February 26th: The Day I was Supposed to Go to Daegu

February 27th: The Day I Went to Daegu and Returned

Why the delay? I had to work on the 26th to get ready for the new term. Why go to Daegu? I have my reasons, but that’s for My Trip to Daegu (Part 2).

But as they say, the journey is more than the destination’s weight in gold. Or something like that. Okay, so not true in this case, but I’ll get to the destination in a minute. For now: Journey.

I intended to leave for Daegu around noon-ish. Unfortunately it was pouring rain (sorry, Marty, no walks today), which delayed the buses. And delayed me in getting ready because I had to dig out my umbrella. And then the bus pulled up to the bus stop weirdly so I didn’t get on it in time before it drove away. So I didn’t get to Suwon Station until 1:00pm. And the ticket I got was for a train leaving at 1:39pm, and I would be standing for around 40 minutes.

Oh well. What could I do? I tell you what I could do! I could take that extra time, eat some Burger King, sit on the train platform in the cold and watch the trains go by and jam out to some K-Pop on my freshly charged iPod.

On the train, there were these two Korean girls who kept peaking over their seats and laughing when I smiled at them. They were pretty young, probably around 6 and 4 years old. It was a cute game but I was hoping they wouldn’t continue it when I got to sit down since I was sitting across from them (and they didn’t). But at one point I heard the older one repeat to the younger one America (미 국 mi-gook) over and over. Then the younger one tried to repeat it but what she said sounded more like mi-gaw. So I pointed my finger and laughed at her since my Korean was better than hers! Okay; no, I did not.

After a 3-ish hour train ride, I arrived in Daegu. The Gotham city of Korea (I had read that somewhere, but now can’t find the website, but Daegue supposedly has many nicknames so why not Gotham?). I did not see Batman but it was only 4:30 so I guess he wasn’t out being The Night yet. And it was still raining. While on the subway, I noticed something that normally doesn’t really catch my attention: fashion. Many people have pointed out that everyone in Seoul dresses stylishly and black shoes are far an above the norm, which makes sense because it’s the capital and there are many business people and fasionistas that live and work there. In Daegu, the dress was a lot more casual and NO ONE was wearing black shoes. Which makes NO SENSE. Black shoes are just logical. You can’t see when they’re dirty. I also noticed that the girls in Daegu are not stick thin. That’s not to say all girls in Seoul are, but I always noticed some well dress 20-30 year old who has stick-thin limbs. Did not notice that in Daegu but I wasn’t on the subway for that long.

Also, the Daegu subway. Only two lines – green and red. All the fairs (it seemed) were a flat 1,100 won. And in addition of using a card system like Seoul (and I believe Daejeon), they use a token system for single fair riders. I still do not know how I feel about this, especially because unlike the Seoul subway, the turnstil machine eats your single fair token and does not give you the option to return it for a small refund or keep it for a nifty souvenir (as I wanted to do). Also, it seemed pretty easy for the token to get lost or fall and at one point I thought it did fall out of my pocket when really it just got lodged in my wallet. I would have taken a picture of the token but I realized only once I got to Daegu that, even though I had charged my iPod battery, I did not charge my camera battery;___;…

This part of my post is for my Dad: While in Daegu, I visited one of their four HomePluses.

And coming up tomorrow: My Day Trip to Daegu (Part 2).

I’m dragging my feet about writing this blog post because it signals the beginning of the end of this blog. I’m officially back in the United States, my contract and extension having ended on May 27th. I have a few more posts that I want to write up, though, before I officially end this blog. Well, end it for the most part. I guess I could keep writing about learning Korean and I’m sure to have more Korean adventures at some point (such as a visit to the local Oriental Market for some kimchi!) but for the most part, this blog will have entered its twilight.

So I made a deal with myself to make sure that I finish these entries in a timely manner. That is to say, before I forget exactly what happened on each day. I’m going to make a list of what I wanted to post about but never got around to it and then for the next week, or however long it takes, I’ll write a post per day, minimum. And this counts as the one for today.

