Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sarah's Students' Collaborative Writing Game

A while back, Lee did a writing game with his students and posted their work. My students had a lot of fun with this as well. Some of the themes were similar, but others were just a bit strange. Here are their stories:

"The airplane was going to crash!

Suddenly, batman came and held the breaking airplane.

Then, He eat them.

However, they are poison.

They are die.

They became Angel.

But they're fried soon.

After all they died."

"It was raining outside. I had never seen rain before."

So, I went outside, and I played soccer with my friend in the rain.

A thunder came down and hit me.

So, I was sick.

I caught a snake and boil.

Then, make a delicious snake soup.

It tastes very nice.

Man say 'Oh, I'll take it. How much is it?'"

"The dangerous rabbit was eating a carrot.

At that time, pig was watching the rabbit.

Rabbit runs away.

The rabbit falls down to a hole.

In the hole, there was a big ugly prince named Pride.

Pride became a King Kong.

King Kong loved Pride to see her.

He is a Casanova.

She caught King Kong and went to zoo"

"It is midnight. I have been studying for 10 hours.

So, I was so tired.

As soon as I entered my house, I took a rest.

I took a nap.

After nap, I do exercise with my friend.

My friend fall down.

He became a frog.

I loved a man frog. I became a gay."

"Super Mario got a 0 (zero) on his English test.

He cried a lot and made a map on his pants.

Also he wrote his name on his pants.

Then he gave his pants to his friend.

On the next test, his friend got 100.

He feels happy and laughs at him.

But he died because he lauged at him.

The leftover boy also died.

The reason is he was too funny to him."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

10 Things I Will Not Miss About Korea: Part 2

  1. I often have trouble signing up for things in Korea because I have a foreign name and it's either too big to fit in the 'name' section of the website or it just simply won't except it.

    Sarah and I once tried to go to our local library that opened up last year. We went in, walked up the stairs, found an empty booth and sat ourselves down. About 2 minutes later someone walked over with a ticket in their hand pointing at the booth. Sarah talked to them and apparently you had to reserve the booth. We later discovered that you had to book tables and basically any little space in the library in advance too.
    'OK, no problem. Let's get a ticket,' we said.
    Well, apparently, you have to sign up to the library in order to be able to get a ticket.
    'OK, no problem. Let's sign up.'
    So after about 30 minutes of filling out forms, which were all in Korean, and talking to the librarian, who wasn't helpful, we discovered our names could not be accepted by the system and so there was no way for us to use any of the library's resources. I got so angry at the time because I thought I had finally found a quiet place to study only to be rejected because the guy who coded the library's system hadn't thought that any one but a Korean would think to visit.

    For me, it was less about going to the library itself than trying to be a part of normality. As a foreigner, things are difficult enough, but try to do anything outside of 'popping to the shops' and it's a fiasco, every time, without fail. I understand that part of living in a foreign country is having to deal with not being able to fully participate in society or even really feel part of that society, i.e. you are foreign. I'm just saying that it will be nice to return to the UK and feel part of daily society again.

  2. I won't miss how everything is at the last minute. It's almost a cliché to complain about how last minute things are here in 'dynamic Korea'. But it is certainly something I won't miss.

    Only this week did I feel slightly annoyed by this. Sarah and I had to go to a different school for half a day this week and talk with Korean teachers about a number of different topics. My class was on Tuesday morning and, even though I've known about this for a number of weeks through my co-teacher (actually Sarah told me first), I only got a call about it on Monday afternoon detailing how many people will attend my class, if there are computers in the rooms, where the school even is. As it turned out I had roughly 11 people in my class, but what if I had prepared a lesson for 30 people? And say I had created it on powerpoint only for there to be no computer in the room? Despite there being weeks to tell us these things, telling us the day before left very little prep time.

    Happens all the time, too. Not just to me, but Sarah and most, if not all, native teachers. Do Koreans themselves complain about this? I'm not sure.

  3. Koreans don't like to give feedback and if they do it's rarely critical. I believe this is down to the whole 'not losing face' thing. Basically, the idea here is not to allow anyone to 'lose face' i.e. not hurt their pride or dignity through various ways. They consider 'being critical' as one of the ways a 'losing face' situation may occur.

