Tag Archives: Jodi-Teacher

Waiting (really is) the Hardest Part

We are definitely a couple on edge right now. Yesterday I went in to ask my director if we could meet this week to finalise what will be happening, especially in regards to dates. She said that she knows we need to meet, but she was waiting because her husband (the ‘money guy’) wants to make us an offer.

We have NO idea what this could be.

When all this started, I was told that my contract wasn’t being renewed, end of story. In a nice way. She doesn’t really want us to go, and I believe that. But the business can’t support as much staff as they have now, etc., so a couple of teachers are getting the axe.

When she told me that they could only keep one foreigner, I asked if she had considered keeping me and losing Dan. That was kindness to him, by the way, not cruelty. He has only worked at the same school in his nearly three years here and has often expressed a want to get some experience in another school. It would also buy us another year’s time, as was our original plan. I also suggested that Dan and I could both go in May, but she didn’t bite on that idea. “I can’t find a new teacher that quickly,” she laughed. I wasn’t laughing; she expected me to find another job that quickly. But anyway. She *did* like the idea of keeping me a year and said she would talk it over with Mr. Money.

The next day we met again and nothing was finalised. She was still mulling over the “keeping Jodi for another year” idea, but by that point Dan and I had already decided it was not a good idea for us, for multiple reasons. We said in that meeting that the options had been reduced to two: Either we both leave at our contract ends (May for me and then September for Dan) or they could let us both go at the same time at any point between when my contract ends and when Dan’s contract ends. And nothing was decided. We believe she still thinks me staying another year is an option. It’s not.

So now we are still waiting. We are giving them until Friday and if we hear nothing by then we will tell them what we are doing – I’m gone in May and Dan is gone in September. But in the meantime we are left puzzling over what this offer could possibly be. We aren’t holding out hope, any offer they make will be for their benefit, not ours. But we can’t help but be curious, and talk it over. And over. And over.

So we drink too much coffee. And think too much. And sleep too little. We start making plans and then have to stop as we don’t want to go too far down a path that isn’t going to take us anywhere.

Waiting. It’s a frustrating time, but at least it isn’t a boring one. Too much to think about!

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Movin’ On

We (my husband and I) have been chatting for months now about what we are going to do when our current contracts run out. We’ve been thinking about trying somewhere other than Korea, you see. We enjoy teaching ESL in Asia, but Korea is no longer the best place to be doing it in my opinion. I may write a post on why I feel that way another day, but for now: recent events.

We’ve mostly decided that we would like to give Hanoi, Vietnam a try. From everything we’ve read, it sounds equally exciting, trying, and interesting. There are definitely good points (like making your own schedule and not being tied to one school) and bad (like not getting a bank account or being able to send money overseas unless you are with one school). But it sounds like it could be a great experience.

Before making a move, we wanted to be financially ready. All our debts will be paid off this year (Korea has been great for that – eliminating my debt is something that would have been very difficult had I stayed in London) so we were going to take some time to save to be really steady before we made a move… which would have been at my contract end in May 2018 or even Dan’s in September 2018.

Looks like that wanted delay has been taken from us.

I found out last week that my contract isn’t being renewed. Like many hogwans (private academies) all over Korea, our school’s enrolment numbers are down and so our director has decided to make some staffing cuts. Namely a bus driver, a Korean teacher (who was hired not even two months ago), and a foreign teacher. My contract is due up, so that foreigner is me.

We think that they (the director and her husband, the ‘money man’) are being reactionary and not really thinking through beyond freeing up some cash asap. But hey. It is their business.

I feel more for Dan (my husband and I worked at the same hogwan) – they may combine classes and drop the ‘speaking’ portion of a few so he is still not teaching more than 30 hours a week – but there is still going to be double the amount of kids. Double the amount of books. And he’s going to be the only foreigner at the school. Not fun.

We have had a stressful week thinking about what to do next. We thought through every possible scenario. We’ve tried to think how we could make our original plan of being in Korea another 18 months work. And we’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t worth trying to stay here.

So it looks like sometime in May this year, I’ll be moving to Hanoi. Yikes. I have so much to figure out (and do, like that TEFL course!) before then. And I’m not too excited about going on alone to do something Dan and I were going to do together. In short: I’m terrified.

But the positive is this: If I go first, I can see if it is going to be something we actually want to do before we fly the cats over. I can get an apartment ready (with a litter box in it – the cats are a major complication in this scenario). I can see how easy it is to get jobs. I can start the network.

I’m scared about this one. It’s a bigger adventure than I was looking for in 2017. But the last time life shoved me around it worked out for the best. I moved to Korea, met Dan, and got my money in order. I’ve been more happy and relaxed than I have in years. I just got to stay hopeful that life is pushing me in the right direction again.

TEFL’ing

As part of preparing to move on from Korea, the husband signed us up for a TEFL course so we could grab ourselves some certification. There are a lot of countries that require teachers to have certificates in TEFL, even if they have experience.

It’s clearly a box to tick.

I’m only in the second module and already a bunch of it seems like utter bollocks. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. I’m sure it is all soundly based in linguistic studies and has been tested in particular classrooms. Just not classrooms in Korea. I’m sceptical how much will be useful in classrooms in Vietnam.

So far, there has been extremely little that I could use in my teaching here. Firstly, it has been geared primarily toward teaching adults. If you are teaching in Korea, you are most likely going to be teaching kindergarten and elementary, maybe middle school. There aren’t too many jobs teaching adults. Secondly, much as I like the laid-back, natural-acquisition of language stuff that they are laying down, that’s not how it works in a classroom that is part of a Korean business. You need results. You need concrete results, such as fully completed books and ever higher test scores.

