Archive for ‘Teaching English’

March 7, 2012

4 o’clock

For most of my life 4 o clock meant… Oprah show time!

Obviously there were detours here and there.

In elementary school, it meant end of track and field practice.
In high school, it meant end of detention.
In university, it meant nap time.
In my first job, it meant testing time.
In my second job, it meant half of my day was over.
In my third job, it meant meeting time.

And now. Now, it means this.


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February 7, 2012

7 Lessons my kids have taught me

“I hope you learn something from those kids.” -my mom

And you know what mom? I have. Here they are. Neatly organized into a list. Not only am I a kickass teacher, I’m also a pretty good student. Who takes notes. And then organizes them. And shares them with her friends. So here they are:

7 Lessons my kids have taught me over the 3 months I’ve taught them.

Side note: Today is my 3 month being-in-Daegu (and therefore teaching) anniversary!!!

1. Be kind- one person can make a difference. I was really really sick a couple of weeks ago but Kayla asked me to take one for the team because we were already short a teacher. Anyway, I went into class, assigned work, and put my head down on my desk. 30 seconds later I felt a tap on my shoulder. I look up and Jamie asks me if I’m ok. I tell her I’m not feeling well and before I can even protest, she walks behind my chair and starts massaging my shoulders. I was all “oh Jamie you really don’t have to do that” and then she goes “don’t worry teacher, I do this for my mom when she’s sick. This will make you feel better.” WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT? I love that kid. And she brightened my day in a way I can’t explain in words. And she was right… I did feel better.

2. Laugh til your stomach hurts. Do this at any time. For any reason. Do it by yourself. Or with a friend. Do it in a tree. Or just to be. In a box or with a fox. In a house or with a mouse… sorry for getting all Dr. Seuss on you there there. But you do get the point. Laugh! Be merry!

3. Be silly. Have fun. Don’t take life seriously.
I think the following picture pretty much sums it all up. I asked Caden to finish writing the date. And this is what he wrote: “Today is… your special day!!!”

4. . Experiment. Push the envelope. Define your own limits. So I have this one really adorable kid I teach. But of course he’s also the class clown aka trouble maker. And this kid will come into class everyday and find a way to annoy me until I yell at him. And then he’ll stop. It’s almost like he’s testing my limits everyday. And in the process, figuring out what he can and cannot do. Some days he gets away with a lot. And some days he doesn’t. But that doesn’t stop him from trying. every. single. day. This kid will go far in life.

5. Don’t hold grudges. That kid I talked about in #5. He does something bad. I yell at him. He stays mad at me for maybe 3 minutes. And then he’s all teach-ah! Look! At! My! New! Lego! Set!

6. Be generous. Share. Even if you have just one cookie left.

7. Tell those you love… that you love them. And here’s proof they love me:

I think as kids, we all know the secrets to life, to happiness. And in the process of growing up, we forget. So here’s me reminding you to go out and play, laugh, get in trouble. Life is too short to take seriously :)

December 10, 2011

On Teaching: the good, the bad & the Adorable.

The most popular question I get asked is how I’m finding my new-completely-unrelated-to-my-education-and-previous-work-experiences job. (I sound as if there are thousands asking. There aren’t. Although I should take this opportunity to shift your attention to the right a bit. Blog stats. Read the number under it. Yup. In the thousands, baby. Booyah.)

**Disclaimer: It has only been 5 weeks since I’ve started teaching and I’m sure my thoughts and opinions will inevitably change down the road so I’ll revisit this question at exactly the half way point (and my birthday month)- i.e. April. Did not mean to throw out any hints or anything like that but it! was! a! total! coincidence! It just had to be mentioned. ;)

So how do I feel about teaching? To put it simply:

It feels natural.

And by that I mean there was no steep learning curve. (which I was expecting) The lesson plans are already done for me. There’s a teacher’s guide I can refer to. For everything else, I have a best friend called Google. My only responsibility is to cover the assigned material in the allotted time. And entertain the most adorable kids in the world. So all of this makes it really easy. And maybe I’m just a natural.  Hey! It’s a total  possibility!

So here’s the low down:

The Good

1. That look in the their eyes when they finally get it and the way their faces light up.

2. The love. The respect.  If children in the west respected their teachers/elders half as much as Korean kids do, the future of our world would be in good hands.