    Now, at first glance, this sounds like a good thing, and in some ways it is. People are very nice here, my co-teachers always tell me that my classes are 'great' or they tell me how I did a 'good job' at the end of class. The problem I have with this is that when I know my class has failed or when I haven't been able to control the students, my co-teachers have still told me that my class was good, when I was just looking for a bit of constructive criticism on a class that I could see had failed.
    'What can I improve?' I ask.
    'Nothing. Good job today,' they say as I try to wake up my students to tell them that class is over.
    How can we improve when people's opinions are restricted by culture?  By the way, I'm not sure what Korean-on-Korean criticism is like, this is just what I have experienced.

  4. How I get excited when things sound like stuff from home only to be disappointed that it's often something completely different.

    For example, when my mate Chris visited me in Korea, he ordered 'cider' in a restaurant thinking it was the alcoholic cider we enjoy at home, only to be served Chilsung cider, a fizzy drink that tastes like Sprite... 'What a let down...' he said.

    'Toast' here is often not just single slices of bread spread with jam, marmalade, butter or the like, but it refers to grilled bits of bread with sandwich filling inside - salad, ham, and cheese are the most popular fillings (for me :P). Actually I love this place. The food is cheap, fast, and tasty :) These pictures show a shop similar to my local one:  [1][2]

    I also got excited when Sarah told me they had sausage rolls in Tous Les Jours - a Korean type bakery with endless supplies of cakes, bread, and pastries. When I stormed into the shop in search of the elusive sausage roll, I discovered that it was just one really long frankfurter-type sausage wrapped in a helix of doughy bread... It was tasty, but still a fail.

  5. The global community has a constant eye on the goings on between North Korea and South Korea. The media get excited when anything happens, be that Kong Jong Il dying, the recent prisoner amnesty, or the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. Admittedly, if I were anywhere else but Asia right now, I too would get excited about any North/South news. I'd see it as 'history in the making', a spectator to something I might one day tell my grandchildren about.

    But actually being in Asia, being in Korea, you want the news to be littered with K-pop or how the price of kimchi is soaring. The last thing you want is any 'eventful' news about the North.

    It's all good and well being thousands of miles away and watching Kim Jong Il's funeral on TV, but here in Korea I look upon such news through cautious eyes. Questions begin to arise, scenarios go through your head - all of which would be absent in the mind of a foreign spectator. You begin to scrutinise daily things with elements of, I think, justified paranoia.
    A plane goes overhead - 'Was it a military plane? Could something be happening?'
    A siren sounds - 'Is it the monthly drill already? Where are the closest shelters to me right now?'
    An unusual and loud noise outside the apartment - 'What was that?' I say as I rush to the window (it's more often than not the Tous Les Jour van unloading... but it still gets me in a panic).

    When the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island happened, I told myself that I wouldn't panic, that there would be plenty of options if the situation escalated. Nowadays, I'm not so sure. I think being with Sarah has made me wiser and that I look upon things with more maturity and sense of reality than I once did. Nothing has really changed from that day in 2010. Sure, Kim Jong Il has since died, but I'm not sure how less unpredictable the North has become. If anything, the situation remains the same: anything could happen at any time. I mean, we all knew the Dear Leader was crazy, but we know very little about this 'Great Successor'. I doubt the apple falls far from the tree...

    It's being worried, hoping that today's news is uneventful and boring, the feeling of teetering on the edge of a danger that you can do nothing about - those things I will not miss.
Kim Jong-Il looking at a persimmon tree (from

Friday, January 13, 2012

Korean students are so sweet!

Today was the last day of a week-long winter camp at a different school. Their school doesn't have a native English teacher so I was asked to create some fun lessons for a week. After I handed out prizes and wrapped things up todays, I said goodbye to my students. Many of them were sad and told me that they wished they could have spent more time with me. As I was cleaning up desks and organizing papers, one of the boys came up to me, handed me a fairly expensive Caramel Chocolate Kitty, and thanked me for teaching him this week. I was so touched by his words and actions. :D I know it was only a week, but I'll miss them.

