Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Personal Mini Kimjang

Kimchi, as maybe you know, is a staple in any Korean meal and household. It's not just a food. It, in some ways, IS Korea. When Koreans travel abroad-they bring Kimchi.
Kimchi, while readily available in stores is still more often made by hand. There is an official Kimchi Making Time called Kimjang. The time varies for each family but usually happens in the fall in October or November. Family and extended family get together to make Kimchi. Lots of kimchi. Like-100 heads of kimchi. It's a two day affair. In the countryside, whole communities get together to make it.

Jamie and I like Kimchi. All through our time here we have received fresh homemade kimchi from one of my co-teachers, Ms. Kim. Once she gave us 7 different kinds of kimchi. Honestly, that was a bit much for us to handle but we enjoyed sampling the varieties and really appreciate how she always thought of us.

Since we got here, I've been nagging her to teach us how to make Kimchi. Finally, in our last month, we got our invite! She brought us to her house to meet her family and make kimchi! This trip was doubly exciting because we were making Kimchi AND meeting her family.

Ms Kim's son and husband were waiting to meet us at her house. Her son is graduating this week from college. He has been studying taekwondo and sports management. Her husband, whom I have heard so much about, took time out to visit with us and teach us how to make Kimchi. Her husband used to be a body builder and an engineer so we had lots of fun listening to his past travels and seeing his pictures. They also have a daughter but she is studying to get her PHD in Computer Science in Daejon. We didn't get to meet her.

We started with lunch. While Ms Kim brought out dish after dish of food, her husband made sure that our plates were never empty. I wasn't certain how we were going to make Kimchi on such full stomachs! We started with pajeon, odaeng, an onion/pear salad, and kimchi. And then moved on to chicken soup and rice. SO MUCH FOOD.

While Ms kim and her husband cleaned up and prepared the Kimchi making area, Jamie taught their son how to juggle.

Soon after, we suited up to make Kimchi.

Ms Kim and her husband prepped the Kimchi for us the day before. This involved quartering the heads of korean cabbage (the Korean name is baechu - we only used four heads of it), spreading large-grain salt onto each leaf of cabbage, and then soaking it in water for about 10 hours. After that, they rinsed the lettuce (2 or 3 times) and then let the lettuce alone in the water to drain off by itself-another 3 hours.

Here is the prepped cabbage:
Next we had to make the kimchi "filling". We started by grating one massive radish and a massive pear.
Yes, that big bowl is full from just one radish and one pear.
While jamie was doing that I was chopping up a ridiculous amount of green onion and mustard leaf. Then we ground up garlic and ginger together.

When it was all finished and combined we had to switch up to a miniature pool to fit everything and mix it all together.

After mixing the radish, pear, green onion, mustard leaf, garlic and ginger we needed to add all the flavor.
I didn't get a picture of everything we added, but here's some of the more interesting things.
That's pickled shrimp, anchovy paste, mae-shil (japanese plum juice concentrate), and red pepper powder (gochu garu).

Other things that got added: sugar, salt.
Then a lot of mixing.

Next, we had to rub the mix into each and every cabbage leaf. At this point we were pretty thankful that we only had 4 heads of cabbage to do!
After rubbing all that deliciousness into the cabbage, we placed it face up with the bottom two leaves wrapped around it like a package, into the tupperware containers.

And then more kimchi in more containers. And then more in more containers.

And then she packed it up and made us take it home!
Those packages, starting from the left are: Kim (seaweed), honey and tea (in the black bag), the next three are kimchi, and the last one is chicken soup, side dishes and oranges.

So, what we learned about making kimchi.
If we had to do 100 heads of lettuce, it would not be as much fun.

I'm going to put in the ingredients and measurements. If you go it alone, let us know how it turns out for you.

