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Archive for the ‘hagwon’ Category

Since my kindergarten class tossed up their caps at graduation nearly two weeks ago, I have been, erm, adjusting to life with my younger, smaller, less-advanced K-II class. Gone are the days where my little ones could write better than my second graders!

Sigh. So to help with the new challenges new classes (including an extra one every day) bring, I made a “work days” countdown calendar so that I would have something to look forward to after all of the crying, hitting, yelling, sneezing, injuries, laughs, tests, sentences, Reading Street stories, stickers, and science experiments every day.

At least my new class is allowed to do crafts!

I didn’t include the weekends because, as much as I miss California and can’t wait to bite into a decent burrito, I love my weekends here in the ‘Ju, and the quality time with the people I’ll miss.

It’s just the whole “being a teacher” thing that sometimes makes me want to rip out my hair.

Only 29 28 more days of working left before laying out, sunshine, sleeping late and spring produce take over my daily routine.

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The babies are all grown up.

Last Friday, my and Evan’s little kid classes donned their adorable cap and gowns, recited their five-sentence speeches about life after kindergarten, and celebrated their transition into elementary school with their teachers, families and fellow students. After weeks of preparation, it was finally their big day!

The school was decked out with lots of blue and white balloons, and a grammatically questionable (but well-intentioned) sign for the graduates.

Even though we had to wear our uniforms, I decided to spruce up the baby blue polo with my fancy headband from Myeongdong. Yoon Jung had to give it a whirl. Perhaps it was slightly pouf-tastic for her tiny dome. She’s such a cutie!

The graduates, along with the babies, sang songs during the ceremony. They did a full run-thru of the show before their parents arrived, all spruced up in their uniforms. The Ants Go Marching, Here We Go Looby Loo and She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain were on the play list for the occasion.

Apparently, one of my students decided he wanted to take the stairs to school instead of following directions and riding in the elevator, so he had to stand against the wall, eyes closed with arms in the air for at least fifteen minutes. He is officially ready for Survivor.

After all the singing and speaking and photo ops and flowers, Evan and I retreated to T.G.I. Fridays for our own celebration of the year we’ve had with our babies. We were starving by the time our burgers arrived, and gobbled them down quickly. Evan went for the regular burger with bacon and American cheese, while I opted for the grilled chicken, bacon and Monterey Jack sandwich.

I actually got a bit teary-eyed after the ceremony, taking pictures with the kids and wishing them well before they start elementary school this week. Some of my little ones aren’t coming back for my school’s after-school program, so it was the last day I was seeing some of them. I guess all I can hope is that I made even the smallest difference for the better…

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There is nothing more gluttonous, tragic, hyperactive and awesome as a school Christmas party.

Today started out like any other day… minus the fact that we got to skip two hours of kindergarten in the morning :) We were supposed to wake up “early” and go to the gym, but had trouble leaving our bed before 11. Evan blames my mom, who sent us the most heavenly flannel sheets. They make getting out of bed, especially when the window is frosted over because of the cold, near impossible.

We got to school at 1:30, and spent the afternoon with our elementary students. Classes ended at 6 (a half hour early, yay) so we could prepare for the kindergarten Christmas festivities, which began promptly at 6:30.

Some of the elementary crowd, who hung around to watch their younger siblings put on a show, complained of hunger immediately following class. Some Hello Kitty candies helped subdue their famine.

I was designated the job of handing out pamphlets to parents as they walked into the school, bowing and greeting them with a grin and a perky “Merry Christmas.” As I stood, smiling at the flood of families that waltzed through the door, I couldn’t help but think of my own family. The past two years, Christmas has been filled with warmth and love, with both my family and Evan’s. Christmas meant pajamas all day, drinking lots of wine, cooking amazing food, reading stories, sharing traditions, giving and receiving gifts and most importantly, spending a lot of lazy time with the people you love.

Even though I can’t physically be with either of my families this holiday season, I felt really blessed to be able to spend the holidays with my beloved students and their parents, bursting with pride at seeing their little ones singing songs, acting in the play, reading stories or giving presentations. It made me not feel sad to be here, just grateful to be included in an intimate celebration.

After I handed out programs, I joined the teachers and the children in the “green room” to help prepare the kiddies for their turn onstage. It was then — 15 minutes before the first song/dance performance — that the foreign teachers were told that we were expected to sing and shake it with the children. Greeeeaaaaat. I believe Evan’s exact words were, “Thanks so much for the warning.”

Here is Evan warming up.

