Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Re: Plugging in / A cartoon about smart phones

Some of my former 1st grade high school students drew this picture for their newspaper posters during the 2014 summer camp.

It's accurate. When the middle and high schoolers get together outside of school, their gatherings look something like this. Is the same thing happening in the USA? Probably. Yet this isn't a case of "Wow, Korea's crazy," but rather, "Hmm, maybe we're spending too much time in front of screens." 

I've a close friend in Cheorwon. We meet every week or so for dinner and cafe action. Both of us carry phones with us, yet we both put them on silent and don't look at them during our conversations. The temptation abounds, though. We often discuss music or films and become curious about various release dates or creative personnel. We sometimes do get anxious for instant clarification, but we've agreed to let those things go and focus on talking to each other instead. 

Again, this isn't about being "better." Phones and technology have their places. I just think that the phones can be put away when friends are in the room. 

Related: Phones and dinner manners
Various scenes involving young people and smart phones between Aug. 2011 and June 2013

Monday, September 22, 2014

A quick hit courtesy of DPS / Kick that ball and say something

It's Monday afternoon. Time for a jolt of energy...

I finally got around to watching the classic film Dead Poets Society last night. This scene resonated with me:

Mr. Keating has each guy read a quote from a poem and kick a ball as hard as he can. It combined physical activity with poetry in a way that got me thinking of how (if?) I could do a similar thing in my classes here. At my previous school, my boys middle school teachers suggested going outside and using the soccer field for a lesson or two on sports, but nothing like that has come up at the new school. Not yet, anyway.

Still, while I'd have to change the language used, having the students come outside, yell something life-affirming, and kick a ball sounds like fun. Maybe they could yell something like "I am Min-su and I love my phone!" or "I am So-young and I can run!" I bet the kids would like a chance to get out of the classroom.

More on the film later.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some assorted links and thoughts


"You don't need to use the book." 

Virtually every coteacher I've had has said some version of this sentence. In my experience, hearing "you don't need to use the book" usually gets followed with "You can play games." I heard it again today after a first grade middle school class. Perhaps my coteacher said so because I referenced a page in the textbook and had the students review it. I'd said, "Look at page 100. What are they talking about? What expressions do they use? We're going to use those expressions today." That part of the lesson was included for review.

Actually, I rarely follow the textbooks the students use, but I do reference them from time to time so to keep abreast of what they're studying. I've found that incorporating grammar points or vocabulary from the text into my "free" lessons has increased class participation and attention. 

And yet, why disregard the textbook? I understand that the Korean English teachers use the textbooks in their classes and wouldn't want the EPIK teachers to repeat the same material in their classes, yet the texts do have good content in them and they can provide useful supplementary material for classes. 

Finally, regardless of if I use the textbook's contents or not, in most classes the textbook is also the notebook. Most students don't carry notebooks around with them. They write in their textbooks. I should note that Korean students buy their textbooks and are free to write in them. Or rip them up. It happens.

Classroom etiquette 

I'm continually amazed at how many liberties some students will take with classroom etiquette: Turning around to talk to the people in the preceding row and nonchalantly walking in minutes late without materials are two sticking points with me. There's one more, and though I've said this before, it bears repeating: Materials in general, or lack thereof. How I'll see backpacks and pencil cases galore, but no notebooks or textbooks. I know this problem isn't limited to Korea or America, but I'm still amazed at how pervasive it is here.

Having a working bike again

The rear tire got punctured a few months ago and I got lazy about getting the bike fixed. I finally took care of it last weekend when I rode into Wasu, got the bike out of the old apartment, and took it back to Sincheorwon on the bus. The bike's fixed at last. It certainly makes getting around a little easier. And now I can resume the after-school rides around town. They were always good for unwinding. Woohoo.

"Is your beard real?"

It had to happen some time. I knew growing a beard while living here would prompt a few questions or provoke a few stares. For one, Koreans don't usually have facial hair, or, if they do, most Korean men are clean shaven. What's more, beards reside in the realm of older men, not those in their late 20s like me. This isn't so much the case in the USA, but the facial hair culture's different here.

And it shows, for two things have happened in the first two weeks: One was a boy who asked if he could touch my beard and another was a boy who actually went ahead and did it. The second boy took me by surprise. He quickly apologized for it. I said, "Okay, I know you're curious, but ask first." 

"Is your beard real?" was an actual question from a class.


A Czech EFL teacher reflects on a few questions about what communicative teaching really means. She posits her thoughts on some principles of Communicative Language Teaching. I'm linking it here because it's a good reflective piece about teaching and how a teacher's approach can shape a class.

She writes of how best to work with upper and lower level students here. I found this one especially relevant to EPIK teachers, for our classes have a wide range of students as well.

A teacher in France writes about the tricky relationships between teachers and parents. She herself is a parent and has seen both sides of parent- teacher conferences. It also contains some bits about how conferences work in France.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pictures of Sincheorwon, Cheorwon County, Gangwon-do, South Korea

Some pictures of the town I live in now. The time felt right to do a quick picture post. Sincheorwon's one of Cheorwon County's three main towns. Its name literally means "New Cheorwon" because the original Cheorwon got renamed Dongsong.

Sincheorwon's about 10 minutes from the Gyeonggi-do border.

A nice park that's on the way to the middle school and high school. It's on a street I'd never gone down prior to two weeks ago. The shade's nice.

On the left is my building. It's a change from all of the shade of the trees in front of the E3 building in Wasu. 

I walked a little further along the road and took this one because it shows how the farms abut the buildings here.

Little exercise areas among the walking paths.

Looking toward the E1 building I live in.

Looking out from the front doors of the middle school.

The front doors of Sincheorwon Middle School.

Bottom: The DC Mart. [DC = Discount]
Middle: Dirty Math and GnB English, two of the hagwons in town. The name Dirty Math intrigues me, for I wonder what's supposed to mean. Does it mean dirty, as in quick and dirty? Or does it literally mean math is a dirty subject? Or maybe it just sounded like a good name?
Top: One more hagwon. Transliterated from the Korean: Je-il Hagwon. [#1 Hagwon]

View from my side window on an overcast day.