Courage

Proud of my kids. We had a speech contest today (part of Global Week, which is really just English Week… although I suppose it works, since English is considered the global language).

Our high-level 1st graders (13-14 yr olds) were the only participants, and I the only judge.

I’d been under the impression that a few of my co-teachers would also be judging and we would come to a consensus afterwards, but at the last moment I was handed the scoring sheet, list of names, and my CT said joyfully, “Maddy, actually I’m not going to score. You can choose the winners,” and proceeded to take photos during the whole event. LOL. She’s a cool person, so it’s okay.

I did find myself scrambling a bit at times to correctly identify the current speaker and match their name on the scoring sheet (the names on the sheet were completely out of order with the order of speakers) while also listening to them begin their speech. My Korean reading skills are good, but not that good.

Topics ranged from “My Future Dream” and “Why I’m Proud of Korea” to a handful of quite serious speeches about the terrorist attacks in Paris and what to do about ISIS. One student talked about the Anonymous hackers as well.

Speakers ranged from those who simply read what they had written in Korean and translated (or maybe a teacher/parent/Google did the translating) into English to one extremely bright girl who spoke without notes, naturally and earnestly, about working for peace following the terrorist attacks. (She was our clear winner.)

But regardless of their speech content, delivery, or English ability, I was so proud of all of them for having the courage to stand up and deliver in front of their peers and teachers. Personally, when I was in middle school I would’ve been a terrified, red-faced, stammering mess when speaking to a crowd – let alone in a second language!

They worked hard and put themselves out there, even some of the not-quite-as-high-level kids, and I think that’s awesome.

Yay for my students!

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These are just 7 of the 20 kids who participated (oh, and me). Photo taken and cute-ified by my CT.

In other news, we also finished up our English Market today (held in my office), which meant students could come in and buy candy, stationery, socks, and other trinkets using the fake “money” they received in class. We had an English-only rule, and my CT promised them discounts and freebies if they spoke lots of English, so we had a lot of “Teacher, beautiful. I love you. Wow. Discount plees-uh” being thrown around.

Also, I had one of the best moments of my teaching career thus far (haha, not really. but kinda) when I single-handedly taught three of my VERY low level 3rd graders that the word “cool” has two meanings: “chilly, refreshing” (시원한) and “awesome, neat” (멋있어). (I’ve found that both my CTs and my kids solely use “cool” in the sense of chilly or refreshing and are often confused when it’s used to mean “awesome.”)

My CT was busy with something else, so she wasn’t around to translate, but I managed to explain to the three of them in a mix of English and Korean, and then I know it was understood because one of the kids then repeated it (correctly) in Korean to his two friends. And then they correctly used “cool” as in “awesome” in a sentence.

And to that I say:

woohoo

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today is…

…the first snow. Snow! In Daegu! I honestly hadn’t expected to see snow much at all this winter, much less in November. But in the middle of a class, one of the kids yelled, “Teacher, snowing!” And we all cheered and clapped and dashed to the windows and opened them and had a mini celebration for the snow.

My co-teacher told me that in Korea, couples usually make promises to meet on the day of the first snow. So romantic.

…the first day that I wore my new winter coat, which I was pleasantly surprised to find warm and cozy. You know, you can never really know how good a winter coat will be until you try it out in the cold.

…teaching one particularly hilarious class that always tries to guess what the textbook answers will be before listening to the CD dialogues (with uncanny accuracy), then insists, “Teacher we are smart!” (and this is their argument against listening to any dialogue more than once).

…instructing my students that the correct spelling of “vampire” is not, in fact, B-A-M-F-I-R-E. Although Bamfire is a pretty badass monster name too.

…realizing that I have a fully fluent kid in one of my classes who lived in America for awhile. I wish my co-teachers would tell me about these kids in advance, because they’ve gotta be bored at times when I’m explaining over and over about stuff that comes naturally to them, and I think if I can have some full-speed conversations with them, it will help. In my experience, though, the fluent/American-born kids (I’ve had about 4 that I know of) tend to stay really quiet for fear of being labeled a show-off.

…this conversation:

Me: “With your partner, you will write step-by-step instructions for how to do something. It can be anything, like how to draw something, how to make ramen…”

14-yr-old boy: “How to make a baby!”

I strongly advised him against this topic and moved on to help another student. When I returned to his desk a few minutes later, he said “Teacher, sorry, sorry. Korean teacher punish me.” His new topic was “How to be a good student.” LOL.

…discovering these lovely works of art by Puuung, who happens to be a Korean artist living in Seoul. I’m now desperately searching for a way to purchase prints, because this is something I would actually want to hang on my wall.

Much like with poetry, I’m rather picky about art (with no valid reason to be, since I’m neither an artist myself nor an art expert). Works that speak to me are few and far between, but Puuung’s “Love is…” collection is 100% my style.

Such a sweet, simple depiction of life and love. Her work tells a story – a peaceful, slow-moving, happy story. It feels like both something to aspire to and something totally achievable by a normal human.

