Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Kimchi Icecream Guide for New EFL/ESL Foreign English Teachers/Instructors in South Korea, 2010 Edition

Welcome to Korea!

The Kimchi Icecream Guide for New EFL/ESL Foreign English Teachers/Instructors in South Korea, 2010 Edition is the culmination of five years of writing and blogging about living and teaching in South Korea. It is based on my experience teaching elementary after school programs and camps, 1 full year of teaching at 3 different middle schools (all girls, and co-ed), 1 year at an all girls academic high school, 1 year at a foreign language training center (English immersion camp programs and the 6 month Teach English in English training program for Korean English teachers), nearly 2 years at a national university of education (training future Korean English elementary teachers in a full time English education program, and a second 6 month Teach English in English training program), and my current experiences teaching at an all boys vocational-academic (it's currently transitioning from the one to the other) high school. Add to all of this summer and winter English camps during the entire five years, with varying levels of public school students, university students, and Korean English teacher trainees, and you'll see that I've accumulated quite a bit of time and experience teaching in Korea.

My goal is to help new foreign teachers entering Korea for the first time to be informed of everything they need to know in order to make the transition from just keeping their head above the water and doing what I call 'survival teaching' to beginning to be able to swim with varying degrees of success and happiness. I write about both the good and bad things that may or may not take place in your teaching and living conditions in Korea. The really hard thing about trying to write an orientation guide is that each foreign teacher has a different personality and their teaching/living situations can be so different as to be almost as though they're not in the same country. Perhaps the 3 biggest things you'll need in Korea are a sense of humor, patience, and the mental abilities to adapt and be flexible about things that are literally beyond what you can imagine being possible--these are the things I think are VITAL to surviving and thriving in Korea.

In the readings below I've created a 1-3 star rating system to tell you how important I think a particular post is for new teachers to read.

* A little important and something you should read after you've been in Korea for a month and settled in.

** Moderately important and something you should read after you've unpacked everything in your apartment, and been in your school for a few weeks.

*** Very important information that will help you avoid typical mistakes and problems that new foreign teachers face when they first arrive in Korea.

I've put together this guide with everything I think a new foreign teacher (and for that matter even some veterans might find something useful here) might want to read about when they first arrive in Korea that I've written and blogged about. Yet there will be things that you think are incomplete or missing; please add comments or email me and if it is possible I will write about the question, issue, or topic.

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) 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.

I'll leave you with this thought about teaching and living in Korea.

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

I wish all new foreign teachers in Korea good luck tomorrow as the first day of the spring/summer semester begins.

Jason Ryan

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.

The Kimchi Icecream Guide for New EFL/ESL Foreign English Teachers/Instructors in South Korea, 2010 Edition

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Korea War Photo Exhibit about the 68 countries that helped Korea.

While walking past Kwang Jang Market, in between Seoul subway stations Jongno-samga (3) and Jongno-oga (5) on the dark blue line (#1) Julianne and I saw a Korean War photo exhibit with pictures of the 68 countries that were involved in the Korean War.

The exhibit is put on by "The World Peace Freedom United" and sponsored by Doongsa Dong-A (and a few others, I think) but when I do a Google search for the world peace group nothing comes up so I'm not sure exactly what kind of group they are, or what their mission is. Regardless of that, I was VERY impressed with the something like 200 photos from the Korean War, and the general set up of the photo exhibit.

A little while I ago I wrote a post about the Korean War/War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan-gu (near Itaewon), South Korea – Revisiting the Past. On my old blog I also write a post called Pepero Day in Korea vs. Remembrance Day around the World. The reason I mention these two blog posts is because in both of them I am a little critical of the general manner in which Korea integrates other nations' soldiers who fought, were injured, and died during the Korean War, into Memorial Day and the War Memorial of Korea exhibits.

After walking around the photo exhibit I was really impressed and wondered to myself why this kind of exhibit is not a permanent fixture at the War Memorial of Korea . . .

Anyways, Julianne and I walked around looking at the photos, and I took a few pictures of them to encourage people to go and check out this exhibit.

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

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.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wild Women’s Performing Arts Festival

Tonight is the Wild Women's Performing Arts Festival. Click here to check out their website. You can also see videos from Wild Womens Performing Arts Festival in Hongdae, Seoul South Korea Jan 09.