Needless to say, we were a disaster onstage. Not only did we flub all of the dance moves, but I admittedly don’t know all of the words to some classic Christmas jams. I stood in the back left of the “stage,” a fortunate position as I could watch what all the kids were doing and do my best to imitate their actions. Evan was less fortunate, being in the front left, so he couldn’t see the dance moves without turning and staring at the kids next to him.

It was beyond mortifying to wiggle our butts and belt out words to Christmas carols, and I would have been royally pissed if I didn’t think the whole thing was hilarious. A few times I actually laughed out loud during the song, but luckily my giggles were drowned out by the screeching tots.

The frosting on the cake was when we would mess up the choreography, because not only was it completely undignified for us to be dancing and singing in the first place, but the teachers should not be the ones messing up the moves. I felt like that kid in the recital who looks like they wandered onto stage by accident, staring at the audience like a deer in headlights, motionless aside from all of the moves that they’re doing two beats too late. I was never that kid in dance class, but somehow I managed to be the 25-year-old onstage looking like an idiot with a bunch of two to seven year-olds. Fabulous.

At one point, we had to play pin-the-balloon-tail-on-the-child, which was an adventure, especially for the kids who were at certain points screaming their heads off, pushing other kids to the ground, or hiding under the table, growling and pretending to be a tiger. They needed their balloon “tails” for when they wriggled their hips to Jingle Bell Rock. I spent most of my time “backstage” being utterly useless, laughing my ass off and taking adorable pictures of the kids.

Not only are the kids cute beyond words, but they also learn at an early age to throw up the double peace sign and a wink for pictures. Priceless.

Oh, and we had to wear Santa hats for the sing-along too. Some of them had these crazy white braids (seriously, WTF) and one boy in my class had one that was about three sizes too small. I made him keep on the doll-sized cap until I could get a picture of his head squeezing into it. More giggles ensued after said picture, sometimes I act so immature.

When the presentation was finally over, it was time to eat. The platters of food were brought out, and we got right to work on them. I probably ate one too many pieces of pizza, and packed away more kimbap than was necessary. I was stoked on the spread until I saw one kindergartener coughing on it, and realized with a heavy heart that his phlegm fit, while being the only one I noticed, was certainly not the only one that had taken place. Sigh.

The spread was incredible though, having more food than the crowd could possibly put away. I expect some sugar-induced craziness that was on display at the Halloween party, but surprisingly I didn’t witness any banchee behavior.

It was while pecking at the food on the various tables that I realized chopsticks really are the most ideal utensil to use on a communal spread. They are more sanitary than grabbing with grubby hands (duh) and actually spread less germs than spoons or forks, if you consider that western-style utensils are slathered with more saliva than chopsticks, which are more used to drop large portions of food into an open mouth. I took a mental note for future cocktail parties.

Evan and Greg put on Santa costumes after the potluck was over, and handed out presents to the children. The gifts had been brought in by parents the week before, and it was really fun to see the children receive exactly what they wanted from Father Christmas himself. Even though most of them greeted the men in red suits as Evan Teacher or Greg Teacher. At one point, Soo Min was asked to say “Merry Christmas” to “Santa” and she turned, gave Evan a dubious look, and said, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Evan.” A hilarious, albeit slightly sad and jaded, holiday greeting.

Ev and Greg made good Santas. They handed out lots of goodies that made the boys and girls very happy :)

We also made treat bags for our little ones for this special holiday. We handed them out at the party, seeing as we won’t see the little ones until Monday, and hit a small snag with our elementary school students who also wanted treats from us. Doh. We told them we’d bring them chocolate and candy canes tomorrow, which appeased their aching sweet teeth (for now).

I had a few lovely conversations with the parents of my students, and felt really touched upon hearing how pleased they were with my teaching methods, how happy the kids were and how much their English has improved over the past eight months. It made me think about how much I was going to miss my kiddos come April.

After the last songpyeon was devoured, and Christmas gift torn open, the number of guests dwindled as they carried their sleepy, sugar-stuffed children home to bed. The teachers gave the hagwon a scrub down — Rachel and I cleaned the tables while the boys handled the ancient vacuum cleaners.

After that, we enjoyed beer and leftover snacks with our fellow staff members, celebrating a successful and crazy evening.

Now we’re home, snickering at viral videos of Hitler finding out there’s no Santa Claus, snuggling on the couch and wondering how on earth Christmas Eve has snuck up on us. I was feeling sentimental, so I searched for one of my favorite Christmas songs online. The first video I found brought tears to my eyes.