  1. My Day trip to Daegu (Part 1) – already written, just not posted
  2. My Day Trip to Daegu (Part 2)
  3. How Marty was Found
  4. The Yeoido Flower Festival
  5. My Second Lotus Lantern Festival
  6. Cirque du Soliel’s Varekai
  7. Packing
  8. My Last Few Days
  9. The European Korean Kid
  10. My flight home
  11. A Look Back on My Adventures in Korea

The following perception of success, which I consider flawed, is not something that is unique to Korea. But since I’m a teacher here in Korea and not in the United States, I’m noticing it more here than when I was back home. Also, working at a private school, it becomes pretty obvious where some parents’ and students’ priorities are when it come to academic success. Again, this isn’t every Korean student or parent, but I’ve noticed a lot of them do have this attitude.

The best way that I’ve been able to condense their approach to success is that success for these Koreas is quantitative, not qualitative. On the TOEFL exam that they must pass to show their English proficiency, parents care about their reading and listening scores because, since they are scored based on multiple choice answers with only 1 “correct” answer, they are quantitative. For the writing and speaking sections, even though there is a strict formula that students should follow (which has become even more formulaic recently, perhaps because of this issue I’m about to mention) there is still a lot of room for variations in student answers so results are much more difficult to compare against other students. These results are qualitative, and therefore either less worthy or even worthless.

I’m not saying quantitative success is not important. It has its place. ITS PLACE, next to qualitative results rather than over top of and overshadowing qualitative results. Too much stake is put into the value of test scores, and then if you have a bad day or just aren’t a good test taker, oh well! That’s starting to change in the United States. I hope it starts to change in Korea too.

Here are some of my observations of this pro-quantitative phenomenon in CDI Yeongtong.

Exhibit A: Emphasis in classrooms for more levels are on tests scores, which are reading and listening questions, not their writing or speaking work which is mostly homework (however, Yeongtong branch recently added a writing and speaking section to our lessons, so we’ve got that at least).

Exhibit B: I had to add a test to my winter newspaper intensive class so that parents could see that their students were actually learning (or some justification like that). Because going from writing only one copied paragraph to being able to write several paragraphs in mostly your own words does not demonstrate learning. (And yes bitterness. Those tests were a pain to make for 36 separate lessons). Also, I’m extremely proud of the progress by students made and I don’t like the idea that it’s belittled.

Exhibit C: Most of the time for iBT class (where students learn how to take the TOEFL exam) goes toward reviewing reading and writing answer, not improving their speaking and writing ability. Which means you get an awful lot of iBT students who can’t speak or write well enough to save their life or pass that section of the test.

Exhibit D: My student Helena (who is by no means alone in her thinking. I just had the most enlightening conversation with her.)

Helena was my student last term in Birdie Listening. She lived in the US for some time and actually started CDI at Dongtan. However, she moved to Yeongtong because she heard the teachers were better (Sorry Dongtan). During level up test time, she talked to me a lot about how she better level up to Eagle this term. I asked her questions to try and get at the bottom of this desire because it wasn’t like she was saying that she wanted her English to get better and finally being in Eagle (which is the first of the upper level classes) would show this. She just wanted to level up.

As it turns out, when she first came back to Korea from the US, she tested into Eagle but for some reason they put her in Par, which is just below Birdie. Odd. Not sure why they did that. My guess is she didn’t have the test taking skills she needed and they wanted her to learn them in Par and level up, rather than get stuck in Eagle, where the focus is less on test taking skills. And she said that in the three (ish) terms since then, her scores on the level up have actually gotten worse. Then she told me that if she doesn’t level up this term she’s moving to Dongtan because it’s easier to level up there since the other students aren’t as skilled. (As in she’ll level up quickly because her scores will seem good compared to the other students in her classes.) Then she told me, she’ll stay in Dongtan until she gets to Masters level, which is when she’ll come back to Yeongtong so she can have a good teacher.

