English Winter Camp 2010

11 02 2010

Winter Camp started immediately after we returned from Beijing. We were not ready for it! Although, we were aware of how many hours we would work and how long the days were going to be, we still needed a vacation after vacation. Instead, we were overwhelmed with three weeks of 12-hour days and what we thought would be chaos. The first day was a total disaster. None of the native English teachers or the Korean teachers knew where to go at what time, even with the “schedule.” But, after a day or two, everything was on track and we loved the students. Randy and I teach at middle schools, where the students are just too cool for school. Teaching fifth grade students at winter camp was such a blessing and gave me more of a desire to teach. The kids were so smart and motivated, even the low level students. There were about 300 students and 44 teachers, including native English and Korean teachers. The students were split into two levels, higher (A) and lower (B). There were 22 classes and my homeroom class ranked 20 out of 22. But that didn’t matter. They were still super smart and motivated!

Shauna's Homeroom Class

The first week, we were required to teach our students a song and they were required to perform the song at the song festival in front of all of the other students! The students performed “Lemon Tree,” “Perhaps,” “Upside Down,” “Don’t Stop Believing” and more. I taught my students “I Gotta Feeling,” by the Black Eyed Peas. We made up a dance and the students had a blast. It was really rewarding to see the students have fun on stage and my class won fourth place!

During the second week, we helped the students prepare for a debate. Debate is a regular class that some students hate. But I had the ‘smarter’ (A Team) students for debate, so it seemed like the students liked it more because they are able to speak English more. Some of the topics were good, such as “Do you agree or disagree with cosmetic surgery?” Some topics were relevant and fun to talk about for the students, such as the Jaebeom Controversy, in which the lead singer of a famous K-Pop band, 2PM, left to go back to America because he was ashamed of what he said about Korea when he first arrived. He said that “Korea is gay.” But as he learned more about Korea, he took back what he said, but was still regretful.

Debate Contest

Debate Contest

But some topics were ridiculous, such as “Do you agree or disagree that short men are losers?” This was just timely because there was of a TV show about a college student who gave her opinion that she wouldn’t date a guy under 5 feet 11 inches. Click here for more about this. This was the topic that my students had to debate. They were required to argue that they agree that “short men are losers.” It’s really horrible that we were required to talk about this. We just had to explain to the students that it’s just a debate that we were required to do and that it does not have to be their actual opinion. The students don’t even debate about topics in Korean, but I think the MOE (Ministry of Education) requires a debate in English just to get the students speaking, which is a good idea, but I think they should have more relevant topics that don’t degrade people. But, my class won the argument and went on to the second round. Although my class didn’t win during the final round, Randy’s class won first place among Team A!

On the last week of camp, the students had to perform a drama. This was the time to let the students shine. At first they were hesitant and shy to act, but after they saw my Korean co-teacher and I acting silly as well, they got excited and more into the acting. Our class performed “Hansel and Gretel.” Watch the video below. They won third place in the competition! It was really great to see the students do their best and very rewarding to see them so happy about it. Also, it was the last night of camp, so we started to say our goodbyes to the students who we had become close to.

Although winter camp consisted of long days and lots of teaching, the weeks went by fast and the students made the time enjoyable. “Hi, Shauna Teacher!” “Hi, Randy Teacher!” “Teacher, Randy’s girlfriend?” “Sticker chusayo (please)!” My teaching skills improved, even though we taught younger students. I learned how to build a better relationship with students and how to teach better with a co-teacher. The long days and lovable children were worth it.

Randy and his students


Celebrity Status

5 11 2009
Celebrities in Ulsan

Randy is the real celebrity here, I just look like everyone else. ^^

Superstars. We are like superstars in Korea! Well, Randy is more of a celebrity than I am because I look like everyone here. He gets the stares and the random “I love you” from strangers. When we are walking together, you can imagine what people are thinking. They’re not used to seeing an interracial couple because it’s just not that diverse here. But, they seem to accept it, especially because Randy is so friendly and likes to say hello and be very respectful to the elders. Koreans usually respond positively.

But, nonetheless, I still have that celebrity status at my school. Most students are very friendly and respectful that I come from a different country and try very hard to understand me and they try to speak English as much as they can. Other students don’t care as much and some are just rotten; these students are usually troublemakers anyway.

Though, sometimes students will mistake me for a Korean teacher and say “anyounhasayo” (hello in Korean) and bow, but then they realize that it’s me and I just hear them giggle and say “hello” quickly. Teachers expect students to greet them by bowing and saying hello.

Wrapped like a mummy

The trick was to "pick two students to wrap yourself like a mummy."

Hallowin Day. Last week we celebrated Halloween, which isn’t a big holiday here in Korea. They call it “Hallowin Day.” Although they sell Halloween costumes and decorations in some stores, not everyone celebrates it. It is more known among students who go to hagwons (private schools). They usually put on a big Halloween party or make a really scary haunted house for the students. But, I tried my best to cater to all 750 students in one week. I decorated my classroom with bats, ghosts, witches, black cats, etc. I played Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at the beginning of class and then played a trick or treat game. They had to pick a piece of paper from a box and on that piece of paper were tricks, such as “howl like a wolf,” “fly on a broom like a witch” or “dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.” Once the performed the ‘trick,’ they could get a treat. It was very amusing to me and my co-teacher!

