Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Archive for the ‘teaching english’ Category

Commonality

Posted by quirksalight on April 3, 2011

The most common question I get, considering my educational background, is, “How did you go from biomedical engineering to the Foreign Service?”

Convoluted? Yes and no. There’s a bit of history, and the kernels behind all this were placed a long time ago. In high school, I was on the high school debate team and that ignited my interest in politics and international relations. However, I was rather obsessed with science and had dreams of developing a treatment/device that would revolutionize medicine. It wasn’t until grad school, after being burned out of medical research, when I had to start thinking of, “now what?”. My temporary answer was to take a leave of absence for a year and teach English in Korea. That’s one of the earlier points in this blog, back in 2007.

But in Korea, teaching was one thing, but straddling two cultures socially and linguistically was a whole ‘nother beast. Plus, I came to Korea at a political change; for the first time in 10 years, the progressive party was out of office and the conservatives came into power the month I arrived, March 2008. This combined with my background in Korean culture and language, sciences, and interest in politics led to some interesting discussions with the faculty in my middle school, handling getting punched on a subway, acting as a facilitator for my foreign friends in Korea, and occasionally having to explain what the U.S. government was doing to my students, colleagues, and friends.

I really enjoyed that interaction – facilitating the understanding between two cultures, though not so much the getting hit part. Which led me to starting thinking about the Foreign Service. I always planned to go into public service, someday, when I was on the academic track. But I hadn’t thought about it again until when I was in Korea, pondering my next step. So I did – FSOT exam date was November 5, 2008. I got the acceptance in to the QEP in December 2008, decided not to sign a teaching contract for another year, gambling that I would pass the QEP and get to the OA, which I did. So I left Korea, with a freelance editing gig, prepped for the OA and passed on June 15, 2009. A year later, I was prepping to leave DC for my first tour as a POL officer in Seoul. whew! What a whirlwind…

Posted in ancedotes, commentary, election 2008, Graduate school, Korea, New York, school, Science, Seoul, teaching english | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Forensics and English

Posted by quirksalight on February 9, 2009

Last week was the second to last week I’ll be in the classroom. It’s also a great group of students to work with, as this was the “English Camp” and the students are self-selecting… I don’t have to push them, they all WANT to be in school. 🙂 Just awesome…

So I tried to keep things interesting… hence, the last two days, we learned about some simple forensics. What it was, fingerprints and fingerprinting, invisible ink, and ink analysis by paper chromatography.

Paper chromatography:

Black ink on strips of paper

Black ink on strips of paper

Using alcohol to separate

Using alcohol to separate

separated

separated


Invisible ink:
Paper with ink

Paper with ink

Heating the inked strip

Heating the inked strip

After heating

After heating

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Buheung MS, education, english, EPIK, fun, Incheon, Korea, school, Science, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cheating

Posted by quirksalight on January 5, 2009

Right on Christmas Eve, 10 of my 2nd year (8th grade) students got caught cheating on their final exams. Not 1 exam, but apparently it was a coordinated effort that had gone for two days before the students were caught.

Needless to say, the parents and the school were extremely upset, and the school was trying to think of a just punishment for the students.
At the school-parents meeting on the 26th, the school decided that the punishment should be getting zeros on all exams for the students. (which is pretty lenient in my opinion) Apparently the parents (!) thought this was too harsh and would mess up their chances to get into good high schools, and that it was the teachers (!!) fault for not observing them closely enough!! WTF?!?! Where’s the logic in that? The students planned and executed this – sheesh….

Posted in ancedotes, annoyance, Bizarre, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, commentary, education, Incheon, Korea, Social commentary, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Apparently kids DO read the newspaper

Posted by quirksalight on November 10, 2008

“Teacher, teacher! In school last…umm…”
(whispers to classmate in Korean “What’s the word for Wednesday?”)
“..ah! Last Wednesday! You, in school last Wednesday?”

I replied, “Nope. I was in Seoul all day.”

Upon hearing this, the two girls get excited and I overhear them saying to one another in Korean,
“See? I told you that was her!”

Then they turn to me and tell me, “Teacher! We see you in the paper. Itaewon, right? Obama party?”

I replied, smiling, “Yes, I was at the Obama party.”

They run off, giggling, and the last thing I hear in Korean is, “Hee, hee… teacher was toasting with alcohol!”

Posted in 2008 Election, amusing, ancedotes, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, Humor, Incheon, Korea, Politics, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Halloween

Posted by quirksalight on November 4, 2008

One of my favorite times of the year is Halloween. It’s a bit strange this year, that I’m not celebrating it to the hilt like last year. Why? Well, a bit of fatigue and studying left me a bit less than in my normal Halloween excitement levels.
But my students did help me celebrate by decorating the English Activities room in my school, and carving pumpkins on Halloween day to take home. Here they are with their handiwork:(yes, middle-schoolers utilizing sharp knives at school and not cutting themselves or others! )

The last one is mine, grinning out my apt window.

Posted in Buheung MS, Bupyeong, holidays, Humor, Incheon, Korea, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

It’s nearly time

Posted by quirksalight on October 29, 2008

One week from the Foreign Service Officers Exam.
Upside? Studying can include watching the Daily show and the Colbert Report.
Downside? Teaching Middle school FT and coming home to study for several hours after.

Nov 5th, Korea time. 9am-12pm. Then I go to the Orange Tree in Itaewon to catch the last of the US election results, live. 🙂

Posted in 2008 Election, amusing, Colbert Report, Comedy, Daily Show, english, EPIK, Humor, Korea, Politics, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Duck and cover!!