As the Masters Reading teacher (and soon to be Master Listening teacher for the last two or three weeks of this term), I kind of laughed and pretty bluntly asked her, “Helena, if you level up with easy students in Dongtan, what will happen when you come back to Yeongtong and are in a class with students who’s skills were better than yours were to begin with?” As in, if she doesn’t challenge herself by being in classes with students who are better than her, how will she improve? She had no answer for this and deflected it by saying that her mom wants her to level up and thinks she needs higher test scores, which is the argument she had been using to defend her level up arguments from the beginning.

Helena’s in Dongtan now, which is a shame. And she did level up last term (Of course she did. She was my student.)  Most students associate leveling up with better English skills, which makes sense but isn’t true. I’ve had Birdie and Eagle students who were better and more capable than my Albatross/Albatross+ students, who are also more capable than some of the Master students I’ve taught. In the end, I think it’s very heavily dependent on the classroom culture and the attitude and drive of the individual student.

But those are qualitative factors.

Now, this post isn’t going to be nearly as informed as my last post. I really haven’t interacted too much with severe sickness here in Korean. I guess this post will be divided into three parts: contagious diseases, mental illness and other.

Contagious Diseases:

Like many high-population Asian countries, people in Korea wear masks when they are sick. Which is fairly considerate. When they cough or sneeze they don’t spread germs that will infect others. But I wonder if it helps fuel a germophobic culture. When I was training, fear of swine flu was “all the rage”. I was originally supposed to arrive in Korea in the summer but was pushed back until December because 1) The international job market was weak so people were choosing to stay in their positions and 2) There was such a major fear of swine flu that whole schools were closed down for weeks because none of the students were coming. That said… many students do not cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.

Mental Illness:

I haven’t seen too much of this in Korea, although I did see a young man with a clear mental illness on the subway and Koreans basically ignored him. Several of the lessons in CDI have mental illness related topics and I expected my students to have some preconceived notions about mental illnesses (not because they’re Korean, but because most people do). And they did but they were also pretty willing to talk about the topic and very open-minded about it. They really seemed to understand that mental illness is just like any disease, but it just affects the mind.

Other:

So I thought this story was interesting. It happened to one of my co-workers while he was in a subway station in Seoul. I’ll post what he wrote in his own (not censored) words:

“I heard a girl scream for help and when I ran over saw a crowd of people watching an old man having a seizure foaming from the mouth and twitching and stuff.. there was like 50 people just watching it was sad cuz some people were laughing, anyways by the time I got there his face started turning real purple cuz he couldnt breathe, so I ran in there and turned him to his side to get his tongue and spit out of his mouth.. then one dude was like wtf you doing you should just leave him alone but I told him to fuck off.. after putting to his side I could see he split open his head in the back from falling, but it was not too serious he got all the crap in his mouth out and he was able to breathe through his nose cuz but he had lock jaw.. but after he was able to breathe his face came to normal color.. finally the subway workers and the police came like 20 mins later… but shit was nutz I just remembered those things they taught you in elementary.. never thought I would puti it to use…”

What a crazy thing to see waiting for the subway. This isn’t so much Korean culture as just bystander culture as I’m sure people in other countries would have reacted similarly. But I do think it’s interesting a country so cautious about contagious diseases doesn’t (at least appear) to push for more education on other diseases and physical ailments. Also, random thought I just had: Suwon has a ton of exercise equipment in their parks that I often see people using. While it’s great to get people outside doing stuff, many people have pointed out that the exercises they have you doing probably don’t exercise much since the machines don’t offer a lot of resistance to make you work hard. I think they’re just “feel good” exercise machines.

Marty has been missing for over two weeks now, and while looking for him I’ve notice even more so than before how Koreans see animals. I’d been wanting to make a series of posts about how Koreans seem to see things, so I figured I start with this one.

First of all, I’d like to be objective with these posts since who am I to judge another culture? There is some weird stuff that happens in American culture. But this topic hits a little close to home so I will probably at some point be biased.

Korean Jindo

Korean Sapsal

There are several dogs native to the Korean penninsula, including the Sapsal, the North Korean Poongsan and the Korean Jindo, all of which are National Treasures  in South Korea. The Sapsal was strictly a house dog but the Jindo and Poongsan were military dogs. Now even though these dogs were bred along time ago, Korea doesn’t seem to have a history of animal welfare.

Which helps to contribute to the strange dual approach Korea seems to take toward animals. It breaks down like this:

  • Purebred puppies and pure bred/ pure bred-looking toy dogs = ADORABLE
  • Mix dogs = Disposable.
  • And poor big dogs can only be guard dogs until they’re eaten (okay, I exaggerate, but that is how a lot of Koreans see bigger dogs).

Now obviously there are plenty of people in Korea who love animals and treat them well, dedicating a lot of time and effort to rescuing the many animals that are on the streets. But more often than not, dog owners seem to run into Koreans who have different ideas about dogs and animals.

Let’s look at little dogs first. Koreans seem to spend a lot of money on their little dogs. They buy them from pet shops when they’re only a few weeks old (which is totally not cool and way too young for those puppies by the way) for a couple hundred thousand won. They buy them tons of clothes and keep them nicely groomed. Dyeing their fur seems to be popular as well. But I’ve heard of many instances when the puppies get too big or the family gets bored of it and the dog is abandoned at a shelter. Or, as was the case with Marty, the dog gets injured and is then abandoned. My vet thinks that Marty lost his vision in his eye from an infection, although it could have also been injured and Marty does have scars on his body that look like stab or cut marks. Whatever happened to him, he clearly had a neglectful if not downright bad owner. And he was left at a kill shelter in Busan, so it doesn’t seem like a lot of consideration was put into finding him a new home if his owner didn’t want him.

To be fair, I have also heard A LOT of stories about westerners getting pets and then giving them up before they go home. In some cases, the westerner has to leave because of a family emergency that prevents them from taking their pet. But in a  lot of cases, it seems like they got a pet that was too much too handle, or too expensive, or they too got bored of it. Sad…

There are a lot of stray dogs where I live in Suwon. I’ve noticed different reactions to the stray dogs and dogs in general that are out and about from Koreans. Either they ignore them, they fear them (even tiny little Marty), or they think the dogs are the cutest things. Generally, the 3rd option is the best but even that is not so good sometimes. Sometimes, they pick up the dogs and I’ve heard from some other foreigners that a few will pick up and take the little dogs with them. And they try to feed the dogs (which I know happens in the United States too sometimes) – unfortunately the food includes chicken bones and soju :(… Ignoring them is generally best. Sometimes the fear just involves them screaming and running away, or tensing up and trying to get away. However, once an old woman did stomp around Marty when he started walking towards her and I’ve noticed that reaction towards other dogs, especially bigger ones.

The other day, I was out looking for Marty when I came upon two fellow foreigners in the park who were walking their long-haired Chihuahua (very popular here). They also had, or so I thought, I kind of funny looking black dog. It had the body shape of a Labrador but it’s legs were really short like a tiny dog. Actually it might have been a cross between a Pekingese and a larger black dog. I thought the black dog was theirs too but then I heard the woman on the phone in Korean. I understood enough to hear her explain that the black dog didn’t have a collar so I figured they were calling the police about him. Thing is, the dog had a choke collar (no address tags) and was very friendly, so clearly someone’s pet. Unfortunately, that was at least a week ago and the dog is still waiting at Hi Pet (which is the vet that Marty went to, who I’ve been checking in with trying to find him). It’s kind of sad. Someone commented to me the other day that there are so many dogs that have been lost or abandoned and no one is looking for them and yet the dogs that people are looking for cannot be found.

I gave Marty’s posters to all the vets in the area. Someone else has lost their dog and gave posters to the same vets. On the poster it says the dog is a mix, which I can’t help but feel is going to work against finding it even though it’s the cutest little dog. There are a lot of things that work against finding lost dogs here in Korea, or at least Suwon, that I’ve been noticing. First, there are a lot of places for them to hide. A LOT of places. Second, because of all the street animals, people don’t pay too much attention to the animals or the state they’re in.

