Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 SMOE Workshop Day 1 – Unrealistic expectations?

Let me preface this post by saying teaching is one of my passions and that I take improving myself as a teacher seriously. The intent of this post is to make some very needed observations and criticisms about how workshops are designed and how presenters are chosen and presentation materials vetted . . . or, unfortunately, to illuminate the lack of vetting and the lack of supervision . . .
I arrived at Korea University at 8:40am Monday . . .
I signed in, got my name tag, and picked up a workshop booklet. After that I headed into the auditorium and found myself a seat.
Some Koreans were testing the microphones and prepping things for the opening ceremony. The usual items were being prepared . . . national anthem, big Korean flag power point slide, and an overview of the workshop schedule power point slides were readied for the 200 or so native English teachers slowly filling up the auditorium.
As I sat in the audience waiting for the usual hoopla to be finished . . . I thought about how I always find it amusing that foreigners are asked to stand and salute the Korean flag and sing their national anthem. I have no problem paying my respect to the Korean flag, and standing while their national anthem is played–I am after all at work and on their dime–but I still ponder these things from time to time.
National anthem and flag respecting done the supervisor says some opening remarks, and begins introducing the SMOE office co-ordinators . . . and unfortunately can’t remember all their names. I am terrible with names so I feel some sympathy for him because I’d probably have been lucky if I could remember 2 and I think he got through about 4.
The supervisor then goes over our schedule for the two days.
Monday December 21st
8:30 to 8:50am – Registration
9-9:20am – Opening Ceremony
9:30-10:20am – Co-teaching
10:30-10:50am – Reflection Session: Classroom Issues and Professional Development
11:00-12:20 – Reflection Session
12:30-13:20 – Lunch
13:30-14:20 – Reflection Session
14:30-16:00 – Co-teaching Demo Lesson and Q&A
Tuesday December 22nd
9:00-12:50 – Co-teaching Workshop
13:00-15:00 – Lunch Party Buffet
16:00-17:30 – Go to see “Jump” (Show)
I had already seen the schedule because my co-teacher is awesome and when she got the memo she printed out a copy for me, and then when I asked her to she translated some of the info written in Korean. There wasn’t really a lot of info to translate but what there was she did with no hesitation or complaining. My co-teacher rocks, and I’m insanely lucky to be working with her.
After the supervisor finished going over the schedule a coordinator got up and kind of did the same thing, lol, and then pointed out a map we had been given in our schedule booklets. Finishing that we had a ten minute break before the first presentation, “Practical Co-teaching,” began.
. . . . . . . .
Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Flugun Gate at Snow Jam, Seoul 2009 — What is a ‘flugun gate’?

After the final match was finished at the Snow Jam event I began to walk home . . . and came across a Flugun Gate . . .

Since I’ve never seen one before
I did a Google search for “flugun gate” and came across taryn’s korea adventure blog posting, Incheon Global Fair & Festival. She writes about how she had to wait “in line first to be spritzed with hand sanitizer, and then to pass through the so-called “Flugun” gates where a machine doused us in some kind of germ-fighting mist.”

Another blogger, With Backpack, also went to the Incheon Global Fair and writes,

“Along with the hundreds of hand sanitizer machines, there are also many “fluguns” installed where crowds are expected. This is a device that is suppose to kill flu germs, I think. I doubt that it works, since after being “flugunned” about three times in Songdo I had a cold the next day.”

Another day in Korea blogger writes, “It’s misty and apparently kills the flu.” And Annyeong! writes, “Of course, before entering we had to walk through the Flugun Gate, just in case we were carrying H1N1. The swine flu scare is getting ridiculous – so many festivals have been cancelled because people are scared to gather in large groups because of the flu.”

After doing several different searches on Google for about 20 minutes I finally gave up on finding an expert source defining what a “Flugun Gate” is and whether research has been done that proves there’s any degree of effectiveness in H1N1 prevention . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Snow Jam Seoul 2009 / LG Snowboard FIS World Cup BA — Awesome snowboarding with huge air and a few wicked wipeouts

This past Sunday afternoon Julianne and I headed back to Snow Jam for the afternoon qualifying match, which was scheduled to run from 1-5pm, and then we planned to hang out for an hour till the final match that would happen from 6-7pm.

We got to the snow ramp at about 3:45pm and I snapped a few pictures of the scaffolding with my Canon D400 and Sigma 10-22mm lens . . .