The event starts at 8pm on Saturday, Feb 27 at Mongwhan in Sinchon.

Date: Saturday 27 February 2010
Time: 7:00PM to 5:00AM
Admission: W16,000 includes free drink and prize-draw ticket
Where: Mong Hwan (Club) in Sinchon
Directions: Sinchon Station, Stop 240 Exit 2 (see attached map - English)
(Info from Korea4Expats)

Also from some information about who will be performing,

"Up and coming artists from two of South Korea’s indie labels, Electric Muse [Orgeltanz and Dringe Augh] and Pastel Music, Inc., will be performing at the event as well as Bigbabydriver, Oriental Lucy and a solo performance by Zee of The Pines, just to name a few. The evening will also include powerful spoken word performances delivered by female representatives of Word Food and beautiful dance pieces by several Eshe performs with Orgeltanz at WWPAF II."

Here's info from the website in English and Korean. Also, here's the facebook event link.

"Hello everyone!

The Wild Women’s Performing Arts Festival is back to raise more money for the Korean Women’s Association United! This year the event will take place on Saturday February 27th as part of the run-up to International Women’s Day on March 8th. The night will feature a fresh list of performers, poets and dancers, as well as a silent photography auction, raffle and much more! So make sure to clear some space in those busy calendars to show your support for gender equality in South Korea.

Volunteers are needed before the festivities begin. We need help to place flyers around Hongdae and the surrounding area on Feb 19th, 20th, and 26th. We also need volunteers for the event itself on the 27th in three different shifts: 8:00 – 10:00, 10:00 – 12:00 and 12:00 – 2:00 If you can offer any of your time, we would really appreciate your help. To learn more about the Wild Women’s Performing Arts Festival, please explore this website and see the amazing artists who will be contributing to the event.

For more info or enquiries, contact:

Wild Woman in residence: Shawn McRae


Phone: 01030403755

Thanks for your continued support."

여러분, 안녕하세요!

한국여성단체연합 후원을 위해 개최되는 Wild Women’s Performing Arts Festival은 오는 3월 8일 세계 여성의 날을 기념하여 2월 27일 토요일에 열릴 예정입니다. 시 낭송, 댄서들의 멋진 공연과 사진 경매, 경품추첨 등 다양한 이벤트가 준비되어있습니다. 한국의 성 평등 의식 확산을 위해 꼭 참석 부탁 드립니다.

축제 시작 전 자원활동가분들의 도움이 필요합니다.

2월 19일, 20일, 26일에 홍대와 그 일대에 전단지를 붙이는 작업과, 2월 27일 행사진행을 위해 시간대별로 자원활동가들이 필요합니다(8시-10시, 10시-12시, 12시-2시). 여러분의 많은 참여 부탁 드립니다.

Wild Women’s Performing Arts Festival에 대해 더 알고 싶으시면, 저희 블로그에 놀러 오셔서 각종 행사 정보와, 행사를 빛내줄 훌륭한 예술가들을 만나보세요! ^^

질문사항이나 그 외 더 필요한 정보가 있으시면 아래 연락처로 문의주세요.

※영어 문의

- 숀 맥클리(Shawn McRae)


※한국어 문의

- 박지연(한국여성단체연합 인턴활동가)


여러분의 많은 성원에 감사 드립니다.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Korean War/War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan-gu (near Itaewon), South Korea - Revisiting the Past

This afternoon Julianne and I decided to head to the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan-dong, Yongsan-gu (about 4 blocks away from Itaewon), Seoul to take pictures and walk around. I've been to the memorial several times, but for Julianne it was her first visit. (You can see pictures I took of the War Memorial during another visit here, about half way into the post.)

I'm always struck by the vivid bronze sculptures standing just inside the main gates of the memorial grounds.

One of the first things that struck me when I came to Korea in 2005 was how mountainous this country's landscape is. I tried to imagine how Canadian soldiers who fought (516 died) in the Korean war would have dealt with the terrain while wearing full combat gear with a ruck sack loaded with ammo, food, sleeping bag, and whatever else they needed for the missions they completed. (Check out the Canadians in Korea website for info about the 27,000 Canadian Forces personnel who fought and served as a part of the massive UN Forces in the Korean War.)

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

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.

