Resolutions

I’m not really a New Year’s resolutions girl, but I’ve also heard that it helps to visualize where you’d like to be to help you get there.  So, I’m going to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and get out some solid goals to help make my 2016 as productive as possible.

1. Do my first pull-up

2. Do a handstand (Bonus: a handstand push-up)

3. Get $15,000 in savings by the year’s end–a lofty goal, but if I keep at this saving thing, it could happen.  Plus, if I want to move abroad again, money in the bank is a requirement.  A bit nervous as buying a car will suck up a lot of my savings, but let’s put those excuses aside and see what kind of magic I can work this year.

4. Get back to England to visit friends before year-end–this works against #3, but it’s important to me, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

5. Read 20 books. (I have a Kindle!  Send recommendations if you’ve got them!  Ideally a series that I can get into.)

I wanted to have something career-related, but I have a lot of things up in the air, so I’ll work on solidifying that goal after I get back state-side.  Right now, I don’t have something solid in mind that I can make into a resolution.

Steps

I just wanted to do a follow-up on that last post.

I’m feeling better than I was when I wrote it, and I’m pretty sure it had to do with the vent-session, but you never can tell.

The problems themselves haven’t gone away obviously, but I feel lighter now than I did before.  I’m a bit of a worrier and I often over-analyze things, and I think I work myself up.  The things I get frustrated and upset about are valid, it’s just that I pick and pick at them and then make a big mess.  (It sounds like a toddler picking at a scab, haha.)

Anyway, worrying less is something that I’m working on.  I just saw a quote which is actually the reason I logged back on.  It hit home with me and I wanted to share it before I forgot.

“I never thought things could change so much in only a year.  I wonder what next December will be like.”

And, goodnight.

Kayak.com is Dangerous Past Midnight

Or rather, I need an automatic disconnect from the internet feature when I browse travel sites past midnight.

Or maybe not…?

So, I was poking around with different flight combinations…just to see…and honestly $500 to go to a country that I really want to visit again before returning home isn’t that bad.  In the grand scheme of things.  (Or maybe all those Asia->North America flights have warped my brain,ha.)

Anyhoo, I have a few friends to see, yummy food to eat then I’d be on my way.

And…might be able to use some miles to discount the flight.  I have to do a bit more research on that but it would be great.

ALSO!…I just found out that with IcelandAir you can get a FREE stopover in Iceland!  Granted you pay for any activities, but you don’t need to buy any extra flights!  How cool is that?!  You can stay up to 7 days thn carry on.

It really is late, so I really need to get to sleep, but I was laying here bursting with excitement that potential detour and had to tell someone.  Lucky you 😀

On Returning Home…

It’s been ages since my last post, which has been becoming more of an occurrence.  I guess no news is good news.

A handful of updates:
*I’ve begun studying for the GRE exam, which I plan to take in January
*I’m leaving Korea and US-bound in March–after FOUR years (contract ends at the end of February)
*Classroom stuff is going swimmingly and I’ve been able to try my hand at video editing, which is pretty fun.

GRE Exam
In case you weren’t aware, the GRE is a graduate school entrance exam.  It’s not required by all schools, but as I want to keep my options open and I have some free time, I figured it couldn’t hurt to have it under my belt.  I bought a big (and I mean BIG) book with lots of practice questions and it’s really helpful.  I’m feeling dumber than a bucket of rocks as a lot of it has leaked out of my head, but I have a nice frosty winter to re-learn a thing or two.  ha

USA-Bound
It’s true, it’s happening.  I’ve mentioned it on and off for awhile now, but it’s really happening.  I’ve been reading a lot about reverse culture shock and repatriating online as I’ve been experiencing a wide range of emotions.  At first it was relief and excitement, and everything around me seemed to be brighter, warmer, crisper and more cheerful.  Now, I’m feeling so…lost and I guess anxious would be the right word.  I keep going back and forth (with feelings, not on the decision itself) about whether I’m making the right decision, or whether I should just keep traveling for a bit.
Leaving feels right and it frees up a lot more possibilities, but the money is so addicting.  The other part that really gets me is that I’ll have a good amount saved up by the time that February gets here, more than I’ve ever had in my bank account at one time.  Ever.  Then I go home and buy a car and it’s all but gone.  Not even an expensive car…just a general used car.  It’s so depressing.  I was thinking about how far that money would go if I were to keep traveling after Korea, and I could go for about 8 months.  Maybe longer if I stayed in SE Asia.  It hurts me knowing that cars are essential in the midwestern parts of the US.  :-/

I feel like I’m on an emotional roller-coaster.

With the reading that I’ve done though, it’s really reassuring that I’m not alone in this.  I’ve also talked with friends who have already returned and they’ve given me advice as well, mainly: have a plan and keep busy.

I’m half-tempted to make a pit-stop in England before returning to the States because (1) I love it there (2) I have friends from Korea there who I haven’t seen in about 2-3 years.  (3) The Harry Potter Studio Tour in London
I do have a free return flight from Korea, which would get me there…I would just need to pay the return from London to Chicago.  Which takes away from the car fund.

