Thursday, September 25, 2008

My So-Called Life as an English Teacher.....

This past weekend was slightly disappointing. Plans were made to once again venture over to Everland on Saturday, but this time to hit up the amusement parks. A few of the girls had appointments, so we decided on a meeting spot and would make our way from there. Well, as we met up, it started to rain. The forecast said that it was only supposed to rain that night...WRONG! We hoped that it was just a little rain cloud and that it would pass, so we went for lunch. Still raining. We took the subway to where we had to catch the bus. Still raining. No, scratch that. It was pouring by this point. We wandered the subway and shopped for a while, still optimistic that it would pass. Nope. POURING!!!! Sigh. By this point, we finally succumbed to the reality that this wasn't a simple rain cloud and that we were in for a rainy, rainy day. Is there really any point in going to Everland? Not so much. We tried to catch a movie, but nothing was playing until several hours later. The only upside is that the area were were wandering has a great bookstore with a huge English section, so the day wasn't a total disappointment. It was early evening by the time we got back home, but our spirits were low and the rain was depressing, so we all went out seperate ways. I spent the rest of the night reading, which is probably the best thing to do on a dreary, rainy day/night. As luck would have it, Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day. Of course it was! (I'm not bitter at all!), but it ended up being a do-a-whole-lotta-nothin day. Oh well. All this to say that my weekend wasn't all that awesome.

Monday was a good day, nothing horrible to report. Tuesday...*shudders* My last class of the day (I teach them Tuesdays and Thursdays), the one that I like to refer as my Devil Class, was actually painful. They've never been that out of control before and so by the end of the class, Mean Teacher took over. I spent most of the class either basically talking to myself, or repeating the same things over and over again. There's not listening, then there's just being downright rude and ignorant. My typical reaction to frustration is tears, but I was so beyond frustrated that I was shaking. I actually made one of the boys stand in the corner for the last 20 minutes of class because I couldn't stand looking at him anymore. Nothing angers me more than a student who's smirking and acting like we're having a party when I'm giving a class crap (Not yelling at them mind you. I've found that speaking to them in deathly calm voice with zero expression is much more effective, not to mention scarier...). So at that point, it was either send him in the corner or throw a book at his head, because I couldn't stand to look at him anymore. This wouldn't be so ridiculous if it wasn't for the fact that these kids are 10 and 11. I shouldn't have to place 10/11-year olds in the corner!!!! Anyways, I left them with tons of homework and a promise that if it wasn't done, there'd be hell to pay. I was still shaking from anger 30 minutes after the class had ended. GRRRRR!!!!!

Wednesday... STRESS-ALERT! STRESS-ALERT!!! I had an open class for my 6-year old pre-schoolers, meaning that parents were invited to come in and watch the last 20 minutes of class. Yeah... terrifying much?! The kids practiced what they'd be doing on Tuesday, plus we basically practiced all of Wednesday before their parents showed up. So it wasn't exactly reflective of what we'd really be doing in class, but I wanted them to do a good job! Plus the preschool teachers had been told to prepare activities in advance (we actually had to hand in a lesson plan), so I think the parents were expecting something pretty structured. I had the kids start off by singing 2 songs, then we played the matching game. The matching game isn't a game at all, more of a match the picture with the word, but I've learned that if you had the word game to basically anything, they'll think it's the best activity ever. I love that quality in younger kids! We then did storytime. I'd read and they'd repeat what I'd just read, plus I asked some basic comprehension questions that had more to do with the pictures in the book than the actual content. It was the longest 20 minutes of my life and I was scared at one point that we'd finish the story before our time was up, cause I thought I had planned too much so I was having a mental freakout that we were getting through everything so quickly! Which is basically why I asked them random questions as a time-filler! Thankfully when open class was over, we were at the very last page. Whew!!! I barely glanced at the parents the entire time, so I'm not sure what their reaction was. It was less nerve-wracking focusing my attention on the kids! But so far I haven't received any feedback from my supervisor, so I'm thinking no news is good news. Either way, I'm SO glad that's over and done with!!!! The rest of my day went very well and I left school feeling very happy and relaxed.