Third, Koreans are super not-okay with posters. On the one hand, I always see flyers thrown all over the ground for local bars and there are always flyers for chicken and take-out restaurant stuffed into mailboxes. But when I went to the police to report Marty missing I was specifically told that I could not hang up flyers for him (I did it any way though). And then the flyers that I hung up were taken down, but not by police officers. Just by random people. It was kind of annoying because I tried to put them up in places where they would be noticed but not bother anyone. Some I actually had covering graffiti so I figured that was kind of a good thing. After spending a week trying to keep up posters that would stay up for a day if I was lucky, I started putting flyers into mailboxes. But even that has it’s down side since apparently the landlords of the apartment buildings will take the flyers out of their tenants mailboxes and throw them in the trash. 😡

To end this post, I’ll just leave you with some of the comments I got from my students, who I recently appealed to to help find Marty. I actually planned NOT to tell my younger students, because I knew they weren’t mature enough to handle it but they found out eventually. Most of those students wanted to know why I had a dog with only one eye, with one student asking where and why did I buy and him instead of a “healthy” dog and insisting I should just buy another dog until I find Marty (at which time I guess I would just get rid of that second dog). A few of the students asked me if I ate him (he would not have made a meal, let alone a tasty one) and several joked (to their amusement, not mine) that Marty had probably died. My middle school kids were better. They seemed sad that he was missing and one of the students even said “Teacher, I have a dog so I know how you feel.” Don’t get me wrong, my elementary students (who I see twice a week) ask me every day if I’ve found Marty (and they call him by his name) and definitely want me to have my dog back, so I take their “Teacher, I saw your dog! In my MIND” comments with a patient sigh. But I think the empathy from the middle school students comes from the fact that they have all lived for a long time abroad and not that they are simply two or three years older.

I’m sure by now everyone has heard about the earthquaketsunaminuclear reactor disaster in Japan. Some of you may have even heard about the volcanoes that have been erupting there too.  My friend who teaches English in Iwaki ended up going home last week, understandably so.

Korea hasn’t been effected by any of these, at least not yet (we’ll see what happens with the radiation). But it’s good to be prepared in case something does happen. I’ve heard foreigners here say they’re not registered with their embassy because they don’t know how to do it. But, aside from the newsletters they’ll send you, the embassies can also make sure you’re evacuated promptly if there is a problem (like nuclear fallout or fighting with North Korea). So I’ve posted the links to various embassy websites for registering purposes:

Americans (you’ll need your Passport number and address in Korea)

Register here

The Benefits of Registering

Canadians (you’ll need your passport number and address in Korea)

Register here

Brits

Register here

Aussies

Register here

As of 11:50am on March 18, my dog Marty is missing.

I had taken him to a park just outside my apartment to play with him off of his leash. The weather has been really nice lately so I let him just wander around the park while I sat on the swings. I was starting to get ready to leave when a group of women come up to me, cooing at Marty because he’s basically adorable. So I was talking to them in English. And then I realized they were recruiting for their church.

They had me almost literally backed into a corner since I was sitting on the swings. But I thought what could be the harm in just listening to them. So for twenty minutes I listened to them while they showed me a video about how they celebrate Passover, which protects them from disaster, and they tried to get me to go to their church on Saturdays instead of Sunday church. They asked me for my phone number and I wrote down the wrong one (actually honest because I can never remember my phone number). And then of course they called it but luckily I didn’t have my cell phone on me so I could just not answer. But a Korean guy answered. Really Korean guy? You couldn’t just not answer  just this one time?