When we walked to a spot where we could see the ramp there was nothing going on . . . I’m not sure if the afternoon match finished early but . . . yeah . . . arriving at 4pm, 2 hours before the final match starting time (6pm), actually proved to be a bonus in disguise because I was able to get a good spot inside a barricaded area just across from the ramp. If we’d arrived at even 5pm we would not have been standing at the edge of the street. Even so, it was FREAKING COLD and standing in one spot for 2 hours was not exactly the most fun thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. The only thing that kept me motivated to ignore the cold was that I was pumped about it being my first time taking pictures at an international sport event!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Snow Jam Seoul 2009 / LG Snowboard FIS World Cup BA — Awesome snowboarding with huge air and a few wicked wipeouts

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Seoul Snow Jam 2009 -- World class snowboarders and a 3 story high snow ramp in Ganghwamun Plaza?

Julianne and I headed out to Seoul Snow Jam tonight . . . but we were too late. But I should backtrack a little and explain how I found out about SSJ.

My co-teacher asked me on Friday if I'd heard about SSJ--I said a friend of mine, Sonya, had mentioned it to me. My co-teacher then asked me if I knew that the main snowboarding jump was '3 stories high' and in Ganghwamun Plaza . . . and it was at this point that the photographer in me began to giggle like a little boy on Christmas morning at the images I imagined I'd be able to shoot at this event . . . needless to say I was VERY happy my co-teacher had reminded me, and that Sonya had passed on the event info to me.

A brief search on Google brings up this link to the event's site. And more importantly this link to the event's schedule. On Sunday there will be a qualifying match from 10am to 12, another qualifying match from 1-5pm, and then the final match is from 6-7pm. I can't believe that I didn't research this event on Friday when I heard about it cause normally when I hear about a festival or event I post a blog with all the info I need to go, and share it too. Too much has been going on lately (for example, my school is asking me to do FIVE WEEKS of winter English camps--the most of any foreign teacher in Seoul that I know) and other stuff that I won't bore you with . . .

There are also news articles about the event online too. Here's one from the Korean Herald, 2009 Seoul Snow Jam held in Gwanghwamun, and Hermit Hideaways has a bit on it too.

Anyways, tomorrow I'm going to head back to Ganghwamun Plaza and find myself a good spot and take a bizillion pics of dudes flying through the air doing spins and tricks that defy the imagination! I can't wait.

As for the trip Julianne and I took tonight . . . well, here are some pics of the event area. Oh yeah, and it was CROWDED!

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Seoul Snow Jam 2009 -- World class snowboarders and a 3 story high snow ramp in Ganghwamun Plaza?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rubber Seoul Event and World AIDS Day, Hongdae, Seoul, South Korea - Saturday December 5th, 2009

Julianne and I are going to be volunteer photographers at the Rubber Seoul Event and World AIDS Day, in Hongdae, Seoul tomorrow night.

Please come out and have some fun while supporting World AIDS Day.

See you there,

p.s. If you read this and have a blog PLEASE put up a post about this event.

Rubber Seoul 2009 is coming soon on Saturday, December 5, 2009. The line-ups and clubs are official! Look below for details.

For those of you who missed it last year, Rubber Seoul is an evening of music, dancing, and all around fun in Hongdae that coincides with World AIDS Day. It is a great way to spread information about HIV/AIDS in Korea, as well as to support the Hillcrest AIDS Center in South Africa.

10,000 Won will get you a Little Traveller doll as well as unlimited access to the clubs until the wee hours of the morning. ALL proceeds from the cover charge will go to support the Hillcrest AIDS Center in South Africa.

So, save the date on Saturday, December 5, 2009. It's gonna be an awesome night.

We have three clubs lined up, and here's the band line up:

JANE’S GROOVE (Doors open at 8:30 pm)
9:00 pm Brick Slipper
9:45 pm Bridget and the Puppycats
10:30 pm EV Boyz (Minus One)
11:00 pm Sotto Gamba

CLUB FF (Doors open at 9:00 pm)
9:15 pm The Koxx
10:00 pm Pony
10:45 pm Gogo Star
11:30 pm No.1 Korean
12:15 am U R Seoul

1:00 am - 6:00 am DJ Eddie's Super-Fun Rockin' Dance Party!
DGBD (Doors open at 11:00 pm)
11:15 pm Solitaire Love Affair
12:00 am Tacopy
12:45 am Rock Tigers

Get ready for a great time and to help some people out!
Don't forget to invite all of your friends.

T-Shirts, Little Traveller dolls, and hand made crafts will also be available for purchase at all venues, with the proceeds going to benefit HIV/AIDS charities.

And make sure you check out our blog, and the Little Travellers Korea website:

Little Travellers are beautiful beaded pins made by women affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Each pin is individually handcrafted and unique.

Founded in Canada and now sold in Korea for 5000 won each, all of the proceeds go to fight HIV/AIDS in the KwaZulu-Natal province; an area with one of the highest prevalence of HIV in the world.