Today was an ok day. It's the first day that actually feels like Fall, which is kinda strange. It's been soooo hot, still in the high 20's until today, so it was weird being chilly when I've been dying of heat since arriving in July. The day felt long, but I survived. I know I've mentioned this in the past, but Tuesdays and Thursdays are most definitely NOT my favourite days to be a teacher. I was dreading my last class, especially with what happened Tuesday, so I went in there all business. I think I smiled maybe twice and didn't joke with them one single time. If I have to be Mean Teacher to get them to listen, so be it. They have their end-of-month test on Tuesday, so we did review, plus a few activities in their book that we never had a chance to complete, because their crappy attitudes usually make the simplest of tasks take 3 times longer than normal. Everything was to be done individually and if they'd so much as say a word to each other, I'd give them a look that would shut them up instantly. SUCCESS!!!! I actually hate having to act this way and although we accomplished more in a day than we normally do in 2, not to mention didn't leave class with a massive tension headache, but I don't feel satisifed and am definitely not happier. I love having fun with my students; Joking around and keeping the atmosphere open and light, but the second I give this class any freedom they lose total control and it's nearly impossible to rein them in again without having to become a total bitch. It actually really, really sucks and I wish we could reach a happy medium, but as of right now, they haven't proved to me one tiny bit that that's possible. :(

Now on to a happier note: PRE-SCHOOL FIELD TRIP TOMORROW!!!! YAAAAAY!!!! This is my first field trip and I'm obviously excited! We're going to the Museum of Natural History and while I'm anticipating some stress, since I'm in charge of my rambunctious 7-year olds, I think it's going to be fun. And it sure beats being in class!!! Fridays are automatically good days, one because's Friday(!), and also because the classes that I teach in the afternoon are fun and for the most part, relatively stress-free. TGIF!!!!!!!

I'm maybe going to see HellBoy 2 on Saturday, but no other big plans as of yet for that day. On Sunday, 'Big Bang' and 'Wonder Girls' are going to be across the street at SBS, so a few of us are planning on joining the rabid fangirls and we'll be making some ridiculous videos. I'm anticipating a whole lot of screaming and hysterical laughter!!! I figure I complain about the screaming girls every Sunday, so might as well join them if the bands are actually good ones! And since we'll probably be the only foreigners in the crowd, the odds of our being seen are even greater which could lead to some interesting (aka hilarous!) footage!

So I shall let you know how the weekend goes, as well as the field trip (Once again...YAAAY!!!!) once they've come and gone.

Jan ^__^

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Korea celebrated Chusok this past Sunday, September 14th. Chusok, also known as the Korean Thanksgiving, is refered to as the Harvest Festival and coincides with September's full moon, the Harvest moon. The day preceding and following Chusok are also holidays, so I technically should have been back at work on Tuesday. But SLP is awesome and gave us Tuesday off, so I was very happy to have a 4-day weekend!!! We had activities organized for the preschoolers the Friday before Chusok, so that morning was pretty fun. The kids wore traditional Korean clothing, called hanboks, and they were adorable! I now want a hanbok of my own, because they're so beautiful! For some strange reason, wearing hanboks made them all ridiculously well-behaved, so I was very pleased! We made "songphyun", rice cakes that are made of rice and filled with beans, sesame seeds, and chestnuts. They look like perogies! Luckily there was a helper teacher showing us what to do, because I had no idea how to make songphyun, although I now know that it's super easy. We then had manner class, where the kids learned the proper (and respectful) way to bow. They were so awkwardly cute! It was great to watch! Both of these activities were spread out, so in our freetime we coloured and played some games. I somehow ended up staying with my 7-year olds ALL morning, so needless to say I was exhausted by the time 12:30 came around. And I'm not even exagerating when I say that the second their hanboks came off, they were back to being their silly/hyper/frustrating selves! Guess I should be happy that they were well-behaved for at least an entire hour. That NEVER happens!!!

