Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Late Thanksgiving

I'm prone to be cheesy. I'll admit it. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving (commonly celebrated one week ago in America) I will write about my blessings relating to Korea.

I'm generally a sociable person, but I feel so blessed to have made so many new friends here in Korea. I of course already had a few friends here before I came, which I'm also very thankful for, but I've definitely been lucky to make so many fun new ones too.

My Students
Maybe I'm thinking like a grandparent in this respect, thinking my students are the best. BUT, mine really are!! My students (old and young) have gone out of their way to help me find certain foods, swing dancing venues, a good hair salon, books on Korean and Chinese politics and more. They are also very diligent in their English studies. -Which of course makes me happy.

Random People
Several Sunday nights ago I found myself waiting for a cab at the local bus terminal, drenched in the pouring rain. A little old lady came up to me, put her umbrella above me and waited with me until a cab came.

Yesterday I was sitting on a public bench, obviously upset about something. Another little lady sat down and hugged me, smiled and moved away.

These are only a few of the many examples of random kindness that this "foreigner" has been shown in the last few months.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Autumn in Korea

One of the things that Koreans are most proud of is their four distinct seasons. I've only experienced a few weeks of the hot and muggy summer weather, but am fully enjoying Autumn. And, I must say that Koreans do have a lot to be proud of--Fall is amazing here! (Much like PA Falls- I still remain PA-loyal.)

Fall in Korea means fresh persimmons, apples, korean pears, big blue skies, gorgeous foliage and the best hiking weather possible! Yesterday morning I hiked the easiest, lowest trail in Kwangju. Even it had a lovely view!

My students informed me that Korea is 60 percent mountains, hence, there are lots of hiking trails. I have yet to meet a student that doesn't like hiking. I'm sure they're out there, but I probably won't meet them in the Fall season.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

One Term Down....

My Experience

I recently completed my first term of teaching. My friends in my system shared their experiences with me prior to my moving to S. Korea, but it was still a bit different than I had imagined. The children's classes take MUCH more energy that I expected. (My parents are both teachers, and I still didn't quite grasp the energy factor until doing it myself).

So, what did I learn from my first term? I think the biggest thing I took away is "planning is the biggest key to success in the classroom." Of course this applies to most areas in life, but I feel like it's a lesson that I can learn over and over and in slightly different ways each time.

With just a few extra minutes of preparation before class, I could make the lessons more interesting for the students. Or even, just taking a few minutes to create or research new word games to play with the kids can really make class more fun.

American Vs. Korean Education

I've noticed a couple strong differences between the Korean and American philosophies of education. Korean children seem to ALWAYS be in school or in some type of educational institution. After a normal day of school ends at around 3pm, students go on to music, martial arts or language programs and then an hour or so later they go to another program. We have students at the institute until 7pm each night!! Eeks! The students are often tired and more than ready to go home at the end of their English class.

The Korean system also emphasizes memorization of information, a contrast from many American schools, that emphasize studying the "why's" and "how's" of issues. I'm trying to be sensitive of this difference and to teach in this method. However, sometimes it's hard to switch to the "memorization" mode.

Pictured above are some of my adorable students.