Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tyler's schools and a weekend adventure!

Iyang Middle and High School:
I teach at three schools, but two of them are in the same building. The high school is on the third floor, the middle school on the second, and administration is located on the bottom floor. The school is tucked up into a hillside, so it has a beautiful view. I have a desk located in the teacher’s office area, and there are two English labs that I teach in. One is smaller for the middle school students and the other is much bigger to accommodate the larger class sizes of high school. My class sizes for middle school range from 6-9 students. I really enjoy teaching the middle school classes and being able to work more closely with each student. 

The teachers bring me random food a lot, today was a "apple/pear" fruit. 

Buk-Myeon Middle School: 
          This is the other middle school I teach at on Tuesdays. I take a different bus that takes about 45-50 minutes to get to school. The bus ride is very beautiful because most of the drive you see the rural farming areas surrounded by the mountains. There is one mountain that I really like that makes a half dome. In some parts you get to watch the fog roll up the mountainside. The school is much smaller, but the school is very well kept and clean. The staff here is also very friendly and the kids try really hard in my class.

            As a walk up and down the halls of both schools, everyone always says hello to me and waves or bows. The bathrooms all have flushing toilets, but the toilet paper situation is interesting. They don’t keep the toilet paper rolls in the bathroom stalls; instead teachers keep toilet paper rolls at their desk. When teachers or students need to use any toilet paper, they roll some around their hand to take to the bathroom. Along with interesting use of toilet paper, there is no hand soap, and they do not use anything to dry their hands. There is an air dryer, but it feels like someone is breathing on your hands. The cafeteria is in a separate building right next to the school. Lunches so far have been pretty good. All meals include rice, soup, kimchi, vegetables, and then usually some sort of meat and another special item. I usually eat the meat, rice, the special item, some vegetables, and try the soup. They give decent sized portions, so I have yet to leave lunch feeling hungry. School lunches are much more healthy in Korea than in the U.S. and they seem to be pretty fresh. Some of the other teachers like to practice their English with me, so at lunch or in the office they will ask me about my weekend, or about where I come from. Oh and another big bonus about teaching in Korea is that once I get to school I get to wear slip on shoes rather than my dress shoes that I wear to go to school.

School slippers
Teaching high school has been a little different than I anticipated. The students are all very friendly, but lack motivation to learn English. Class sizes for high school range from about 24-31 students. When we are in the classroom, I’m lucky if ¾ of the students stay awake. Then while some students are sleeping, about ½ the class is talking or doing something other than listening to me. Finally, the ¼ that is awake and not goofing off, actually listen and try to participate. As a teacher back home in the U.S., this is very frustrating. The students don’t necessary mean to be disrespectful, but to many students English class is seen as a break. Students are constantly studying and going to classes all day. After school students usually have some sort of after school program or go to places called Hagwons. A Hagwon is not a school of witchcraft and wizardry like Hogwarts, but it is a private school that students go to for more classes and studying. Other students that do not go to Hagwons may spend their evening working at the family business. Needless to say students have little time of their own and are very tired. Since my English class doesn’t actually count towards their grade (and students know this), it is viewed more as a free period. I keep telling myself not to take it personally, but it can really be disheartening at times. Students do have other English classes focused on reading and writing, which does count for a grade, so they are usually much better at reading and writing than actually speaking English.
If you came across our blog and are reading because you are interested in teaching in Korea, please understand that each school is different. In general, from what I’ve heard, city schools tend to be the more high achieving school, so students have a lot more motivation to learn how to speak English and will participate. More rural school tend to have students who will most likely not need English in their lives after school, and therefore it is not as big of a priority. Regardless of where you may end up, there will always be challenges, but it is how you approach them that will make a difference!

Saturday’s Adventure:
Last Saturday Val and I were going to visit a nearby Temple. We went to the bus terminal to catch the number 218 bus. On the way, we found a store with some cute puppies in the window! Naturally, we went in and played with the puppies for a while until the store owner’s yellow lab got playful and violated our personal space. Anyways, we got to the bus terminal and waited for a while until the 218 bus pulled up. We got on and asked the bus driver if this bus goes to the temple, but he said no. We then got off the bus, but did not know what to do. (One weird thing about buses in Korea is that there can be more than one bus of the same number, but the buses run different routes.) We didn’t want to just wait around because we weren’t sure when the next 218 bus would come by.
So since going to the temple was a bust for this weekend, we decided to explore our city of Hwasun. What better way to explore than to pick a direction and walk!? And that is exactly what we did! I pointed at one of the mountains and said lets walk towards that one! It was fun just walking through neighborhoods, past schools, and by the many shops around town. Then as we got closer to the mountain, we came across some a water dam with a lake at the top and a park down below. The lake had a walking path all the way around, and in the lake was some fake swan figures, with a big cage in the center.

Creepy fake swans and giant cage in the middle of the lake....

Downtown Hwasun in the distance.
Along our walk we passed many outdoor exercise areas. We stopped at one along the way and “exercised” for a little bit. After exploring the lake area, we decided to head back in the direction of our giant apartment buildings, which actually looked pretty small from how far we had ventured. By the time we got back, it was time to make dinner. Our little adventure was a lot of fun, and the most exercise that I’ve had since we came to Korea!
Exercise station.  

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