Should I Stay or Should I Go…and More Thrilling Questions

I’ve had a lot of my mind recently and for me it’s always best to get it out in one form or another and then I will relax more and stop obsessing over ideas and thoughts.
So, here goes.  Just a heads-up, this may be a bit whiny/20-something-trying-to-figure-things-out, so if you’re not feeling it, steer clear.  In case you couldn’t tell by the title.  🙂

Let’s start with a bit of backstory and just general info on the hagwon (after-school academy system) here in Korea.
First, in it’s most basic sense, it’s an after-school “academy” or school that some kids go to after their regular school day is finished.  I work with elementary-aged kids and their main school day finishes around 1/1:30pm.  They’d go home for a snack or whatever and then off to piano/English/tae kwon do/math/singing/swimming/hapkido/Korean (Yes, extra school to learn Korean…)/Chinese/etc etc.
There are so many of these schools on a single block that it might make your head spin once you realize it.
The hagwons are meant to give kids an extra boost to basically get them better prepared for their future.

Anyway, for the past year or so I was convince that grad school was the next step for me.  I wanted to get a Masters in Education (M.Ed.) or a Masters in TESOL/ESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) had also been an option.  It’s still there, but I’m sort of second-guessing myself.  I enjoy teaching, but I think I’m just getting burnt out…or I dunno.
As we’re an after-school academy, we have a summer break (1 week) and a winter break (1 week) and all federal holidays.  I think it just gets to be a bit much.  I need more me-time or even just time to sort of clear my head and make space for new ideas.
It’s also frustrating because with this system, kids can come essentially whenever they want.  For example, in the same class, I can have kids that come every day (M-F at my school) or some just MWF,, or one girl is TWF.
It just gets very frustrating when you’re trying to teach and kids pop in or randomly go on a week holiday with their family.  I mean, it’s great that they’re going on a break and get family time, but when we learn new words on Monday, use them all week and have a test on Friday, and they show up on Thursday after a few days off–it really makes things tough.
In my younger classes we read two story books a week together and do two corresponding workbooks.  The older kids do one reading book and one workbook because they’re more difficult.  So if Johnny misses the first half of the week, he misses the prime day for new vocab (all day Monday), the introduction of the new story (speaking and reading) and then we have to play catch-up so he’s not just sitting there, and then it throws the pace of the class off.  Classes are two hours long.  I usually also don’t have any warning when a kid will be going on a trip/quit, so it makes it tough to do projects or anything too.
I think the other thing is that since we don’t have an official start date and that kids can sign up and drop in whenever, it makes it hard to plan new ideas.  My boss wants me to do “filler” stuff on Tuesday/Thursday so kids who don’t come on MWF don’t miss anything important.  *pause*  So, as my class is more reading based, I decided to teach basic grammar (nouns/verbs/adjectives/plurals, etc), but when you have a grammar day on Tuesday, and have supplemental worksheets that the kids are working on–what happens when MWF kid comes in on Wednesday and they finish the work quickly?
There’s a lot of copying going on as well, which I hate, but when we do 5 pages in the workbook and one kid misses the reading day and the 5 pages, not sure what else I can do besides pile it on for homework, which is heavily frowned upon.  They already get enough homework, and parents don’t generally approve of their kid doing classwork at home.

I dunno, I feel like I’ve taught nouns/verbs/adjectives to my higher level kids about 5 times now.  I keep getting new kids or kids who weren’t here and then we’re trying to do something that applies them and they have no idea.

Looping back to the grad school thing–I really like teaching, it’s just frustrating that I see these things happening and I’m doing my personal best to get over the humps, but I want training.  I’m not a trained teacher and I think going to school would help me see solutions that I’m not seeing right now.  Granted, the hagwon-structure is fairly unique and at most schools you typically get a roster of kids and it doesn’t change until the end of the year.  They move on and you get a new list the next year.
Another thing is that I have some kids that I’ve had for nearly a year and half now and I think that they’re becoming too comfortable.  I think it would benefit them to have another teacher with another style to continue to push them.  I enjoy my classes and I try and make sure my kids are learning different things and I try and keep it interesting, but I don’t think it’s necessarily helpful to have the same teacher for too long.  You can learn different things from different people.  The kids are kept in my class though because they say they like my class and also because it’s a business.  The kids like me, so the parents want them in the class.  If the parents are happy, they pay money and we stay in business.  It’s not hard to see, but it’s just another little thing.

There was something else but I can’t remember what it was at the moment.  I’ll have to circle back when I remember 😀

On a more positive note, I’ve got two things.  First, my cousin is getting married this summer and it just so happens to fall on the tail end of my vacation.  I got the approval for an extra two days of vacation so I can go (!!)–time differences/return flights–and it’s going to be amazing.  I have to miss a lot of stuff related to family and friends’ happenings since I’m abroad, so it’s awesome that I’ll be able to make it for this one.