For every little traveller that is sold, 40% goes to the crafter and 60% supports the Hillcrest AIDS Center. Hillcrest provides a variety of services including education, counseling, emergency feeding and school fees. For more detailed information, please refer to the Little Travellers brochure.

Proceeds from this event will be donated to the Hillcrest AIDS Center, a non-governmental, non-profit organization located in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. The Hillcrest AIDS Center provides home-based care and nursing, emergency feeding programs, school and funeral fee funds, educational workshops, counselling, testing services, and economic empowerment through the income generation project.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

English Camps in South Korea - A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers

I decided to do some new writing about topics foreign English teachers in Korea need info about during their first year teaching in Korea, and there is info in this post that some experienced teachers might appreciate too (like book titles that are useful for different types of English camps).

I've also been working on some posts about co-teaching because I'm back in the public school system and co-teaching in Korea lacks an organized and well designed training program for the different levels of schools. I'll try to post those in the coming weeks.

If it's your first time reading this blog please take a look at a series of posts called,

A Guide For New EFL/ESL Foreign English Teachers/Instructors in South Korea - Public Schools, Hogwans, Universities, and Training Center/Institutes

At the beginning of each post I write, 'If any of the following materials are used as a part of an orientation or new foreign teacher training manual I would appreciate being cited as the author (if it's something that I wrote, some materials are from other sources and should be cited appropriately) and or as a source from which the materials were taken from (if it's something I found and arranged and posted on the Net). I've spent a lot of time and energy writing and blogging and would appreciate the citation. Thanks.' Please cite me as the author for my English winter camp post if you use any of the materials too.

Anyways, many new foreign teachers right about now are being asked to prep for winter English camps. Getting explicit instructions on how to do this, and what to be aware of, is often not what happens. Foreign teachers should keep in mind that some Korean English co-teachers have done English camps with a foreign teacher before, but that others have never planned a camp involving a foreign teacher and likely don't know what to tell you to plan, or how to plan it (so it might be a good idea to print out this guideline and give a copy to your co-teacher!). There are a lot of things to consider when planning and designing an English camp in Korea, and I've tried to cover as much as I can here.

1. Pre-Camp Checklist

a) How many students per class?

Camps tend to have 20 students per class, but this number can be higher or lower so make sure you ask.

I think that if the number is higher than 20 you should politely but firmly suggest that the number is too high--especially when you're not likely to have a Korean co-teacher in the room to help with classroom behavior management. All too often if the KET''s (Korean English teacher) away the mice are going to torture you with bad behavior . . . the unfortunate truth about too many (but luckily not all) students in Korea is that once they realize you won't use corporal punishment to enforce the rules they often see time alone with you in a classroom as 'do whatever they want to time' cause they know you won't hit them . . .

This is not true for all foreign teachers. I think personality type, confidence levels, teacher training and experience, and other variables come into play with how students behave when there's no co-teacher but I've also heard too many stories about foreign teachers pretty much giving up and making their camp into watching movies and/or students doing whatever they want while the foreign teacher goes on facebook to chat with friends, play games, or whatever while they complete their class hours but don't do any actual teaching . . . with some planning and preparation an English camp can be a fantastic experience for both the teacher and the students. Often a lack of planning and prep are the REAL source of students bad behavior . . . and also the stress and hair pulling frustration that a teacher experiences. This camp guide, I hope, will help pre-emptively kill a lot of the problems that first time camp teachers experience.

b) Who is screening the levels of students? How are they doing it? c) Will there be mixed grade classes? Or mixed level classes?

This is a vital question to ask because in the past, before I had experience teaching camps, I didn't think it was necessary to micro-manage my co-teacher while the students are being selected, or signing up, for a camp. During my first camp experience in 2005 on Ganghwa Island I was given a class mixed with 1st grade false-beginner students, intermediate students, and advanced students, 2nd grade false-beginner students, intermediate students, and advanced students, and 3rd grade false-beginner students, intermediate students, and advanced students--ALL IN THE SAME CLASS!!! The complete and utter lack of any kind of educational criteria being used to put this class together made it an impossible class to teach--especially for a first time teacher in his first semester of teaching in Korea. Simply put, no teaching or learning principles were used in the formation of the class rather it was more about pleasing parents, the principal, and about getting the most students possible in the foreign teacher's class.

While the example I just used is an extreme case there also milder versions of this that happen. Putting SAME GRADE but radically different language ability students in the SAME class often happens too. For example low level 2nd grade students combined with high level 2nd grade students. This then forces the native teacher to choose which group of students they orient their lesson materials towards. It is possible to teach this kind of class but it generally can only be done by teachers with a lot of training and experience. One solution is to pair up weak and strong students and turn the strong students into teaching-assistants, begin with low level vocabulary and language and then work your way up to higher level content so that the high level students get some learning too . . . but designing lesson plans in this manner is not easy, and teaching it is difficult too. In addition, you also have to consider that Korean language learners will often have social/friendship behaviors that sabotage a teacher's desire to pair weak/strong students together whether it's about an age difference, being separated from their friends in the class, or whatever this can often be a major obstacle that gets in the way of the best teaching strategies.

