Happy Holidays!

On Thanksgiving we had a party with the students. The 6 & 7 year olds made Pilgrim hats and the 5 year olds made Native American head bands. They had a lot of fun making the crafts and eating snacks.






For Christmas the 7 year olds made a hand print tree and ornaments. We had a lot of fun making it, and they loved the glitter glue I bought for them to use!













On December 21st, a Christian Korean organization that had been coming once a week to teach Bible came and had a Christmas party with the students. 






A fun conversation with students

Yesterday I had a conversation with one of my 7-year-old students, Eileen, who is really only 6 in American age. We were in MeySen Station class, and the students were supposed to copy a short song from the white board and then draw and color bees and a beehive.

Eileen: Mrs. Rachel, I can’t write it. It’s too hard.

Me: Yes, you can. Look you already wrote “‘The Beehive’ and ‘Here'”

Eileen: sigh I don’t want to write. It’s too long.

Me: That’s ok. Do you want to color this (a Bible coloring page)?

Eileen: Yes! I want to look at this (talking about the other coloring pages in my hand)!

Me: Ok.

Eileen: A donkey!

I don’t remember exactly what we talked about… There was a picture of Jesus riding a donkey, Jesus with the Disciples at the last supper, Peter and a rooster, Jesus carrying the cross, a Centurion looking at the three crosses, and an angel on the empty tomb. Briefly and as simply as I could, I explained the pictures and asked her what she saw. Then Eileen started coloring one of them.

Sometime during the class Eileen looked at me and said, “Whoa! Your eyes! One is green and one is blue!” The other girl in the class said “Mine are brown!” Eileen asked “What color are mine?” I told her brown, and she asked “Why your eyes like that?” I can’t remember how she said it exactly but basically she asked me if all white people have one blue eye and one green eye. I told her “No, I’m different. Most people have 2 blue eyes or 2 green eyes.

One of the other students finished his writing/drawing assignment so I gave him the picture of Peter and the rooster, and after talking about the picture, he pointed out “Mr. Peter and Peter!” And in broken English he reminded me that his name was Peter in the beginning of the school year before his mom changed it. So I told the students that Mr. Peter’s father is Peter too, and they were surprised. One student said “so many Peters!”

A few minutes later, Eileen asked me “Mrs. Rachel, do you mother?” I asked her (to make sure I understood what she was saying), “Do I have a mother?” She said yes, and I said yes back. She then asked me, “Where is she?” I told her, “She’s in the United States.” She then asked me, “Then why you come here?” I said, “To teach you!” And then she giggled and went back to coloring 🙂

Starting to Grow

Over the past month we have about a 50% increase in attendance. When you start with a low number than it’s not too impressive to add that percentage, but we are happy to be adding students. Seems like everyday we are changing the schedule and adding new students. We have started a new afternoon class as well which I get to teach. And Rachel is now tutoring a girl 2 days a week in the evening.

Unfortunately with growth comes more responsibilities. Seeing the school get established and get it’s feet on the ground is incredible. It’s fun to be a part of. It will be fun to see how big KCIS Dangjin is 5 years from now and know that God let us be a part of starting that. But for right now, we are definitely struggling to not get worn out. When we first started, handling only a few students was manageable. But now being at school from 8:45 am to 7:00pm seems a bit stressful (we do get about 2 hours in total of breaks). Hopefully we are close to hiring more teachers. We continue adding students and the general vibe is that the increase will continue. So who knows, maybe we will get more help soon. On Monday I finished a 6-day on-and-off fever that never quite reached 103. We’ve had teacher’s sick quite a bit this year and even in the hospital. Didn’t realize helping to start a business was so physically demanding.