Korean War/War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan-gu (near Itaewon), South Korea – Revisiting the Past


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter English Camp in South Korea #2, Day 2: The Zombies Return . . . and not even the power of kimchi ice-cream can wake the undead!

Last Tuesday morning I walk outside of my apartment to see . . . more rain. I'm not normally a superstitious person but sometimes you can't ignore the gods when they're sending you consistent signals like two weeks of gorgeous blue skies, and then two days in a row of gloomy gray skies and rain--alright, I'm listening . . .

I think what I'm hearing is that I need to pull out my special bag of teaching tricks for my current English camp students. They're insanely smart, and from what I've been able to figure out all of them have low-advanced to high-advanced English abilities, and a few of them have native speaker fluency . . . and yet when I ask a question all I get is a zombie wall of silence . . .

At the beginning of day two's classes, after greeting the guys (to which I got the zombie response I was dreading) I began by talking about my speaking speed, and how I wanted to check with them if it's okay for me to talk at my normal speed--which I NEVER do, or rarely do in Korea. My personal EFL/ESL pedagogy is that speaking naturally is nuts most of the time. If half or more of your class can't follow your natural speaking speed, and natural level of vocabulary and how you communicate what you're trying to tell them then I believe you need to use a variety of speaking methods to help students understand you.

Some of the things I do are . . .

1. Speak more slowly, and with very careful pronunciation.

2. I repeat a lot of the things I say, and vary the speed too.

3. I use the white board a LOT to reinforce what I'm saying if it's difficult.

4. I break long sentences into chunks, and put pauses in between the chunks. I use gestures and acting/miming in tandem with key words and expressions.

5. When I'm not giving instructions, demonstrating something, explaining something, and other teacher talk along those lines I will try to speak more 'normally' but I generally follow this pattern: first time, I say the sentence somewhat normally, second time, I slow it down break it into chunks and use very careful pronunciation, and the third time (if necessary) I repeat the sentence with some degree of natural rhythm and intonation but still not at my natural speaking speed. (NOTE: The pattern described here varies depending on the type of class, language learner levels, and the learning situation. There is no one way of speaking fits all teaching situations formula.)

There are other things I do but those are some of the most common methods I use to help the students understand me. But in the case of the guys I'm teaching right now they really don't need it. Maybe for some particular topics and situations they lack exposure to, but I'm also encouraging them to ask questions if they don't understand something.

Normally it's hard to get Korean students to take an ACTIVE learning role and to get them to independently choose to ask a question (with no teacher prompting) because they worry so much about loss of face if other students think the question is 'stupid' or 'too smart' or whatever the case may be but I think these guys can do it.

Anyways . . . the guys told me they wanted me to speak at my natural speed, and so I began the day's lessons.

In the first hour I gave them a power point lecture on how to write a paragraph in English. I tried to teach them in a very communicative manner. I asked a lot of questions, and kept pushing really hard to get them to take a more active style of learning--and I pretty much ran into the wall of zombie silence again, argh!

I knew that some of the guys had studied how to write paragraphs before whether it was in a hogwan (private academy) or when they'd lived and studied English overseas in an English country. Yet they were acting like POWs in a prisoner of war camp, and I was Colonel Klink trying to get them to tell me where the secret escape tunnel was . . .

And it was only Day 2 of a two week long camp . . . oh god.

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

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.

Winter English Camp in South Korea #2, Day 2: The Zombies Return . . . and not even the power of kimchi ice-cream can wake the undead! (See pictures of kimchi ice-cream here!)


Monday, February 15, 2010

The Staring Ajusshi -- I know my girlfriend is hot but will you please stop staring at her?

Late this afternoon Julianne and I decided to head to COEX Mall for dinner, to play some video games in the arcade, and to wander through Bandi & Lunis book store, and lastly check out the CD and DVD store.

We mostly spent our long Korean New Year, commonly known as Seollal, weekend hibernating inside the apartment. Last Thursday night we did a COSTCO run and picked up baked chicken, apple pie, and other things to make our long weekend nice. And then on Friday night I was COMPLETELY NUTBAR and went to Lotte Mart at Seoul Station to pick up a few supplies . . .I didn't have my camera with me Friday night, but I did have it earlier in the week and I snapped some shots of the New Year gift tables. (Insert as many bodies as you can imagine into this picture and you'll get what it really looked like this past Friday night.)