Second, I’ve posted on Facebook a bit about this, but I’m pretty darn proud of myself with making the gym a habit.  I worked out a lot when I was living in the US, but fell off the wagon/horse when I moved abroad and found it hard to get back at it.  Anyway, I’ve been working out consistently since September and upped it a bit in Jan/Feb.  It’s now so deep into my schedule that I don’t see myself breaking this routine anytime soon.  It’s a great stress reliever and I’m feeling better and healthier for it as well.  It feels great to be back and the gym and I can see that I’m getting stronger too, which I love.

Ah!  The other thing.
My school has a massive English book library (rare for schools in Korea as English books can be expensive) and each book has a corresponding book level (based on the difficulty/amount of words in the book.)  The kids take books home each night, read them and then take a short comprehension test on it the next day.  The results are tracked in the computer and can be pulled up whenever.  Anyway, the parents obviously want to see proof that their kid is moving up in the levels (as do I) and can get upset if their kid’s number isn’t moving.  The thing is that they’re kids.  Not robots.  Some kids learn quickly, some slower than others and sometimes they stagnate.  I’m fairly strict with my student’s book levels (they have a range of three numbers that they can pick from) and they can change when they get a consistent amount of 80-100% on their tests. However, sometimes kids don’t read or they read and they didn’t understand it fully and then they get low scores.  Sometimes they get low scores multiple times in a row so I’d pull their level down a bit and they work back up.  Anyway, just got word that we’re not to put their level down anymore, just push upward.  Which I do 95% of the time, I just don’t want to push up and up and up if the kid doesn’t understand what they’re reading.  In my opinion, it’s ok if they’re at a certain level for a bit as long as they’re generally improving and working hard in class.  No need to rush.  Anyway, I think this one is actually pretty standard in many schools around the world, so there’s likely not much that can be done, just sort of suck it up and make the best of it.

Still thinking on the grad school thing…I just need more money and wisdom.  There are so many places I can go for the Masters–I just want to make sure that I’m doing the right thing as it’s an expensive decision.  I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be than a teacher though, so that might just be what I end up doing.

Oh and the cupcake/cookie thing from the Valentine’s Day post left you hanging, I brought in pink funfetti cupcakes.  No cookies.  🙂

I also have an English/Western manners week-long lesson in the works (Our storybooks/workbooks only last for a three weeks so I usually have an empty week at the end of the month where I’m supposed to create a filler lesson.)  I want to teach basic etiquette and Western-style table manners (including, but not limited to: how to properly hold/cut with a knife and fork–food lesson–yay!)  Just holding off until I finish the packet that I’m making and until I’m a bit less annoyed with kids randomly showing up throughout the week.  I incorporate manners in our daily classroom life (pushing in chairs, helping others, holding doors (struggle), etc. but I wanted to have a full-blown lesson on it.  Plus, I really wanted to do something with table manners.

Happy Tuesday 🙂
Hope you can walk better than I can today.  I did some deadlifts yesterday for the first time–nothing too crazy as I was mainly focusing on arms, but I wanted to give them a go before I left–and my legs are feeling them today.  Shoooooot. 😛

Thanks for the Motivation!

I’m having more issues with my school and this front-desk lady (whom is now “in charge of” the foreign staff and all teacher-related things–former boss now resides on the computer in the library).  I’m not being sarcastic or whatever–like really.

Anyway, a few things that have been grinding my gears:

1. I have a student in my second class that comes MWF and he’s the lowest in the class–low reading level/comprehension level/etc.  I went down to the library, where he goes on T/Th to “read/do homework/do book comprehension tests” and he had been wandering around for the 20 minutes that I was there with my previous class and was still wandering when I came down before my next class–his would-be class if he was registered.
Anyway, I asked him what he was going to do for his next two hours and he shrugged (as he usually does when asked questions).  I have seen him wandering on numerous occasions, not just this one, so I helped him pick out 3 books at his level and asked him to read them and do one comprehension worksheet (“book worksheet”) in the next two hours.
He said he didn’t have any paper or pencils today so I went up to my room, got some extras, came back down and got him sorted.  We agreed that that was what he would do.

Boss (who now resides in the library, as I mentioned) called me into one of the small classrooms in the library and told me not to give the boy extra work.  I explained that he was behind all the extra students and that he needed something to do during all the extra time he spends in the library.  Boss said his parents don’t pay us for you do to do extra prep work to help him.

Um.  I’ll wait.

I said that it wasn’t any trouble because there wasn’t really any prep work to do–I just picked out books with him (which he could technically do on his own, but I wanted to help him out this time around).  It was basically end of story, don’t help him.

I decided later to just give him and two other students in another class extra homework for the days that they aren’t in class.  Hopefully that will help him since I’m not allowed.

