8:25 am Arriving at school
Stepping onto the school grounds, I am greeted by sleepy-eyed elementary students.
“Hello Christine teacher!” they chirp.
“Good morning. How are you today?” my energy level shoots from 0-90, caffeinated by my students’ voices.
Alarm is the volleyed reaction. A deer-caught-in-the-headlights kind of look. My more confident students who attend after school programs might respond; but my lower-leveled students giggle and run away.
Ai! Some days I feel like my students and I are still on lesson one.
8.30 am Warming up the English office
Brrr! It’s freezing. I turn on the lights and heater of our English office. I plug-in the computers and turn them on. Any moment my co-teachers will breeze in after me.
8:45 am School Begins
Ring a ding ding!
The first bell of the day chimes — Korean school bells sound like cellphone ring tones.
This is home room period. Each Monday, I’m shuffled to the video broadcast room for school TV . A cheap hand-held camcorder with bad focus, records my 10 minute storytelling session.
Students man the control booth.
Let me tell you– crappy focus is an ex-shooter’s greatest pet peeve. Still, my job is not to teach video engineering. My job is to simply perform or speak… English.
…with fun and amusing sound effects, while explaining difficult or confusing vocabulary along the way.
The book I’m reading today.
8:55 am Last-minute schedule changes before my first period.
An audience of cute 3rd graders sit in our English class, anxiously awaiting their lesson.
Something’s not right with this picture…
Normally, I teach 5th grade on Mondays. This means, today we have a last-minute schedule change (very synonymous with Korea). Now, I have to teach 3rd and have a few minutes to give today’s lesson a once-over before… the school bell rings.
“Okay Christine, it’s Bingo Time!” chimes my co-teacher, SM (*abbreviated), who waltzes in moments before we go live.
By now I know SM‘s directorial formula. We run through a last-minute script rehearsal. She gives me verbal bullet-points and cues me up on sections we’ll handle individually.
Most of the time, I play a CD-Rom animation dialogue and illicit answers from them, coaxing the shy ones out of their shells and rewarding the ones with eager performance confidence. Sometimes I feel like I’ still producing, just on a milder scale– cueing my students to speak, prompting their listening skills with questions or having them repeat my expressions.
9:50 am Second period
Oh Lord, she’s at it again…
Returning from break, I find half of my second period class standing at the back of the room with raised arms and balled fists. Soo Mi,one of my Korean co-teachers, is reprimanding them for their irresponsible and negligent behavior.
How can half the class forget to bring their textbooks?!
Discipline to Soo Mi is endurance training and students must hold stance, while being lectured for the next 5 minutes about the consequences for not having the proper mind for learning. Soo Mi is like a classroom mom– a firm disciplinarian. I learn a lot about classroom management from her.
…But 3rd graders are still kids, they’ll forget this all by next week. Textbooks and homework will still be forgotten.
12:20 pm Lunch time
Korean kids love food. If I show them a picture of food in class, they begin fantasizing– my students are always hungry.
Today is bibimbap! Yum. Being vegetarian, the lunchroom ladies set a hefty bowl of plain bap (rice) aside for me, especially if it’s been mixed with meat.
12:40 pm Recess
Occasionally, our female teachers will stroll around the schoolyard, arm-in-arm, play badminton in the gym or go to a teacher’s room for a coffee break. Today, one of the teachers has gotten a new car! He offers to give us a test drive and drives us around the block. Everyone chatters as I sit quiet in the back seat. Conversations in Korean go right through me. I may strain my ear to listen for familiar words now and then; but often, this social hour unfurls industry buzz I can’t grasp. Mostly, I get the impression its standard stuff– a spousal fight, their children or a complaint about a mother-in-law.
1:20 pm Meeting with my co-teacher for the next day
Next up is “Ellie”, my 4th grade co-teacher. She is a freelance teacher, splitting part-time with our school and with another. She’s great with motivating the kids with jokes and games. She knows how to make learning fun, while also being a strong and effective teacher. I learn a lot from her and the students really like her.
We meet to walk through this Thursday’s schedule (read about schedules here): rehearse our lesson plan and divvy up duties. I will choreograph motions for the song/chant section of our textbook, lead the CD-Rom speech exercises and questions. She will direct the game activity and explain complex rules in grammar.
A YouTube example of how motions are put to songs to make them fun for students.
2:40 pm Lesson Planning Time!
I spend the rest of the day brainstorming, finding or creating materials to inspire learning for the lessons I’ll have to teach for 5th grade, 6th grade and my Parents and/or Teacher’s English class. This is where my real work begins. My 5th & 6th grade classes are taught with my main co-teacher, EH, who I take turns lesson planning with.When I write teh lesson plan, I brief her on it and tell her which parts she’ll handle. When she writes it, vice versa.
Meanwhile, my adult classes I teach alone. Sometimes, I must improvise on a lesson I pull from the internet or create lessons from scratch. It tests my creativity and I can teach with free range and generally, they’re topics I’m more interested in teaching.
4:30 pm Okay, school’s over; that’s a wrap, folks!
I shut off the lights, turn off the computers and leave.
For more information about teaching in Korea, click here:
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