I have a problem.

ice cream.jpg

You know it’s serious when the need to try ALL the flavors overrides your anxiety about the store clerk (who knows you as the local foreigner) thinking you’re a fat pig.

Wish I knew how to say “These will not all be consumed in one sitting” in Korean.


friday, again

Last week was one of the busiest weeks of my life.

Something about sitting down with 60-100 kids per day for five days in a row is just exhausting. Particularly when the weather is stiflingly hot and humid.

I had 45 minutes to test each class of 18-25 kids, and the bigger classes always ran straight through the 10-minute break time and into the next class period. On Thursday, because I have three classes in a row after lunch, I literally conducted tests for 3 hours nonstop, one class running into the next, no time to collect my thoughts. Towards the end all my expressive facial muscles were dead, my brain was dead, and I felt nauseated by the thought of asking “What do you think about English?” one more time.

Then I spent the next 3 hours after that reviewing the recordings and checking every score, entering it into a spreadsheet and checking each class’s mean, median, mode, and number of perfect 100s against the other classes. Overkill? Maybe, but I want to be fair and I’m also paranoid about my co-teachers being skeptical of my grading decisions. (For some reason some of them think it’s sketchy if one class has a significantly higher average or receives many more perfect scores than other classes. As if it’s impossible that one class could have a collection of smarter/higher achieving/hardworking/well-prepared kids.)

I went home at 6 or 7 p.m. every day, exhausted and brain-dead. almost.

So you can imagine I was in no mood for writing blog posts.

And you can also imagine that this post will be extra long due to my longish blogging hiatus.

This week was better. We were back to the normal routine, but the kids seemed refreshed by having had a “break” from normal class (if you can call it that).

Some of my CTs gave them the speaking test results in my class time, and of course some students were disappointed. It’s hard because on one hand, I was really happy with my scoring this year; for the first time, I felt that my grading was really consistent and fair. I was also stricter, and there were only 3-5 perfect 100s in each class. But on the other hand, I hate to see some of the mid-level ones get discouraged. The lowest levels expect a low grade, but the mid-level kids reach higher and often can’t understand why their score is 80 or 85 instead of 95 or 100.

In other news this week:

– Discovered that Korean students are (surprise, surprise) on the whole really savvy with world geography type stuff. I’ve been teaching tag questions to the 2nd graders (you know what tag questions are, don’t you? we use them often, don’t we? but we don’t really think about it, do we?), and we’ve been playing world geography trivia (re: continents, countries, flags, money etc) to have them practice. (e.g., Q: “What country is this?” A: “That’s (country), isn’t it?”) It’s Jeopardy style, so they get to risk harder questions for a chance at more points and occasionally hit the daily double and bet their points (we don’t call it betting, since gambling is totally illegal in Korea). They love it.

And again, I was impressed by the ease with which they identified most countries, continents, and flags (I’m not so sure American middle schoolers could measure up). It was especially cute when one of the really low level boys was getting every answer right (even when it was another team’s question). A good reminder that even if English isn’t their strong suit, they may be really smart kids.

– I’ve been teaching the 3rd graders some slang words this week. Their textbook chapter is called “Online Communications” and teaches the use of “LOL,” “thx,” “OMG,” “IDK” and a few other texting abbreviations – including some strange ones that nobody uses like “B4N” (bye for now), “HAGD” (have a good day), and “L8R” (later). So I decided to teach them more useful terms, including “JK,” “dude,” “what’s up,” “I have a crush,” “sick” (as in awesome), and “chill (out).”

They’ve been pretty interested (perhaps mostly because we’ve played it in the form of a guessing game; the key expression is “Do you know what I mean?”). It’s fun for some of the low level boys who like rap, because English slang like “yo man” and “sick” have been adopted by Korean rappers, so those students can actually participate and get the right answers for their team.

– As far as 1st graders go, they surprised me with their love of 4 Corners this week (each corner represents a key expression, they have 10 seconds to run to a corner, everyone says their key expression, and one corner is randomly out – continue until there are just a couple people standing). I played it with 2nd grade earlier this semester, but they just kind of ran out of energy, usually. The 1st graders think it’s a blast and beg for Rounds 2, 3, and even 4. Is it because the winners get candy? Maybe. I’d like to think they’re still a little intrinsically motivated, though.

And now here we are at the end of another week. Friday is peaceful, always. I don’t have class at first period. It’s raining heavily outside, and besides the fact that I like rain, it also means the sun can’t bake us alive today.

In half an hour or so I’ll be teaching the 3rd graders, and 45 minutes after that the 1st graders – my worst/rowdiest class of all the 1st grade classes, so I’m sure my peaceful mood won’t last all day. But for now, everything is calm and I’m thinking we might just make it 3.5 more weeks to summer vacation.

a flurry of speaking tests

It’s finally here. Speaking Test Week. This is Day 1.

