Desk Warming, Week 3, Day 1

As you know, Vacation Interruptus has lead me back to the desk for the next two weeks. S came in early to take me to lunch and as the VP and head teachers happened to come into the same family restaurant, they picked up our tab. Guilt? I hope so.

She had just told me that the 6-3 homeroom teacher who studied abroad had applied to be the English subject teacher. The other is still unknown, but it’s not S. So two new teachers for me.

S said the new “S” will be good since she’s fluent but in my mind, this means nothing: how good is she at incorporating the native teacher into the classroom? Will I be monitor? Assistant? Press-play human microphone? Time will tell. S also said she’s single so she’ll have time to play on the weekends.

“I want to hang out with you on the weekends but I have a kid and husband.”

“So the new teacher has time, sure, but will we be friends? I don’t know yet.”

“Ah, yes, this is true.”

S asked finally if I’d be staying here another year. I told her I’d like to try another city.

“Oh, oustide Korea?”

“No, another Korean city.”

S was flabbergasted in the way that only Seoullites are when someone considers moving outside the capital:

“But, other places don’t have movie theaters or bars or supermarkets!”

“Really, even Busan or Daegu?” I laughed. Over nine of Korea’s cities have a population greater than one million. Florida doesn’t have a single city that cracks one million, and South Korea is half the size of Florida.

“No but. You could be put anywhere! Gangwon-do or Jeollanam-do…”

I didn’t explain that the area I’m looking at hires outside of the national government and placement isn’t that random. There is a “risk” I’ll be put in the countryside but every rural town is within 1.5 hours of a major city.

I also get the sense that my Koreans don’t understand that unless you’re in Gangnam or Itaewon, Seoul life can be really challenging. To be fair, most foreigners go to those places when they need to get something done since English will be available; I’m just too lazy to travel an hour there for language convenience.

Outside of those burbs I have never had a person switch to English when they saw me struggling in Korean (100% because they don’t know English or are afraid to speak it, I feel you fam). I had the same struggles ordering food and riding buses in Gangneung or Sokcho as I do daily in Seoul; the only difference is that people seemed a tad bit more patient outside the capital.

(This introspection comes from a stressful foreigner moment I just had that involved me losing my wallet, and sanity, at Emart. Why is it always Emart? *just breathe deeply and think of the Jeju Elders*)

S added, “your teacher friend was in a bad situation, right? The Korean teachers didn’t talk to her and one was so shy he ran away! If you move, you might have a situation like that.” I understood what she meant but was also confused: S and H and G won’t be my co-teachers, so who knows if my upcoming situation will be any good? S will be at the same school, yes, but she’ll be a homeroom teacher which means I won’t see her during lunch or… any time, really. Maybe at quarterly dinners or before school if we cross paths in the teacher’s lounge.

H also said I shouldn’t move so that we can teach together when she comes back… in a year. C’mon, ladies, do you see what you’re saying?

Of course they have a point: if I move, I am making a gamble. But I don’t plan to live here indefinitely, so I should try out different parts of the country.

We’ll see, maybe if the new co-teaching situation is so wonderful I’d be happy with a year and a half of it, I’ll consider staying.

I’m just rolling with Asia Time as I have been trained, I’ll make a decision only when it’s necessary.

But back to the subject of teaching: each day I’ll be teaching one hour of English to new second and third graders, ages 8 to 9.

It was a busy morning prepping for the next two weeks. Luckily I was able to fall back on my years with VIPKID. After all, I’ve taught every lesson from Level 2 at least once which is a feat considering there are 144 lessons (my stats page says I’ve taught a total of 1468 times). VIPKID is structured very well and so I modeled my lesson plans on what a young Chinese student will typically learn in that beginning module:

Week 1 Objective: learn the alphabet, learn greetings and farewells, learn to say and read each letter (five letters per day to be practiced through games: A-E, F-J, K-O, P-T, U-Z)

Week 2 Objective: review alphabet, learn all small letters and practice matching, introduce phonics, learn new basic phrases for introduction

For example, this is what I did during our hour today:

  • Teacher self-introduction, learn and practice alphabet song
  • Play Stand Up (each student receives one letter A-E and must stand up or do a motion when their letter is called)
  • Play Snatch Game (each group of students gets letters A-E, they must compete to snatch the letter called by the teacher). During this I taught them how to say “Yes, I am. No, I’m not.” This way I received a response to “Are you ready?” I also tested them by asking “Are you hungry? Are you happy? Are you Korean?”. As I do with my fourth graders, I had students put hands on their heads to show their readiness. So I also taught them hand/head.
  • At this point I realized we had a fair amount of time remaining since these kiddos were smart! Good thing I’m great at killing time.
  • I had them practice air writing random letters.
  • Group 4 had behaved the best during the game so I brought them to the front of the room in a game suggested by S. They formed a letter and the other students had to guess A-E.
  • We reviewed letters once more and sang the alphabet song. I’ve also taught them the classic “Now I know my ABCs, next time won’t you sing with me.” Right now it’s less about understanding what that means and more about getting familiar with English phonetics.
  • We finished up with reviewing hello/goodbye. I made all the kids and teachers laugh as I pretended to enter/exit the room in increasing speeds as the kids had to quickly shout “hello teacher! goodbye teacher!”
  • As S and I left down the stairs, I heard confident shouts of “goodbye teacher!”.

Today was lots of TPR. Another teacher friend and I went to lunch awhile back and both of us use a lot of explanatory body language to which she laughingly observed “this is how you know your an English teacher”.

S said since she won’t be with me after tomorrow, I should try to explain the directions in Korean since some students didn’t understand. I said okay but doubt I will be doing so: my young Chinese students need some time to adjust to an immersion type environment but do adjust quickly. It’s okay if not all students understand; they can look to their peers. Plus, they’ve never learned English so it’s all new to them.

I really really enjoyed my little lesson today! It’s much easier to plan when all students start on the same level and when I have free reign to teach them what and how I want. Those little boogers are smart so I’ll be adding more phrases in each day. I really want them not to memorize but to understand what they’re answering (too many kids have memorized “hello how are you I am fine” and when you ask or respond in any other way they absolutely freeze).

One little girl insisted on telling me that I was Korean. I heard another little boy talking to S about “butt” so perhaps it was another question of why Americans have big butts.

Only the lucky ones, kid.

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