This is a picture of the chocolate kitty :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 Things I Will Not Miss About Korea: Part 1

I love Korea, I love my school, I love my students, but not everything is perfect - it never is - and I know I could write a list at least double the size of this about things I have not missed about England. But with the good comes the bad, therefore I've felt like I had to write this to bring some reality into this blog.

Actually, what has ended up happening is that I could only really think of nine things, so I've had to fill it out a bit with little gripes that have no real significance. But I've still had to split the article into two parts of five because some of my thoughts, although they are shared by a lot of native teachers here, I've felt like I've had to explain in detail why I think certain things and it's taken up too much space.
  1. It's number one on my list of places to visit, but despite it being a stone throw's away from Korea, I am yet to realise my dream of visiting Japan ㅠㅠ I won't miss being so close, yet so far... Maybe sometime in the future, eh?

  2. I won't miss the frustration of drilling common English phrases into my students like 'How are you?', 'What's the weather like?' etc only for them to be too shy to respond to me when I try to talk to them...
  3. Someone coughing in your face is rude, right? Someone coughing in your face when they're sick and you can feel spittle spray on you is even ruder, right? Well, Korean kids think it's completely normal just to spray their germs everywhere without a second thought. Sitting on the bus during winter is like the few days before scientists discover that there is a contagious disease that is threatening to wipe out mankind and that it could've been prevented if people had simply covered their mouths when they coughed.
    My students are the best at coughing, for sure. They even go to the lengths of stretching their neck out and aiming their long, drawn out coughing fit right at you.
    I'm sure they're not doing it for a laugh, I just think... actually I have no idea why they don't cover their mouths. No idea.

  4. This leads on to something else I won't miss: being in a state of perpetual illness. I knew coming into Korea that I would initially get sick because you're around new people. But 2 years of having a stuffy nose, feeling tired and other cold symptoms, is a bit much... I was hardly ever ill in the UK to the point that I would hassle people for being sick. Rarely took a day off school, only really had a couple of days off work. Here? Ill all the time. Can't stop going to the doctors, medicine fills up the cabinets... it's annoying. Sarah's the same, and other people I know seem to always be sick, too.

  5. I know why number 4 occurs, too. In fact, it's obvious to any native teachers here. Being sick in Korea is a faux pas. Actually, being sick is OK, it's taking time to rest and recover from being sick that is the faux pas. I've been lucky that when I've been sick, my school are understanding and allow me to stay at home with no bother or at least ease my work load for a day. But some of the stories I've heard about the hassle native teachers get for trying to take time out to deal with legitimate medical conditions is absurd. Serious things too, not just colds and migraines, things that they have to visit the hospital for like surgeries and scans. I shake my head to think what Korean's have to put up with.

    People have told me how their co-workers come in with the flu, high fevers, you name it. These aren't small things either, they're contagious and the whole school ends up getting sick. Then when no one goes home in isolation to recover, it just draws the whole thing out until a year has passed and you look back and wonder when the last time you were healthy was.

    I'm not sure how typical this video is, and I'm sure it's exaggerated slightly, but it helps me sum up a bit what I am trying to say:

    Sometime my students have their head on the desk, asleep obviously. Some of the time it's because they're lazy or they were up late studying or playing video games, in which case I make them stand up until I think they are awake enough to participate. But most of the time it's because they are sick. Why don't they go home? I spoke to a student and they said that they get a black mark on their record for every day they are sick and this could affect what high school they go to. FOR BEING SICK! It's not like they have skipped school or had a fight or thieved.
Gas masks in the Korean subway. I propose that they have these in schools to combat Korean kids coughing in your mouth. (Photo by Miss Amy Sargent. Robbed from Facebook by Mr. Lee Whatling).
Part two coming up!

Union World and a bit of Spongebob

Winter camp is finally finished....for my school at least. Native teachers usually have to teach a one to two week camp course during both the summer and winter vacations. I got off lucky in the summer. I only had to have class for three days and only for an hour and a half. No prep needed, it was games the whole day. :D Work was a breeze. This time, I spent days and days wracking my brain and the internet and whatever other sites I could find looking for activities for the students. I have to say though that the past few stressful weeks truly paid off. I couldn't have asked for a better winter camp experience. My 24 students, all girls and 3 boys, did everything I asked and more. Their camp focused on speaking and writing skills so I tried to incorporate a number of speaking and writing activities. The one thing I enjoyed the most though was their journal writing. At the end of each day, they wrote an entry about their camp day, and I would take it home, read it, and revise it. Some of their entries were just amazing and so sweet. They put so much time into writing them. They even stayed way past quitting time just to finish writing in their journals. Lee would say "They're well keen!" :P Most of them were so absorbed in their journal entries that my coteacher and I had to finally drag them out of the classroom after 4:40.

