Thursday, September 22, 2011

The complexities of the Korean school schedule... and other random stuff

OK so we're slowly catching up to where we are now.  But before I get on with the chronology of our time in Korea,  I thought I would share some random information that I can't really put back in its context because I forgot.

1.  Before we left, I made sure to prepare some "entertainment" for us to enjoy while we had not TV, Internet or cell phone.  To that effect, I had downloaded a bunch of movies and HBO, AMC, Showtime series.  I already talked about Hung and Game of Thrones and Jen wrote about Breaking Bad.  What neither of us mentioned though, is the pace at which we are watching these series.  Within the first few days, we had already gone through the second season of Hung.  We also watched a few movies through it, like I am number four (crappy), Life as we know it (made me cry like a little girl), Your highness (Ok, but not great).  Basically, we were watching one or two episodes or movies a day.  Call it not knowing what to do with our free time.  The Game of Thrones came next.  I did this one solo and even went on a marathon and watched as much as 6 episodes in a row one weekend (I just don't remember which one).  After Game of Thrones, we started to watch Pillars of the earth.  I read the novel by Ken Follett this summer (which is amazing) and I wanted to see the mini series.  We breezed through this one as well before starting to watch Breaking Bad.  As I am writing now, Jen is beside me watching episode 12 of season 3... I watched it last night after Jen had hit the hay.  That's a lot of TV in a short time.  I even had time to squeeze in a book: Our kind of Traitor by John le Carré and as Jen has mentioned, she is completely engulfed in that wedding chicken soup book (puke).  Bottom line, we watched a bunch of shows and movies and our list is running short.  So we we need suggestions... What should we watch next?  Let us know in the comment section or pop us an email.

Next random thought:

I mentioned that everyone we've met so far has been incredibly nice to us, but that was an understatement.  My co-teachers (I have 8 of them) are all absolutely fantastic.  In their own way, each of them has helped me get settled in.  The English department at my school is comprised of five teachers, including me.  Lee Eun Young (Grades 1 & 2), Han Sun Mi (Grades 1 & 2), Kwan Jong Im (Grade 3), and Shim Hye Seon (Grades 1 & 2) are the ones I share my office space with.  To put it simply: they are my lifeline at school.  Any question I have, I address to one of them.  They have gone our of there way to make sure that I can acculturate into the school atmosphere without too much problem.  My other co-teachers, Song Bong Suk (Grade 3), Hwang Young Mi (Grade 3), Oh Young Rae (Grade 1 & 2), and Lee Eun Jung (Grade 1 & 2) have also been a huge help for me in my first month teaching.  Coming to Korea, you don't really know what you are getting into.  But with the help, advice and support of your surrounding, in this case my co-teachers, it is much easier to feel comfortable in this far away land!  So I really got lucky with my placement.  And Jen has pretty much the same to say about the staff at her school so it's great for the both of us!

The second week: August 29 to September 2, 2011
So when I started back on my second Monday, I was pretty excited.  On the walk to school, I couldn't help but smile at how much I was loving this experience so far.  This week was schedule B so basically I would repeat the same lesson another 22 times... pretty simple, right?  On top of that I could start planning for my next three lessons that I wouldn't start until next Monday.  Yup, a whole week to plan three lessons.  But then I learned about the complexities of the Korean school schedule.

Shim Hye Seon gave me the semester schedule, which I had requested in order to do some long term planning (in and out of school.  I wanted to know when the semester ended so we could start looking into booking our winter vacation!).  To my surprise, the first holiday was right around the corner.  There would be no school on September 12 through the 14th because of Chuseok, which is Korea's version of Thanksgiving.  Sweet!!!  I could start planning our first excursion!  But then Song Bong Suk (she is in charge of the first grade) came to see me and told me that there would have to be a speaking test for the grade 3's before the midterms (which by the way, are scheduled for the week of October 4th to the 7th).  Since I taught a rotating 2 week schedule, administering the test would take 2 weeks.  For my part, all I had to do was mark the students' English abilities.  Again, sweet!!  But then she dropped the bomb!  I still had to make sure to teach the students up to lesson 9 before the midterms.  Evidently, this would take some careful planning on my part in order to meet all the required teachables.  So my schedule, from August 29th to September 30th kind of looks like this:

Aug 29-Sept 2: Schedule B - Introduction lesson
Sept 5 - Sept 9 - Schedule A - Grade 3: teach lessons 7, 8 & 9 all in one 45 minute block;  Grades 1 & 2: teach lessons 7 & 8
Sept 15 & 16:  Schedule B - Grade 3: speaking test; Grades 1 & 2: lessons 7 & 8
Sept 19 - Sept 23: Schedule A - Grade 3: speaking test (with some modification to fit in the classes I missed due to the holiday the week before); Grade 1 & 2: Lesson 9
Sept 26 - Sept 30: Schedule B - Grade 3: lessons 7 , 8 & 9; Grades 1 & 2: (Mon-Wed) Lessons 7, 8, 9 (because of the holiday) and  (Thurs-Fri) Lesson 9.

On top of that, I had to make other arrangements for a few classes due to a National exam day.  So basically, this job calls for a lot of flexibility and is not as easy as I had first anticipated.  Now, I am not saying it's hard, just that it requires flexibility and a little more effort than I had first thought... which is a good thing!!!  I also have additional duties.  I had to create multiple choice questions for all three grade levels and I helped with the proofreading of said midterms once they were put together.  After the midterms, the grades 1 & 2 leave for a 3 days field trip which I have to account for somehow.  Later in the semester, it will be the grade 3s.  Grades 1 & 2 will also have their own speaking test later on in the semester as well.  So I have to be vigilant in my lesson planning to make sure that every class gets everything they need from me.

And that was pretty much my second week in Korea... Adapting.  Not to the culture, but to the complexities of my school schedule, which by now, I think I have conquered.  Although there are always surprises.

Through all of that, I also planned our trip that we would take during the Thanksgiving holiday.  With 5 days off, we had our first chance to explore South Korea.  With the help of Han Sun Mi, I booked my hotels, planned our itinerary and got really excited about traveling again!  We would visit the Korean Folk village, Nami Island and Seoul.  So my next blog will be about our trip... and we have photos so I will share them then as well.

So until next time!

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