"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.
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?"
"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.