Thursday, March 8, 2012

First Week of Teaching

So today's the last day of my first week of classes, and that means its time for an update.

On Monday, we were finally hooked up to the internet (this was the cable guy's third time at our apartment, and hopefully the last).  We have really high speed broadband, a home telephone, and cable TV-which we can barely understand and probably won't use much since it's in Korean.

As soon as the cable guy left, we went to our first day of school.  Now we're starting to learn that in Korea, you have to be ready to roll with the punches.  The schedule we got on Friday was very different from the one we were presented with on Monday, and the lessons we had planned to teach were all mixed up.  So after some hectic planning and photocopying, I was finally prepared to teach my first class... of one student.

My school is a hagwon, or a private tutoring academy.  Our hours are from 1:30-7:40pm, so students come see us after their normal school days are over.  And since the hagwon just opened on Monday, lots of classes are empty or near empty still, hence the fact that I have two classes with only one student.  Luckily, I worked as a tutor for 5-6 months right before I came to Korea, so the one-on-one was something I was very familiar with.  I actually really enjoyed my first student, a very bright boy in the second grade who was eager to learn and participated very well.

I had two more classes later in the day of older students that were met with varying success.  I've found that the older students are (we only teach elementary students, so about ages 7-13), the harder it is to get them participating.  You have to sort of force them to raise their hands, call them out directly to get them to answer questions, and mix up the classroom activities so nobody falls asleep on you.  But each day has been better than the last, and I've found that I really enjoy teaching.  It's fun to see what works and what doesn't, try new things, and try to keep students engaged and smiling.

Our school is also amazing.  We've heard a lot of horror stories about working at private schools, and we were pretty certain we weren't going to be one of them since we had spoken extensively with Beth and Jess prior to coming to Daegu.  Still, there was a bit of trepidation, but after seeing the school and experiencing a few days teaching all of our worries were put aside.  The facilities are excellent, the classrooms are brand spanking new and really pretty (see some pictures below), and our coworkers are wonderful.  On Wednesday, our boss even bought every teacher Starbucks- which is even more impressive when you remember how expensive it is in Korea (around 5-6 dollars for a drink!).

We've had no trouble making friends as well, there are lots of other teachers new to the city who are all fun to hang out with and come from all over the English speaking world.  Our new friends hail from Ireland, South Africa, the UK, Canada and New Zealand, as well as a healthy smattering of Americans.  And the food, as usual, is AMAZING.  We have yet to have a bad meal here, and that's pretty great considering most of our meals involve us going to a restaurant and pointing to an item that looks to be in our price range.  My favorites so far have been jajangmyeon, (basically "Korean" Chinese food), haejangguk (or "hangover soup" in English, complete with an entire ox tail) and the ever present samgyeopsal that you've probably tasted if you've ever tried Korean barbecue.  Everything is always served with a million side dishes, or banchan, which nearly always include kimchi as well as pickled radishes and some other vegetables prepared in the individual restaurants unique style.  It's a good thing we have to walk 20 minutes to work each day, because otherwise I'd have gained a few hundred pounds already.

So since I have to go back to lesson planning, that about wraps up this blogpost.  But I hope to continue updating, especially once we're able to start traveling.  This weekend, we are invited to our director's daughter's first birthday party, which should be a blast and a very interesting experience.

I'll leave you all with some pictures of our school, just so you can see how pretty it is yourself!
Ashley's classroom, and the front desk of our school

The view out the window of our 6th floor of the school.  The street on the right is full of hundreds of vendors every Monday for a weekly traditional market, very fun and lots of great produce and street food.

My classroom entrance

I caught Ashley while she was preparing her next lesson in her classroom, which is identical to mine

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