Probably the easiest method for a Korean English co-teacher to create class lists by learner ability, i.e. a class with all advanced students, is by looking at student English test scores. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for many Korean English co-teachers to actually do a proper language learner ability assessment (whether it's for reasons of time and number of students, or a matter of the KETs language ability and teacher training). It's also hard for many native English teachers to assess learner levels especially when they're new to the EFL/ESL teaching job. Simply put, try to get student test scores involved in how they are assigned to English camp classes so there is at least some degree of educational reasoning being used in which student goes into which class. Otherwise you're in for some really hard teaching experiences.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

English Camps in South Korea - A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers

I hope it helps new foreign teachers and make sure to check out the book list as it has titles that can be used for speaking/conversation camps, writing camps, listening (if you're asked to focus on that), reading, culture, games and activities, and the list goes on . . . I organized the book titles by type of camp so if you're hunting for a good book to use for your camp you may find what you're looking for in the list.

Good luck,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2009 Seoul Lantern Festival — Saturday night pictures . . .

Julianne and I returned to the 2009 Seoul Lantern Festival on its final night this past Saturday . . .

It was pretty cold and windy outside, and there were thousands of people there . . .

I was using my Canon D400, a Sigma 10-22mm lens, and my Speedlite 580EXII flash . . . I think I got some pretty nice shots.

I guess some things I might mention about the festival are . . . I was shocked to see a pretty significant safety patrol/police presence along the stream’s icy water. At one point a police officer began yelling across the stream at a father with a baby in his arms for stepping down onto rocks next to the stream to get his picture taken–I was VERY IMPRESSED to see a police officer doing something about a high risk behavior because during the five years I’ve been in Korea I have NEVER seen a police officer do anything remotely like this.

A friend of mine commented on how she liked that about 50-60% of the people were trying to be respectful about not bashing into each other, and especially if you were taking a picture. All too often in Korea the higher social rank person (or someone who “thinks” they’re a higher social rank, or often is just walking around in a ‘bubble’ oblivious to others not in their social circle) pretends not to see you and just ‘walks through you’ or rams into you/bumps you/shoulders you aside as they walk by regardless of what you’re doing at the time. The crowd that was out at the festival was less push and more respectful than is, unfortunately, the norm at festivals with large crowds (at least in my own personal experience).

Another thing that shocked me was that there was a LINE UP at the stairs next to the small waterfalls head of the stream concert stage area–I was really surprised by this, and the fact that no one was trying to bud in line or pretend not to see the 100-200 people long line up. WOW is all I have to say about that too–apparently there are some major cultural changes going on somehow in terms of street festival etiquette or something . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2009 Seoul Lantern Festival at Cheonggye Stream, Seoul, South Korea

Julianne and I headed to Cheonggye Stream to check out the 2009 Seoul Lantern Festival . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Monday, November 9, 2009

H1N1 ‘Clinic’ is really a tent outside the International Foreign Clinic and ER at Seoul National University Hospital . . . wow.

About 3 days after visiting the ER of a hospital in Seoul (see this link for the story), and getting Tamiflu along with several other medicines, Julianne began to feel worse not better. We headed back to the hospital last Wednesday morning after she called me at school to say she needed my help.

Arriving at the hospital we headed to the International Foreigner Clinic. As we walked through the main entrance of the hospital I couldn’t help thinking ‘oh my god, there are so many people coming and going from the hospital, and many of them are elderly, why is there no temperature check and sterile mask check point at the main entrance?’ In the main waiting area just inside the entrance I immediately asked a nurse who was wearing her mask around her neck for two masks for Julianne and I to put on. While Julianne was not tested for H1N1 during our last visit (not sure why), we were pretty sure that she had it. We wanted to be responsible and put on masks so that she wouldn’t infect any people inside the hospital . . . I have to be a bit sarcastic here and say that I guess this must be a foreign concept . . . sigh.

After hearing me ask for masks, and saying “H1N1″ to the nurse she put on her mask immediately with a very alarmed face.

Julianne and I then headed over to the main desk that has the international clinic sign above it but we were directed to go to the right of the desk and down a hallway about 15 feet to the actual clinic itself. Apparently there are no English speaking medical staff or clerks posted to the desk in the main lobby where the giant sign is but rather you’ll only find them in the clinic itself.

Arriving at the small office we waited while the secretary (nurse?) kept answering the phone . . . and waited, and waited . . . and then she finally stopped to talk to us.