I always prefer to try and give gifts that display some degree of how much I know a person. For example, giving a friend who loves movies a DVD, or a co-teacher who is into reading romance novels a romance novel as a gift. Whenever I see the pre-packaged/pre-wrapped gifts I kind of cringe because it illuminates how much 'bally-bally culture' ("hurry-hurry") has come to dominate Korea (and to be fair, North America has its own bally-bally gift giving culture too; gift cards and pre-wrapped gifts are also common back home). I'm sure there are many Koreans who give gifts that have some kind of personal aspect to them but it's just not something I see much of due to the types of places I can visit and as a result of that the limited experiences (as in there's a LOT of Korean culture I never really see) I have as a foreigner living and teaching here.

In this picture you can see the influence of older generations in Korea and gift giving. My understanding of why giving large sets of TUNA, or SPAM, as a gift is that it comes from post-Korean war culture and how older generation Koreans feel about gifts of food: they're like gold! I guess it says something about the privileged life most of us have had who have never experienced the lack of food and daily necessities the Korean senior citizens had to deal with growing up during the post-war period.

Unfortunately that still doesn't change my reaction to seeing cans of tuna as a popular gift, lol.

I'm not sure but I get the feeling that Seollal is a bigger gift giving cultural event in Korea than Chuseok--maybe they're on the same level?

Anyways, getting back to my story about Julianne and I getting out of the apartment today cause we spent most of the four day weekend indoors watching episodes of Dexter, playing games on our Wii, and napping like hibernating bears after munching on our chicken and apple pie from COSTCO (SERIOUSLY, COSTCO has the BEST CHICKEN in KOREA!) . . .

After eating dinner in COEX Mall's food court we went to the arcade and played the Jurassic Park jeep first person shooter game. It was a lot of fun and Julianne was a pretty good shot. I also tried to shoot a stuffed animal off a plate at the back of the arcade but I swear they load the butts of the stuffed animals with weights cause I can never knock one off to give to Julianne--argh.

We then walked through Bandi & Lunis bookstore, and the CD/DVD store. Having cured our cabin-fever we decided it was time to head home on the subway.

Now I've written before about ajusshi (middle age married man) in Korea and the staring that goes on (see this post, I almost dongchimmed an ajusshi in the subway tonight . . .) so I'll try not to repeat myself about how much this is one very specific aspect of Korean culture that I really really hate--especially when it involves my girlfriend.

The Korean news media really loves to play up how perverted and depraved foreign English teachers are yet I never see (at least in Korean ENGLISH news media) stories about the lack of manners that X (I won't put a number on it because I have no statistics to back it up) ajusshi in Korea exhibit towards foreigners in general, and foreign women in particular, but it's pretty high in my experience (and I think most foreign/expat teachers you talk to will back this up too).

NOTE: I should also add here that there are different types of ajusshi sub-culture groups . . . one ajusshi sub-group is the always polite, always gentlemanly, always poised and elegant and cultured and intelligent and well-groomed and so on and so forth. These guys are AWESOME, and a few of my co-teachers in the past have been this type of 'ajusshi' if I can suggest there is a continuum of ajusshi types, lol. Simply put, not all ajusshi are like the staring-ajusshi type, and people reading my blog outside of Korea should not be confused by my characterizations here.

I don't know if there have been any cross-cultural studies of staring and taboos (there probably have been, but I don't have the inclination to spend time researching this on the Net), but I remember reading on a blog a foreign female teacher-writer who commented about how in the West guys do their best not to stare at women's chests, whereas in Korea it seems like guys do their best to stare at women's chests.

Anyways, tonight, on the subway ride home Julianne and I sat down and just across the aisle and slightly to our left was an ajusshi who thought we were the most interesting thing in the world to stare at. Julianne stared back at him in a very obviously disgusted way--no reaction, he just kept staring.

I stared back at him with my best 'teacher look of death stop what you're doing or there will be consequences'--nothing.

. . . . . . . . . .

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.

The Staring Ajusshi -- I know my girlfriend is hot but will you please stop staring at her?


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Winter English Camp in South Korea: Camp #2, Day 1 -- My Teaching Nightmare Becomes Reality: Zombie Student Attack!!!

