My First Week

I did it. I survived my first week as an English teacher. First thing first, I love my job. I love the people I work with, the students are hilarious (and noisy) and my schedule is pretty simple. I was given two schools, Eupsung Elementary (Tuesday) and Seongjeong Elementary (M,W,R,F).

Pictures of Eupsung:

Walking to my room

From the door

Little game/reading nook

From the back of the room

Eupsung Elementary in a nutshell:

20 minutes from my home, 72 students (I see 35), principal, vice principal, and head teacher are all very nice. The principal is younger than the VP and this creates problems because age determines status. I haven't noticed anything yet but time will tell.

I work with one co-teacher, Matt, and he is amazing. His English is next to perfect and he's funny and always ready to help me. The kids are great. I have 6th grade for two hours before lunch and they're not shy but are definitely going through the "I'm a tween and I'm too good to answer questions in class" stage. Then I have 5th grade for two hours after lunch and they're the complete opposite. They were so enthusiastic about everything. One kid cried for reasons I'll never know. When I went to help him he acted helpless and upset so I did my best to get him through his work. Well later, Matt told me he just wanted my attention so he cried for it. Hope he doesn't think he's got me trained... 

But who can resist big crocodile tears?!

Pictures from Seongjeong:

From the back of the class

From my desk

Much more creative decoration than the states, I'd say.

Seongjeong Elementary in a nut shell:

Seven bus stops from my home, located in a rough neighborhood, 600 students, principal, vice principal, head teacher, and the two co-teachers are also very nice to me. Each day is different because I work with three teachers in the four days. I have a desk in the teachers office next to my co-teacher's desk. The head teacher sits at the front of the office next to the vice principal. I spend a lot of time in there because the classes are only 40 minutes and I might have between 4-6 classes each day. When I'm finished with classes for the day I stay in there until it's time to leave at 5pm.

My week! I could write for hours but I'll try to consolidate each day into small paragraphs.

Monday: I met everyone, and I mean everyone. As soon as the bell rang the students gathered in the gym to see all the new teachers. I am one of four but the only one teaching English. So I was asked to speak in front of all 600 students and 30+ staff members. Yikes! It was fine though. When I met the principal for the first time my co-teacher handed him a little piece of paper that I had written about myself. She translated it into Hangul and left a few things in English that didn't really translate (like the fact that I like Justin Bieber... I thought these facts were supposed to be used for the students only hahahahaha). Great. I mean I sort of do but I know these kids love him to death so I want them to think I'm awesome and not scary to talk to. But I'm sure the principal just didn't understand Beiber. He did however understand my degree was art education and he wants me to use art while I teach English ^^ yay!!!
Classes: meeting 6th grade was awesome. I introduced myself with a powerpoint then gave them 'cookies' for remembering different facts. Then we moved into the lesson. My job is to help student pronounce things like an English speaking American. Pretty simple. I didn't meet 6th grade class 2 because their teacher canceled their English for the day to teach them morals. Interesting.
I went to the teacher meeting at 4pm to introduce myself again then sat and listened to everyone speak Hangul. I like to make up translations in my head. I think the meeting was about making this semester better than the last and what they need to do to get Psy to perform at their school... yea probably not.

Tuesday: Eupsung- great first day as I mentioned before.

Wednesday: I taught with my head teacher who cannot speak English as well as my Monday co-teacher but she is sweet as honey. They all are. It's crazy how nice these people are. I used the powerpoint to introduce myself, this time to two 3rd grades and two 4th grades. She translated my introduction then helped the students ask me questions. My job with her is to say phrases and key words and have the students repeat me. They are just beginners so they need to know how to say almost everything. I think they learn pretty fast though. Each class usually goes like this: lesson, listen and repeat, speaking game/activity/song. There are a lot of songs used instead of games but the key is to keep the kids interested and actively learning. My head teacher and I figured out the easiest way to communicate with each other is to write to each other. She understands English the same way I understand Spanish, reading and writing. 

Wednesdays @3pm = teacher volleyball. I was asked to bring a change of clothes for the game. I figured the game might be a little serious but I had no idea what to expect. Let me tell you how I gained popularity on my second day at Seongjeong: owning my spot at the back of the court. I think they were surprised I was any good. I mean I've had my practice during sand volleyball games at William Jewel but I don't know too much about the actual game. They play 'Korean style' which means they can use their feet. Weird and not fair. I dove for a ball and instead of hitting the floor, my teammate and I smacked into each other. Also a good way to gain popularity, that kind of stuff is pure Korean humor.