3. My boss. Before South Korea and this teaching gig, I worked for 3 companies. And my bosses at all 3? Female. They were awesome. All their names even started with A! Digest that for a second.

3 jobs. 3 female bosses. Amanda, Amanda, Anita.

Coincidence? I think not. I loved, admired and respected all of them in so many ways I can’t put it into words. To say I wanted to be JUST like them when I grew up would be an understatement. So when I found out my director was male I was a little nervous. I mean, I was moving to a new country, to a job in a completely different field and I was breaking my female-only-boss-streak. To top it all off, I didn’t even know if his name started with A! (I still don’t but that’s another story for another day)

And I worried unnecessarily because I’ve been so lucky. And I’m convinced that I have The Best Director one could possibly work for in all of South Korea.

4. My coworkers. I’m pretty sure all my cheesy farewell emails at my previous jobs started with this line:

you spend a third of your adult years at work so sometimes it’s more important to love the people you work with than your actual job.

and while it’s cheesy, it’s true. Sure there are always a couple of people you don’t exactly love, but in general, I’ve been pretty lucky in the coworker department in the past. And the present is no different. To say I adore these girls would be an understatement. I have unique relationships with all of them. And they show their love in different ways. Whether it’s googling training chopsticks and where to get them or writing Korean translations in my phone or browsing clothing websites and pointing out the dresses they think would look good on me or educating me about everything there is to know about the Korean culture… they’re so awesome in so many ways. And again, I feel so lucky.

I feel like this post has too many awesomes and luckys.

5. The hours: 2pm-8pm. Which in my world is A-awesome. With a capital A

I clearly need to expand my vocabulary to include words other than awesome. Fabulous, maybe? Fabulous it is.

REDO: The hours. 2pm-8pm. Which in my world is F-fabulous. With a capital F.

No, that doesn’t work. it sounds like I’m trying to be all passive aggressive with profanity with the whole “capital F” thing. I think it needs to be a word that starts with an A. Suggestions? Please help me.

Moving on…

The Bad

1. The Coffee addiction. I can feel it when we run out of coffee and I haven’t had my caffeine fix for the day. By that I mean I may or may not have fallen asleep. Eyes open. Standing up. On numerous occasions.

Teaching is fun. And easy. But it’s also tiring. And draining. You try delivering 50 min presentations every hour on the hour for 5 hours straight. All the while smiling and sounding enthusiastic. Sure, your audience may be boring men and women in suits compared to my adorable children in the cutest hello kitty ensembles, but it takes the same amount of energy. If not more. And whoever associated the red shiny apple with teachers clearly wasn’t a teacher. It should be a big cup of piping hot coffee. Or two. Or three…

2. It can get repetitive. The lessons themselves and the number of times you have to deliver them.

3. My mom’s dream was for me to be a doctor. That didn’t happen. Wanna know why? Because I get squeamish at the sight of blood. Like really squeamish. Like I’m the type that still turns away when the doctor takes a blood sample. Ya, that bad.

And kids… they’re always hurting themselves somehow. I had a girl who had a really bad nosebleed during one of my classes. I freaked. And then ran to get one of the other teachers. The other teacher was a natural. Knew exactly what to do and was calm the entire time. I was a little envious. Of her cool and collected demeanor. And then I got to thinking how terrible a mother I’m going to be. I need to marry a guy who isn’t afraid of blood. Or bugs. Or ghosts….Off topic! Sorry.

The Adorable
1. Their laughter. Its addictive. I guess this is what does it for me. And determines my fav age group to teach: the younger they are, the easier it is to make them laugh. The older ones who are bright and can understand English a bit more are also fun. Because they get my witty jokes. And think I’m extremely funny.

2. The endless gifts. of cookies. of chocolate. of pepero. of fresh warm baked sweet potato. I don’t even like sweet potato! But when it comes with all that love and “here teacher, this is for YOU” How does one say no?!

This list isn’t exhaustive. I wanted to convey a general idea of what it’s like to be a teacher in South Korea. And share my personal experiences thus far. Every teacher will have a different story to tell based on many different factors like their own personalities, the age of the kids they teach, their relationship with their director and co teachers, etc.

