Friday, July 25, 2014

Moving on and moving out

“Stand! You’ve got a cross the bear
There are things to go through if you’re going anywhere”
-Sly and the Family Stone

My plans for Korea have taken a sharp detour in the past week. See below for the soundtrack to this post, too.

After three years at the high school and the girls middle school, I'm transferring from Gimhwa. Such a choice did not come easily. It came suddenly and it wasn't entirely my choice, but it had to be done. At first, I was angry at the sudden change because I’d been reflecting on how to improve for next year, but after some deep reflection, moving on represents the best choice. Though I had some excellent classes and coteachers, some unresolved problems loomed ahead for several classes, and it’s best to move before they get worse. I had actually considered transferring earlier this year, but thought it best to stay. At the time, I couldn’t justify moving. Now I can.

I am transferring to either another school in my county, or to another county in Gangwon-do. It's likely that I can move across the county to Sincheorwon and take over for Jaquie, who's transferring to the east coast. I've visited her school and met the teachers and administrators there; it's a good school. Moving there would allow me to continue serving as District Coordinator, a position that's challenging yet edifying. EPIK's making changes and this group of teachers is dedicated to making them happen. They work hard and care deeply about their students. It's a privilege to work with them.

However likely staying in Cheorwon County is, it isn't certain. I may be placed in another county. It all depends. The Head Coordinator will be notifying all the transferring teachers of their placements in the coming days. He knows about my situation here. He’s a fair man, but of course, he can’t promise anything. If I have to move somewhere else in Gangwon-do, it’ll mean a brand-new school and a new area. Being away from Cheorwon won’t be easy, but I’ll take the challenge, should it happen.

Now is not the time to wallow in worry, but to prepare for the future. My contract ends in 30 days, so time is tight. By this time next August, I will have:
  • Attended this weekend’s International Tesol Academy workshop at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul.
  • Taught an hour-long conversation class with ~10 1st grade high schoolers.
  • Taken a vacation to China with R.
  • Turned 28 years old.
  • Moved to another town or county
The next month will test the time-management skills. The conversation class marks the last of my major responsibilities at Gimhwa High. It should go well, for the 1st graders worked hard all semester. I’ll miss them. The semester went well, but this class means we can finish on a high note. I’m eager to experiment with some new lesson ideas and learning strategies. More on that in future posts...

I've enjoyed my time teaching here. It's been challenging and edifying. I've grown personally and professionally since arriving here in August 2011. I’ve taught some excellent students. Saying goodbye to them this week has been difficult. Emotional doesn’t begin to describe the students’ reaction. At least I’ll be able to visit Wasu and Gimhwa in the future. It consoled them, but only so much.

Now it’s time to apply everything I’ve learned to a new school. Like Bob Dylan sang, “Strike another match, go start anew.” Starting fresh at a new school, with new students, coteachers, and administrators sounds an exciting way to spend 2014-2015 in Korea.

Moving will entail plenty of work, but we’ve already begun getting the place ready. R has been understanding and helpful. She has her own camps and classes to do, but she's making time to help me. I can't thank her enough for her help and support.

More posts are on the way….

Soundtrack to this post:

Link Wray’s cover of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

Sly and the Family Stone’s “Stand.”

Motorhead’s "Live to Win."

Minor Threat's "Salad Days."

Quick hit: Two weeks without FB/More unplugging

No more Facebook.

And I don't miss it. It has made getting ahold of some friends more difficult, but I don't miss its headache-inducing interface, the incessant ads, or the time I wasted on it.

And actually, it spurred what's become a series of long emails with an old friend from Wisconsin. We'd rarely written each other before, but now that FB is gone, we've move to email and have written more in depth about our lives. It's a positive change.

More unplugging

  • I no longer read emails on my phone. All data has been erased. The accounts have been un-synced. I did so out of concerns for privacy and because reading emails on the phone's screen gave me headaches. 
  • I deleted Wordpress and Blogger. Blogging will be done on the iPad or at home.
  • I kept Skype and Kakao simply because they used for talking with my American family and friends and the Cheorwon crew.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Resisting the temptation to plug in

I'm spending too much time on my phone doing unnecessary things and it's affecting my attention span. I realized this while I was doing exactly what I try to keep my students from doing: Tuning out conversations to use the phone.

This weekend I was in a pension in Pyeongchang with the other Gangwon-do coordinators. It was Sunday morning and C the game fiend got me and several others to play the game Smash Up with him. I'd never heard of this game before and listened intently when he explained how to play it. He went over everything like a pro. He walked us through each turn, explaining what each card could do and why. Slowly but surely, a rhythm developed.

And there was a lull in the gameplay and I pulled out my phone to--of all things--check emails and messages. Why? Just because, I guess. I have no real reason here, for even if I had gotten emails, I dislike typing on the phone's tiny keypad and dislike reading the tiny letters on its screen even more. Not only that, but I was missing valuable information about the game. My mind couldn't handle email and the Smash Up conversations at the same time. I was exhibiting the same behavior I deplore. There we were, friends and colleagues, and I was tuning out. What rudeness. C never said anything, but I knew that fiddling with the phone wasn't good.

