Monday, September 19, 2011

First days of teaching...

Ok, so I will start off by apologizing for this particular blog and those that are upcoming in the next few days.  Unfortunately, due to procrastination, I haven't touched it since the first week we got here.  So I will do my best to convey our tale as accurately as my memory will allow.  So if you think I left something out, just drop us a line.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I woke up early, in a panic, knowing that I had chosen to sleep rather than actually prepare my lessons for the day.  Fortunately, I usually work well in pressure situations... that happens after three years of teaching in Canada with almost no prep time and daily lesson planning.  Not knowing my schedule for the day, I decided to prepare a foolproof lesson, introducing myself and my beautiful country to my new students.  That way, I could just teach the same lesson for every grade.  Btw, I teach middle school (don't remember if i mentioned that yet).  It's technically the same age group as Grades 7, 8 & 9 in Canada, except here we call it them Grade 1, 2, & 3 of middle school.  Anyway, I figured I had struck gold when I had thought about this plan: different classes, same lesson.  All I will need to do is adapt it to each level.  Genius!  An hour later, my lesson plan was done, complete with a PowerPoint presentation!  (I will try to find a way to post it for those who are interested)

When I got to school, Shim Hye Seon gave me my schedule.  Today I thought 4 classes.  Not bad for a first day... I would even go as far as saying pretty easy!  On top of that she explained to me how the semester would be split up into two week blocks.  I would have schedule A and schedule B and alternate between the two.  One week, I teach 23 classes and the other 22 classes for a total of 45.  And the best was still to come:  I would teach 15 classes of each grade.  So that means that I technically have to prepare 3 lesson plans for every 2 weeks!  Are you serious?!?  Now, a pessimistic all-world teacher would say: "But how can you teach the kids anything if you only see them once every two weeks?".  Well to that I would say... "Here is the magic.  Remember I told you we had an English department.  Well there are 4 Korean teachers who are part of it and they teach English everyday.  I just come in their classes once every two weeks to have the students focus on communication skills."  It's absolutely wonderful.  And as if things weren't awesome enough as they were, Shim Hye Seon told me I should do my introduction lesson to every class.  Which means I was already prepped for the first 2 weeks!!! WOOOOT!!!  I would just have to come up with some questions to put on the midterm about the lesson.  OK!!!

So needless to say, my first days of teaching were awesome.  Although repeating the same lesson 45 times can get very monotonous and keeping an acceptable level of energy was trying at times.  Reason being that within each of the grades, there are beginner, intermediate and advanced classes.  So basically, some who understood everything I was saying and could follow me at a normal talking pace, and then those who needed a picture to understand what a plane or a train was.  Being the awesome teacher that I am (wink wink) I wrote it up as a challenge I would have tackle in my future lesson plans.

At some point in the afternoon, Ann called the school to let me know that the clinic had already called and our medical checks were already completed and ready for pick up... All we needed to bring was a passport-sized photo.  Ann also asked me if I had received the phone she had left for me with the school admin.  Nope, I told her... the only phone I had was the one I bought from Adam (he was the teacher who preceded me at the school... and in our apartment for that matter).  Ann assured me she had left a temporary phone for me at the office.  I should go check.. easier said than done.  Other than a few teachers at my school, no one speaks any English.  So I told Shim Hye Seon, and within an hour, I had this ugly looking little phone on my desk.  Catch was... it was broken.  SHIT.  Ah well.
Eventually, the day ended without being too eventful.  I walked home to see Jen and possibly go get our medical checks.  I don't remember why anymore, but we decided to put it off until tomorrow (Wednesday).  We need these checks in order to apply for our Alien Registration Cards.  That evening, we probably ate out at a local restaurant, pointing at the menu to let our server know what we wanted.  I think it was a place called School Food. (Interesting fact: tipping is NOT customary here.  You pay what you owe and no more.)  I probably had a few beers before, during and after dinner and then settled down to watch some more Hung.  It's actually very entertaining!  Jen and I were living the life.  The fact that we were in Korea was only just beginning to set in!

Wednesday - Friday, August 24-26, 2011

The rest of the week went of without a hitch.  I got to know my co-teachers better every day.  Jen and I attempted to start learning how to read and write Korean.  We actually found a pretty neat website that helped us tremendously.  Check it out: Learn to read and write Korean.  It's actually not that hard!  I can proudly say that I can both read and write Korean... But that doesn't mean I always understand what I am reading or writing.  Just because I can read this 안녕하세요 as annyeonghaseyo doesn't mean I actually know what it means... well I do (it means hello) but you catch my drift.  And anyway, speaking Korean is where the challenge really lies.  The sounds are completely different from what we're used to.  That will be for another day!

So from Wednesday through Friday, I repeated the same lesson plan to every single class.  Good thing I love Canada or else I would've gotten fed up.  Every time I played the Molson Canadian beer commercial I got goosebumps.  It's true what they say... "You really don't know what you've got til' it's gone." Or is it "The grass is always greener on the other side." ?  Either, I decided that when we go back to Canada, I will appreciate my country and everything it has to offer me.  (Wow, it only took a few days to get to that realization)

Wednesday after school, Jen and I decided to go and pick up our medical checks.  We needed some passport photos but had no clue where to even begin looking for a place to snap our picture.  Jay told me that there are photo shops everywhere.. Well I have yet to find them.  We walked to E-Mart en route to the Subway station but with no luck.  Since we didn't know what time the clinic closed at, we decided to try our luck closer to it.  We got on the Subway at Jukjeon station again an got off at Migeum station, all the while looking for a photo booth or anything.  Then, Jen, out of the corner of her eye, spotted one, in the station.  WOOOT.  As I sat down to take my photo, I realized I was wearing a white shirt.. Are yo kidding me... we are 25 minutes away from home... TOo bad, I'll take my chances.  14,000 won later, we had our mug shots and we were headed to the clinic.  It was a quick in and out and it was done!  Back home we go for some more HBO!

On Friday morning, Shim Hye Seon and I had a date at the Immigration office in Suwon.  Of course, she offered to drive since my car was in the shop... ;) We left from school around 8:20am and the drive took about 45 min in excruciating traffic.  I decided I would not like to drive here.  Red lights are more of a yield sign it seems and people like to honk their horns a little too much for my liking.  Anyway, we got at the Immigration office at around 9:00am.  We took a number (lucky number 13... already) then headed to grab the form I had to fill out while we waited.  I had made sure that I had all the documents I needed (passport, passport photo, medical check, etc.), but in the back of my mind, I was afraid they would not accept my "white on white" passport photo.  Fortunately, they did.  After getting fingerprinted and paying for delivery rather than coming back to pick it up, we left Suwon en route back to the school.  The whole ordeal took about 1 hour and only set me back about 15,000 won, that's including delivery!  Now it would be the waiting game.  Up to 14 business days for delivery.

Once back at school, the rest of the day was uneventful and pretty relaxed.  It was time to enjoy our first weekend.  At 4:20, I was out of there in great spirits!  Things were all starting to fall into place!  Date-night with the wife at a local restaurant called Beer King (yet they don't speak English) and our first week in Korea was officially behind us!  That wasn't so bad... was it?

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