On Tuesday I did start teaching a Mom’s English Class. Don’t ask me how I got elected to teach the class. Believe me, I was terrified of the idea when I was first told. The class only runs for 50 minutes 2 times a week. It actually should be fun since I will be able to do cooking classes and art classes with the class. I will be teaching them basic English conversations they can have with the children as they do different activities together (i.e. cooking, cleaning, shopping). My afternoon elementary class also got pushed back to 5:30-7:00 because it worked better for the students and our school can open up more time slots for new classes. Sounds like we will be having an afternoon Kindergarten class that would bring in about 8 more students.

Lots of fun happening as the summer starts here. We now have 16 enrolled in Kindergarten and 19 in Elementary classes. All of us are definitely staying busy and trying to stay healthy.

A Tribute to Korean Mothers

In honor of the recent Mother’s Day holiday, I have decided to write a tribute to Korean Mothers. Koreans do not actually celebrate Mother’s Day. They have Parent’s Day on May 8th, Children’s Day on May 5th, and Buddha’s Birthday on the 8th day of the 4th month in the lunar year (which happens to be May 10th this year). So we have 3 major holidays within 6 days of each other. Parent’s Day is not celebrated very much but Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday are huge. We have both of those days off from school which is really nice.

It would be very difficult to understand what exactly we have to deal with as English teachers if you do not understand Korean mothers. Koreans are very competitive. Getting into a good middle school and high school are about as hard as getting into a good college in America. So the mothers push their children very aggressively to study and practice. Korean mothers brag a lot as well which makes life even more difficult. If one mother is bragging about how good their kid is, then the other mothers push their kids even harder. These poor children end up getting overworked because their mother does not want to look bad. From the mothers’ perspective, if their child does not turn out perfect than they are viewed poorly.

We have even had Koreans tell us that Korean mothers are insane, so I do not feel too bad about writing about them. Because the kids get pushed to study so much, they turn out to be pretty smart, well at least book smart (ranked 2nd in the world in education behind Norway of all countries). English is one of the 8 or 9 main subjects taught at Korean public schools so most children know some English. In fact, one of the test for determining how good of a high school they go to is an English test. So the parents push their kids to learn how to take that test. The only problem with that is that the students don’t actually learn how to communicate in English, only how to take a test. And the Korean government knows that is a problem, but they do not know how to change that.

Our hagwon is focused more on the conversation side of English than on the written side. The curriculum we use helps student listen to and speak English instead of just take a test in English. The curriculum works great if you can wait a little bit to see results. But Koreans want results immediately. So we have had the challenge of adapting the curriculum to fit the Korean’s craziness. So if you ever teach English in Korea than you can expect frequent visits from the mothers checking up on how their child is doing. It makes sense I suppose, but it can get frustrating.

1st Field Trip

On Friday we went with the kindergartners on their first field trip. The trip was originally supposed to be the second Friday in April, but it was postponed because our boss was worried about radiation. The calendar also said we were going to a playground, but we ended up going to a garden. It was a lot of fun. There were animals at the gardens too, so we got to ask the kids “What do you see?” And they would answer “rabbits, sheep, birds, etc.” There were statues that the kids enjoyed climbing on too. We stopped for pictures a lot, and the kids had fun posing with the different statues. For the most part things weren’t very organized, but it didn’t help that our boss’s wife hurt her back two days before the field trip so she couldn’t go. She’ll be in the hospital for the next week, so this next week will be busier than usual for us. Anyways, I would have preferred that the field trip was more organized that the kids knew that they shouldn’t run off and that they should walk in a line like the other students that were visiting… But we didn’t lose anyone so that’s what counts right?

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The Bum Poke

The contents of this message are rated G and have been approved for all audiences by the Written Blog Association of Korea and America (and whatever other country you are currently in).

There is a very unusual and disturbing problem that Korean children have which I was not made aware of until I arrived here. Actually only one person even told us about this problem before we starting teaching and he was a foreigner. Apparently the Koreans just think it is funny so they do not bother telling foreigners about it. I have had the misfortune of experiencing this problem frequently over the past few weeks.

