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. 😛

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Being in a Classroom is Not Always Rainbows and Sunshine

Had a helluva day today.  (Helluva looks like some sort of hillbilly word…)

Anyway, I’m working on…er…training my youngest kids (first class) to the ways of the classroom (and how to not run around like psychos when I’m not in the classroom).  I had forgotten how far my other kids have come.  My other kids know to come in, take out their homework and talk nicely until class begins.  This first class…shooooot….I have my work cut out for me.

Our school (and most of these after school programs) are essentially a smaller space with classrooms cut into it.  It’s not like a full-size school or anything.  Anyway, we had a teacher’s meeting today at 1:30 and classes start at 2.  The kids started arriving around 2 or so, and were easily the loudest in the school.  The front desk girl (across from my room) didn’t seem to be doing anything about the kids running amok, so I ended up leaving the meeting early to corral them and get them on task.  One kid was running around and tore the decorations off my classroom door.  Not like we can really do much to them, because it’s a business as well as a school.
Anyway, I didn’t yell, but I used a very loud, stern voice and got them all sitting nicely in their seats with their homework our and waiting for class to begin. Quite quickly, I might add. I’ve trained my last two classes to where I could be late/walk out of the room for x reason/work at my desk/etc. and they’re self-sufficient.  This first class needs to have every breath monitored it seems.

They seemed to understand the gist of what I was getting at when they were scolded at the beginning.  Keep in mind, I have to break down the sentences to almost bare bones because that first class also has a very low English level.
The Korean teachers at my school scold in a very…nursy way.  Essentially “Ok children, please don’t do that.”
Anyway, I feel like I should record it for my own interests…I want to be able to show a before and after between now and in two months time.

Anyway, that’s probably why I decided to finally crack open this bottle of wine I’ve had in my apartment.

I do appreciate a good challenge,but I’ve got my work cut out for me with this bunch.


Also, I had a glorious reunion with my gym yesterday.  My muscles have been feeling it today and I feel like an old woman when I try and go down stairs.  Either way, it’s nice.
I know you’re supposed keep working out when you’re sore (slowly) but after today I just came home, watched House of Cards (my current Netflix obsession–did I mention that I just got Netflix?!  It’s amazing.) and ate Froot Loops.  Basically…being an adult.  haha.  In my own defense (not like it’s needed, but hey), I had every intention of making this baked mushroom chicken dish.
Back on the ol’ horse tomorrow.

Done and Done! Happy Day!

What a productive day!  Wahoo!  Feelin’ Good.

*CDs finished and distributed (All out tomorrow because of the MWF kids)–My classroom looked like Santa’s Workshop while I put all the bags together 😛  I put the theme to Titanic on it for a student that is OBSESSED with that movie and as soon as he got his CD he asked about it being there.  I noticed later that he circled it on the track list, haha.  You’re welcome, X’s mom and dad.  🙂  haha

*Productive classes (nothing much to say here–kids were speaking and working hard and everything seemed to flow rather smoothly)

*Great night at the gym and I lowered the resistance (assuming that’s the technical term) for the assisted pull-up machine 😀  I’ve been working on dips and assisted pull-ups with it and I finally got to move to the next weight (basically, my arms are getting stronger and I don’t need as much assistance on this machine).  Bada-bing, Bada-boom!

*Oh and it’s payday!  I re-signed for another year with my school like two months? back and got a raise along with it.  This was my first check with the new pay rate, so that was a pretty fun time at the bank.  🙂

*Annnnd (well, this was from last night/technically this morning), but I penciled in some activities that I want to do with the kids on Fridays in the next few months regarding the topics from yesterday (Acceptance of others, being careful with your words, etc.)   Fridays are typically a wrap-up day and I have more flexibility within the class schedule on those days.  Oh, and everyone comes on Fridays, so that’s a perk, ha.  🙂

This was the track list for the CD in case anyone (or my future self) is interested:
1. Do You Wanna Build a Snowman–Frozen Soundtrack
2. Look What I Can Do–Kidsongs (2nd song–starts at 1:35)
3. What Do You Wanna Be–Kidsongs (1st song)
4. Witches’ Brew–Hap Palmer (they love this one)
5. Splish-Splash–Bobby Darin (this one too–especially that dance–Note to self–More dance routines)
6. Thriller–Michael Jackson
7. YMCA–The Village People
8. Lean on Me–Bill Withers
9. Count on Me–Bruno Mars
10. Walking in the Jungle–Super Simple Learning (Youtube)
11. The Lion Sleeps Tonight–The Lion King 1 1/2 Soundtrack
12. My Heart Will Go On–Celine Dion
13. The Loco-Motion–Kylie Minogue (I liked this version better–more upbeat)
14. The Wheels on the Bus–Super Simple Learning
15. I Was Here–Beyonce
16. Let It Go–Frozen Soundtrack
17. Mr Sun–Mother Goose Club (Youtube)
18. When Will My Life Begin–Tangled Soundtrack (Mandy Moore–tons of vocab! yay!)
19. Five Little Monkeys (Jumping on the Bed)–(another favorite)
20. We’re Gonna Get Wet–Kidsongs