The nurse (I’m guessing) began asking us why were visiting (apparently failing to notice that BOTH of us were wearing masks) and after hearing “fever” and “Swine Flu” she paused and reached behind her to pick up a N95 mask . . . lol, lucky for her that Julianne already had her mask on, eh? I don’t know how quickly someone can be infected from talking to a person with the H1N1 virus but if you aren’t wearing your mask and the sick person isn’t wearing a mask I would have to hazard a guess that the odds do increase at least a little that you’re going to be infected . . . sigh.

The nurse asked Julianne for her alien registration card, national health insurance card, and we also gave her the hospital info card. After typing in some info, and asking Julianne some questions, the nurse took Julianne’s temperature. It was a little high, and probably would have been higher if Julianne had not already been taking anti-flu meds. The nurse wrote this info down on a form, and then told us someone would come and take us to the “H1N1 Clinic.”

After waiting about 2 minutes a guy in his late 20s or early 30s showed up to escort us. He was wearing a mask–wow–and we began walking to wherever the “clinic” was located. I asked Julianne if she wanted to get a wheelchair but she said no, she’d walk. I was worried, though, because we didn’t know how far away this “clinic” was and Julianne was VERY weak, and needed to walk very slowly.

Walking outside, I asked the escort if he spoke English and got a quick head shake ‘no.’ We slowly walked across the parking lot, and had to pause while trying to cross a through way because traffic wouldn’t stop for us (why stop for sick people when driving through a hospital? Yes, this pissed me off!).

I asked the escort how much farther away the clinic was because I had the sinking feeling that it could be several hundred meters away . . . he pointed at a place that looked like it was about 50 meters from where we were, so the total distance was about 150 meters from the hospital entrance–this being a great location for sick people to walk when they need to see a doctor, of course–NOT!

Telling myself to calm down, and that things could be worse Julianne and I walk past construction vehicles roaring around, and BEEP BEEP BEEPING as they move materials to see a collection of 4 white tents . . . needless to say we were rather shocked.

Julianne began saying “There’s no way I’m giving blood in there!” and I tried to reassure her that they wouldn’t ask her to do that in an open air tent with construction being done a few feet away from its entrance . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

H1N1 ‘Clinic’ is really a tent outside the International Foreign Clinic and ER at Seoul National University Hospital — Nothing says quality care like a screeching bleep sound from construction vehicles outside the tent flap…sigh!


H1N1 and visiting a South Korean Hospital — Do NOT pick your nose and then hand out sterile masks!

Almost two weeks ago Julianne became very ill with flu-like symptoms. But she didn’t have a fever so we thought, perhaps wrongly (apparently a fever is NOT mandatory to have H1N1), that she probably didn’t have H1N1. A couple days later she was really sick and having some trouble breathing so we headed to the hospital.

The first contact people in the ER are two clerks behind a counter, and one to two security guards who monitor incoming patients and people. Considering the hype over H1N1 I was surprised that there wasn’t a person at the door taking everyone’s temperature as they entered the area. Instead, the security guards hand out masks to incoming people . . . but didn’t seem to be giving them to 100% of the people entering the ER area. (Also, inside the ER area I only saw about 60-70% of people wearing their masks, some incorrectly, and no one seemed to be asking the people not wearing masks to put them on.)

Since the security guards act as first contact people (after the two clerks) in the entrance of the ER they had sterile masks. Some of them wore them correctly, while others wore them around their neck with the nose and mouth uncovered . . .

Considering the fact that a security guard comes into contact with EVERY PERSON entering the ER I was rather disgusted with the guards not wearing their masks. If they did have H1N1 they could be infecting patients and visitors to the ER . . .

Anyways, more on this after I continue the story . . .

Julianne gave her alien registration card, national health insurance booklet, and hospital info card to the two clerks at the desk who then waved us through to the ER doors where the security guards pass out masks. We were handed masks and then walked through to the open treatment area (open as in there are no private rooms or wall dividers between each area and everyone sees everything that is taking place while you talk to your doctor–there are curtains but they are rarely pulled around the patient).

Before seeing a doctor Julianne was seated in the hallway where a nurse with excellent English asked her some preliminary questions. But when she tried to call up Julianne’s registration file on her computer we found out that the clerk at the front desk had failed to sign Julianne into the hospital as a patient–uhm, hello patient in-take procedures? I wonder why he didn’t enter her into the system . . . the nurse looked puzzled and did what should have been done earlier.

It was around this point that another nurse walked up and asked me to sign the ‘friend/family responsibility for patient form’ that you must sign if you’re the person coming in with a patient. It says things like: take care of personal belongings, be with the patient at all times, and other things along those lines.