Frustration and Encouragement. With that said, our class is supposed to be the ‘fun’ class. So, sometimes it is hard to get students to pay attention. Teaching is different for everyone. But for me, it’s easier to have my co-teacher in class because they are really good at disciplining the kids. Sometimes they don’t understand what I am saying, so I think that is why they don’t listen. But on the other hand, they could very well know what I am saying and just don’t listen. I’ve found a couple of things that work well for me when the co-teacher isn’t in the class. I just stand there and glare at the students really hard to let them know that I am angry. I will also make them write sentences for the whole class period. How a teacher disciplines the students really depends on his or her personality.

Other than some of the frustrating and exhausting times, teaching in Korea has been very rewarding, especially when some students really want to learn more about you and try to speak English. And as we are learning more Korean, it’s becoming easier to communicate with our students and coworkers and therefore, forming long-lasting relationships, or at least making Korea more enjoyable each day.

Getting Settled and Discovering Korea

14 10 2009

by Randy Pulayya

Culture. It has been almost two months since we arrived to Korea and we are finally getting adjusted to the Korean culture and way of life. One of the biggest things that we noticed is how much emphasis that the Korean government focuses on learning English. English is a main subject in Korean schools, along with the regular subjects such as science, math and social studies. A typical middle school student starts his or her day at 7am and ends by 4pm. After 4pm it’s straight to the academy. Most children are involved in some after school activities that are usually required and not necessarily anything like sports or clubs. They are usually enrolled in an after school private program (an academy) where they study all subjects but mostly English until 9pm. Saturdays are not considered the weekend for kids in Korea, it’s considered academy time.
Missing Home. McDonald’s in Korea delivers right to your apartment. Just call 1600 5252 and you are directed to the main calling center in Seoul, South Korea. The operator takes your address and finds it on their system. Our address is 1108 Dongsan Parkville Dal-dong, Namgu, Ulsan South Korea. You think it’s that easy telling them, right? Haaaaaa guess again!! After three phone calls we finally struck gold! We got our food delivered in 10 minutes. FYI, there is a surcharge of 900 won for delivery. That comes to less than one dollar! If you’re feeling lazy and want to stay in for the evening it’s worth it!
Adventures. This weekend we went paragliding in Ulsan! It was a long day but it was worth waiting around for the wind to pick up. We spent the entire day waiting for the wind to pick up on top a a beautiful mountain. It is no comparison to skydiving but, they say you should try everything in life at least once. There is no other feeling to describe being up in the air until you have done it. You do feel like a bird.

Wol-pyung Middle School

18 09 2009

by Shauna Vo

Although it is my third week of school, I want to give you a brief synopsis of what teaching has been like in South Korea. As everyone has told us, Korea is dynamic.dynamic-korea-cropped We had a glimpse of that slogan at orientation, but have now had a gulp of Korea’s dynamics. On my first day of school, Claire Root, the teacher I replaced, came to school with me to show me around and to show me how things operate in the school. We had a teacher’s meeting the first day. Claire announced her farewell to the teachers, as I said my greetings. Then, first period was about to start, so Claire introduced me to the co-teacher for my first class. My first class was cancelled! That is when I figured that I needed to hold tight for this ride.

The next day, there were even more changes! About five new teachers and teacher’s assistants started their first day at Wol-pyung Middle School. English ZoneIn Korean schools, there is a teacher’s office, where all of the teachers go for their planning period. Teachers do not have their own classrooms like in the States.The students stay in one classroom and the teachers rotate to different classrooms. The teachers’ office is sort of a central area where teachers work and mingle. But, I no longer had a desk in the teachers’ office because there were so many new teachers that they didn’t have enough space. English Zone-couchesAnd because I am a special teacher and actually have my own classroom (the English Zone), another teacher and I were required to stay there. This is just another example of how Korea is dynamic and always changing.

Teaching has been such a rollercoaster. Some days the students will behave very well and other days the students will be rebels. My co-teachers are really good at helping me discipline my students. Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell if the students are acting up or if they are talking about the class material. Usually, they are acting up. Corporal punishment is very common in Korea. All of the teachers have a stick that they use to get the students’ attention by banging it on the desk. They also use it to discipline the students by hitting them on their shoulder to get them to stop talking or they take them to the hallway and smack their bottoms with it. Back in the states, this is looked down upon, as well as students talking while the teacher is speaking. But here in Korea, students keep talking while the teacher is speaking, so one way that really works for students is to punish them with the stick. I personally wouldn’t hit a student, but I don’t have a problem if the Korean teacher does it. It seems that in Korea, you must be more active and intimidating toward the students to gain respect.

Although, some students need this corporal punishment, most of the students do respect me and that is when teaching is very rewarding. I have some classes where the students are very well behaved and seem like they actually want to learn English.Pink Flower These are the times when I feel like I can make a difference in these kids’ lives.But, what is even more rewarding is when a student gives me a piece of candy, makes me a ring from pink paper into a flower or even says hello to me in the hallway. The good rewarding times surpass the exhausting times in teaching.