Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Icheon and Easter!

It's finally spring!  I just looked out the window and realized the trees lining my school are beginning to get small yellow buds on them.  It is, after all, after Easter and a week into April, but I'm still wearing my coat and leggings every day to school, so I haven't really considered it spring yet.  Today, however, is almost 60 degrees!  I don't think it has been 60 degrees since October, and I am SO ready for nice weather.  

I had a wonderful Easter weekend in Korea.  On Saturday I went with 4 friends to the small town of Icheon about an hour bus ride out of the city (embarrassingly enough, one of my first times being outside of Seoul).  The town is famous for its ceramics and pottery.  We had a nice lunch in the downtown Icheon area before heading out to the ceramics village.  In typical Korean fashion, most of this was a bizarre combination of modern art sporadically placed around graffitied kilns and large kimchee pots.  After some exploring, we took a taxi to another part of Icheon where we were able to make our own pottery.  I've never used a pottery wheel before, but it is surprisingly difficult.  With the help of an exceedingly friendly Korean man, all of us were able to successfully create a piece of pottery that afternoon.  

My finished product from the ceramics village

A kiln at Icheon Ceramics Village

To celebrate Easter, I met with 3 friends on Sunday morning for brunch then headed to a 2PM English church service at a large Presbyterian Church in downtown Seoul.  I've noticed that most Korean churchgo-ers are very intense and tend to really push going to church and talking about Jesus down your throat to the point of uncomfortableness.  I had not yet attended a service in Seoul, but I was hoping to find one that was fairly traditional (no speaking in tongues, excessive contemporary praise bands, and no reason at all to have to go to the front of the church and kneel, confess, sing, etc.  We luckily picked a good service.  Somang Presbyterian church had beautiful, traditional music, an American pastor, and no one did anything too intense.  Besides the fact that the choir called Jesus, "Jeshus," and there was an incredibly awkward "Welcome Song" for visitors at the end, I was very pleased with my first visit to a Korean church.

This week should be a nice work week.  The students are always better behaved when the weather is pleasant.  There are times I get really bored at work or irritated with my classes, but my students always make me smile.  Most of the time when they do something bad, they are so cute it is hard to get mad at them.  This is a huge change from teaching 6th grade last year because unfortunately for 6th graders, it's a really awkward age and, frankly, they aren't cute. I had one student last week who every time I looked up was balancing a pencil between his upper lip and nose or holding his book between his bottom lip and his chin. It was all I could do not to laugh at him every time I looked up.  Most of the students are really well behaved this year, and I am enjoying being in the classroom much more than last semester.  4th and 5th grade are both pleasures to teach.  

The only problems I am having this year so far involve one 4th grade student and some special needs children.  The 4th grade student is particularly frustrating.  Two weeks ago, he would not sit in class - as in, at one point he got up and ran out of the classroom and my co-teacher had to chase him down.  Because he then refused to stay in the classroom, we had to lock the classroom doors and conduct class while this student would run and literally throw himself at the door.  He alternated doing this and running and jumping in order to try and reach the high lock on the door.  He eventually succeeded in the latter and escaped again.  (Korean schools don't have the same discipline avenues that American schools have- it isn't like detention or going to see the vice-principal is an option).  Last Friday, instead of being trying to escape, the student absolutely refused to leave the classroom when class was over.  My co-teacher and I turned off the lights and the heat and locked one of the doors, and he would not get up.  He is a rather large student so we couldn't pick him up.  It took almost fifteen minutes to physically get the student to move.  It was absurd.

My other problem is the special needs students that come to class.  Not only do I usually feel like I am hardly qualified to be a teacher, but I am certainly not qualified to be a special needs teacher.  Disabilities are recognized differently in Korea, so all students come to class regardless of their ability to keep up with the lesson.  I have one girl in the fifth grade who is a special needs student.  She is probably the most extreme example that I teach.  She is always exceedingly friendly (unless you wake her up when she is sleeping on her desk), she loves to give hugs, and she is perfectly capable of learning English, but she is unable to learn the same way the other students do.  The students around her help her, but she needs almost constant monitoring or she does things she blatantly should not.  I've learned to just smile at her a lot and smile when I tell her to do something, but it is hard to teach and try and help her at the same time.  This girl, at least, has outward signs of being a different type of learner.  I know there are other students in my class who are autistic or even have learning disabilities such as dyslexia or ADD, but this is not recognized.  I have so many students per week that it is difficult to modify my lessons or give one on one help to these students, and it is frustrating to see that they are perfectly capable of learning English but they really need more individualized attention.  

Overall, teaching is a really positive experience though, and I am having a blast every day.   Have a great week!


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