Yesterday was day 1 of my second two week English winter camp. Unlike the previous two week camp that wrapped up last Friday, where there were blue skies every day, yesterday morning was gloomy and overcast.

I wondered if there was any kind of portentous meaning in the gray skies and tried to shake it off as I walked into my office. I turned on my computer, printed out a few things, and then made photocopies of stuff I needed for day.

To give you an idea of what I was copying (especially if you've never done a camp in Korea) here is a list of what I prepared.

1. Classroom English Rules

2. Camp Schedule with dates and times.

3. A handout from the book "Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans" about asking personal questions and taboos in introductions situations.

4. A writing assessment sheet with 3 simple questions. I wanted the guys to spend 5 minutes per question, and write a minimum of five sentences or more per question, so I could see what their writing skills were like (one of the two major goals of the camp is to learn how to write a paragraph in English).

After organizing all the stuff I needed for my first day of camp and the two fifty minute periods I would be teaching I headed to the first grader (Koreans use elementary school grade language for high school grade names, don't ask why--I don't know) building where my classroom was.

I usually head to my classroom during a camp at least one hour early to prep the room and check that all the teaching technology is in working order. I turn on the touch screen TV (I'd rather they had a power point projector and big screen, but oh well), and turn on the computer and check that both are working. I also check that there's an Internet connection. All of these things in the past have for one reason or another not been working and if I don't check with at least an hour to try and fix whatever problems might be happening I risk having to come up with teaching alternatives really really fast (it's happened in the past, and it's NOT fun). OH, I also do these checks EVERY DAY--you can't rely on the fact that something was working yesterday cause it might not be today.

I open the curtains to let in whatever natural light there is outside (unlike last week, not much) because I think it impacts student mood and energy levels. If the only light in the room is artificial I think energy levels are lower.

I then check to see if the heat is on. During the past two weeks of my first camp the heat had already been on, and I didn't have to worry about walking the 100 feet or so back to the main building on the high school campus to the administration office to ask for it to be turned on. Yesterday, however, I had to do so.

Having opened the curtains and gotten the heat turned on I then turned to prepping my white boards. Depending on what I'm teaching, and whether I'll do the materials more than once in a year, I usually make a power point file so that I don't have to write things out while teaching. For the camp, though, I didn't have a power point made up of all the things I'd be putting on the white boards so I spent a few minutes writing it up. Oh, and I cleaned the white boards. It's nicer for me to write on a clean white board, and I think nicer for the guys to be able to read off of too.

Looking at the above picture I forgot to mention my two ice breaking activities. The first involves the use of balloons and speaking. The second is getting the students to make 'self-introduction posters.' Last semester my school gave me a small budget to purchase color pencils and I had grabbed those for the guys to use in the making of their posters. Not only do I have to do an ice breaker with the incoming freshmen who have never been in the high school before, but I also believe there's a need for the guys to participate in an ice breaker with each other because they come from different middle schools all over the place.

I've written out a description of the balloon ice breaking activity that I use in my post called, English Camps in South Korea – A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers, so if you're curious you can check it out there. As for the self-introduction posters . . . this is what I do.

I brainstorm a list of topics with the guys. Usually name, age, hobbies, favorites, dreams/wishes, and family are the topics that come up. I do not teach them new language because I believe this is an activity where it's better for them to be using language they already know. I can then see how fast and easily they produce language they've learned, and how accurately they produce it too. It takes pressure off of them to learn, and gives them time to adjust to the new environment, and of course me, the 'alien' English teacher. While some students have a natural creative ability many students in Korea lack experience as language learners doing creative activities because there is a general antipathy on the part of Korean teachers, and surprisingly many students too, towards anything that they deem not to be learning tasks that are directly related to mastering test content. As a result of this Korean students often have a really hard time beginning creative projects/tasks and completing them in what foreign teachers would consider a 'normal' period of time, so it's a good idea to have a model of the self-introduction poster up on the white board, or even a hard copy that you've made yourself. I like to change the colors of the words or letters, the size of the letters, the directions and angles of what I'm writing, and integrate pictures into the poster too. Once the guys saw what I wanted they got down to it and did a great job.

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

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.

Winter English Camp in South Korea: Camp #2, Day 1 -- My Teaching Nightmare Becomes Reality: Zombie Student Attack!!!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Winter English Camp in South Korea: Camp #2, Day 1 — Lesson prep in Korea is the Achilles Heel of EFL teaching

I'm still writing up the first English camp I just finished this past Friday and will try to post the series (it covers 8 days) some time this week.

This morning I came to school and did the small bit of prep I needed to do for my second two week winter English camp. Then the events of today reminded me yet again why lesson prep in Korea is pretty much the Achilles Heel of EFL teaching. Let me explain.

Last December I organized an informal winter English camp workshop at my high school for other foreign teachers who wanted to collaborate ideas and materials. About 9 teachers showed up and we talked for nearly 3 hours. It was awesome. Ironically, we ran out of time before my turn came up to describe the criteria of my camp (number of students, grade level, number of classes per day, number of days in total, and other info) and get some ideas from the others--but that was okay because my English camp experience Korea is pretty extensive (click here to see my English Camps in South Korea - A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers) and while it would have been nice to get some feedback about my camp plan there were other teachers, especially newbies, who really needed more time to collaborate than I did.

Anyways, the reason I mention the workshop is that I had been planning my winter English camp theme, lesson outlines and notes, supplies I would need, and other details nearly TWO MONTHS before the camps I am now teaching would begin--and I should have known better!

Some time in the last week of December my co-teacher and I got together to confirm all the details of my camp . . . and it was at that point that I realized the camps were really just a 'Come See The Alien Teacher Show' for the incoming freshman students. The camp schedule had been set up so that I'd only have TWO HOURS with each of the freshman classes--two hours?!

The only things I would have been able to accomplish in a two hour period of contact time with freshman are: introductions, ice-breaking activity for myself and the students, and self-introduction posters--my favorite ice-breaking activity for the freshman to introduce themselves to each other.

Needless to say I was a bit . . . uhm, what's the word I want to use here . . . ARGH! That'll do.

I politely (though with a very disgusted facial expression, I'm sure) explained to my co-teacher that I did not want to do an alien freak show, and asked her if any of the other Korean teachers were having the same sort of schedule set up with the incoming freshman (I already knew what the answer would be--no, of course not) and after she said they weren't I pointed out that this was a complete and utter waste of my time, and the students' time . . . and she agreed with me.

I'm pretty sure it also helps that I had several papers with me including a camp syllabus that I had designed. I had already gone over with her the theme I'd chosen for my camp, the learning goals I had for the students, the number of classes assigned to each of the learning goals, and other planning I'd done . . . it was pretty obvious to my co-teacher and the Korean teacher that this wasn't a case of a foreign teacher whining and complaining for no good reason--I had specific professional teaching issues with a camp concept and schedule that wanted to use me as an alien freak show, and lucky for me this was one of those rare times during my teaching tenure in Korea that the Koreans in charge of my teaching situation listened to me, heard and understood what I had to say, and agreed with me. (Yes, I'm still in shock!)

(For those reading this blog outside of Korea, and who have never taught in a Korean public school, what I mean by 'alien freak show' is the tendency in Korea to parade foreign teachers out in front of students, Korean teachers, and sometimes even parents during the first day of an English camp. Typically the audience ooohs, and ahhhs, laughs a lot, and yells things at the native teachers whose reactions range from 'let's get this over with' to 'oh my god, why am I here?')

The fact that my co-teacher listened to me, and didn't try to strong-arm me into agreeing and submitting to a plan that we both knew is bad, is yet another example of why my co-teacher is the goddess of all Korean English co-teachers in Korea. (Anyone who knows me in Korea will also know that this is NOT typical of my general discourse about co-teaching in Korea--so let me assure you that when I give this kind of high praise it is based on having worked with a large number of co-teachers.) Most other co-teachers would have argued with me or tried to persuade me to just say yes or blatantly ordered me to obey and follow the schedule as it had been set up. I didn't get any of that pseudo-Korean army culture nonsense from my co-teacher--wow.

After talking with me in English for a couple minutes she then explained in Korean what I had been saying to the Korean teacher in charge of organizing the camp schedules for all the teachers at the school. He understood, and had the decency to look a bit embarrassed at the situation; I found out later, however, that it hadn't been him at all who was responsible for the idea of putting me out on display for the freshman (I won't say who it was, but expats with time in Korea will know who makes those types of decisions in Korean public schools, 'nuff said). The meeting ended with me telling my co-teacher that if I had to do an alien freak show that was 'fine,' but that I was very unhappy about it and hoped that some kind of changes would be made to the concept of the camp and its schedule.