Celtic Woman is simply amazing. Their voices and the violin together create such a seamlessly beautiful melody that is quite enchanting (and videos are nothing compared to their live performances). Watching this brought a rush of memories back — standing in my stiff, itchy dress at Christmas mass, my overwhelming happiness and joy for the holiday helping me to overcome the physical discomfort of my “dressy” clothes, singing my heart out in the choir, staying awake until my eyelids felt like lead, excited for the return of Santa, helping my dad prepare food for the family Christmas party, waltzing with my sisters in our pajamas as we waited for my parents to rouse on Christmas morning, tearing open stockings with anticipation, curling up next to the roaring fire, watching my nieces struggle to open their own gifts, spending the holiday at the Naylon house and feeling right at home, cooking and chatting with Steve and KayDe, reading The Polar Express and ringing bells on Christmas Eve, making four quiches for Christmas brunch, experimenting in the kitchen with my dad, snuggling under the sheets and comparing books with my mom, guzzling mimosas with my sisters (when they weren’t pregnant), throwing the dice and shouting at family members as we vied for wrapped gifts during the dice game… this song embodied Christmas for me. Everything I hold dear, all the cliches that are true about the holidays.

Reminiscing fills me with joy for these next two days <3 Merry Christmas everyone

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For weeks now, the staff at school have been prepping things for the first big party of the year — the Halloween bash! The mid-morning soiree included the parents of our kindergarten classes — who pay more every year to send their kiddies to a hagwon than the tuition at UCSB post-tuition hikes. So naturally, the posh parents had high expectations, and I feel confident we delivered.

First, the school was covered with decorations. I mean, every inch had a smiling jack-o-lantern, or a cobweb, or a fluttering bat. It was the most amazing decor display I have seen at any school, anywhere. For the past three weeks, we have been making Halloween decorations to put up, and the end result was quite impressive.

I handed out pamphlets and schmoozed with parents as they entered, while my fellow foreign teachers got to work carving pumpkins with the children as parents chatted, sipped coffee and tea, took videos and snapped photos of the tykes. During this mingling period, two professional face-painters also gussied up the kids’ faces with whatever their hearts desired.

Once everyone was assembled, the show began. Two of my students acted as the emcees of the festivities, reciting a script written by Evan. They were so good (and looked adorable in their costumes, I’m just sayin’). Abe and Da Yeen introduced another one of my students, who had to recite a speech on her dreams (I wrote it, but she said it well). Two of my other students also got through speeches I had written, about Halloween and healthy eating.

The first group performance were the songs Skidamarinka and The Bear Went Over the Mountain — complete with accompanying exaggerated choreography. We sang with the children, and I just tried not to laugh at the little ones (about 2 years old) who would just wander around, jumping, doing their own moves, or bawling and calling out for their mothers in the audience. Since we had some downtime between sets, we took some glamour shots.

Greg wrote a play for the students to perform, The Ugly Pumpkin, which tells a story similar to that of the ugly duckling. The children all memorized their lines beautifully, much to my delight. They did a great job.

Two more songs, Down By the Bay and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitt, made up the finale. We bounced and smiled and shouted along with the students. It was silly and fun.

Afterward, the children “trick-or-treated” by knocking on the classroom doors and receiving goody bags assembled by us the previous evening — and when I say “assembled,” I mean we spent four hours decorating oranges as pumpkins, making suckers into ghosts, counting stickers and pencils, and basically giving each child enough sugar to cause the equivalent of a major caffeine kick. It worked too, the kids ran around like banchees during the following potluck lunch, zipping around and screaming indistinguishable jibberish as they climbed on bookshelves. It was nuts!

The only benefit of the kids basically turning into wild, crazed monkeys is that when I dialed the students for phone teaching later that afternoon, four were sleeping off their sugar rush, giving me a bit of free time. Good stuff.

Now, it’s Saturday and I am feeling well-rested and fully prepared to celebrate Halloween the adult way.

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I love everything about autumn — cool, crisp air, trees changing into rainbows of red, yellow and orange while their leaves fall like rain, sweaters and knitwear, winter squash and brussel sprouts. It truly is the most wonderful time of year.

Halloween is right around the corner, and I’m getting quite excited. Ever since I was a kid, Halloween has been one of my favorite holidays. I love to dress up (what child who grows up dancing doesn’t?) but it is also amazing to have a holiday dedicated to eating candy and scaring people. Every October, I would go home and make Halloween decorations to put up in the living room window, daydreaming about hosting the best black-and-orange party ever, and count down the days to October 31. Our apartment needs some sprucing up for fall!

Jill and Steve, Evan’s parents, apparently read my thoughts and sent the most wonderful autumn care package, complete with Calvin and Hobbes books, nuts, beef jerkey, various fall-themed decor, a sweet card and a full bag of holiday candy corn — including the best candy corn, the pumpkins. Thank you so much for spreading the holiday cheer all the way over here in Korea! We love you guys!