When the ten games are over we go to teacher's dinner. I'm going to keep this brief because this could be it's own blog post. I think Wednesdays are the highlight of my week. Korean style teacher's dinners are like mid week social gatherings that bring the teachers back to life. No students, no stress, no work. We went to a Chinese place and had an entire room to ourselves. We sat on the floor the entire time. I'm  used to this by now but we stayed for two hours or so and my legs started cramping. Seating order: head table seats the principal, vice principal and new teachers. Great.
I sat with my Monday co-teacher and my head teacher and some very social people. Most people avoid the head table because the high status of the P and VP make them uncomfortable. Plus sitting next to me means they might have to speak English, also uncomfortable. There were tons of plates with little snacks like kimchi and billions of bottles of soju. Once everyone was present we all poured each other soju or cass (like blvd wheat bear) and prepared for the opening toast. The principal made sure I had something then explained soju to me (in English!!!). He was super impressed I knew what it was already. I was expecting everyone to force soju shots on me but it was the exact opposite. I would say the liquid courage made people more comfortable around me which created a question game. I was surprised to hear all the English coming out of their mouths since they hold back any other day of the week. Let's just say we all learned a lot about each other, I laughed most of the night and I also ate like a queen.
We had spicy sushi (veggies and chunks of raw fish in a big pile) wrapped in sesame leaves< we did this ourselves. Then we all shared giant bowls of spicy fish soup. The head and tail of the fish were floating in the most delicious fish broth I've ever tasted. I was ordered an extra dish, calamari bibimbap, because they were afraid I might not like the soup. I ate both. One teacher tried to explain the fish cheek meat to me, also very impressed that I already knew about it, then he took my chopsticks and dug out the fish cheek and made me eat it. It was tasty! He also randomly took my water glass from me, poured my water in his soup bowl and made me try their traditional Korean tea. It was super sweet but completely satisfied my sweet tooth.
I was waiting for someone to offer me soju because everyone was pouring each other shots about once a minute, except for me. Then to my surprise my VP scooted over to me and said "Teacha Allison?!" and he poured me one, (I drank it while turned away from him, Korean Style) then poured him one. The funny part is my co-teacher told him to pour me a baby one so when I poured him one I said "baby?" and the principal demanded "FULL!" and everyone laughed. Then it was only polite to pour one for the principal as well. So I only had two little soju shots the whole night with a little bit of cass on the side and I was feeling alright. It is impressive how much Koreans can drink and look and act unaffected. It's just Korean style! Once dinner was over we listened to the closing toast and everyone was outta there!!!! I got a ride home from some of the sweet homeroom teachers. Of course I didn't know what to say and they were only speaking Korean. So I just gazed out the window at all the neon signs in my little Korean version of NYC and thought to myself, I love this place!

Thursday: More 3rd and 4th grade classes with my head teacher. She asked me to teach a class because she was worried I was bored. I didn't do too bad! I was supposed to have another class with my Monday co-teacher but the homeroom teacher canceled. I think this might be a common occurrence.

Friday: I met my second co-teacher and spent the entire day introducing myself to all 5th grade classes. There were no lessons; it was all about me. This teacher got her classes to pour out the questions. One class tried so hard to ask me in English and one kid even screamed at me when he was able to ask in English. They were so excited. I've never seen kids to crazy about meeting someone and being able to speak their language. Some common questions from these kids: How tall are you? How much to you weigh? Baby?!?!?! Do you like Zombies? Do you like K-Pop? Do you like Kimchi, do you eat Korean food, can you cook Korean food, what's your favorite Korean food? Do you like Pizza & hamburgers? And the best question was "have you had plastic surgery?" Apparently some Koreans get plastic surgery to make their noses bigger because that's what is attractive. This big Ehlers nose of mine has been getting compliments all week. When Koreans meet someone for the first time it goes something like this: name, age (animal is more common. ex: year of the dragon) to determine status, and a blunt observation about ones appearance. I've been getting tall and beautiful a lot. I think my light brown hair, pale skin, and big American nose are just irresistible ha! But seriously, I'm always taken back when people tell me when they think of my looks. I haven't been able to return the compliments because I'm not used to it yet. 

I'll save Patrick's week for another day since I've already rambled so much. Here is the most popular song in Korea right now.  I think it's made it big in the states too! The singer/rapper is Psy, I mentioned him during the Monday teacher meeting earlier in the post. I tell the kids I love Psy to be accepted, it works.


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