2. Ok, so I work 1:30-8:30 with a “10 minute break” between my 3 classes.  The first class starts at 2:30 and I’m expected to be in the room at 1:30.
I put quotes around the break-time because with stragglers from previous classes and trips to the bathroom, and when the next class comes directly into the room after you leave with the previous one, there is little “break time”.  Essentially under 5 minutes…if that.  I actually have a rule now (for my sanity) that the kids aren’t allowed to ask for extra homework papers, etc until classtime officially starts so I can get all my stuff done with minimal interruptions.
Oh, and add surprise new students to this “break time” and maybe you’re starting to get an idea.  I got 2 new students on Tuesday and 2 on Wednesday.  Some of which were just sitting in my room when I walked in–extra copies of classwork, getting folders and homework papers put together (I already have a stack printed).

Anyway, the thought of eating might not have crossed your mind, but shockingly, teachers do get hungry as well.  We (on all days prior to yesterday) were able to bring in a small snack or something to scarf down between classes or even get something from the convenience store downstairs.
Yesterday, I bought a small cup of ramen/instant noodles before my last class to tide me over til I ate a real meal after work.  I brought it in and put it on my desk (2 minutes til class started–dismissed the second class and essentially ran down to the shop to get it).  As soon as I walked in (I have brought in food countless times before, and many times I even bring in homemade stuff for my classes, or order pizza)–
ANYWAY, as soon as I walked in they were all like “ooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” and running out into the hall and around the room acting as though they hadn’t eaten for days and begging for some.
First, WTF.
Second, how rude.
Anyway, I called them out on their behavior and FDL (front desk lady, in case you’ve forgotten) came in and said that I shouldn’t eat that food in the room because of the smell.
First, this has never been an issue before that moment.
Second, I hadn’t eaten since about 11am.
Third, these are the same people that eat seaweed snacks (smells like the devil) in the classroom.

Anyway, it’s not like I walk around the room with my cup of ramen.  I eat a bite here and there when they’re doing group-work or taking reading tests, which the first 20 minutes or so of class.  Which is why it hasn’t been an issue.
She said to go into the office and eat it–she closed the door and started speaking Korean to the class–which Korean is not allowed in the classrooms.  I decided that it wasn’t worth it and went back in the room.  I said that we had a schedule to follow and that I would just eat later.  (Speaking Korean to my highest level class isn’t on the plan for today as well).
She went out and I had a chat with my students about why I was upset.  I said their behavior was rude and asked how many of them had eaten dinner before they came (all of them) and many of them apologized and they understood what I was talking about.  I broke it down very simply just to be sure and they all understood.
We carried on and it was as if it hadn’t happened.

As I was getting ready to leave, FDL came into my room and said she needed to talk with me.  She asked if I had time right then (I didn’t) and asked if we could talk tomorrow (now today) about what happened.
She said she didn’t want me to call the children ‘rude’ because they might be upset and not understand.
I told her that we had a big talk about it and that they did understand.
She seemed surprised and said “Oh, really??”

Anyway, we’re apparently supposed to talk about it today.  She has a habit of talking over people–usually at “staff meetings”.  There was another teacher who had an idea for a problem we were talking about at the last one and she literally spoke louder to speak over him.

I still stand by what I told the kids and I think it’s definitely within my right to call them rude if they’re being rude.  If I do not have a breaktime (and I think it’s bad form on my part to be eating away in the office while class is in session) and I work from 1-9 essentially…
They’ve learned a lot of life lessons in our class and I think learning not to beg others for food is a good one.
I also think that having all three of my classes at capacity with high parent approval shows something.

Anyway, TGIF.

Other lessons featured in my classes: (This is for my own personal enjoyment)
*Please/Thank You are required
*Pushing in your chair when you leave your desk/table
*Helping others: General Knowledge
*Helping others-Part 2: When someone drops their pencilcase/folder on the floor and everything flies everywhere onto the floor (AKA: Don’t sit there like a dummy and watch–come help!)–Note: I don’t use the word dummy or any equivalent.
*No pushing/wait your turn/Hands to yourself
*Clean up after yourself
*Hold the door for the person behind you
*Don’t laugh when someone else makes a mistake (especially a reading mistake/has trouble with reading…or you will receive my wrath.  JokingButNotJoking)
*Raise your hand to speak/don’t shout at me
*Ask questions.  Lots of questions.  Be curious.  Especially if you don’t understand or need help.  (This is HUGE here.  It’s considered essentially lowering yourself/”lose face”, but bosses are known to either make up something or lie rather than say they don’t know.  If my kids leave me learning one skill, I want it to be this one.  Don’t be afraid to admit fault and be curious.)

Eric Thomas

This guy was on a running playlist that I love and I finally figured out his name.

Eric Thomas.

I’ve listened to two of his Youtube speeches and I’m so, so in love.

Here’s a good one.
This is a bit long, but it’s worth it.  Put it on when you’re cleaning or something, but just listen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yjry7sm4rP8

“There are things that come to workers that don’t come to those who just wish.”

“You want what I have but you’re not willing to do what I do.”

Here’s another, shorter bit.  This is the one on my workout playlist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64vXec-pKA4
It’s about a guru and being successful.
Watch.