Anyways, Julianne was having a hard time breathing and when the nurse found this out she hooked her up to a heart rate and blood pressure monitor . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to see pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

H1N1 and visiting a South Korean Hospital — Do NOT pick your nose and then hand out sterile masks!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

EFL Teaching and Curriculum Design in Korea – Tried to make a 2 month syllabus and in the first week it’s already been destroyed…

About a week ago I sat down to plan out the lessons I would do over the course of November and December at the boys high school where I teach. I looked over all the lessons I’ve designed and chose my ‘Greatest Hits’ . . .

I also sat down with my co-teacher and went over all the dates on which I’d have no classes due to tests, field trips, and any other of the myriad reasons that classes get canceled. I thought that my semi-long term planning would not be screwed up and that I’d anticipated everything I could that might effect my lesson planning . . . boy was I wrong.

But the Halloween lesson was sabotaged by the H1N1/Swine Flu situation in Korea. On the last Wednesday of October, around 11am, I found out that ALL first grade classes would be sent home Wednesday afternoon and that they wouldn’t be returning until Monday of the next week . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

EFL Teaching and Curriculum Design in Korea – Tried to make a 2 month syllabus and in the first week it’s already been destroyed…


It’s class time . . . and yep, no students (again).

This past Wednesday morning I go to my classroom to set up for my introduction lesson a few minutes early. This is the first week for me teaching the second grade high school boys classes (I’d been teaching the senior grades in a Suneung (“Korean SATs”) listening prep class for September and October).

I turn on the computer, the touch-screen TV, and set up my power point presentation that I use in my introduction lesson. I put on some Hip Hop music (to wake up the guys as they walk in), and write a few things on the white board like “Classroom Rules” and the 10 Xs system (I erase one X each time a rule is broken, all 10 get erased and there’s a consequence for the whole class) that I use for classroom behavior management.

I finish setting up, check my watch, and have a minute or so to wait before the boys should begin arriving . . .

No early arrivals . . . okay. Usually at least a few guys show up early to get first pick of where they want to sit, check out the alien teacher–err, foreign English teacher, and chill out while waiting for the class to begin.

The class bell goes off, and I’m standing in the doorway. I see another young Korean English teacher, and he asks me, “Are you teaching now?” I respond, “Yes, but I have no students” and begin laughing.

He seems astounded by this, and I tell him that it’s a pretty common experience for native English teachers that an entire class just doesn’t show up, and nobody tells you anything about why . . . sometimes this happens for legitimate reasons and other times it’s just plain poor communication and a lack of professional courtesy to make sure the native English teacher is informed about a schedule change, cancellation, or whatever the case may be.

I wait two more minutes, and then decide I’m going to do something I rarely do anymore . . . . . . . . . .

Click on the link below to read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

EFL Classroom Halloween Culture Lesson Craft Activity and Display Part II

Earlier I wrote 3 posts about my Halloween culture lesson and my experiences decorating classrooms in Korea. Here are the links . . .

Halloween Classroom Decorations — Looking back at 2005 and my first Halloween lesson in Korea

Shopping For Halloween Decorations at Lotte Mart, Seoul Station

Carving jack-o-lanterns with my co-teacher — Co-teaching . . . it ain’t just in the classroom.

The high school boys have been responding pretty positively to the Halloween culture lesson and craft activity. We’ve been putting up the different vocabulary craft items they make in class. Creative, imaginative, artsy type activities are NOT a common classroom language learning experience, let alone a common learner experience in other subjects as well, in South Korea. This is an unfortunate side-effect of the exam/test-myopia that plagues the entire education system in Korea, and it severely impacts that teaching and learning styles that are practiced. Fortunately for most native English teachers one of the positive aspects of our classes not being tested is that we have a lot more freedom to do things that are not in direct support of the extreme tests-are-the-only-thing-that-matters-therefore-we-only-do-test-related-things-in-class . . .

In this picture you can see the yarn spider web that the boys helped me put up and attach to the four ceiling fans. At the front are the results of the craft activity with scissors and color paper . . .

Click on the link below to see the pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.


Fiery Red Fall Leaves and A Monk Waiting for a Taxi in Seoul, South Korea

Today on the way to meet Julianne for dinner it was impossible to miss that the fall leaves are hitting their peak colors . . .

Click on the link below to see the pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Fiery Red Fall Leaves and A Monk Waiting for a Taxi in Seoul, South Korea


H1N1/Swine Flu — Shutting down all schools in South Korea . . . will it come to that with Suneung only 16 days away?

I haven’t written about H1N1 aka Swine Flu since September . . . and today Brian from Jeollonamdo did a write up,

More cases of swine flu, more deaths

in which he displays an awesome summary of things being written on the Net.

Here are the posts I wrote back in August and September about H1N1.

