Posted by: evedlewis | November 4, 2009

Teacher’s Conference

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I went back to Seoul for a teacher’s conference last weekend and had a great time.  I also bought a few books while I was there for my students.  We have been reading short novels in my 5th and 6th grade classes since I started 2 months ago, and I was ready to change up the material.  So – I purchased a few activity books with CDs.  These books have been great for lessons.  The Units are well planned and take up the perfect amount of classtime to cover.  The units have about 5 pages and focus on an interesting topic.  For example, the first few units are about the following: Exciting Sports, Animal Safaris, and Fantasy Novels.  In the Exciting Sports Unit, we learned about an indoor ski resort in Dubai, which was pretty interesting (I was glad to be learning something new too!).  The units cover vocabulary, writing, speaking, grammar and crossword puzzles.  I have been feeling much more excited about teaching from these books, and I feel like more of my students are enjoying the class and learning more as well. 

The most important thing that I learned from the conference was that the younger students need smaller bits of information, they need to move and they need a variation of learning in one lesson.  These books are perfect for meeting all those requirements, so I feel like I’m being way more effective.  I have the students write answers on the board, and I’m having them listen to a CD instead of only listening to me or themselves.  These few changes have made a big difference in my classes and the participation level.  I think many of the students were overwhelmed with the novels, and I think teaching these short units are much more beneficial.   So – I have been excited about that. 

I have been focused on writing assignments for my older students.  I have been teaching them the different styles of writing like: persuasive writing, descriptive writing and explanatory writing.  I give a lesson on the writing style, give a few examples and then we practice the writing style together in class.  For homework, they must write their own paragraph or two using the writing style we discussed.  So far, I have been pretty impressed with the writing.

Before I started the writing assignments, I was conducting discussion classes.  I would throw out several topics, and we would discuss them to improve speaking skills.  The topics were pretty awesome.  My director gave me a long list of possible “talking points” and they lead to some pretty interesting answers from the students.  One of my favorite questions was, “If you could change anything in your school, what would you change?”  My favorite answer was, “I would change the haircut requirement.”  This was my favorite answer, because I learned sooooo much from asking this question. 

I learned that Korean students are REQUIRED to get their hair cut for school.  The boys must keep their hair cut close to their head.  The ears must show, and the hair must be cut low at the base of the neck.  Girls are required to keep their hair cut above the shoulders (shoulder-length or shorter), they must keep the color black, and the hairstyle must remain straight.  In other words, students are not allowed to get their hair colored, permed (to be curly) or outrageously styled.  The hair is required to remain naturally straight, BLACK and cut often.  These are the rules.  When students break the “hair rules,” they may suffer any or all of the following consequences: teachers are allowed to hit students, a student may be sent home, a student may be ridiculed by the teachers and/or the student may be sent to the barbershop to get their hair “fixed.”  Many of the students expressed a dislike for the hair rules, and several other students expressed their issue with the school uniforms.  I’m not sure if these rules apply in ALL Korean schools.  However, these rules are the norm for the students that I teach. 

So – I learned a lot through asking these questions.  I also learned that the Pine Tree was an important plant in Korean culture.  I would have never guessed that.  I would have just assumed the Bamboo was the most important plant here.  So – this is how my classes have been going.  I have prepared about 25 students for their highschool entrance exams through my Interview Class, and that was fun.  So far, we know that about 15 of the 25 students have been accepted – which is pretty exciting news.  The students have to BE ACCEPTED into certain high schools here.  You don’t just “go to high school.”  You must compete to get in.  I think that out of the 25 students, a total of 20 will be accepted – which I think is pretty good.  These past two weeks have been pretty stressful for my older students, so I took them out to Tom and Tom’s Coffee last week to celebrate the close of the semester and to help them relax for their entrance exams.  We had a great time, and I think they really appreciated the break.  I bought them all mini-pizzas and mini-pretzels to snack on, and we all sat around and talked freely.

I also had Pizza parties for my younger students a few weeks ago to celebrate the end of reading those novels!!!!  I gave tests in all my classes, so I thought it would be nice to have a pizza party after test day.  I also bought the game SCRABBLE, so we could play during the party.  I honestly should have waited until the Halloween Friday.  I could have brought them all some chocolate candy to go along with the pizza – that would have made more sense.  I completely forgot that Halloween was coming up.  So – I didn’t do anything for my classes for Halloween, and I think they were kind of expecting for something to happen.  Halloween is not celebrated in Korea, but the kids do know that “we Americans” celebrate the day by dressing up and giving out candy.  I think they all have had a foreign teacher in the past, and I’m sure that most foreigners do something for their students on Halloween.  But me – NOOOOO – of course not!!!  I had parties BEFORE the holiday.  I’m such a weirdo.  (I didn’t really celebrate Halloween in the states except when the boys were young – sooooo – I didn’t really celebrate it here either.)

So – After giving all these tests and all these writing assignments, I still have a huge pile of papers waiting for me to grade.  I spent a few hours on Saturday grading most of the tests.  This weekend, I need to finish grading all the writing assignments.  I need to get caught up.  I have been SOOOOOOO exhausted lately, so I have not been doing much grading at the school during the week.  I will feel better when I get caught up with my paperwork and give all these graded papers back to the students.

P.S. Forgot to mention that I did do some gambling in Seoul and had a GREAT time with some new friends: Leah, Preston and Corey.  There were plenty of Koreans and foreigners all playing in the Casinos – we were all winning and losing our money together – side by side!!!!!!! 😉

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