On Saturday, I went to the Yongsan electronics market with some friends and bought myself a lovely iPod nano. My MP3 player went kaput a few weeks ago and I NEED music in my life, especially when I'm walking home or grocery shopping, so it was a necessary purchase. I have no idea about electronics, but everyone agrees that I got an awesome deal for it. Yay me! It was my Chusok gift to me! We then went to the Express Bus Terminal where there's a gazillion shopping stands and bought a few W5,000 shirts and 2 cute pairs of heels for W20,000. That's basically $10 each. Where else can you buy cute shoes for that cheap?! SWEET!!!

Sunday morning, met up with some of the girls and traveled to Everland, an amusement park outside of Seoul. It took us nearly 2 hours to get here by cab and bus, but it was totally worth the trip. The main reason for the trip was to visit the zoo, then the amusement park, but I don't think any of us realized how MASSIVE Everland is! I now know that it's Korea biggest amusement park and one of the most popular in the world. I can see why! It's an amazing place! There's 5 basic divisions to the park: European Adventure, Magic Land, American Adventure, Global Fair, and Zoo-Topia. It was around 1pm by the time we got there, so we figured we'd have tons of time to see it all. WRONG! It took us over 4 hours just to explore Zoo-Topia! It's a wonderful zoo with a gazillion animals, many of which made me laugh because Korea and I don't necessarly share the same views on exotic animals. Example: Dispays showcasing skunks (Yes, SKUNKS!), guinea pigs, hamsters, budgies, rabbits, chipmunks, beavers, as well as a few other animals that I've seen either in my backyard or in a local pet store. Hilarious!!! The monkeys, living in the appropriately named 'Friendly Monkey Valley', were adorable and they had many different breeds, some of which I'd never even heard of! I love monkeys! They also had 2 stunnig white tigers and some gorgeous Siberian tigers, which made this cat lady happy! Oh! And there were bear cubs and tiger cubs and baby monkeys! CUUUUUTE!!!!! There was an African Safari that we REALLY wanted to go on, but the line up was over an hour long and we didn't want to wait. We kept going back hoping the line would be shorter, but it just kept getting longer! *pouts* With all of this animal viewing, it didn't give much time for going on rides. A few of us rode the 'T-Express', the self-proclaimed steepest wooden roller coaster in the world. It has an incline of 77 degrees and I'm not gonna was intense! When we'd go down this part of the rollercoaster, I felt like I was eating my heart!!! SO MUCH FUN!!! I laughed hysterially the entire time and bought one of the pictures that they sell because my expression is hilarious! Two of us went on this weird viking-type ride that I really can't explain, but it was tons of fun. Not even close to being as terrifying as the T-Express, since it was more of a midway ride, but still fun. Then all of us rode the ferris wheel which gave us an amazing view of Everland. Only then did I realize just how humongous this place is! The last thing we did was visit the Four Seasons Garden and Rose Garden, which were beautiful because it was now dark outside so there were electric candlesticks illuminating the flowers and sculptures. The full moon was also gorgeous, so the overall effect of these gardens were amazing. We left Everland at around 9pm and managed to make it home before 11pm. Bedtime quickly followed.

On Monday, Amanda and I attempted to catch a movie, but the nearby theatre wasn't showing anything new. We found another theatre and made the treck there, but the only English movie that was playing was sold out. Sigh. So no movie. That night, the girls got together at Jess' for some drinks, then we headed out to Hongdae to go clubbing. We went to 3 different clubs and they were totally dead. Maybe 5 people max! Very depressing. By 1:30am, most of us were ready to call it quits and head home, but we decided to try one last spot. Well, it seems that everyone in Hongdae were at this bar because it was packed! Literally wall to wall... what the?! The music was great and it was fun for maybe an hour, but then having that many people around got to be a little much, not to mention 3 guys kept trying to dance with me all at once, so I was being bounced around a little too much for my liking. It was kinda creepy! Thankfully I spotted one of the girls and her boyfriend dancing by the stairs overlooking the dance floor, so I was happy to escape to a place where I could actually dance without getting grabbed every 2 seconds! We basically all got tired of that place at the same time, so we headed home at around 3am.