So they kept asking for my phone number when I realized that Marty was missing. He had stopped running back to me after exploring for a while. I went to go look for  him, and the women actually helped look for him. Normally there would be one thing working for me in that Marty wears a harness plus a collar and the collar has my address and phone number on it. However, I had given Marty a bath the day before and forgot to put his second collar on.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find him before I had to go to a meeting for work. After the meeting, I basically sat in my classroom for an hour trying to eat some comfort McDonald’s while starring at cheerful stories about the disaster in Japan. Then taught some classes. Then I asked a counselor to help me make a reward poster, which I brought to the police station after work. Hopefully they’ll be able to find him because I did have any luck looking on Saturday either.

Several people have asked me where would he go or tried to encourage me by saying that he’ll come home when he’s hungry. Here’s the problem. The question is not “Where will Marty go?”. It’s “Where’ won’t Marty go?” He’s a wanderer. I had trained him not to leave the park and this is the first time he’s disobeyed (probably got bored waiting around for me).  But even when he’s in the park he wanders off if he picks up an interesting scent. Marty likes walking and he’ll basically follow that scent to it’s end if he can.

So tomorrow I’ll go out and spend the day looking for him. Hopefully he’ll turn up soon. The weather is getting nicer and the  nights aren’t so cold anymore but I don’t know how long he’ll last on the streets, being tiny and blind. Suwon’s got Jindos running around.

Today at work, our boss bought us chicken (I believe because it was her birthday). So I didn’t really need dinner today but I still wanted a snack to tide me over until tomorrow’s breakfast. Naturally, I stopped by Paris Baguette as it was closing. For some reason (probably because P-Bag is delicious) it was fairly crowded. I picked up some cookies and this scrumptious-looking strawberry tart thingy (and it was scrumptious) and went to pay with my debit card… Only to realize it was past midnight and therefore in the middle of the 15 minute freeze on debit cards that happens every midnight.

Oh Korea.

I had no cash on me to buy the delicious snacks. Which was unfortunate because I had been poking them with bare hands, wondering about their tastiness. I tried scrounging around for money to no avail. Then the man told me with a smile (like this happens a lot) that I could pay him tomorrow.

At first I thought “Does he recognize me? Do I come to P-Bag this much?” Then I thought “This South Korean culture is a trusting one.” I don’t want to be cynical and say this wouldn’t happen in the USA, but it wouldn’t have happened in a chain store like P-Bag.

Also, that reminds me of how since the weather has been getting nicer(ish), I’ve noticed that there are a lot of kids running around without *gasp* ADULT SUPERVISION. Even the slightest sliver of adult supervision. Basically, they get out of school and then they run around Suwon, ride the buses, go shopping, play etc. etc. But then, I think that has more to do with city culture and not so much Korean culture.

Back to Paris Baguette! Now, I could be a horrible person and not go back tomorrow to pay him the ₩5 I owe. But that would be wrong and I have every intention of going back and paying him.

*Editing: And, for the curious reader, I did go back and pay him. The man was there, recognized me and happily took my ₩5,000.

In November, in addition to doing many, many other things (hence minimal posts) I hosted my dad on his first visit to South Korea and then in January I had a visit from my friend, who’s teaching English for JET in Japan (and hence has way more vacation time than me and can go visiting her friends teaching in other countries). In hindsight, these were actually pretty bad times. When my dad came, it was the end of a term, and therefore I, as an HI, had many meetings and other odds and ends to do before the new term in addition to making those NIE classes I posted about. And then when my friend visited it was the first week of Intensive classes.

So now, especially because CDI Yeongtong has three new teachers who will be seeing Suwon and work through fresh eyes, I would like to reflect on how its interesting to see things through other people’s eyes. With my Dad, I went to a lot of places that I had already been too, including Hwaseong Fortress. We also went to Gyeongbuk Palace in Seoul. Most people say that after they’ve been to the Palaces, Hwaseong Fortress isn’t really worth seeing but my dad said he like the fortress better, that it was architecturally more impressive (… or something like that. He said this several months ago.) Personally, I like the Fortress. You can’t do archery at any of the Palaces (to my knowledge).

My dad was also struck by the complete disregard for stoplights that some driver’s here in Korea exhibit. That once bothered me too, but I’ve been here too long to still be concerned with it. Now I just make sure to get out of the way of those motorcycle delivery guys ‘cuz they don’t stop for nothing.

