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 🙂

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.

First Thoughts of Teaching

KCIS Dangjin officially began classes on March 2. We were nervous about teaching but glad to start. Spending February lesson planning and adjusting to Korea was nice, but we were glad to begin teaching. Over this past month we have been busy and sick though. We were not able to travel for two weekends and Rachel had to miss a few classes because of being sick. Thankfully we have recovered, but are still quite busy.

We really did not know what to expect for teaching. It would have been nice to know more about Korean children before starting. We kind of learned the hard way that they are not very well behaved. For Kindergarten classes they divided the students between a K5 (American age 3 maybe 4) class and a K6 & 7 class. For the first 2 weeks we did not go by a normal schedule because we wanted to allow the students to get used to being in school and to get used to foreign teachers. The 3-year-olds spent most of the time crying or attached to the Korean teachers. The 4 and 5 year olds warmed up to us pretty well.

The elementary students were worse behaved than we expected. I had the mindset of Koreans being very respectful and disciplined. With Korean teachers they are better but they think they can get away with more with a foreign teacher. The MeySen curriculum is much different than the normal Korean way of learning. They are used to textbooks, tests, and memorizing things. But MeySen teaches English in a more natural way that gets students to communicate in English and comprehend what they are saying. Because there are no textbooks or tests the students tend to just goof off and talk. So we have had to adjust our teaching style to add in more homework and start giving assignments.

We have also been doing some research trying to get ideas of how to do classroom management better. A lot of people were saying that Korean children are very competitive. Just getting into High School is as hard as getting into a college in America. It’s pretty brutal. Students spend like all day doing school work and studying. So most people recommend to use that competitiveness to our advantage. So we’ve starting putting students on teams and taking points away if they are bad and giving points if they are good. It’s pretty funny to watch them go crazy when we take points away from them. The points mean nothing, but they get all bent out of shape.

At the start things were pretty challenging but things have gotten better. The students are actually pretty cute and they are learning. It’s been fun to watch them start using more English phrases and actually talk to us. They are still pretty dependent on the Korean teachers, but it’s been good to see improvement already.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

MeySen Curriculum

On Thursday January 20, 2011, we went to Suwon to observe MeySen classes at a Kindergarten. It took us a little over an hour to get to Suwon. After we took our shoes off at the door we put on slippers that they provided. Then we sat in a conference room with about 10 other teachers who were all speaking Korean. I am pretty sure they all knew English, but it’s their country so they can do what they want. They had Q&A time in Korean with one of the workers there for about 45 minutes. We observed two different classes for half an hour each. The first class was 4 year olds, and the second class was a bit older. They were much better at English then I thought they would be. And they were all participating and having fun.

Our school will be using the MeySen GrapeSEED program. From what we have heard and read, it is much better than most TEFL programs. As far as teaching English programs go, I have nothing to compare MeySen with. But I think it will be a great program. I think the students will really enjoy it and succeed with it. The kids at Suwon had been using the program for a year to a year and a half and they were speaking good English. They could talk with their teachers and use full sentences and express their own thoughts.

MeySen teaches students words that students will use frequently, which seems like a no brainer, but apparently other programs teach words like “princess,” “dragon,” and “king.” MeySen utilizes songs, action activities, stories, poems, etc. to help students learn words and phrases. There is also MeySen Station which is where the students will work on their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.