The colors, the whimsy, the realness, the setting. I’m obsessed.

A few of my favorites (click to enlarge):

But there are so many more (100+!) on Puuung’s Grafolio page, so you can check them out for yourself.

an updated day in the life

Remember back in March, when I wrote my “Day in the Life” post? It detailed the orderly, neat & tidy unfolding of my daily life according to my perfect schedule.

At the time I wrote it, it was true (if perhaps a little sugar-coated)… but these days, my schedule is a bit different, as are my outlook and perspective.

So let’s compare then and now:

6:00 a.m. – Alarm goes off. Hit the snooze button multiple times.

6:00 a.m. – Continue to sleep as I have been for the past several hours. (Bahaha! I used to set my alarm for 6 a.m.??? These days I’m lucky if I’m up by 7:00.)

6:20 a.m. – Shower in my freezing bathroom. Get ready for the day. Eat breakfast. Check my social media and talk to people on the other side of the world. Turn on some TV Kdramas in the background for company.

6:20 a.m. – Yep, still sleeping.

7:00-7:15 a.m. – Tear myself out of bed, potentially in a state of semi-panic depending on what day it is, dash to the shower (which thankfully is no longer broken and freezing), slap on makeup, dry my hair, and rush out the door grabbing my bag and possibly umbrella on the way out.

These days, the morning routine is all about efficiency and not at all about having a peaceful relaxing start to the day. Breakfast? What is that?

7:45 a.m. – Leave for school on foot. The walk to my main school takes about 25-30 minutes; on Mon/Weds I can leave later because the smaller school is only 10 minutes away.

7:50-8:05 a.m. – Start walking (or possibly trotting) to school. I can now get to my main school in roughly 22 minutes thanks to some nifty shortcuts I found and figuring out how to manipulate the lights. (Seriously, “walk” lights can take 5 minutes to turn green here, and only last 20-30 seconds, so if you don’t have a system, you will lose A LOT of valuable time.) My small school still takes between 7-10 minutes.

To make sure I’m walking fast enough, I match my pace to song beats. (I’m sure many runners & speed-walkers can relate.) On a normal day, that’s a speed like “This Side of the Moon,” but if I’m running late, I crank it up to “Back in Your Head” fast (Like, “I-step-just-step-want-step-back-step-in-step-your-step-head-step” fast. Try it sometime. It’s pretty brisk.)

(This is also a technique to keep me warm on near-freezing mornings like today; hence, when I arrive at school, in spite of the cold temp, I end up plopping into my desk chair sweating and gasping for breath. It’s very attractive.)

8:20 a.m. – School begins. I don’t have to do anything, but all the Korean homeroom teachers go to greet their classes or something like that. I’m still not exactly sure.

8:20 a.m. – The homeroom teachers are off to wrangle the children. I have 20 or 30 minutes (depending on the day) to gather my thoughts and do any last-minute printing before 1st period begins.

8:50 a.m.-12:20 p.m. – Classes. Each class is 45 minutes with a 10 minute break in between. I don’t always teach every class during this period of time. If I’m not teaching class, I’m at my desk working on lesson plans… and/or updating my blog. Like right now.

8:50 a.m.-12:20 p.m. – These days the majority of my classes are morning classes, which means I’ll have 3 or 4 classes within this period of time.

12:20-1:00 p.m. – Lunch break.

12:20-1:00 p.m. – I’ve discovered that Wednesdays are somehow special and so we usually get to eat better food on Wednesdays, like bibimbap with a corn dog or fruit salad or a banana. Today it was bibimbap with half an apple and what I believe was duck meat which was delicious.

After lunch my co-teacher(s) and I usually walk around the school a couple times to get some fresh air. This also usually involves coffee.

Incredibly, before coming here I’d never had a single cup of coffee in my life (Starbucks frappes don’t count)… and now, though I still don’t see the appeal of black coffee, I can drink it quite easily. I don’t feel like the caffeine affects me at all, though, since I can just as easily go without.

1:10-3:45 p.m. – Classes. Again, I don’t always teach every class.

1:10-3:45 p.m. – Same, same.

4:30 p.m. – I’m off the clock most days. Many teachers stay later than 4:30 to finish up their work. Sometimes I stay a little longer too. On Tuesdays I have my after school class, which goes until 5 p.m. Then I walk home.

4:30 p.m. – I’m still working. These days I’ve been staying till 5:00 or 5:30 to plan ahead and avoid bringing much work home. I still plan in my free time, but I find it nicer to just be really productive in the quiet hours after the kids leave the school, and then be able to relax more when I go home.

And that’s that! Then I walk home and watch the mountain gracefully shed its fall colors and reflect on how I’ve watched that mountain come full circle, from snowy and barren to green to red, orange, and yellow and now, slowly, back to barren again.

It’s been almost a year now. Isn’t that strange?

the 1% decision

The decision I made (about a year ago now) to move halfway across the globe to live and teach English in Korea was agonizing. There was a constant back-in-forth in my head: Is it worth it? Will I regret this? How much will I miss out on if I go? But how much will I miss out on if I stay?

