Day 1 (5/30)
Our first day at Jiguchon* approached quickly, although today and tomorrow our goal was just to observe the students in order to obtain a better understanding of who our students were and what resources were available to us. We all left the guesthouse at around 7:30am, got breakfast at a nearby bakery, and met the professors at Hongdae Station at 8am. Although the subway was crowded with citizens headed their way to their respective workplaces, the experience of Seoul morning rush hour gave me a rush of responsibility that was both foreign and exciting. It took almost an hour for us to finally arrive at the school. We were actually half an hour early, so we took this time to have a brief meeting at a gazebo outside. Today, we were supposed to observe three periods: we would all sit in on the first class, but we were split for the last two classes. Since Justin, Ana, Cole and I taught the two higher levels, we observed the older kids.
*A little bit of background on the school. Jiguchon is actually a megachurch located in Seoul, and the Jiguchon school is part of their many smaller organizations that they fund. It’s actually the first school in Seoul built for multiethnic students, and they are given free admission since most are from low-income families.
I knew that teaching elementary school students wasn’t going to be easy, but watching the first class, a second grade English class, made me even more worried about how ready I was. The teacher was attempting to teach them opposites, and even though most students were paying attention, the classroom was still rowdy due to a couple of kids. The second and third class that we observed were somewhat quieter, with older students, but the level of attentiveness remained the same.
After having lunch at Jiguchon, we returned to the guesthouse and finally started lesson planning for our first classes on Wednesday. I thought it was easier for Justin and I to develop activities for our English class, since there are a wide range of games and worksheets that we could utilize. However, for extracurriculars, Joon and I were restricted in that we had to incorporate English into a single activity, which for us was sports/dance. We couldn’t think of any feasible ideas of teaching English using sports or dance today, so we decided to think about it for another day before meeting.
So Monday was coincidentally also my birthday (woot woot), and even the indecisive person that I am finally decided on dinner plans (pasta) and an activity (noraebang). The pasta was yummy, but what made my night was definitely the noraebang (basically karaoke). IT WAS SO MUCH FUN. Definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in Seoul. The place was a little sketchy, and it definitely could have improved its selection of Chinese songs, but the price was great and all of us sang our hearts out. 11/10 would recommend.
Day 2 (5/31)
Second day of observation at Jiguchon started a little later, since we were observing only two periods today. I thought that the classes were fairly similar to the ones we went to yesterday: most students did try to pay attention, but there were also students that did disrupt the class often. And while certain students did pay attention, there were few that were willing to vocally or actively participate.
We also found out that the sports/dance extracurricular class only had access to the gym two times a week during one of the two periods. In the end we decided to combine sports/dance with games, where Joon, Justin, Joy, and I collectively taught sports/dance for one period and games the other.
Today was also the our first session of Korean class. All of us, except Joon, have to work with a Korean tutor from Ewha University as a sort of supplement resource for teaching and living in Korea. Ana, Justin, and I, all having some Korean background, have to fulfill nine hours of tutoring, which we divided up into six 1.5 hour sessions. We met our teacher at Ewha, which is a famous all-female university located near our guesthouse. When we first arrived, all I noticed was the architecture. The picture above says it all. Other than the beautiful campus, the class was interesting and fun; I liked that we focused more on having conversations than specifically targeting grammar or vocabulary.
Day 3 (6/1)
The first day of teaching has finally come. We arrived earlier than usual for the Wednesday morning assembly, during which the school was planning to introduce us at. Afterwards, we began to get ready for our first two periods of English class. Watching the first couple of students come into the classroom, I felt weirdly calm and excited. It was certainly different from how I had felt leading up to today, which had just been stress. Stressed that I wasn’t prepared enough, that the students wouldn’t like me. But I think at that point, I realized I should let go of my burdens and just do the best that I can. If something doesn’t go as planned, I can always find a solution before the next day.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but that’s okay. I had expected that there was going to be a lot of noise and distraction, granted we are teaching elementary school students. Justin and I got through all our planned activities, but I think the level of participation we anticipated wasn’t as high as we wanted, especially when speaking was involved. Although we have a range of levels in our class, all of our students pretty much only understand basic vocabulary. So when speaking (meaning sentence construction) in English was involved, the students weren’t as willing to participate due to their lack of confidence.