H1N1/Swine Flu in Korea — I predict all schools will be closed in Korea for 10 days this fall/winter–probably Sept/Oct

H1N1 will become an epidemic in Korea that will see a revolution in hygiene awareness, and Koreans staying home when they’re sick

“You should go to the hospital” — Korean cultural norm of going to hospital for many things may backfire on it for H1N1

South Korea – Swine Flu will close all schools and pretty much shut the country down for 10 days–and give foreign teachers another 10 day quarantine

. . . . .

Here is perhaps the biggest reason why I still think there’s a high chance of all schools being closed across Korea,

“Korea has stocks of Tamiflu and anti-viral drugs for 11 percent of its entire population but the ministers said that the stocks will be raised to cover 20 percent by the end of the year.” (Korea Times, Tamiflu Available at Drug Stores)

. . . . . .

Click on the link below to read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

H1N1/Swine Flu — Shutting down all schools in South Korea . . . will it come to that with Suneung only 16 days away?

I wonder what will happen over the next few weeks . . . I especially worry about the elderly Koreans with pre-existing health conditions.

I hope things are not going to get as bad as I think they will . . .


Monday, October 26, 2009

Carving jack-o-lanterns with my co-teacher -- Co-teaching . . . it ain't just in the classroom.

My primary co-teacher and I finally got around to carving our pumpkins. It was her first time carving so she was very excited, and I have to admit I was too. We set up in a room adjacent to the teachers office . . .

Click on the link below to see the pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.

Carving jack-o-lanters with my co-teacher -- Co-teaching . . . it ain't just in the classroom.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Disco Jump Ride in Dongdaemun Market — The guy who does flips in the center of the ride wasn’t working tonight–damn!

Julianne and I headed over to the Dongdaemun Market area tonight to eat some BBQ galbi (pork ribs). On the way there we passed by the Disco Ride . . .

Click on this link to see the pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween Classroom Decorations — Looking back at 2005 and my first Halloween lesson in Korea

My first Halloween in Korea was back in 2005. I was living and teaching on Ganghwa Island, and was one of just 6 foreign English teachers on the whole island. My home middle school (I taught at 3, and lived next to one of them) was in a two-street village next to a mountain–needless to say the kids and teachers had never been exposed to anything resembling a western cultural Halloween event so I decided to do a culture lesson and decorate my English classroom.

I spent my own money on the decorations because the middle school was small (98 students) and they didn’t have any kind of budget (especially after spending 40,000 on building a new English Zone). I went to Walmart in Incheon (back in the day when Walmart was still in Korea) and picked up supplies and some decorations . . .

Click on the following link to read the rest of this post and see the pictures.

Halloween Classroom Decorations — Looking back at 2005 and my first Halloween lesson in Korea


Fall Leaves Around My Neighborhood in Seoul

For the past couple weeks I have been trying to find the right time of day with the right angle and amount of sunlight on some trees near my apartment. I still haven’t been able to be free and in the area at the best time but I decided to take some pics yesterday regardless because soon the leaves will be gone . . .

Click on this link to see the pictures and read more at Kimchi Icecream: The Second Serving . . . . I've moved over to and will be blogging there from now on.


Kimchi-icecream moves from to wordpress

I finally decided to make the move from kimchi-icream at because everybody has been telling me that wordpress is better. The straw that broke this camel’s back happened a couple days ago when I was trying to upload pictures and a window popped up informing me that I had exceeded Picasa’s web album limit and that I’d have to pay for more space if I wished to continue uploading pics to my blog . . . uhm, no thank you.

I'm hoping the people who read my blog regularly will click on the link below and continue reading. The link below is the title of the first post I wrote on the new blog I created.

Kimchi-icecream moves from to wordpress

I began playing around with the wordpress blog yesterday and am in the process of choosing the blog template that I like best, and figuring out how to use the dashboard features too.

Using wordpress is going to allow me to evolve my blogging style, and perhaps more importantly write more often because I'll be able to access it whenever I want to as opposed to not being able to when I'm in certain places Monday to Friday (I'm sure you can pick up on the subtext here, wink wink).

Anyways, I really hope regular readers will follow me over to wordpress, and bookmark the new blog site.

I even modified the name slightly to include a tag line . . .

What do you think?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Club Freebird, Hondae, Seoul, South Korea -- A band I saw the other night and nobody can tell me their name, lol.

Last Friday night Julianne and I headed out to Hongdae to see a friend's band play. We both brought our cameras as we planned to take pictures of the band playing.

I picked up some Ilford Pro 3200 ISO Black and White film for Julianne's Nikon F4, and I had my new Speedlite 580 EX II flash, Canon D400, and Simga 10-20mm wide angle lens. I had yet to really try out the flash under real time shooting conditions, and looked forward to trying it out in the low light conditions of a night club.