Korean Cabbage: 1 head
Anchovy sauce: 1/3 cup (a small dixie cup)
red pepper powder: 1 cup
Crushed Garlic: 2 spoons
Radish: 1/4 piece
plum juice: 1/4 cup
sugar: 1/4 cup
pickled shrimp: 1/3 cup

Good luck and be sure to wear some old clothes because it can get messy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dear New NSET


My school is not getting a replacement NSET. This is sad and fine all at the same time. The program is ending and a new teacher seems a bit like a waste. However, before I found out that I wasn't going to be replaced I had made a nice, long, and not-even-really comprehensive document for the replacement. I was just about to trash it, but decided I wanted to keep it. It was a good explaination of my school and teachers as well as fun tips I might want to look back on in the future.

It is LONG. I won't feel bad if you don't read past this point. But it's here. I think most of the stuff that's in it can be transferable to any public school (except for the things that can't).

Right-o. Well, to the NSET that never was:

Dear New NSET,

Welcome! Are you excited to be here? Nervous? Thrilled?! I have a million things to tell you. First, however, I want say that you are very lucky. This school is wonderful. The English Teachers, especially the ones in your office, are incredible women. They’re super helpful and generous with their time and attention. Congratulations about being placed in Seongdeok!

I wasn’t certain what would be helpful for you here. I don’t know if you’re a new teacher , a new teacher to Korea, a new teacher in the Public schools or if you’re an old hat at all these things. I decided I would just explain everything and you can pick and choose what you need.

I’ll include information about Seongdeok, your co-teachers (if we have the same ones), life in a middle school and my teaching techniques and strategies. I have another document that can tell you more life logistics. I hope that one is helpful for you as well.

Enjoy your time at Seongdeok! It’s a wonderful school!

.shannon a. keller.

Down to business. If you aren’t new to Korea or teaching in a foreign country much of this will be redundant or useless for you. If, however, you are new-well then, I hope you find this useful.

You teach at Seongdeok Girls’ Middle School. It’s a private school. In reality this means very little in the way the school is run compared to the other middle schools in the area. We still have the same district supervisor as all the other middle schools, we follow the same schedules and have the same regulations. So what makes is a private school? It was founded by an Individual (or Corporation). This means that someone decided they wanted to build a school and here we are! There are some differences between public and private schools.

o Private schools can be single gender-Seongdeok is all girls.

o In private schools the teachers never have to leave the school whereas in public schools teachers must change schools every 5 years.

o Private schools have a “foundation day.” There will usually be a ceremony and you’ll also have the day off. (YAY!)

o Private schools can be affiliated with a Religion. Seongdeok has begun the process of becoming a Christian School.

o Teachers can teach without having passed the teachers test.

§ The teachers test is a once a year test to get your teaching license. In 30 test takers-only one will pass. It’s extremely difficult, and any young teacher you come across will probably be studying to take it in October.

Seongdeok Foundation.

Our school foundation is Kaekyo Kinyum Il. They’re a cosmetics company. This means that on teacher’s day, all the teachers get a gift of shampoo, rinse and toothpaste. We also get a towel with the school’s name embroidered on it. The daughter-in-law of the company comes around for school functions to see the school and give a little speech. She’ll probably want to say hello to you. She very nice and has a fun sense of fashion. I hope you get to see one of her more exciting outfits.

Important Seongdeok people

The Principal: Yoon Hae Ryung,

Her office is on the first floor in the Administration office.

She doesn’t speak much English past “hello, how are you” but she seems to love having an NSET in the school. If you speak any Korean- she’ll really love you (I don’t and she STILL likes me). She loves English Education. It causes some stress with the English teachers as she always wants to implement new programs for English education in Seongdeok. Keep that in mind if Mika or people are asking for your ideas about programs. While it may seem like to much work-they often have to do them. Give them good, easy and cheap ideas (if you can).

The principal in Korea seems to be a political entity. They don’t do any teaching and they don’t do any discipline. Their job seems to be school promotion and advancement. They have meetings with all the head teachers and while the principal must sign off on any leave time or teacher requests, the vice principal is the person to make the decision. The Principal generally agrees with him or her.

The Vice Principal: Park Chan Ik

He’s really kind and most people seem to like him. I don’t interact with him very often. He doesn’t speak much English (and I speak no Korean). He’s often patrolling the school checking on people and things. He’s a very fast runner so see if you can get on his team for sports day!

The Vice Principal is the teacher liaison. They handle any teacher issues. Any issues involving time off or sick days go through the Vice Principal. If he’s on your side, usually (but not always) the principal will agree.

The Head Teacher: Jung Mi Yeon

I’ve never really talked to her. From what I hear of her she’s a taskmaster and a stickler for rules.

The Head Teacher is in charge of everything to do with classes and schedules in the school. If a schedule is changed, her department is responsible for it. If there are any rules and regulations around testing, she’s involved in enforcing it. It’s a stressful job.

Why these three people are important:

These three people, The head teacher, the vice principal and the principal all have to sign off any your vacation days/training days/sick days. Mika has your “sign out” form. Take it to each of them-starting with the Head Teacher to have them initial the paper. Have Mika call them (at least the Head Teacher) before hand so as not to surprise them with your visit.

Important Seongdeok people in your Daily Life:

You’re starting your life at Seongdeok at the beginning of a school year. It’s around this time that schedules change and teachers move around. I’m not certain who you will have for co-teachers, so I’ll base this off of who I have now. I hope it will be useful for you this year.



This lady is your lifeline to everything in Korea and you’re lucky because she’s a pretty awesome lady. Her English is stellar and she very open minded. She’s been teaching for 20 years and is still passionate about reaching the students and trying new things her classroom. She's really supportive of any ideas of fun things you might want to do. In the classroom she does a good job at working in tandem with you (although you might have to adjust to one another). She’s great about not translating everything directly into Korean but if she sees that the students don’t understand she’ll stop and check with them. Creating creative classes that you can actually practice the method of co-teaching is possible with Mika and you should work to do that. HOWEVER, she is a very busy lady. It’s possible you won’t be able to meet until the last minute if you don’t schedule a time. Make sure you check with her about the lesson before you make it (or before you’ve spent 7 hours on it). She’s almost always on board with whatever you do but she’s got lots of great ideas so make sure you are flexible for both fun ideas and curriculum changes.

First Grade Teachers.

Soo Yoon and Kyung Sun.

They are contracted teachers. They get a one year contract each year. They don’t have homerooms that they have to take care of. Both of them are wonderful. Very laid back and easy going. They are willing to let you do what you want to do in class. I check in with them a beginning of each week but they usually just let me go my idea. Be clear about what you want from them in class. Do you want them to translate what you say into Korean or no? Do you want them to take care of discipline? They let you run your own class so if you want them to take a roll, you need to let them know.

They both speak English really well. You’ll have no problem communicating with them. However, if you have a question to ask them in class, just remember to speak slowly. Sometimes I get caught up or am rushing and I speak to them in rapid fire English if I have a question during class. Be careful!

Ms Kim

She has been teaching at Seongdeok for 20+ years. She is also a homeroom teacher. She also is very relaxed about what I teach in class. However, unlike Soo Yoon and Kyung Sun where I can teach more on the fly or change things during class time, it’s best NOT to do that with Ms Kim. Find a time to talk about the lesson before hand-don’t just send her the Lesson Plan.

Ms Kim is a strict teacher. She handles the discipline in the class, I’ve never had to worry about it with her. Also, she naturally steps up to translate if the students aren’t understanding but she doesn’t translate every word which is good. She let’s them try to understand me first. Ms Kim’s English is good but be considerate when chatting with her. Speak slowly and clearly- More slowly than you think you should. It’s a good habit in general.

Third Grade Teachers:

Generally I taught 5 classes every other week with each third grade teacher so it’s hard to get into a normal rhythm with them. Keep that in mind and try to communicate with them about each class.

Ms Jung

Ms Jung just started in the middle school last year. Previously she had been teaching High School. Because we teach together infrequently it’s hard to figure out what each of us should be doing. She lets me lead the class as I see fit and she works to keep the students paying attention. If we play a game she helps to keep score and check answers. If I ask her for help or anything like that, she’s more than willing so don’t hesitate. Unfortunately, I’ve not been great to visioning our classes together.

Mr Lee

Mr lee lets me do my own thing. He generally just supervises the class. If you need the class to bring something or do something before hand, just send him a message and he’ll tell them. Because you have alternating weeks with the third grade teachers, I would send him a friendly check-in message via cool messenger the week you have class together to make sure there have been no schedule changes.