Korean children think “the bum poke” is just about the funniest thing in the world. They will run around me and try to poke my butt! And its not just a little poke either, its an actual poke. There are 3 things that make it even funnier for the students. Telling them to stop will make them laugh and continue trying it. Trying to cover you bum with your hands will make it worse because they think its a funny game. And trying to run away will not help either because they just laugh and chase after you.

Thankfully I only have 1 or 2 students who attempt this. And I think they are starting to get the hint that I am not a fan of their favorite game. The students love using me as a play gym though! We do not have a play gym yet for the students so I will wrestle with them on one of the mats or in the ball pit. They are pretty strong but I have managed so far. One time I did get trapped in the ball pit when all of the students ganged up on me. And what did the Koreans teachers do? They took a video and laughed hysterically lol!!

because today wasn’t bad enough

i woke up this morning knowing i would have a headache by the end of the day because my neck and back were stiff and sore. we got to school and one of the students was already there. apparently his parents had to drop him off early and they were ok with him waiting at the door to the school by himself. granted we are on the second floor so he was at least in the building out of sight from strangers… and this is korea, but still… i don’t think it’s the best idea to leave a six year old by himself.

english with the 5* year olds went ok. one of the 5* year olds can’t sit for more than two seconds so he distracts the other students. my boss’s wife was sitting in on the classes but she is trying to get the kids used to just being with me… at least they are staying in the room now. for the first week of school or so they would run after her… scary white person ahhhh!

the boy that can’t sit still used to cry a lot in the beginning of the school year because he missed his mom/grandma… he’d never been to daycare or school before. i’m pretty sure he was scared of me for the first few weeks, but he’s warming up to me. yesterday and today i built a truck for him with some lokko blocks and he was pretty happy about it. i’m not sure if he has figured out that i don’t speak or understand korean though.

pe class with the 5* olds happened as usual… in other words it didn’t. inspiring a 5* old to play group games… not a chance. last class of the day… phonics… two of the kids were great for most of the class but the other two had other plans.

i rode the van with the kids as they were being dropped off. peter and i take turns. i extremely dislike riding the van. riding in a car with the driver always pumping the gas… it’s like being on a roller coaster for 30 minutes. my headache made me feel more nauseous than usual i think. after the van ride i went home for a bit before the afternoon classes began. i went back with peter around 3:30pm because i wasn’t sure when i was supposed to teach… the schedule keeps changing.

my class with the elementary students went ok. maybe i’m just getting used to telling them to speak english, sit down, be nice, don’t do that… at the end of class one of the boy’s pokemon cards fell out of his pocket so he and one of the girls were cleaning them up instead of participating in one of the action activities… well the boss’s wife came in and saw they weren’t participating and made them go to the office. after class i saw them in the office. the girl was crying and wailing… i asked my boss’s wife what she said to them and she said that she told them that they need to behave better or they won’t be able to move on to the next level. i probably would be freaking out too if i were her… being left behind would be embarrassing and she would probably be in a lot of trouble at home too. my boss’s wife then told me that i need to give my students a test… which is exactly opposite of what she wanted before.

so after school we went to get groceries and i was pretty miserable because of my headache. we finally finished, and the cashier scanned all of our stuff, i handed her my debit card to pay, and she started talking in korean… uh oh somethings not right. she said “error… nonghyup… error” ok… nonghyup is our bank so we had no clue why there was an error or if it was just my card. i was thinking i did get paid last month right? so peter tried to hand her his card which is also nonghyup but she said “no nonghyup error” so we were like great what do we now? peter called our boss’s wife and the cashier talked to her and then gave us the phone back. anyways so all nh bank accounts are not available today because of some error. our boss actually came to the store and paid for our groceries. hopefully our bank account will be unfrozen tomorrow so we can pay him back. he also told us that that store is too expensive and that he would take us to lotte mart whenever we wanted to go!

*disclaimer: 5 years old in korean age is actually 3-4 years old in american age.