, and hardly notice it. I live near an airbase and in a given week I will see a handful of fighter jets.

                       Anyway, the street is crazy and a bit difficult to navigate at times, since many of venders have decided to post up on the sidewalk. Old women, or ajummas as they are called here, hurry past the venders selling everything from fish, pastries, clothes, and vegetables, their backs hunched from years out in the fields.

       I hop on the bus at 10:30 to a small village called Wonnam. The bus is filled with old people going out to their old homes in the countryside. The bus goes from flying to a near stop depending on the amount of speed bumps on the narrow roads winding through the rice paddies.  I get into Wonnam around 10:50 and get off the bus and walk to school.
Bustling Wonnam

     I pass rice paddy after rice paddy, once I get near the cattle ranch (if you can call this small place that) I am nearly there.

Right off the drive way to my school
           Today is a bit of a crazy day at Pan Dong elementary. It is open class day, where parents come in to see their children in class while the teacher is teaching. Over the past 2 weeks the teachers here have been frantically trying to get ready for the big day. I walk in, put on my sandals, and greet my superiors with the bow and hello, then make my way to my classroom. I’m not really even sure if I will have classes today. I asked my mentor teacher if I will and he responded maybe. Now this may be a bit of a tangent, but in Korea the word maybe has somehow become more ambiguous. I have been told before, “maybe we will have lunch now” when in reality we are going to have lunch now. The words “are” and “not” have never made it to Korea and as a result we only have maybe. Well in this case I did have classes, but my wonderful classroom connected to the library is being taken from me to be used as a meeting room with parents and teachers. I am banished to the science lab or as I like to call it distraction land.  I clean up my comfy, familiar classroom and walk up to the science lab.

Distraction land
     I am dreading this this place not only because it is filled with everything from dissected chickens in formaldehyde to electric tinker toys, but also because the computer up there is by far the most janky pieces of technology I have ever encountered. It also happens that this day I have made most of my lesson plans revolve around Power Point games (it is the end of the month and review is standard practice for me).  I pray to the technology gods and some how my prayers are answered, everything works. I am extremely pleased that I will not be winging it for the entirety of the day and head down for lunch. At 11:40 the principal, vice principal and some of the other important people at my school have lunch, and I am included. Needless to say perfecting the use of chopsticks in front of these people was a harrowing experience. Today was white rice, (as is everyday) fried fish, radish Kim chi, some sort of delicious steamed leaf, and seafood soup. Delish. I head back upstairs to my impromptu classroom and get things ready as well as write this segment of the blog.

                       As I am preparing for the storm of 3rd graders, when the cleaning lady comes into the science lab. She talks to me in Korean as she normally does (I don’t understand how she hasn’t figured out yet that I don’t speak Korean) and judging from her gestures she wants me to leave the science room so that she can sleep in it. I say ok and wait for my class downstairs in the teachers lounge. I head back upstairs with 10 minutes to my first class and wake her up. She is not pleased.

                       The 3rd graders rush in and are just as crazy as ever. I holler out role call and start talking about the “candy day” that will happen this week. Now I should let you know that this is my worst class by far, so I figured that I would try something new. I explain to them in the simplest way possible that everyone would get $1 if they were good for the day (in my “fake money” system $1=1 piece of candy). However, if they were bad I would not give them a dollar. I was hoping that they would respond better to me giving the good ones something and having the bad ones left out.  I began the lesson, as I do with most of my lessons, with a game. This one was a classic, the corner game and it worked out well. The kids actually listened to me talk with the Power Point up and participated when I asked them questions. Things went wrong when we got to game #2 and I had to split them up into 3 teams. These kids are never satisfied with the teams that you pick out for them and I ended up playing the game with 6 out of my 10 kids. They got a dollar and went off on their merry way while some of the bad kids pleaded in vain.

3rd graders 
                       I had the 4th graders next and I don’t have much to say about them, except that they were great. They are one of my smaller classes (8 total) and they get along well for the most part. We played preposition ball and everyone had a good time.

                       I wish that my 5th graders had been as good as my 4th graders were. As things got later into the day my students became more and more restless. Normally my 5th graders are awesome, but today the class ended with Lee Chae Eun throwing an eraser at Song Ju Eun, who caught it with her face. One of my students who speaks very good English was able to explain to me what had happened, and I was able to take care of the situation. That is one of the hard things about being a teacher and not being able to easily communicate with your students. You really don’t want disciplining to be an exercise in language comprehension. I feel that most of my classes would run incredibly smoother if I was able to speak more Korean. But, this is a reality that I have been dealing with for about 7 months now, and it isn’t as bad as it seems.
5th graders, a few of them were a bit tired

                       My 6th graders who are typically my favorite class were exhausted and extremely apathetic to my existence. We watched a few videos relating to the space unit that I am doing with them that they enjoyed. However, I could see that they were tired from the stress of the open class day.

                       I finished up my last class and rode off with the 5th grade teacher around 5. I asked her how her open class went and she said, “ Very good, I feel like I can fly now.” We drove back into Boeun, past an ancient fortress and to my apartment complex. I said goodbye and thank you in Korean and see you tomorrow in English. Before I left I asked her if there was going to be a volleyball game tomorrow? On most Wednesdays the teachers get together for a volleyball game. She said, “ Yes maybe.” As I got out of the car and walked past the construction another fighter jet flew over my small town. I walked through a crowd of middle school students who test their English out on me on occasion. I say hi and nice to meet you to the ones who talk to me. On Tuesdays I have Kim bop for dinner. It is cheap and slightly healthy. 

The Kim Bop place. It has a T-Rex on it. 
Cheap nourishment  

    That was my day. Not the most amazing of days, but not the worst by any means. I do enjoy what I do. Teaching is quite a thing, and I have grown attached to my students. To see them working and being able to use the bits of language that I have taught them over the year is something that I take a great amount of pride in.  Thanks for reading.

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