Of course, seeing the world through others’ eyes doesn’t mean I have to limit myself to just newbies to Korea. Recently I’ve been showing my students videos of sitcoms that are relevant to the lessons we’re learning (they really are, I promise!). For my intensive class, I showed them the clips from the Colbert Report where he sings in Korean (previously posted). This time around they found it HILARIOUS (although it was kind of funny since they understood it based on reading the subtitles, not by listening to Colbert’s Korean) and asked me to play it every class. Which I did because they were enjoying it so much that I couldn’t help but not get sick of it.

In my Master’s reading class last term, we read several books that I read in school, including The Giver. One of my students loved it so much, he bought the sequels and read Lois Lowry’s book, Number the the Stars (and blogs about both books, although I am not supposed to know that but that’s what happens when you log onto your blog from Teacher’s computer). He was really passionate about the injustices in both books. It’s always nice to have a student that really gets into the stories we read. It helps you teach better, but also helps you appreciate them even more. Inspiring kids to write blogs and read more books is what teachers and children’s book authors are all about.

So in January, I was teaching NIE3, the newspaper writing class, for the second time. But of course, it would have made too much sense for the files from the first time I taught it to have been saved… and the vast majority of them weren’t. Out of three levels, what I still had from the level 3 class I designed and a few of the files the level 1 teacher kept were all we had going into the Winter Intensives… Not good. It basically meant I spent December designing not one but three classes. And that is why my blog has been dead for a while.

However that did allow me to go back and make them fit together nicely. Before, the three teachers kind of did their own thing but this time around, the classes followed a much more similar structure. The material was at different levels of difficulty though.

And I will not allow these files to be lost again. That’s two months of hard work (although if you count the other teachers and my triple-time work – that’s six months of hard work). I’m not planning on being here to teach the class a third time but I’m definitely planning on updating these files for a new term and making some kind of quick handbook so it can continue to be taught. I don’t want this class to die. Not just because I’ve worked hard on it but also because the students really have fun reading articles and writing their own and it’s clearly helpful for them to get that extra practical practice instead of reading canned articles that are written with a certain skill set in mind (not that canned articles don’t have their place…).

Teaching this class a second time has made me realize one thing though – the internet is wonderful! There are a lot of resources on the web for designing projects like this. The first time around us teachers were having a hard time finding level appropriate articles and about halfway through December I found a whole bunch of websites that not only have articles for kids (and sometimes written by kids) but also there are actually resources out there to teach kids how to read and write newspaper articles.

Serious, this kind of class is so much cooler for kids than a standard English/language arts class. I really think more schools should adopt programs where kids can actually apply the skills they are learning in a way that mimics the more ‘adult world’. Science Fairs are basically awesome. Why not have a fair for other subjects too, not just the ones that are inherently awesome like Science. Try-Math-A-Lons are okay too.

I guess what I’m trying to say is let’s have a culture of innovation and exploration, rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty, learning by doing. Take chances, make mistakes, get messy! The United States kind of has that. Korea… not so much. But that is for another post.

As a final thought for this post, after teaching the class, I worked my butt off again to get the newspaper ready. Last time around, a “marketing guy” (as he was called) designed the newspaper and it… was okay. But there were lots of stupid errors that shouldn’t have been there. And the newspaper was honestly nothing amazing in the design department considering it was made by a “market guy”. This time around, I was determined to make it awesome. Or as close to awesome as I could. Unfortunately, the original template was not saved so again I had to make it from scratch. After being told the dimensions of the newspaper AFTER I designed it (and having to go back and expand everything), I was also told I could only have one sheet of paper instead of the three that I needed (the last newspaper was only one sheet). Which was ridiculous because I had more students than last time and they wrote much longer articles. I was able to negotiate up to two sheets… although even that was still too little. But I had to work with what I got.

And when it’s finally printed, I’ll post it.

* Editing Note After The Fact: YAY! MY 100th POST!*