Then I remembered this quote from one of my favorite K-dramas, “I Hear Your Voice.” (Which you can totally watch for free here, just sayin’. Whoa that makes it sound like I’ll get paid if you click that link. I won’t. I promise. I’m just in the non-money-making business of spreading K-drama love around the world for the sheer personal satisfaction of getting other people addicted to them.)

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Come on now, just look at that adorableness and tell me you don’t want to watch this drama. Image from dramabeans.

Anyway, the quote was from a character talking about making a difficult decision but choosing the one he knew was right. How? By falling back on this question:

Which decision will I regret even just 1% more?

Perhaps it’s a bit of a cold and callous way to decide things, but in a situation like mine it helped a lot. Because I was then able to realize that both outcomes (to go or to stay) would be filled with bittersweet regret one way or another, but that I would certainly regret the decision to stay in America at least 1% more.

At least 51% of me would regret that I lost a chance to experience another culture and to be an ESL teacher.

I’m not sure why, but putting a number on it helped me. Maybe because I typically make my decisions from an emotional place rather than a logical one (hey, I’m an ISFJ okay??).

And now here I am, 9 months after arriving on Korean soil, faced with the same decision but from the opposite end of things: stay or go? Within the next few weeks, the final decision must be made and the official contract or notice of withdrawal must be signed.

Which decision will I regret 1% more?

To be continued…

being productive

woohoo

From the Simpsons Wiki page. Who knew that even existed.

I’ve been putting this little Homer picture in my PowerPoints lately, on the slides that introduce some activity or worksheet they don’t want to do. I told myself it was to motivate the kids, but then I realized it was actually to motivate myself. To be energetic about the boring activity they don’t want to do.

Today I woke up late. Thankfully that little awareness inside my sleeping brain woke me up before we had reached the crisis point – the point at which there is no time to do anything but throw on clothes and grab a taxi. Still, I wasn’t exactly looking my best when I ran out the door 25 minutes later.

And of course, I ended up being early anyway.

And of course, it turns out that I was the first person to arrive by several hours because the other teachers had a business trip of some kind, so even if I had been a minute or two late nobody would’ve been there to care.

And of course, it ended up being the day that all the teachers take pictures for the 3rd graders’ yearbook. Ai yi yi. Hopefully, since this is Korea, they’ll Photoshop my face to be all perfect and stuff.

Anyway, I had no classes today due to said business trip and some schedule rearranging. These days are usually a tossup: will I be productive with these hours of time at my desk, or will I hit brick wall after brick wall and get sidetracked with funny GIFs and YouTube videos that I want to show my kids? (And yeah, okay, Facebook.)

Buuuut today was fortunately one of the productive days. I aim to have at least one of these a week but as everyone probably knows, they just can’t be forced. They have to come organically.

It’s kind of fun when it does happen though. Just sucked into the zone of productivity for hours without needing a break or being tempted by social media.

This was a nothing post… no funny kid quotes or hilarious stupid thing I did to talk about. But I’m trying to get myself back in the habit of posting a bit more regularly, so I’m rapidly typing this post before I leave one school to attend an English teachers’ meeting for my other school. Oh boy!

I hope you are all having productive days as well.

update: i’m alive. uninspired, but alive.

I’ve lost my muse, seemingly.

(Edit: This would imply that I had one to begin with. I’m not so sure about that.)

I have a few post ideas/scraps saved in my drafts folder, but when I pull them up to try to flesh them out into real posts, I hit that dead-end feeling that reminds me of trying to turn a collection of sources and quotations into a 10-page research paper when I was in college… a.k.a. not something anyone’s going to do without that looming GPA hanging overhead.

Dramatic comparison? Yeah, I guess. This is a blog about my own life, for crying out loud. It shouldn’t be hard to find material, right?

It’s not that my life has become boring per se. A groove has certainly been established, though – and along with that, the feeling that anything I write is kind of a regurgitation of things I’ve already written.

(Even that last paragraph is a mere echo of what I said in my last post… which was almost a month ago. How pathetic of me.)

Anyway, here is the update from the past 4 weeks.

— The 2nd graders and I are getting along much better these days. Rapport has been established. Classes go much more smoothly now.

Today we were doing a category quiz for the key expression “What kind of _____ is it?” I showed this fine gentleman:

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What a stud. Picture from Wikipedia.

and asked them, “What kind of music did he make?”

Me: “Bonus point if you know his name.”

Student: “Mozzarella!”

Showed this picture:

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shudder.

Me: “What kind of movie is it?”

Student: “Romance!”

Me: “Are you sure?”

Him: “Yes. Girl.”

(And now I will be deleting that image from my WordPress image gallery mighty quick. I watched that movie once. I slept with all the lights on for over a week, no joke. What can I say, I’m a delicate wimp.)

(Incidentally, though, the source for that image is from here – an article showing the child actress from The Ring, all grown up and decidedly unscary, on Instagram. So that’s nice.)