Last week, I found out that my kindergarten class is growing up. Next week I will begin teaching them science and social studies, which sadly means the end of Friday crafts :( I was so bummed to find that out, since doing creative things on Friday had been a really great outlet for me and the children both. I’ve consoled myself with thoughts that science experiments would be cool too, but they just won’t be the same. To top it off, the kids don’t know crafts have been nixed, so I’m the lucky one that gets to tell them.

Since last week and this week are the last crafts we’ll make together, I wanted to do some over-the-top, spooky decor for our classroom. Each classroom in the school has a different theme for Halloween, and my class has vampires and bats. Two weeks ago, we made paper draculas.

They were cute, but nothing compared to the bats we made last week. I found the outline of a bat wing online, blew it up and had the kids each color some for their bat. From there, I took their colorful wings, and glued them to a piece of black construction paper, wedging a pipe cleaner (cut in half) in the middle. After, I stuffed black socks full of newspaper for the bat bodies, then stapled the ends shut. From their, I hot-glued eyes, pipe cleaner mouths and construction paper ears on to the socks, along with the wings. The final touch was made by hanging them with fishing line from the ceiling. Not to toot my own horn, but these were a lot of work, and absolutely worth it. They turned out terrific!

This weekend, I am going to poke around to find a suitable costume for Halloween festivities at school and around town. There will be raging parties at both Radio Star (where we spent the World Cup) and Deepinto (home of the amazing brunch) on October 30, and a horror movie marathon (and taco bar) at Radio Star on Halloween proper. Lots to look forward to!

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Starting today, Koreans around the country will pack their bags, leave their offices and return to their roots to spend time with their families for Chu Seok, the country’s largest holiday that celebrates the fall equinox. During the holiday, it is common for people to visit the graves of their ancestors, and make wishes to the full moon.

My kids and I have been discussing the upcoming festivities at length for days, and when Friday came around, I knew that I wanted my students to make hats that celebrated the season for their craft.

I cut up brown construction paper into strips for the base of their hat, then found pictures of Koreans in hanboks (traditional clothing), fall harvest fruits and leaves for them to color and decorate their hats with. The craft took longer than the time allotted, so I ended up eating lunch with the kiddies to help them finish. When everything was colored, we cut out the pictures and taped them to pipe cleaners to make a sort of antennae-type head gear.

They were a scream!

Yesterday, we had a Chu Seok celebration with our kindergarten classes, who all wore their hanboks to school. They looked so precious! After doing our reading and writing for one hour, each foreign teacher had the opportunity to make songpyeon with their class — traditional rice cakes filled with a variation of sweet fillings, which could be anything from honey and sesame seeds or red bean paste to chestnuts. We filled ours with a type of roasted bean, which was delicious, then gently folded them into different shapes.

My class got really creative :)

After a lunchtime feast, it was time to play organized games with the children. First, they started by competing in a sort of relay-race, where they had to pop a balloon, crawl through a tunnel, do a somersault, go down a slide, and hop over a series of blocks before the next person on their team could go.

Now, this game would have been a little easier had these girls not been in full dresses. They scurried around the room in their elaborate hanboks, struggling to complete the maze. It was hysterical.

After a failed attempt at a sort of hackey-sack game, the kids moved on to “chicken fighting,” which here is basically hopping on one foot, attempting to knock down your opponent who is also on one foot. Of course, we needed to demonstrate just how to do this by “fighting” Greg and Rachel, as the kids screamed in the background. It was like they were watching a UFC match!

I wish I could share more of the millions of pictures and videos I took during the celebration, but I would like to keep the children relatively anonymous in the photos, out of respect for their parents.

All in all, the day was a really nice way to start the week, and a good transition into a THREE DAY HOLIDAY! As I write this, I’m curled up on the couch with pink fuzzy, wondering what I should eat for breakfast (it’s 11 AM). Ah, the good life :)

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Who built the ark?

Noah, Noah!

Who built the ark?

Brother Noah built the ark!

We finally have internet in the new (and much improved) apartment, which means I will stop being lazy and start updating on our lives once more. I love craft day with the kindergarten class! The theme last week is transportation, leaving me with a zillion ideas about some cute cut-outs we could do.

The kids sing a different song in the morning every week, and for the past five days they’ve been harmonizing about Noah and his ark full of animals. Although I don’t believe in the religious indoctrination of children (anyone really, but especially the young ones), but most of the kids are from Christian families anyway, so I decided we’d make ourselves some arks!

The base of our boat was a paper plate, which was cool because it allowed the ark to rock back and forth. The children colored their boats, and decorated them with little animals from the safari. Purple monkeys, yellow lions and pink zebras — I love when the kiddies get creative with colors.

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