Friday, September 6, 2013

ARC and CRAyon Pop

My ARC (Alien Registration Card) arrived today at my school.  Actually, it apparently arrived yesterday, but they messed something up so the immigration office sent out a new one.  I had to pay 3500W, but that is a small price to pay to now have this very important piece of identification with me.

In other news (especially for those interested in applying to EPIK), I turned in my certificate of residency to the school two days ago and they had me sign another paper today so I should now be officially exempt from the Korean income tax.

In other-other news, I had to sign a document saying that I wouldn't throw out any of the appliances that are in my apartment because I am 'renting' this place from the school.  Okay, gotcha.  My dial-missing broken toaster oven is not on that list so it will be replaced when my settlement allowance comes in.  G-Market has some really cheap toaster ovens with free domestic shipping so that's probably how I'll go.  I just need to get my co-workers (trust the co-workers, love the co-workers, appreciate the co-workers) to help me translate some of the descriptions so I can choose a good one.  Heads up to people who want to buy things on G-Market: just because there's an English version doesn't mean anything about the product is actually in English except maybe it's name.

I feel like I am settling a little bit better into teaching middle school.  A third of it is learning how the kids act, another third is becoming more familiar with the teaching style of my four different co-teachers, and the final third is just seeing the range of levels in my classes.  I have yet to see all 18 of my classes twice even at this point so things like developing routines, management, etc. is difficult to manage because my co-teachers have different personalities and management styles and what works for one class does not work for another.

I have made a very conscious effort to ask for feedback from all of my co-teachers after each lesson: what can I do better?  Anything I should change?  What do you think of the level?  I have received good feedback and one lesson has developed into three different versions for different levels (and different preferences of my co-teachers).  This year will definitely be useful in that it will make me think about meeting different levels of students, using no to minimum to reusable resources (18 classes with 35 students each... a lot to prepare), and developing tasks that keep students on task because they will be held accountable.  It's an interesting balance trying to get everyone involved at once, but keeping the class mainly functioning together because they get unruly quickly.  I'm not really into teacher-centered classrooms, but the students are very familiar with that sort of style so I have to accommodate that, but I think introducing them to the skills of working in groups is very important.  I will ask students that finish quickly to help others in their group (and talking in Korean can be okay because those slow students are usually the lowest leveled) and I also circulate around the class trying to model and assist.  If nothing else, the students will hopefully become more familiar with me and asking questions (I hear things like "Spelling?" or "Spell leaning?" or "How?" if they do not understand the questions).  Just one word English questions and gestures can get meaning across and they are communicating with me.  If my job as a guest English teacher is to get them speaking English, then even that is a step forward in the right direction.  Many of the kids are very shy so I might have to wait until the last day for some of them to get that far, but I hope not!

Earlier today one student gave me a peppermint candy without saying a single thing and another student who always distributes milk to the teachers in the morning came by and said hello and, although he didn't have the words to explain it, he showed me that I would see him during fourth period.  Those are great little nuggets to think about when I get frustrated because lessons don't go as planned.

Overall, I think finding the timing, balance, flow, and establishing motivation for participation in the lesson (even if it might be the Top Five League of Legend plays for the week or candy - not the intrinsic motivation I wish for) will be key to best settling in.  This is new for me and I just have to build my skills at it like any other endeavor I've taken on.

In terms of my office mates, today we spent the last minutes of the day listening to Crayon Pop, attempting to dance, and joking around.  (P.S. Middle school boys apparently love Crayon Pop?)  I also had a good conversation with John about the process of learning a language, structuring English classes, and learning how to write papers that are technical but still flow.  It is an amazing experience to talk to a teacher on the other side of the world in a different subject that also thinks, "Yeah!  I want to them to use the stuff I'm teaching.  How do I do that?  How can I improve the textbook lesson?"

I am so glad that my office mates speak English and will ask me questions about how to say things or pronounce things and will talk about things that I am passionate about (i.e. education).  I think I would go crazier if I didn't have that.  And they teach me Korean words/phrases in return!  

...Phrases that I should probably be using to get myself food at some point...  Soon.  Real soon.  I might end up losing weight just because trying to buy food is confusing. The scale hasn't gone down yet, but no breakfast, small lunches, and odd dinners (e.g. five Oreos, milk, six chicken nuggets, and a handful of lettuce was last night's dinner) are a recipe for not pigging out.  If I can find a pot, I might actually make macaroni tonight.  We'll see...


P.S. - For some reason it is really amusing to me that ARC are the first three letters of crayon backwards.  It's semi-palindromic!

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