*Challenge Songs* (A bit more difficult)

21. Hopeful–Bars and Melody (anti-bullying song) (original audition version)
22. My Wish–Rascal Flatts
23. Roar–Katy Perry

I loved Kidsongs growing up so I’m excited to share it with them 🙂

I think I should admit myself to some sort of mental hospital because I’m already thinking of potential songs for the next CD since this one was such a big hit.  Oi vey.  And on that note, bedtime.

Ramblings

Thanks for all the comments 🙂

I’m not sure if this makes me “old” or not, but I generally really enjoy solitude.  I enjoy my own company and could spend a day or a whole weekend just reading or doing random things like baking or going for a walk around my neighborhood/area.
Living in Korea is in a way like a second college experience, or it can be if that’s what you choose for it to be.  Anyway, I keep busy with Ultimate Frisbee, traveling, brunch, classroom decorating, sightseeing and a bunch of other stuff, but going out drinking seems to be a major way to socialize and…it seems to be more and more often that I’d rather just watch a movie in my pajamas or try out a new recipe than participate like that.
I must have an 80-year-old soul or something, ha.  Or maybe it’s with the cooler temperatures, but I just don’t really like going out drinking anymore.  Now that I have a Kindle (did I mention this?!) and my gym membership, I feel pretty at peace with the world.  I have a few fitness goals that I’m trying to achieve and drinking definitely doesn’t help.

Anyway, just rambling and hoping that I’m not alone, ha.  I’m playing in a Halloween Hat Tournament this weekend and we played 3 games today.  Not sure if it was the three games or the uncharacteristically warm weather this time of year or the combination of the two, but after a shower at home I was wiped out.
I’m at a coffee shop now getting some work done mainly because I had to drag myself out of my house otherwise I’d have been asleep by 8pm (and likely lively and awake at 3am, haha).

Back to the Kindle…I’m so happy I got this thing.  I still have a thing for new books and bookstores, but this is so nice.  I can get books at a tap of a button (er…mildly dangerous…), adjust the lighting, no cramped wrists from holding big books open for hours at a time AND I love the dictionary feature.  I just press the screen over the new word and it gives me a definition right then and there for it.  It also stores the new words and you can quiz yourself later if you so choose.

Also, I joined a gym about…3? weeks ago and it feels so great to be back at it.  I thought I might have some trouble getting into a routine again because it’s getting chilly outside, but so far, so good.  My gym is just the right size and the guys that work there are all really friendly.  They sometimes walk around and give advice or help on form if needed.  I also got a free, spontaneous cardio/bootcamp workout with another lady from one of the trainers. They don’t offer any sort of classes, so that was pretty fun.  One guy speaks some English, or at least tries really hard and I try out some of my broken Korean too.  (Where is the chapter on muscle groups and gym lingo in my Korean book?).  Anyway, it’s a great environment there and will help me through the winter months.  I’m also already in a routine and my body craves exercise if I go without it for a day or two.
My current fitness goals are to:
*tone up my arms/legs and in general get a bit more muscle definition
*do a pull-up (still working on it–I had a bit of a hiatus after I got back from Japan, and I’m back at it now)

I also want to try this out at some point:

It looks intense, but we all know what incredible shape gymnasts are in…
It also makes me tired just watching it, so that must be a good sign that it’s a good workout, haha.
I keep telling myself that it’s only 4 minutes.  You can do almost anything for four minutes.

Hm…ok, I think that’s all for tonight 😀

I have some papers I want to grade before tomorrow’s full day of Ultimate games 😀

*2 months til Christmas and 56 days til I’m back in America–first time in nearly two years…!!!
Also, last bit of randomness, but this coffee shop has some saxophone music playing and it reminds me of Christmas 🙂

Ok, bye!

Updates and Future Posts

Such a good day today.  My kiddos were pretty well-behaved and we were nice and productive…as compared to Wednesday when half of them seemed to have an overdose of crazy pills before class.