Tuesday... LAZY DAY!!! I spent the day reading, watching movies, and didn't leave my apartment once. Wonderful!!! I figured I'd arrive at work feeling rested and rejuvenated on Wednesday, but not so much. It totally felt like a Monday! It's always that way though, isn't it? First day back at work, whether it's a Monday or a Friday, will always give you a case of the Mondays. Strange!

Monday, September 8, 2008

2 months!!!

I was so good at getting my weekly posts out, but seem to have dropped the ball last week. Ooopsies! But here I am, back again to update you on Seoul living.

Sunday marked the 2nd month of my Korean adventure. If my first month went by quickly, this second one FLEW right by! It's crazy how fast time is going! But again, as I've mentioned before, I'm torn between feeling like I've just arrived and having been here for ages. It's a very strange. *nods knowingly*

Slowly settling into my new routine as a pre-school teacher. Turns out that working mornings isn't as painful as I thought, although I'm still having a hard time getting to bed before midnight. Stupid night-owl tendencies!!! I do enjoy the walk to work in the morning though, as this helps to wake me up.

My first day of pre-school, which was last Monday, was stressful. All of the pre-school classes have fruit names, so I teach Apple, who are first-year 6 year-olds, and Kiwi, first-year 7-year olds. Both classes were uber hyper on that first day and hard to control, which wasn't very encouraging. I was exhausted by the time 12:30pm came around! Thankfully they've been better behaved since then, so I think they were just excited to have a new teacher who was obviously a wee bit out of her element. I was warned prior to my first day that Kiwi are the worst 7-year olds in the school and that everyone hates teaching them, so I was obviously worried. It's true that they're a bit unfocused and have a bad habit of fighting amongst each other, but they're actually great kids. I'm learning new ways of getting them to focus and have made it very clear that only good, nice behaviour will be tolerated. This, in the most part, has worked so far and I think that it'll only get better the more I get to know them. My Apple kids are totally adorable, although some are like saran wrap and enjoy clinging to me as much as humanly possible. I love being loved by them, but try teaching when you have 10 kids wanting constant attention all at the same time! My #1 rule with both my classes is that if you want my attention, quietly raise your hand. If all I hear is you yelling and whinning "JANIQUE TEACHER! TEACHEEEER!!!!", I'm going to pretend that I don't see, nor hear you, and will only pay attention to those who quietly have their hands raised. This rule has been harder to instill than I originally thought, but they're slowly getting the hang of it. My head is certainly grateful for this, because there's nothing more irritating than 10 high-pitched voices yelling "JANIIIIIQUE TEACHEEEEER!!!" over and over and over again. >__<

My new afternoon classes aren't that bad, although I'm still not happy at having to learn almost 70 new names. YEEEESH!!! Strangely enough, even though my Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are longer work days, I enjoy them much more than my Tuesdays and Thursdays. I even teach less classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but for some reason those classes stress me out more. I think it's because they're all low-level classes and I was comfortable teaching the higher-level kids. My last class on Tuesdays and Thursdays is especially painful, since in a class of 10, there's 8 prepubescent boys. That many boys of that age, together in one class, might lead to a potential breakdown. I feel horrible for the 2 girls in that class, cause they look terrified 99.9% of the time. There's 3 Kevin's in that class, and 2 Harry's, so that in itself is confusing. But they just DON'T LISTEN!!! They were fine on Tuesdays, but I nearly bolted out of the classroom when the bell rang on Thursday. They put me in the worst mood! They were all over the place and would not settle down. Their English is very basic and you can tell they don't want to be there, so I understand their behaviour, but come on!!! I shouldn't complain too much, since all of my other classes are pretty awesome, but this class kills me! I'm hoping that Thursday was just an especially hyper day and they'll be better tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath. I had been warned about them before I started teaching, so I know it's not me, but them. Sigh.