I also really wanted to fill up my passport pages before it expires (in 2019, I believe).  I know going home isn’t permanent, but it feels like it.  I think that’s where part of my anxiety is coming from.

Anyway, this blog in particular was really helpful in fighting back the current anxiety that I’m feeling, especially in the comments.
*Have a plan B
*Make time to travel in your own country–which I’m actually working on as well!  I want to drive the PCH next summer.  It’s been on my bucket list for a very long time, and it would be great to see the west coast during the summer.  PLUS, I could stop in Cali and visit a friend from Korea who lives over there 😀

This is from the above-mentioned blog:
it seems that in life doors are always opening to us that we didn’t even see when we were all the way down at the other end of the corridor, so be brave, take one step at a time, and remember that even in going back, you can still be moving forward!”
(Steph 5/24/2013)

Anyway, that’s enough for now as it’s late (as usual).

I just found this and it.is.perfection.
boundaries

Anyway, goodnight! 😀

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. 😛

Valentine’s Day Approaches

As a single lady, I don’t really have any reasons to be super excited that Valentine’s Day is coming, but I do love it because holidays are always a fun thing to celebrate in a classroom.

I’m planning on turning Friday into a mini-party–still working out logistics–but I’m going to bake Funfetti cupcakes with pink icing and I want to make these cookies:

Yummy!  😀

And maybe some of these too–I could put together some cookie bags like I did for Christmas.  😀  We’ll see.

I also want to have them make Valentine’s cards for each other as it’s a cultural experience and it’s not something that’s done here.

Valentine’s Day in Korea is when the girls give chocolates/candy to the boys and a month later on March 14, White Day, the guys return the favor.  Apparently there’s also Black Day the following month (April 14) and that’s for the single people.

You’re supposed to go to the restaurants and order jjajjangmyeong, which is a cold, black bean and noodle dish.  You’re then essentially upping your chances to meet other single people in hopes that you won’t be single the next time it rolls around.

My goal with the treats and Valentine’s party is to make a fun party out of it.  I want them to be able to enjoy the holiday in another way.  I like opening their eyes to different things.
For example, a girl was reading a book about apple picking and there were yellow apples in the book and she thought it was funny.  In Korea, we have one type of red apples and SOMETIMES green apples (and the world goes crazy when they are here), but there aren’t any yellow apples.  I explained to the girl that there are yellow apples too and she thought I was joking, but I pulled up an American grocery store on Google and she was amazed by all the apples.  Not just one kind of red…but a lot of red, green and yes, yellow apples.
I try to also include other countries into the mix also.  I don’t want it to be all about America, but also about other places that I’ve experienced.  I like to pass on as many cultural things as possible to open their minds a bit.

With Valentine’s Day, I want them to know that it can be celebrated any way you want, but especially including your firends and family into the mixture.  It’s not only for boyfriends/girlfriends.  I hear so much about being “lonely”/”don’t want to be lonely”/”Aren’t you lonely” from the older people (my age) that it’d be nice to diffuse some of that before it gets going.

Let’s see…oh!  We watched Matilda the past two movie days (Only about 30 minutes each time)–and usually I don’t do two movies in a row because there are so many out there, but they LOVED Matilda, so we continued on a bit more with it.  (One of my girls in the class found the book in our library and I encouraged her to take it home and try it out.  It’s well above her reading level but she loved the movie and she seemed excited to have it, especially knowing that there wasn’t a rush and she wouldn’t have a test over it.
Ah yes, the point…if you’ve seen the movie or read the book you know there’s a horrible principal called Miss Trunchbull, and later in the movie it lets on that she’s superstitious and afraid of spooky/ghosty things.
This lead to a segway about superstition. A massive word for them, but I talked about it anyway.  We talked about good luck and bad luck and what things people are superstitious about in Korea.  They didn’t know the word superstitious in Korean (I translated it, but they don’t know it yet in their language, but they knew bad luck).  We also talked about how superstitions (or things that are bad luck) can be different in each country.
For example, in Korea, the number 4 is considered to be bad luck, as is writing someone’s name in red ink (symbolizes death),  I talked about some that we have in the US (walking under ladders, #13, black cats) and helped them understand why Miss Trunchbull was freaking out when there was a black cat near her in the movie.

Whew.  A bit long-winded tonight.
We had the movie day on Friday, but I made a note to talk with them about it because they seemed confused as to why this big strong lady was afraid of cats.  One boy just thought she didn’t like cats…but it was a good learning experience.

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More on Korean superstitions herehere and here!!
The first link is a good one and talks about ‘fan death’.  😛

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Anyway, I’m eagerly awaiting for a package from my mom with the two Titanic books that I ordered off Amazon for my Titanic-obsessed student.  I want to see his face when he gets them so bad.  It’s going to be beautiful.

Valentine’s Day is going to be snack-time (cupcakes and cookies–bagged candy can be pricey and I love baking, so baked goods it is!) and they’re going to make Valentine’s for each other and their parents.
We have two hours…so that should be enough time…right?