The opening shots proved to be a little . . . ahem, blurry. But I still like the effect.

The band had a kind of Irish heavy metal sound and really good stage performance. I think they are one of the best live acts I've seen in Hongdae.

The lead singer had fantastic vocals for heavy metal, and his on-stage persona was funny but at the same time had an edge to it that suited the music.

The bass guitarist was also good, and exuded a subtle but powerful energy that meshed well with the rest of the band.

As you can see I did some editing of the pics using Picasa 3.

The electric guitarist and backup singer was awesome. He had a laid-back-let's-get-a-beer-and-shoot-the-shit personality offstage that I'd never have connected to the onstage performer seen here.

While I don't generally listen to heavy metal these guys were really good live, and I enjoyed their performance.

I'll leave the rest of the pics to your viewing pleasure with a few comments here and there.

With color pictures Picasa 3 has an Effects category with an option of Focal B&W that allows you to take a color picture and transform it into black and white with only the color focusing on the point of the picture that is most interesting . . . I really like the effect it has here.

In this picture it also works well to highlight the drummer in the back of the band. I considered going up on stage to take some closer pictures . . . but I didn't know these guys and some dude going up on stage while they're performing . . . I didn't want to do that. I've had strangers with cameras, and also VIDEO cameras, just randomly walk in while I've been teaching . . . I no longer get irritated by it but I know it's not cool to do to people without any warning.

This next picture is awesome! I love the poses . . .


I keep getting images from "The Commitments" in my head when I look at the pics here, lol.

This guy seriously has the the ultimate poses--I can't decide who has the best one-shot-moment pics: the lead singer or this guy--what do you think?

Okay, seriously, watch this The Commitments video clip and the lead singer from the movie band, and then take a look at the lead singer (below) again--I think they could be related . . .

I can't wait to see the pics from Julianne's Nikon F4--we're still waiting for it to be developed. I did black and white pics on my Canon and wonder if they'll be equal to the film shots . . .

After about 45 minutes of performing the end came with a big bang--awesome.

After the guys were done their set I went into the back and told them that if they email me I'd share the pictures I'd taken. I'm still waiting to hear from them, and once I do I'll update this post with the name of the band and each of the members.

I'll also find out where they're performing next and put that up too.


P.S. I finally started using my page--here's the link where you can see ALL of the pics I took of these guys.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Choong Ahn High School, Seoul, South Korea -- Fall pictures, a soccer game, and a magpie . . .

Today was "Open House" at the high school . . . but I also heard other variations on the idea: parents day, parents visiting day, and a few others. I didn't really see many parents myself as I spent most of the day at my desk because classes my classes had been canceled due to a controversial nation wide test (see here for more info).

I put the time to good use, though, and did prep work for classes tomorrow, and next week.

When I finished work I headed outside to see a beautiful fall day. Here's a shot of the main building on the campus.

I was using my Sigma 18-200 lens, and should have switched over to my Sigma 10-22mm to get the whole building in the shot--but it's still a nice picture, I think.

The trees are beginning to show their fall colors . . . I can't wait until there are large patches of trees in fall colors. I've been told to return to Chang Deok Gung/Palace (see here for Part 1, and here for Part 2 of my pics of the palace) in a week or two because there are a lot of trees on the palace grounds and in the fall it's really awesome.

I then walked around for a while taking pics . . .

I'm beginning to explore black and white photography more on my camera . . .

This tree lies in a court yard that is behind the main building with 3 other buildings that surround it. This tree could be in a Harry Potter movie . . . I love its lines and character. I'll take more pics of it later.

After taking pics here I realized that the guys were playing a soccer game on the massive astro-turf field that sits on the rear part of the campus.

I turned on my camera's Artificial Intelligence Servo setting, and began taking shots and trying to tweak the settings so that I might get some good shots with my 18-200mm lens (I think a bigger super zoom lens would work better but I don't have one--yet).

The guys were playing hard, and it was fun watching them while trying to take some good shots.

I'm hoping to do a fall photo shoot of the entire school grounds over the next couple weeks--you can get an idea of how nice the campus is from the background here in this shot (below), but The Marmot's Hole has a gorgeous set of pictures here that I'll be hard pressed to top.

Anyways, I took shots for about 40 minutes . . .

After the game ended I began to walk off campus but ran into my favorite Korean bird . . .

I've been trying to get good shots of the magpie for 2 years now, and finally think I managed to get some.

He looks really different from the front when you can't see the blue coloring on his wings.

After wrapping up my photo shoot with the magpie I headed to Yongsan to meet a friend who wanted some camera shopping tips . . .

Well, time to go to bed . . . g'night all.