So I survived Week #1 of pre-school relatively unscathed and am enjoying it quite bit. I especially love being off work by 7pm everyday. My work day is just as long, if not longer, than it was before, but it seems easier somehow.

One of the girls, Michelle, headed back to Canada on Saturday morning, so we all got together on Friday so that she'd have one last night out in Seoul. She comanded that it be a theme night (YAAAY!!!) and so the theme was: Cougar/Hound Dog. Not the animals but refering to older women and men who dress WAY younger and chase after men and women who are MANY years their junior. Not many of us actually pulled off the cougar/hound dog look (I was totally 80s...), but it was pretty hilarious nonetheless. Although we did fail our mission: To have a Korean ask us what the hell we're wearing. People dress in the most random of fashions in Seoul, so we hoped to dress so insanely that we'd have someone question it. No one did. I don't even think any of us received a second glance. Either way, it was a great night and it's ridiculously sad not having Michelle around anymore. *tear*

On Saturday, I visited the Amsa-Dong Prehistoric Settlement Site. This represents the largest neolithic settlement site in Korea and is the first known in south Korea. It's presumed to have been inhabited in 3,000 or 4,000 B.C. Pretty cool! Amsa-Dong is a good hour subway ride from my place, but it was well-worth the visit. There's a fair-sized exhibit with artifacts that were uncovered and information on what life would have been like back then, plus reconstructed pit-houses that give a very good idea of what the living conditions were during that time. The area itself is gorgeous, as it has paths leading around the grounds which are heavily surrounded by trees and rocks to sit on. If you ignore the sounds of the traffic coming from the nearby highway, it's easy to imagine yourself in a secluded forest, with only the birds and locust to keep you company. I could have easily wandered around all day and was sad to return to the concrete world that is Seoul. I'm always so happy to find these delightful patches of nature within this massive city!

Saturday night I stayed in and was lazy, since I had woken up early to go to Amsa, but had gone to bed VERY late for Michelle's going-away night. I happily slept in on Sunday, did laundry and read. Yay relaxing! Last night I went to the movies and saw Mama Mia with Tara and Amanda. It was cheesy, as is a definite must with musicals, but not surprisingly... I LOVED IT!!! I've had ABBA songs in my head all day (Mainly Mama Mia and Dancing Queen) and am currently in the process of downloading the soundtrack. If only life could be a musical so that I could constantly induldge in my desire to spontaneously burst out into song! Hahaha!!!

I'm DEFINITELY looking forward the weekend, since it's yet another long one: 4 days off! On Sunday, it's Chusok, the Korean Thanksgiving. Everyone gets the day before and after Chusok off, but since it falls on a Sunday this year, the school's giving us Tuesday off since we don't work on Saturday. Thank you SLP!!! Another reason why Chusok rocks: We receive a $300 bonus! WOOHOOOO!!!! Us girls originally tried to plan a trip out of Seoul, but everything was too expensive for such a short trip. A few are still taking 1-2 day trips, but I've decided to stick around Seoul and do the touristy things that I never got around to doing during my summer vacation. Plus it'll be nice not to spend my bonus right away. A trip to the zoo is in the works, as is a day at Everland, Seoul's oh-so famous amusement park. I'm ridiculously excited for that, since I haven't been to an amusement park since high school and can't wait to make myself dizzy on rollercoasters!!! I'm thinking that Tuesday will be spent sleeping though, because what's the point of a holiday if you can't spend at least one of those days being lazy!

I'm determined to be in bed my 11 tonight and seeing that it's already 10:20, I'm forcing myself to get offline now. Good timing though, because I do believe I've written enough thoughts for one day!

Jan ^__^