Some pictures of my students working on their projects

The girls were working on their script for their news broadcast.

3rd attempt at making a paper microphone

Looking up nature sounds to use for their weather segment

Wanted a 'Handsome' shot in front of the 2nd grade story projects. "Teacher, I need girlfriend!" :P

My girls were so sad to leave today. One girl even asked if the school could have winter camp every day for the whole vacation period. O_O Just thinking about the prepwork makes me dizzy. :/

Some of the most memorable things about my camp were their country posters and today's acting lesson. For their country lesson, I had each group of girls create their own countries i.e. political leaders, laws, climate, etc.

Union world was my favorite. The girls in this group got a bit confused at one point and thought that union meant unicorn, so they put a unicorn on their country's flag. Ha ha :) They were so cute! They spent ages drawing and coloring in bits and pieces. They were so sad when they lost the class vote for best country. Of all the groups, these girls were the best. I felt sooo bad that they had not only lost the country vote, but that they had ended up losing all 4 games I played the rest of the day. The one sentence that kept popping up in each of their journals that day was "Today, I'm so irritating, every game we lose so feeling bad. OTL." Ha. Turns out the next day, they won all the major games and cleaned out the prize bin. :) It's funny how things just happen to turn around sometimes.

Hye Yeon Country was another interesting country. They had the standard same laws as everyone else: No Killing, No stealing, No Homework, School for only four hours, and then there was one that stuck out...Every baby born must be beautiful or handsome. Uh...
In the end, they all did such a good job. The teachers who helped out with the winter camp were so impressed at the end products of each activity.

I was going to put up pictures of the country posters, but I accidentally formatted the memory card. I'll retake the pictures and post them up later.

The last day was definitely one of the funniest days. I showed the students two spongebob episodes. Then I gave them bits of the script to act out. I didn't know if it would go over so well mainly due to the fact that Korean kids absolutely hate to get up in front of class, but they were great. They got really into their roles as Spongebob characters. I'm going to try to put the videos here so you can see a few. I still can't get over one of the girls yelling "Pickles! Pickles! I forgot the Pickles!" We all had such a great laugh at the short skits. You can watch a video of the best group on Lee's youtube account.

The girls finished the camp today with a long long journal entry. Class was supposed to end at 4:10 today and none of them left til almost 5. I read the last entries of most of the students, and I got a bit teary. Most of them had written how much they had loved English camp and me. It was so heartwarming and an experience that I know I will keep for a long time even after I leave Korea.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Adjushi: The orange thief

So it doesn't happen often in Korea, but there are occasionally days where really strange things happen.

The first day of work at my school, I was given a set of keys, one for the office and one for my desk drawer. It turned out that the key to my desk drawer was the wrong key, and no one knew where the actual key had been placed. I was told that I was out of luck and not to put anything valuable in my desk. So all year I've had an unlocked drawer.

This morning, I did the usual. I walked into the office, put my bag in the small cubby below my desk, and was about to place my ipod into my drawer when I realized it was locked. O_O No one had a key, and I hadn't locked it. My coteacher and I tried to use a bit of elbow grease and some muscle to get it open. Let's just say that didn't quite work. :/

We ended up calling the head of the math department who just happened to also be the school handyman. You have to understand that married men in Korea over the age of 40 are called Adjushis. Adjushis tend to be quite opinionated and funny. When the math department Adjushi finally came to our office, he spent the next 20 minutes trying to figure out why the wrong key was not turning let alone fitting in the drawer lock. He spent ages wondering out loud about the key. Then he spent another 20 minutes commenting on how the previous native english teacher smelled and looked like he never took a shower.

My coteacher looked like she wanted to throttle him. I thought the whole scene was just really funny.