I put the phone away. The messages and emails could wait...not that there were any, anyway. Everything Internet-related could wait. The game and the conversation were what mattered, because they were with people I rarely see face to face. These are people whose advice has helped immeasurably in teaching and being a District Coordinator. They matter. The conversation matters. I unplugged and returned to the game. We would all be leaving before noon and it was best that I not waste our time together.


The temptation to plug in is strong these days. I deleted all the emails from my phone and unsync'd the accounts. There is no need to check them on the phone. Anything important can be done on the iPad or the computer. 

It's time to go to school now. Today's goal is to knock down all six classes, prepare for tomorrow, and minimize time spent in front of screens.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Smart phone microphones and recording conversations in class

I meant to write this yesterday, but I didn't because the guitar was calling. The guitar's been neglected as of late, so I took 90 minutes, cranked up the tunes, and blasted away. It felt good. I took a little trip to rock and roll land and forgot about the busy days over here for a bit.

Anyway, that one thing: A few books I'd been reading lately mentioned making recordings in class. They specifically mentioned tape recorders because they came out before smart phone became ubiquitous. And yesterday, as my middle school girls began their group discussions about what they would do in certain situations, I had the idea to walk around and record whatever they were talking about. I'd brought the phone to class to use its stopwatch function in a memory/copying activity and thought, Hmm...this has a mike in it. Let's see what happens when I record things... So I did. I pushed record, walked around, and listened.

I didn't tell the students I was recording. I did as I always do: Move from group to group and see how everyone's doing. Maybe some of the girls noticed the phone in my hand, but none of them said anything.

When the class was over, I listened to the recordings and learned two things:

1. The fidelity's better than expected. The levels were good. I'd wondered if it would pick up some of the quieter voices, but it did.
2. I said "hm" too much when listening to the students. Or at least I think I did.

Actually, there was a 3rd thing I learned: the phone can send the sound files via email and KakaoTalk. In doing so, I shared them with my coteacher, who also praised the sound quality. Altogether, all of this is good to know. I've never used any recording equipment in class before; maybe now's the time to start. The phone's recorder's much more convenient than a tape recorder. The thing to do now: Consider where/when to use the voice recorder and how it can benefit the students in our classes.

For anyone who has recorded things in class, feel free to comment below!

* One book was How to Teach Teach Speaking by Scott Thornbury. Expect to see a review of it soon!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Quick hit: Boar sighted in Cheorwon

One of the Cheorwon EPIK crew told me that she saw a wild boar in town earlier. It even made eye contact with her before it ran out of sight. I'd no idea that Cheorwon had boar, but evidently, the county does.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Cruising along the Han River/Bike rentals and Yeouinaru Han River Park

I went to a favorite place in Seoul, the riverside park at Yeouinaru, on Saturday to enjoy some quiet time by the water and to try out Seoul's bike rental program. Despite having been to the park a few times previously, I'd never rented a bike there. Riding along the riverside bike path piqued my interest, so away I went. 

The bikes aren't particularly sporty, but they do nicely for a ride on a summer day. I jumped on, pedaled to the bike lane, and headed east. I ended up riding as far as Dongjak station, some 4km away, before turning back. Here are some photos I took.

Old Red. Looking northwest.

Looking northwest, near Dongjak Station.

If you want to go...

Renting a bike is easy: Bring a form of photo ID for a "deposit" and 3,000 won to the window and any bike on the lot is yours for an hour. If you want to go longer, it's 1000 won for every 15 minutes past the hour. I found the rental center by asking for directions once I get on the park; upon getting outside Yeouinaru Station,, walk toward the CU convenience store and restaurant. Keep walking for a minute or so. The rental center has a tent covering the bikes and shed-like area to pay at.

Also, Yeouinaru is just one of many places where people can rent bikes in Seoul. Some places even rent bikes for free. See this site for more information!

Bonus material:

After a good hour's ride, I returned Old Red and set off in search of a tree to sit and read under. When I got up 75 minutes later, I came across this Bookmobile here:

A mobile library--Good idea! I didn't see too many people reading in the park, but still, I liked seeing this.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Remember to thank your bus driver

Koreans tend to thank the driver whenever they step off the bus. Any bus. The bus could have gone a mile or it could have gone from Seoul to Mokpo, but the response would be the same: Thank you, thank you, and thank you. Everyone says it. I picked up the habit right away. These guys deserve the credit.*

There's a bit of culture for you. I can wait to thank my bus driver--I'm writing this on the iPad--when we pull into the Dong (East) Seoul Bus Terminal because he drove this Kia bus like a sports car. I mean it. Touring never gets boring here.

Semi-obligatory note on "guys": In nearly three years, I've yet to see a female bus driver, local or otherwise.

[I originally wrote this post a couple weeks ago, but the point stands.]