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

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.

Winter English Camp in South Korea: Camp #2, Day 1 — Lesson prep in Korea is the Achilles Heel of EFL teaching


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bugs and Apartment Life in South Korea - A giant cockroach visited my girlfriend today . . . no, really.

A giant cockroach visited Julianne in her apartment this afternoon . . . no, really.

I've had several different apartments in Korea over the years and never really had a major problem with bugs. I'm not saying there haven't been bugs, but the number and type haven't been anything like a serious infestation or problem.

I don't know what the actual percentage is of foreign English teachers who are placed in apartments that have bug problems. I'd have to say based on how many teachers I've heard talk about it as a problem that it'd be something like 25% or so. The majority of apartments in Korea will from time to time have ants, cockroaches, and other critters appear to one degree or another--but in terms of them being a chronic presence and problem relative to apartment life in Korea I'd say 25% sounds accurate in my experience of hearing stories from teachers.

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

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.

Bugs and Apartment Life in South Korea - A giant cockroach visited my girlfriend today . . . no, really.

EFL Foreign Teacher Motivation - What do you do when you don't feel like teaching but have to?

It's a gorgeous day outside with a clear blue sky and not too cold a temperature . . . and I really don't feel like teaching.

I decided that it'd be interesting to write about "What do you do when you don't feel like teaching but have to?" and see what other teachers in and out of Korea do.

Here are some of the things I've done in the past.

1. Put on a tie. I normally wear a collared shirt and cotton pants or dress pants when I teach. During my five years of teaching I have gone through periods where I dressed much more casually but I found that my behavior and motivation tended to be a little more relaxed than I like, and I also have seen that Korean teachers and students treat you differently based on your appearance (holy understatement batman!) so dressing things up a notch helps with a lot of different aspects of teaching in Korea. Wearing a tie makes me feel more professional and therefore I act more professional. I'm not saying a lack of a tie equals less professional, but business dress does help with my teaching motivation levels.

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

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.

EFL Foreign Teacher Motivation - What do you do when you don't feel like teaching but have to?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Winter English Camp Konglish: "shampoo and rinse" and "wash towel"

I'm way behind on writing up the seven of nine days of winter camp I've taught so far . . . I have pictures of the guys doing stuff, and stories galore . . . but for now a small story will have to do.

Oh, before I get to the story there's one other interesting thing that happened today at camp. The students I'm working with are NEW freshman--technically they're still middle school students right now--and the Korean education cultural organization of the winter break period threw me a curve ball today. Let me explain.

The winter break is not a consecutive block of time off from school. Korean students go on winter break and then after about 5-6 weeks they come back to school for 2-5 five days, and then they go on 'spring break' . . . yes, that's how it works. Don't ask me why they don't just finish up EVERYTHING school related before they break at the end of December so that they can have an uninterrupted vacation--err, cough! cough! I mean winter classes time--they just don't do it that way. The students and teachers all come back to the school for a few days to do whatever it is they do, and of course have a graduation ceremony. (In fact, one might say that there is no such thing as a 'vacation' in Korea for students. The teachers give the students winter and summer homework assignments--yes, I just said they give them HOMEWORK during the 'breaks!')

What does all this have to do with my winter camp? Well, today I had SIX students in my class, SIX! Originally 25 had supposedly signed up but I have only been getting 16 or 17 every day. I altered my lesson plans accordingly and things had been going well up till now. The thing is I had been told (yes, shocking, I was told this would happen a week ago by my co-teacher--yes, she is that AWESOME!) that some students might not be in my classes this week because of graduation ceremonies but for some reason it didn't register in my head that this would actually happen . . . but it did.

Anyways, losing 10 students is not actually that big a deal. It's especially not a big deal cause the remaining six are actually the ones with the best attitudes and who have been trying the hardest. Yes, I pretty much won a kind of teacher lottery! Woohoo!

Alright . . . . let me tell you my story about winter English camp Konglish . . .

Today the guys brainstormed topics for the demonstration speech they're going to have to perform on video tomorrow. Before setting them loose to choose their own topics we did a group brainstorming of possible topics to help them get a sense of what I wanted them to think of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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.