When we were planning tonight, we wanted to somehow encourage more speaking in class, so we went out and bought stickers. We didn’t know whether a sticker provided enough motivation, but it was worth a try. And since kids get bored easily and love moving around, we also filled our lessons for tomorrow with lots of games and fun worksheets.
Day 4 (6/2)
Wow. I know that I shouldn’t be pessimistic, but I honestly had no idea how our students were going to respond to the games we had prepared. I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case they weren’t interested at all. However, while I was watching the numerous hands that went up during flyswatter and pictionary, I realized that I should always try to plan and go into every class with a positive mindset.
As for the sports/dance and games classes, we definitely learned our lesson today for not preparing enough. We assumed that we would have the same six 6th graders as yesterday for our games class, but today was an entirely different distribution: around 25 students of all grades. It’s much harder to improvise a lesson plan when there’s 20 more students and everyone is so different. Since we didn’t have enough time to come up with an activity with English involved, we resorted to playing human knot.
Tonight was also our weekly reflection session with the professors. After eating almost two weeks of mostly Korean food, pizza was a great choice. Korean pizzas have quite interesting topping combinations, but they surprising work well together. For example, one of the pizzas had mashed potatoes and another had potato wedges. The center of the show, of course, was not the pizza but our reflections of the week. Joon and I, being the leaders this week, raised several topics, including what our favorite memory of this week was and successful activities or techniques worth trying.
Mondays and Fridays are dance days in the sports/dance class, so Joy, Justin, Joon, and I were trying our hardest to come up with exciting dances for more than 20 boys. We eventually decided on Shake It Off, but we still felt unsure about our choice. It’s hard enough to organize a large group of kids together, but to get them to all dance to a Taylor Swift song? I should’ve been more optimistic though. Just because they’re boys doesn’t mean they won’t dance to a “girl” song.
Day 5 (6/3)
We had a couple of new students in our class today that moved up from level 2. While they are all fun and playful kids individually, they disrupted the class greatly by not paying attention and also dragging along other students with them. Justin and I tried to play around with them, hoping to get them to see us as peers, but due to our limited Korean, it was really difficult to communicate effectively with them. Although class was rowdier than yesterday, I knew not to be too dejected. Garnering respect and trust from the students was going to take time.
Yeah. Shake It Off was somewhat of a bust, and they REALLY wanted to dance to Bang Bang Bang by Big Bang. However, considering we were teaching English, we should obviously pick English songs to dance to. In the end, we did end up getting some of the students to dance to an One Direction song!
It was an overall successful first week, and we were all exhausted. Ana wanted to go to a dog cafe and then dinner, which sounded fun, but I honestly just wanted to chill in the guesthouse, so I ended up not going. Later though, I became restless and wanted to get some fresh air, and of course Michelle wanted boba, so the two of us took the subway all the way to the Gangnam area. While we were walking home from the subway station, we ended up seeing everyone else returning from dinner. Ana and Leigh were acting somewhat odd, which turned out to be because… they were buying me a birthday cake! First of all, THANKS GUYS! Also, as much as I want to be cool and say that I already guessed what they were doing, I didn’t. It was a good surprise.
Day 6 (6/4)
While some of us headed to Lotte World around 9am, I stayed behind to skype friends and work on this blog post. After an entire afternoon of typing away at our laptops, Michelle and I wanted food, which quickly spiraled into taking the subway over to the Gangnam area again. We couldn’t afford anything at the department store except for the overpriced food, which Michelle gladly bought a lot of. And of course we got boba, again.
Unfortunately, the thing that I thought was stuck in my throat turned out to be a sore throat, which some of the others had as well. As soon as I returned to the guesthouse, I quickly got ready for bed, hoping that the symptoms would go away.
Day 7 (6/5)
AND… it didn’t. In fact, it got worse. By around noon, I had not only had a severely inflamed throat but also a 101 degree fever. Joon had suggested going to the hospital, which I really didn’t want to go, so I finally took some Tylenol and Ibuprofen and went back to sleep.
The fever subsided and my throat was hurting less, but around dinner time I started feeling nauseous. Man, being sick sucks. I just hope that I’ll be better by Tuesday (no school tomorrow due to Memorial Day).