I think the issue is that the goal of EFL in Korea isn’t to become fluent in English, it is to pass a test to get into a good university. It *is* grammar focused. It *is* rule based. It *is* about being right or wrong so it does need to be corrected. And it does start when they are about 5 years old.

To be fair, I’m only in the third module of the course, and am hopeful that in the ten modules (eleven if you count the grammar module) that there will be some other things that I can take away and use while I am here in Korea. I don’t mind the studying, and I don’t even mind spending the money… I would just like the effort and expense to be worth more than a ticked box.

To finish up today, I can see now why so many new, fresh-faced young teachers that pop up in Korea with their TEFL certificates are often so disillusioned about what teaching English as a second language here is really like. It is so idealistic in the course, as though you will have all the time in the world with a class full of laughing, engaged kiddos hanging on your every word, eager to learn the mysteries of English, to teach them how to be fluent speakers and writers. Again, hopefully as I move further along the modules, they will have more information on how to deal with communication and cultural disconnects within the school administration, how to deal with just pushing through books because completing them is more important than teaching them, or students who are exhausted, bored, and wanting to be anywhere else in the world but in yet another hagwon class before they go home to have their supper at 10 o’clock at night. Because that information would still, even after five years of teaching here, be hella useful.

Into the light of the dark black night

For “Journal Writing” class yesterday, I gave my little guys an assignment to reinforce making the “Writing Hamburger” (main idea as the “bun” and the details as the “toppings”) as well as starting to create metaphors and analogies in their writing… without going into details quite yet about metaphor and analogy. They are seven.

The topic was “My Favorite Colour”. These three little weirdos all picked black. They were given the opening sentence (“My favourite colour is…”) and closing sentence (“I love the colour…”) to help them with the hamburger. Then they had to answer the following questions about their colour:

How does it look?
How does it taste?
How does it smell?
How does it feel?
How does it sound?

Haha. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they realised they were going to have to tell me how the colour black smells. But I gave them a load of example using my favourite colour (red, if you’d like to know) and they were off.

Lilly proofreading her work like a boss.

Lilly proofreading her work like a boss.

They did a great job! Some of the ideas were pretty basic (and they all seemed to think that black smelled and tasted like chocolate), but there were some real gems in their paragraphs that I would like to share with you. These are taken from all three children. Jessica, Lilly and Albert, 7 years old.

 

Black is scary, dark, and looks like a thief. It sounds like a ghost’s howls. Black is like a cat that rests in the library. It is the sound of lightning in the night. It feels like a ghost is holding my arm beside me.

 

I freaking love these children!

Did you have midterm exams at school? How did you feel?

There is going to be a handful of these “Speech of the Week” posts, I’m behind. Bad Teacher.

I am far too old to remember my high school midterms. At the hogwon (private academy in Korea) I teach at we have Big Assessment Tests (I call them BATs in my diary… as though I work at Hogwarts instead of a hogwon) every other month for our elementary students. It’s the closest thing I have in my life to a “midterm exam” these days.

BATs are stupid. They have the word “assessment” in them, but as far as I have seen, fuck all happens if a kid aces or fails the test. No one is held back, no one “levels up”. We just keep on trucking. Worse, the Korean stuff here just nerfs the scores so the parents don’t think they are wasting their money if their kid isn’t doing well.

It frustrates the fuck out of me. I wouldn’t mind the time it takes to make and grade the tests if there was any purpose to it at all. But there isn’t. I understand that we are running a business, but I think the way we do testing is costing our children, instead of just their parents.

Williamsaurus

William is Korean aged 10. He is a very smart and sensitive third grader with the cutest dimples when he smiles… so I’m always trying to make him smile.  He’s almost always got food on his shirt and he’s a funny kid although his sense of humour is sometimes strange. He is full of saliva and always smacks his lips when he reads. And he reads like a mini Korean Shatner.

So the other day in class there was some weird sort of brown spooge in his workbook. He had been eating chocolate when I came in the classroom so I said, “Ew. Is that chocolate?”

Without batting an eye, William scratches off the brown smear and sniffs at it. For a moment, I seriously thought he was going to eat. I would have let him. I’m a bad teacher sometimes.

Tell a Story

Today in my Tuesday/Thursday TOEFL class, they were asked to write an essay answer to the question “What would it be like to lose a friend, even for a good reason?”

These girls are 10 and in fourth grade. It’s a pretty heavy topic. And a page long essay? In their second language? These kiddos usually write 5-7 sentences. Not a pageful. And certainly not in the 25 minutes I have them.

For the first bit of class, we discussed the question. First and foremost: How could you ‘lose’ a friend? We first talked about how they could move away or change class so you don’t see them any more. We talked about how they could die and you would lose them forever (the Korean ferry incident was fresh in their minds, so they could actually really relate to that, even at 10 years old). Finally, we talked about how you could get into a fight so bad with a friend that you stop being friends, and lose them that way.

We always have these discussions before we start writing. It ensures the kids understand the question and how to answer it fully. Well, after discussing how one could ‘lose’ a friend, we moved on to how they would feel if the lost a friend. Their collective verbal answer? “Sad”.

Even if I got them to say that in a full sentence, they’d still only have one sentence and a page full of empty lines.

So I suggested to them that instead of directly answering the question, that they try writing a story about losing a friend. We talked about how the beginning could be about how good the friendship was; the middle about how the friend was lost; and the end about how bad it felt after they were gone.

I told them that the story didn’t have to be true for a test like the TOEFL, it just had to be well written and interesting. And that a story is sometimes easier to write instead of a direct answer. Especially if you needed to fill a page full of lines.

The good news is that Cindy followed my advice and her story turned out really good. I just hope that she remembers what I told them for future classes and future questions. I think that if she does, she’ll do well.