Posted by quirksalight on October 15, 2008

I’m sitting at my desk, puttering around (b/c it’s exam week, and I finished my prep for my classes in the next 3 weeks), when I hear this loud whining noise that I haven’t heard before. First I thought it was a fire alarm, but just an odd one. But then it kept on going. So I asked two of the other teachers in the office what it was.
Turns out it was the “raid” siren. Yes, the one they are going to use in the likelyhood of an invasion by the DPRK. They were testing it out. Apparently it’s a regular thing, though they stopped doing it once and month and now it’s more 1-2 times a year. (Which makes sense that this is the first time I’ve heard it since I arrived here). Strange… makes it really clear that I’m living in a heavily fortified country.
Hmm? Ah… the siren is back on.

Posted in ancedotes, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, Incheon, Korea, Korean, Mental Stream, military, Social commentary, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Minus 9 in 10 minutes

Posted by quirksalight on October 12, 2008

This semester, I instituted a third rule to the “No throwing” and “No hitting” rules in my class. The third one is “No bad words”.

Now, you must be wondering why I put this rule in place when I’m not supposed to be understanding Korean in school. However, it’s apparently rather trendy for the middle school students to swear in English. The most popular being “sh&t”, followed by “f@#k”, and “b#&ch”. Yeah, yeah… I know, I do swear myself, but I know that the students swear b/c they watch movies where the characters say various profane words in a multitude of situations, and think it’s OK. But… it’s not really… and I don’t want to encourage it.

So a violation of one of the rules would lead to that group being docked one point for each infraction. One of my 7th grade students from the “New Zealand” team (I have the team names as English speaking countries), gotten a question wrong, and blurted out, “Oh, sh&t!”

To which I replied, “Excuse me? What did you just say?”
Upon his look of horror, I said, “Right. I thought so. Minus 1 point.” And walked over to the scoreboard and took off a point.
He was so annoyed that his outburst lost a point, he exclaimed, “Oh, sh&t!” once again. So I shrugged, walked over to the scoreboard, and took off another point.

At this point, the entire class, including my co-teacher was laughing at the boy’s exclamations. Especially because, once again, he swore when the second point was removed. This happened several more times, with his teammates getting angrier, the class laughing harder, and I, continuing to take off points as he apparently could not stop repeating the phrase, “Oh, sh&t!” again and again. Finally, after 8 points had been removed, he literally clapped his hands over his mouth to stop himself from saying anything.

Oh, the ninth point? After he had managed to stop swearing, one of girls on his team had gotten so angry with him, she punched him. Minus 9.

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Bizarre, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, english, EPIK, Humor, Incheon, kids, Korea, language, school, slang, Social commentary, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The halfway point

Posted by quirksalight on September 8, 2008

It’s the halfway point in my contract, with the second semester starting. And… I’m a bit mixed in my feeling for teaching in Korea. Personally, I’ve got a pretty good situation with the middle school that I am teaching with. The principal and vice principal are both really supportive, and all my co-teachers are friendly and are very fluent in English. The students act up a bit, but they do behave at the end. And the majority of them genuinely try to learn, and practice a sentence or two whenever they see me, in the halls, on the bus, on the street, etc.

However, I’m still disputing my pay for teaching at the district camp, over a month after the fact. I have problems with the bureaucracy that’s paying unequally for teachers doing the same amount of work. I have problems with the lack of transparency with the compensation for work and the lack of documentation of pay and work. Sure, we should be asking for our documents. But I am getting sick of repeating myself for the same thing again and again. Not with my school. Just with the district.

Do I want to be teaching as a career? The answer is no. Do I like teaching? Yes. The question now is how long do I want to teach? There are several avenues I want to explore, the foremost being getting my Korean language skills up to native proficiency. Staying another year is a hard thing too decide, but my decision point is coming up soon.

Posted in ancedotes, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, Incheon, Korea, Social commentary, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The crappiest teaching day ever….

Posted by quirksalight on July 28, 2008

Today was the start of my second English camp for this summer. This one is at my school, for the earlier part of the day. 90 mins for 1st grade middle school and 90 mins of second grade middle school. I had my lessons outlined, had my powerpoint, handout, etc, then it went kaput.
First of all, I get to the school, and there’s massive construction going on. I knew they were going to renovate the bathrooms, but there is literally a HUGE hole where all the bathrooms in the main building were. You would be able to be in the 4th floor bathroom and then fall all the way down to the first floor without hitting anything. Yeah. Major.

Then I open up my files, and the printer wasn’t working. I try the next printer, and that wasn’t working either. (Yes, I did turn on the main power strip, checked to see if it was plugged in, etc) So I head to the class without any handouts, thinking that I would be able to show them to the kids on the computer/TV and they would be able to read it. I get to the class, and the computer is broken. kaput. Alright. I’m a flexible teacher, so I get out my chalk pen and start to write. No chalk was coming out. Try a couple other pens, no dice. I go back to the first pen, fiddle with it, and it explodes. Liquid chalk everywhere. After cleaning, I managed to coax out a dribble of chalk, enough to write with.

After my break, I managed to print out some handouts, and I was told that the second classroom had a working computer. Which was great, but I printed out the handouts anyway. It was good that I did, as yes, the computer worked, but the main screen showed everything UPSIDE DOWN. I mean, come on!!! Back to the chalk pens.

Plus, the first class was a LOT weaker then I was told…which did not help. Going from teaching at an English immersion class the day before, it was a weird adjustment.

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, computers, english, EPIK, Humor, Incheon, Korea, teaching, teaching english, Tech | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »