Saturday, April 17, 2010

School Follow up!

Hi friends across the globe,

Jamie's cousin Michelle sent us some questions about your last post so we thought it would make sense to answer then here.

You started your job in the middle of a school year?
Yes. We started our job in the middle of the school year. This was a little difficult for us. We were the new teachers so the students had the upper hand in that respect.

Is the rainbow thing literal, like their actual rainbows have more detail, or artistic?
So, there's some debate here as to whether or not I've been wrong all my life. I was taught (or so I think) to remember the rainbow colors with the phrase ROY.G.BV. Now, as I have never seen the word written, I always pictured it as ROY.G.BV. It may have been ROY.G.BIV and I've been oblivious all my life. Jamie has no clue, I've asked him and he said he'd never even heard of that mnemonic device. So, first and foremost, can someone tell me the U.S. Rainbow has 6 or 7 colors? The actual rainbows look exactly the same (well, we assume - we haven't seen any yet).

How do they deal with the little kids who really always need to be babysat? If the teachers moved around, the kids would be left unsupervised.
The elementary school the system is a little different and is similar to most schools in the states. The class has a homeroom teacher who stays with the class most of the day. There are also some subject teachers who will teach the kids (aside from the homeroom teacher), but we think there is some sort of class trade off involving the homeroom teacher.

Do they prep for science day, like a science fair, or just show up and get kits or something?
(Shannon's School) They just show up and the science teachers have things prepared for them. My science day did water rockets, airplanes and lots of painting. I think there were other things too, but those were the ones that were happening outside and that I could see. However, If the students so the rocketship or the airplane they have to pay for the supplies.
(Jamie's School) The students who were involved in the water rocket activity had all built their rockets from kits. They took 1 liter soda bottles and attached nose pieces and fins with what appeared to be electrical tape. Some of them were really great! Additionally, in the Fall semester the high school does a model project with regular fire propelled rockets. Very fun to watch!

Do the parents have to pay for the 3-day trip?
I don't know. I'll ask. But we guess that they do.

I actually thought you were teaching college kids or other adult learners, for some reason. Do you teach both?
We have both had classes with adults, but only one per week and organized through the school. For example, Jamie is teaching a parents English class for an hour on mondays, and last semester I taught a teachers English class for an hour on Thursdays.

Exciting things about Korea:

People certainly eat breakfast in Korea, but breakfast is the same as dinner. Rice and Kimchi. The do have a special hangover breakfast. It's this sausage soup with lots of pig bits in it. And sausage. Well, it's pretty unique. There's a picture of it included in the school slide show. Watch for it!

Yogurt Delivery
There are these ladies that deliver tiny little bottles of yogurt. They're like the old milkman, I guess. Anyway, they wear cream colored clothes and push matching carts. My head teacher has one delivered to her every day. I think it's so funny that this lady has to walk around a deliver 4 ounces of yogurt. I mean, I'm sure you can buy whole packages of the little yogurts, but it also adorable to see her carrying one to deliver.

People have lots of small dogs as pets. If the dog is white and fluffy, some people will dye some part of it a super bright color like pink or green. This fashion statement is not limited to young dog owners nor is it a rare occurrence.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

School Time

Hello friends across the globe,

I'm sitting at home for my random "discretionary holiday" and realized we had yet to explain the school system in Korea. Last semester we were just learning how things go and now that we're a month into the school year we seem to have a better (but not great) understanding of the Middle School System-at the very least we seem to understand our two schools.

So, the school year goes from March to February. The students get a month off in August and then another month in January. They come BACK to school for one week in February when they have Graduation ceremonies and then have the rest of February off for Spring Break. Strange, i know. It certainly was annoying for our trip to Thailand as it got cut short by a week. Ah well.

So, March 2nd we arrived back at school and started the School year with the new students. Middle and high school are both three years here-as I think it is in some schools in the states. Middle school is 7th, 8th and 9th (the age range is the same) and high school is 10th, 11th and 12th. When they are referencing a grade in either middle or high school they get called 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade. This was super shocking to me. When I first met my co-teachers they kept saying "oh the 1st graders are so exctied to meet you" and I kept smiling and saying "yes, I'm excitied to meet them too" and In my head I'm thinking "WHAT?!" All was clarified when I asked "so, what age is 1st grade here?" Anyway, School starts in March and goes until December.

I've already mentioned the major vacations but there's (obviously) very different days off in Korea than their are in the US. (you know, being a different county and having different holidays.) My favorite, so far, is Children's Day. YES! they have a children's day! How many times I asked as a child "Why don't we get a children's day" and being told...well, you all know the answer. Anyway, I come to korea and they have a children's day AND we get the day off from school. It's like a teachers day too! (which they do have and I'll get presents on) Anyway, we also have Buddha's Birthday off (both are in May). I think that's all the big holidays in the Spring Semester. They don't get days off for Easter because, although there are many Christians, it's not a christian country like the U.S. claims not to be.
Also, from talking to my other friends at middle schools, it seems every school has a Science Day where all the students spend all day doing science experienments and getting judged, and then there's an Art's day which is the same thing but for Art. And they also go on a three day field trip somewhere. The whole school. Every year. And, the third graders get a special trip at the end of the year. (I'm gonna try to get in on that.)

Every teacher is in two departments. The department of the subject they teach and then a second deparment where their office is that is related to some sort of school function. So for example, I am in the English department AND the Club Activities department. Teachers do work for both departments. So my desk is with the Club Activities Department and their are teachers from various subjects. In my office there are 7 of us: two korean teacher, one music teacher, one chinese teacher, and three English Teachers. Jamie is "in the Research Department", but we don't actually have any responsibilities within the these departments.
So, teachers have offices', not classrooms, from where their base of operation is. Infact, for the most part, the students stay in their homerooms or classrooms and the teachers go to them. The exceptions are things that are location related like music, art, dance or science, but even those teachers don't live in their classroom. The students have homerooms and homeroom teachers, but the teachers go to the classroom. The classroom space pretty much belongs to the students. It's super interesting.

My first week in the school was shocking. Students literally seem to rule the school. The best example is recess. Students have lunch/recess from 11:30-12:30. they can do whatever they want whenever. They go to lunch anytime during that hour and then go outside anytime they want. They can aimlessly wander the halls, play out in the yard where there is no teacher assigned to control them (although there are teachers assigned in the lunch room) they hang out in their homerooms playing on the computers, they hang out of the windows screaming (literally). It's pretty hilarious. However, once the bell rings, they're in the classroom. In fact, there is no warning bell to end lunch (there is at Jamie's school, though). The bell that rings at the end of lunch is the bell to START class and I have never had a class be late. I think that's pretty impressive. Anyway, one day I'll get a video of it for you to see.

Every day students have to clean. I think it's a great idea and important for them to do (especially because they're super annoying about throwing wrappers or banana peels on the ground) but like most teenagers, they don't really clean very well. It's mildly painful to have to supervise them as it's like pulling teeth to get them to even notice the dust, but I really like that everyday for 20 minutes the students spend time cleaning the School.

OK. that's enough time thinking about school on my day off. Please let me know if I should elaborate on more things.

Exciting things about Korea:

The Rainbow
The Korean Rainbow has 7 colors. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
I've met people who tell me the Western Rainbow also has 7 colors, but it's news to me.

Yes, they color eggs for Christmas but the eggs are given out at church. There is no easter bunny, no peeps, no cadbury creme eggs, no chocolate rabbits. It's a solemn holiday-as it should be. I'm sure it will change ultimately.

The Produce Truck
Just like the Ice Cream Truck but with produce. Twice a week this guy with a super loud bell pulls into our apartment complex. He sells various food stuffs: eggs, produce, rice-wine, bread and other kitchen goodies. It's great. Actually, there's trucks like this everywhere. Usually they just park on the side of the road and sell one product. I've seen them selling: tangerines, crab, flowers, apples, and grapefruit. If they're driving by, people just flag them down.

Yellow Dust/ Yellow Sand/ Asian Dust
All the same thing and known locally as "hwan-sa", this is a major springtime phenomenon that plagues east Asia this part of the year. Winds that blow down from the north of China toss up tons of dust from the Gobi dessert. This dust is then carried thousands of miles to the Koreas and Japan, carrying pollutants and even microbes (yes! microbes!) into the lungs of millions of folks. When it is bad, the sky is actually a hazy yellowy-orange color and you'll see most Koreans sporting face masks. We had a pretty bad bout of it a couple weeks ago and we didn't really notice it too much, but soon after many people seemed to get sick over the next week (nothing serious though). Anyways, kind of a bummer to finally make it out of winter to be greeted by decreased air-quality, but apparently it gets better by summer (just in time for the rainy season)!