I know there are a few of you who are considering taking the leap and moving to Korea or <insert your country here>. To you, I say this: DO IT. I’m only 5 weeks in, and I can already say this has been one of my craziest yet smartest decisions to date.

December 2, 2011

2 Plates of Randomsauce: Living Life in the Fast Lane

Someone once told me that life should be lived in the fast lane. Oh wait. I think that was my own thoughts talking to each other. Don’t yours do that? No? Only mine? Oh.

So teaching English in Korea to kids may not exactly be living life in the fast lane.

It may be the equivalent to driving a Prius. In the fast lane.


And that leads us to another… Plate of Randomsauce!

GUESS WHAT I FINALLY FOUND!! It’s not the swiffer sweeper I know and love, but this will do just fine for the other side of the world. I’ve never been so happy to see an aisle of cleaning products. Ok. Who am I kidding. Cool cleaning products always excite me. Like the shake-and-vac! If you know what that is, major cool points on the cool-o-meter for you!

So this is the name of the Academy I work for. After 3 weeks, I finally found out what the G and B stand for! Hint: the logo gives it away. Isn’t that the cutest thing ever!?

And here’s a pic of some of my new awesome friends taken at Thursday Party in downtown Daegu.

December 2, 2011

And they do it with so much Adorable.

From spending the day with kids to hanging out with my Korean teachers (some of whom have kids a few years younger than me) to partying into the night with other foreign teachers who are mostly in their 20s, I’ve learned this: we’re all pretty much the same. And we all want the same things: to be heard and to be loved.

I’ve learned that you can make a connection regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or culture That all you need to do is look for the similarities and love the differences. That keeping an open mind means understanding who you are is constantly changing. And that staying true to who you are doesn’t necessarily mean drawing lines and keeping yourself locked in.

I’m reminded to play. During every minute of my work day. I’m reminded to laugh and be silly. I’m reminded that life is lived in the in-between moments. Those moments in-between the question and the answer.

And I’m beginning to learn to accept every moment as it unfolds and not question, expect or want anything else. Yup, these kids  are teaching me more about life than I could ever teach them. And they do it with so much adorable.
November 20, 2011

Reasons Korea and I were meant to be… Part 2

1. I only believe in well behaved obedient children. Those are the only kind that seem to exist in Korea. They call you teacher, bow to greet, and never speak back to you. The fact that they’re also ridiculously adorable never hurts either.

2. 24 hours everything. Moving from Toronto to London was painful. I mean don’t get me wrong, I fell in love with London. But that’s another story for another day. The ONE thing that upset me about the city, though, is that nothing is open past 8. Oxford st shuts down at 8. How random is that!? It’s like oh hey we’re gonna tease you be all cool and stay open past 6 but not 9. Oh no. That would be ridiculous!

And if you wanted food in the middle of the night, you had to go to tinseltown. Again, LOVE the place but it’s not everyday that you want a thick chocolate-y milkshake. Wait. Did I just say that. All this kimchi must be getting to my head. But the point is, Korea is my seoulsister when it comes to this. (clever word play, no? I’m going to pretend I made that up and take credit for it.)

24 hours is how life should be lived. And sleep is so overrated. Especially when you get this sudden urge to clean at 3am and you’re out of cleaning supplies.

3. They pick up garbage everyday. No waiting for your weekly neighbourhood garbage pick up day while upping the funk smell factor in your garage. How AWESOME is that!?

4. In Korea, I’m a millionaire. Sure, a bottle of water costs 1250 won. But my bank account? In the millions, baby.

November 15, 2011

We’re basically best friends now.

He walked into class with his usual game face. If it had a name it’d be called she ain’t gonna crack me.

Today’s passage was about deciduous trees. Because I actually knew what it meant and how to say the word, I was way confident. Between every reading activity, I’d do the usual.

Me: So what’s your fav movie?

Him: blank stare.

Me: Did you see transformers?

Him: blank stare.

This went on for most of the class… and then I remembered something a friend told me. Everyone has dreams. Get him to talk about his.

Me: So what do you want to be when you grow up?

Him: Bat

Me: Pardon!?

Him: Bet

Me: Can you write it down?

Him: *writes V-E-T*

Me: REALLY!? I LOVE animals… I have a dog.