We got everything wrapped up from the week and I got to get some much-needed almost 1-1 time with two boys in my last class of the day who are having the most trouble. The other two boys (who are much more chatty and have better English) have been absent for two days and I’m getting quality time with the other two.  Good stuff (another bonus of working in the after-school/hagwon system versus at the school with 30+ kids.)

Anyway, I have a few posts that I’m working on at the moment.
1. The Korea Pet-Peeves/Dislikes–Part 2

2. A video of my kids (students) doing our song and dance to the song “Splish Splash“…which is addoooorable.
I choreographed the dance moves based on what I remembered from when I did the song in my elementary school music class and a few Youtube videos.
I didn’t focus on learning all of the words for this particular song, I just wanted them to have fun with English and get their butts out of their chairs.  Mission accomplished.  We didn’t have time for a video today so I’m going to try and get it done on Monday and uploaded shortly after.

3. The journal entries from my Harry Potter/Osaka trip.  I emailed the photos from my phone to my email account like 2 hours ago and they still haven’t come through.  But anyway, still working on that and hope to have some fun posts up soon.

In regards to #2–I’m also nearly finished with a new dance/song to The Loco-Motion by Little Eva (or this version by Kylie Minogue) and I’m super excited for it.  The last one was a big hit, so I’m hoping this one will be too.  It’s a bit slower as well, so hopefully I can get them to learn the lyrics as well (which we do with all of the other songs that I teach them.)

We’ll be having a Halloween Party at our school too and each teacher will have a group of students for 40 minutes and then we rotate the kids to the next room.  Each teacher has a different activity or game, and I was thinking it’d be fun to teach them a dance to Thriller by Michael Jackson.  A lot of them have no idea who Michael Jackson is and they love zombies…so that could be fun.
This whole post is turning into stuff about dance routines, but for the Halloween bit, I’ve done actual activities for the Halloween and Christmas parties last year because each group that you get can have a huge mix of kids…super low level to more advanced kids, and sometimes they bring their (non-English speaking) friends.  Having to cut/print/prepare enough scissors and glue etc is a bit of a pain when you don’t actually know who will be in your class.
The dance bit would let them get some energy out and have some fun at the same time.
I still have to get an OK from our director, but I think it should be fine.  I’d looooooove if we could get a blacklight or something and use that, but we’ll see.  I remember doing a special Halloween routine with this song when I was in dance class…er…in the 90s and our teacher let us use white gloves and we had a black light (and a strobe light, I believe?) and we did the Thriller dance in the dark.  It was super fun.  😀

Also, no work tomorrow/today (Friday) because of a public holiday annnnnd my 28th birthday on Saturday, which also happens to be payday!  Alllllso, I signed up at a gym today (with help from a friend) and I’m excited (but also a little not, because now I have no excuses and can’t be lazy anymore).  They have good hours, the price was reasonable AND it’s super close to my work, which is also fairly close to my apartment.
Hurrah!

Anyway, that’s a quick update.  Off to bed!   Have a great day/night/evening!

Oh, My Booty!

Just started back at the fitness shenanigans two days ago and feeling good.  The weather has been a HUGE factor because it’s gotten cooler recently and the humidity is fading away into a distant, sweaty memory.
Anyway, been working on getting my stamina back because I honestly haven’t done much working out since being in Korea (it might look otherwise on Facebook, but I assure you that it’s a ruse.)
I’ve been doing some light jogging and trying to get my strength back…and trying to get back at the pull-ups (fell off that train when I went to Japan).  Oi…lots off falling off this fitness train.
I don’t mind working out, but the healthy foods bit is a struggle.  I just love baking 😦  And pizza.  And curry.  And naan.  😦
Everything in moderation, they say, but that’s difficult too.
Doesn’t help that fruit costs the same as my (would be) first-born child.

Sure, maybe making excuses, but oi.  At least I feel great post-exercising.  Minus my sore legs and booty.  It’s a good sore though, so not to worry.

Also, I’ve been browsing around on this site called Look Human–I’m madly in love with some of their fitness-related shirts.  They look really cute and comfy.  Annnnnd they ship internationally.  A bit pricy for shirts, but I also rarely buy clothes over here, so most everything I have is from pre-Korea.  So…looking is fun at least.
I think I might get two of them though because they have a thing for Free Shipping over $50 and 10% off on your first order.

These are the ones I’m looking at 😛

Lookhuman.com Adipose

Learned a new word with that one, too 🙂  He’s so cute…even if he is fat!  haha 😀


😀 haha

Anyway, there were a few more, but that’s the gist.  I’m looking mostly at the first two 😛

Ok, off to bed.
Happy Weekend! 😀 (or Friday…depending on where you are…)