He ended up leaving for lunch after a while only to come back with a drill. While he was drilling holes out the sides of my desk, I was busy signing stacks of completion certificates for students. He finally got my drawers open and then proceeded to comment on all of their contents.

Eventually, I left him to fix the drawers and then I heard it, a very distinct munching sound. I looked up and the math Adjushi had eaten the oranges that were on my desk! I was gutted.... OTL

(Lee edit: "OTL" is a Korean thing that is supposed to look like an exasperated person bending down on the floor - the "O" being the head, the "T" being the torso and arms, and the "L" being the bent legs)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Students' Collaborative Writing Game

First week of my school's winter camp is finished and I hope my students had fun. Yawning is a good sign, right? 

The first day was a bit chaotic, the second graders didn't really listen to my instructions, left trash on the ground, among other disruptive things. I nipped this in the bud the next day by enlisting the help of one of my co-teachers who went in and told them something along the lines of 'Oh, I'm so disappointed in you. Lee is an amazing teacher. How can you do this to the golden jewel of the British Isles?' - he told them in Korean, but I'm pretty sure that is what he said.

Once they decided to behave themselves, I realised that they were actually better at English than they let on... The shy, quiet girls were better than expected, anyway - I always knew the boys to be relatively decent at English because of the random stuff they blurt out in class.

With this in mind, I decided to play a collaborative writing game with them to finish off the week. 

What I did was split the class into three teams of four. I then gave two pieces of paper to each team. The paper had a sentence written on the top that I had typed prior to the lesson. I lined the paper into eight sections in which they had to write whatever they wanted to continue the story. They then had to fold over the previous sentence so that the person they passed it onto could only see what they had written and not the whole story. They passed both papers around their team with each member writing on the paper until the sheet was full.

I thought it might be a bit challenging for two reasons:

1. Korean students are not used to being given creative control over the English they use, i.e. they mostly take the form of 'I'm fine, thanks. And you?' robots that freak out and literally run away when anything that doesn't fit the textbook template is thrown at them.

2. Some of them might struggle with forming any sentences at all because even though most of them were high level, some simply did not have a big enough vocabulary bank to draw upon when we did these kind of activities. To counter this, I let them used their phone dictionary (all Koreans have Korean-English-Korean dictionaries on their phones). A downside to letting them use their dictionaries were sentences like this one one of my girls wrote today: 'to be born destiny' - no one knows what it means.

Anyway, here is a choice selection of their final stories (the text in bold is what I wrote to start them off and all spelling and grammar is left how they wrote it), see if you can find any themes...:

First story
The man was looking out of the window.
Oh! Bird is die!!! I'm sad ㅠㅠ I have to eat!! Oh~ deliciouse!!
"Mother! What do you eat?"
I am eating your finger.
And I am eating your toe.

Second story
The scary dog looked very angry at me.
I killed a dog.
But the dog didn't die.
Because the dog is phoenix.
However, the dog is dying.
Suddenly, vet come and save a dog.
But he is killer.
The dog said "What is happen?"

Third story
Super Mario got a 0 (zero) on his English test.
Oh! No~ So, I eat English test paper, because my mom very angry.
So I go to bathroom. And I poo.
It smell is very dilicious.
And, I eat poo.
Oh! It's deliciouse!
I will eat them every day~
So I have stomach ache but I'm happy.
I'm die.

Fourth story
Oh, no! That whale just ate that chicken!
Chicken said "I'm not delicious!" in the whale's stomach.
Actually chicken was prince of chicken world.
But his bad uncle killed the chicken prince and destroyed the chicken world.
So chickens leave their world.
But whale try to eat chickens again!
Then chickens explode!!!
People eat the chickens.

Fifth story
The woman put socks on her hands.
She making a snowman.
but, There was no snow.
There was stone, That was beautiful! I will to eat The Stone~ It's delicious!
But I have stomach ake.

I'm not sure if this is a good example of creativity or just the scribblings of oddball teenagers. Probably a bit of both. Clutching at straws a bit, but I actually like the story about the whale and the chicken prince... The one about cannibalism made me feel a bit ill. 

I really hope that the one about pooping out an English test and eating it everyday isn't a metaphor for my English camp... ㅠㅠ
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