I knew I had hit gold and I wasn’t about to let it pass me by. I pulled out the trusty iPhone and showed him this pic:

and the rest, as they say, is polyps-deciduous tree history. He told me about his 2 pet hamsters named Happy and Luck. And his 4 huge goldfish the size of his hands.

We bonded… and we’re basically best friends now.

And that, my friends, is how it’s done.

November 14, 2011

Solo Teaching, Polyps and Polka Dots

Yesterday was my first full day of solo teaching, sans Korean teacher. (I thought the sans would be appropriate since the Korean are obsessed with their French pastries and it makes me sound so sophisticated… you know, now that I’m an English Teacher.)

Ok, who am I kidding. I’m not. I have no experience teaching bar the few kids I tutored during high school and my short stint at chuck e cheese. I mean, sure, I love kids and I played school all.the.time as a little girl. I remember the first teacher I fell in love with. Her name was Miss. Wolf and she was beautiful in every sense of the word. She had these perfect french manicured nails that I’d admire while she turned the pages during story time. And she wore these beautiful polka dot blouses. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. And here’s me making that dream a reality: I got a shellac french manicure the day before my flight and made sure to pack all my polka dot stuff.

But… I’m slowly realizing that it’s going to take a lot more than a manicure and polka dots to really make this dream a reality… the one of not just looking like a teacher but of actually being a good one.

One of my classes (the TOEFL level) has just one kid in it. This kid is smart. And knows more English than I do. I know this is the public domain and at the risk of thoroughly embarrassing myself (after that Clorox story, I figure anything goes here) I’m going to admit that I had no idea what polyps was. While preparing for this particular class, I freaked out and had to plug in my headsets in the teacher’s lounge (for obvious reasons: not to oust my stupidity in real life too) to hear how the word is properly pronounced. Just in case I had to correct him during reading. And this kid? He just breezed through it. Even knew what it meant. DO YOU KNOW WHAT POLYPS MEANS!? 

Anyway, he’s smart. Can read. and knows the meaning of words like polyps for god’s sake! But he refuses to speak to me. The only words that come out of his mouth are… words on the page. And answers. The correct ones. But conversation with Tia? Nope. He wasn’t having any of it. So I did what any sensible teacher would do.

Googled child psychology. English teacher tips. How to teach English abroad without pulling your hair out.

So that’s my story. BUT I’M NO GIVER UPPER! I’ll be back for more. And I’m going to make this kid talk. If my life depends on it.  Yes, I’m kinda dramatic like that. In the meantime, if you have any tips on how to make a 15 year old shy Korean boy talk, please send them my way.

And because every post is better with a picture… or two…

Wanna know what the BEST part about living in a country where you don’t understand the language and therefore the signs is? You can amuse yourself to no end making up sign meanings … I think this one says “DON’T TAKE PICTURES IF YOU’RE WEARING STRIPES AND POLKA DOTS… AT THE SAME TIME.”

Oh and Mom, this picture is for you… LOOOOOOOOVE ME

November 11, 2011

11.11.11 – Pepero Day

When I walked into the teachers’ lounge this morning and found packs of pepero sticks on all the teachers’ desks, I had no idea it was for a NATIONAL holiday. Imagine having a holiday modeled after a particular brand of chocolate. Like REESE! Now THAT’S a holiday that would have my full support. Anyway, back to Pepero.

According to Wikipedia, Pepero Day is an observance in South Korea similar to Valentine’s Day. It is named after the Korean snack Pepero and held on November 11, since the date “11/11” resembles four sticks of Pepero. The holiday is observed mostly by young people and couples, who exchange Pepero sticks, other candies, and romantic gifts.

So my day started with this (from the director):

and then one of my kids gave me this half way through the day. HOW ADORABLE IS THAT MESSAGE.

At this point I still hadn’t figured out the significance of Pepero Day. Mostly because this kid gave me his previous day’s snack too. I felt so bad taking it from him but he insisted that it was “for you teacher” My heart has melted so many times during the past couple days I don’t think you’d recognize it as a heart anymore. Koreans have this way of making people feel loved. SO loved. (Here’s a picture of what he gave me yesterday)

It was DELISH. I remember eating something like this as a kid. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t called Ghana though.

And by the end of the day… this was my collection (not counting the zillion boxes I had munched on throughout the day)


Adorable Kids. Lots of Love. Pepero Sticks. What more could a girl ask for?!!

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