Thursday, November 15, 2012

Korean teaching tip: Embrace the downtime / Deskwarming

Deskwarming = having to be physically present at school without having anything to do.

Essentially, it means being paid to show up. Though some of us consider these days boring, they can provide valuable time for planning and relaxing. I embrace the deskwarming days. There’s no use in getting angry about them. As boring as they may be, things could always be worse. They’re part of the Korean teaching life. Some of us get it more than others because every school is different. Sometimes we know when we’ll be deskwarming (as in, most all of February) and sometimes it happens because stuff comes up.

This week’s seen some big deskwarming days and “sudden free time,” as one co-teacher put it: First, I showed up on Monday morning to find that the entire middle school had a three day field trip to Chuncheon, so all six classes didn’t happen. I taught 3 classes between Monday and Tuesday. Second, I arrived on Wednesday morning to hear that the first and second grade high school kids had a day-long test, so those four classes went away as well.*

The free time couldn’t have come at a better time: for the past week or so, I’ve been feeling uninspired on creating new lessons. Ideas weren’t coming easily and it was getting frustrating because I knew that the lessons wouldn’t write themselves. Fortunately, the writer’s block’s gone this week. Tuesday and Wednesday saw plenty of work get done for this week and for next week. The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday sparked a series of revisions to last year’s Thanksgiving plans, so there’ll be some newer and more engaging material this time around.

Embrace the deskwarming time. Here are some other things you can do besides lesson planning:

  • Talk to colleagues. This includes the Korean teachers as well as EPIK’ers.
  • Catch up on emails
  • Talk to the students when they're between classes. Say hello and surprise them.
  • Get out the headphones and crank up the tunes. YouTube’s got plenty of full albums posted and I'm on there every day listening to old favorites and new stuff.
  • Practice/study Korean
  • Enjoy the downtime while it’s here. Living here provides plenty of it.

*This also speaks to the Korean way of passing along information at the last minute. I knew nothing about the trip or the test until the days they happened. As they resulted in not having to do something, I’m not bothered by it.

** Here's some of what I played during deskwarming:

Soundgarden - Superunknown

Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger

Both represent quality records from the '90s or any era of rock. Dense, heavy, and richly textured. Soundgarden was Black Sabbath for Gen X in my opinion.

Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

And since we're on the subject, here's Black Sabbath's classic Sabbath Bloody Sabbath LP. I was in the mood for the heavy stuff that day for some reason. All three records hadn't gotten played in a long time.

And now for another band I can't get enough of...The Flamin' Groovies.

"Teenage Head"

"Yesterday's Numbers"

"High Flyin' Baby"

All three tracks come from their top-notch 1971 LP Teenage Head, a record that combines the best of classic rock, blues, and rockabilly. They even throw in a country number for good measure and end up beating the Stones at their own game. Compare this to Sticky Fingers and tell me what you think. Head is better: it's leaner, grittier, and more consistent. 

"Shakin' All Over" - if you thought the Who's cover on Live at Leeds was good, wait until you hear this. It's even better. Get the reissue of Teenage Head if you want this song on CD.

"Tallahassee Lassie" - they tear it up on this Freddy Cannon cover.

More to come later. Keep on rocking...

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