Instead of teaching lessons, all my class periods this week are being used to test every student in the school on their speaking abilities (or more accurately, their composing-an-answer-and-memorizing-it abilities).

Tomorrow I’ll test 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade classes all in one day, but today I only had a total of four classes, three 1st grade and one 2nd grade.

Which means I have said a billion times already,

“How are you doing?”

“How can I get to the bakery?”

“Can you introduce yourself?”

“Tell me about your best friend.”

“Which do you prefer, the math club or the art club?”

“Can you tell me 3 differences between American and Korean school?”

“What do you think about English? Why?”

“What do you think about traveling to other countries? Why?”

When the bell rings, the class stays in the classroom and (if they’re lucky) have time to study more while their classmates come into my adjacent office one by one to take the test. Some of my co-teachers have them draw random papers to see what order they’ll test in; others just go by student number (either Student 1 – Student 20 or Student 20 – Student 1).

Even after conducting countless speaking tests last year at both of my schools, I still don’t feel like I’ve got the grading quite right. It’s a really subjective process, like How many ‘the’ or ‘a’ articles do I allow to be missed before I downgrade them? Was that four or five sentences? Wait, this kid got an 85 and he definitely did better than this kid but they got the same score… Okay, give me a second to process and write down this score – oh too late, the next kid is coming in the door.

Fortunately I’m using a little handy-dandy USB audio recorder this year. While this is good for me so I don’t stress about getting each score exactly right in that moment and trying to remember exactly what each student said, it also means I feel obligated to carefully review the entire 45 or 50 minute recording afterwards and go over each grade to make sure it’s as accurate as possible.

I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about Speaking Test Week as some kind of break for myself – yeah, it’s a break from teaching, but I’ve essentially doubled my class hours compared to a normal week!

But it’s okay. I want to do right by the kids and be fair. Even if it means staying till 6 p.m. on a Monday, and knowing I’ll be here even later tomorrow and a couple more days this week.

I do enjoy actually conducting the tests as well, since it’s a chance to see each kid one-on-one for at least a minute or two, and give them a chance to show their personality or ability more. I also get the occasional hilariously creative kids who, even though they can’t speak English much and don’t study, make me laugh with their answer and get a few extra points for it.

Today’s example:

Q: Can you tell me how to wash a dog?

(Suggested answer, based on their textbook: “First, put the dog in the water. Second, wash the dog from head to tail. Third, dry it with a hair dryer.”)

Student: Put the dog in the animal hospital.

Me: *confused* Second?

Student: Yes.

Me: That’s all?

Student: Yes. Animal hospital. Put.

Me: Ah, the animal hospital will wash it?

Student: Yes. “Clean please!”하고(and) money *makes money transaction sound*


And side note: it was climbing towards 90 degrees with 50%+ humidity at EIGHT O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING today. You can imagine how the rest of the day has been. Thank God for air conditioning.

Edit: After publishing and walking home, I have to admit that some late-afternoon rain showers cooled everything down a bit. In fact, you could even say the breeze was chilly… but it’s a moist chilly. Humidity is currently at 61%. More like swimming home than walking home, am I right?

happy june

here is the weather forecast for the next week in my area:


Why Maddy Teacher’s hair is frizzy and face is shiny, Exhibit A

I don’t understand how my co-teachers can be all:


When I’m all:


(The above is literally me on a daily basis. I have literally never seen a more accurate depiction of my reaction to hot weather. Every slightly fan-able thing I can get a hold of becomes a fan.)

But don’t worry, it will definitely get much much hotter in July and August.

Today was a good day, though.

It’s June, and just being able to say that makes The End of School feel so much closer. T-minus 32 days… but who’s counting? (oh yeah. everyone. even the principal, probably.)

My 2nd grade class on Wednesdays is simply the sweetest, pleasantest group of children I’ve ever encountered, especially for 2nd graders. No matter what time of day (for example, today our schedule changed from 1st period to 5th period, directly after lunch, typically a sleepy time period), no matter how hot it is (they’d been running around outside after lunch), no matter how tired and stressed they are (listening & speaking tests coming up the next two weeks), they show up with cheerful attitudes, a willingness to learn, and they somehow make even the dull stuff (textbook) fun. I want to pinch all their cheeks because they’re so cute. But that’d be weird, so I content myself with giving out as much candy as possible, because they are the one class that 100% deserves it 100% of the time.

Also, I wore what my students have apparently deemed “the Elsa dress” today, because there were multiple “Teacher is Elsa!” comments.

I mean, it’s the same color, but other than that…

I wouldn’t mind having some ice powers right about now, though.