Communicating with your various Co-teachers:

Please remember that although everyone is an English teacher they will have varying success at understand spoken English. Getting used to people accents is a hard thing. Remember to talk slowly and clearly-especially with teachers that you don’t see on a daily basis-they have less opportunity to get used to your accent and way of talking. Sending messages via the school message system is an excellent way to make sure everyone understands what you’re saying. Everyone understands written English. (Avoid idioms)

If this is your first year in a foreign country- slow down LOTS for everyone! Way more than is comfortable or what you think it necessary. It’s better to speak slowly and be understood than to speak to fast. I’ve never been told I speak to slowly, even when I’m speaking to practically fluent English speakers. Even for my wrangler, whose English is stellar, I sometimes speak to fast for her to follow. If you’ve been abroad awhile, you’ve probably already got a good cadence down.

Schedule a meeting time. Look at everyone’s schedule and try to find a time in the week when you are all free. This might be impossible, but try. This is the best way to make sure you are on track with lessons and ideas.

Student classes in Seongdeok

First Grade Students:

These are the youngest students in the school. Their uniforms have yellow name tags and their gym uniforms have yellow stripes.. They are the equivalent of American 7th graders and are around 12 years old. (If you ask them their age they will say 14. Koreans count age differently than some westerners. ) The first graders are really sweet and adorable-especially their first months as school. They are also new to the school so it will be easy to create your classroom rules and enforce them. Do not hesitate to do that. You’ll lose a precious opportunity if you don’t! Your first graders will have no idea who I am. This will be ideal for you. They will have no expectation for a class with a westerner in Middle School. You might not be their first foreign teacher though. Most of them probably had one in Elementary school but because they are in a new school setting, they won’t play comparison games.

Third Grade Students

These are the oldest students in the school. Their uniforms have green nametags and their gym uniforms have greens stripes. I love the third grade students you have this year. I taught them in first grade and many of them continued to visit me even though I wasn’t teaching them last year. Generally the third grade students are a little hard to control. They’re leaving middle school and they don’t care about their classes-they only care about their tests. Because of the strange schedule with third graders (every other week) I usually only saw them 6 times a semester. Some classes I only saw twice! Because of this it’s hard to get a good routine with them and you must remind them each week of your rules and expectations. My suggestion-something I’m not very good at: don’t be lax with them. If they’re supposed to bring a notebook and pen and they don’t –make them go get it. If they (as a class) are talking when they should be listening- make them stay after. With the third graders, you have to be really clear on how you want them to act in your class.

Random Useful Things

The color coded uniforms (when I finally figured it out six months in) was a huge help. Teaching 700 students, it’s hard to know which ones I teach and which ones I don’t. The uniform color was helpful. Their uniform color moves with them. If they are yellow in first grade, they will be yellow until they leave the school.

Also, their uniforms changes in the summer time/springtime. They’re much harder to recognize as they change to a simple grey pattern. I was confused when it happened. I was walking to school and all these girls kept talking to me, but because of the uniform color change I had no idea they were Seongdeok girls!

Life, as an NSET, in a Korean Middle School

If you are new to Korea and teaching in the public schools, this might be helpful for you. If you are an old hat at teaching in Korean Public Schools it might be a bit redundant. I’ll try to cover both the logistics of the school and the lives of students and teachers. I’m trying to think about what surprised me or took me a while to understand when I first got here and I’ll include it. Some of it will be Seongdeok specific (like how many classes in each grade) but mostly it will be transferrable to other schools.


Middle School has three grades: 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Equivalent to American 7th, 8th and 9th graders-as for other countries I’m not sure but their ages are 12-14.

Leveling Classes

Seongdeok has 10 classes in each grade. They are easily numbered. For example 1-7 is grade one, class 7. Why does this matter? Because the first grade classes may be leveled English classes. If you are teaching a leveled class they will combine two classes together so you will have girls from two different homerooms in your class.

For example, 1-5/6H is Grade 1 classes 5 and 6-the high level girls from those two classes. If first grade classes are leveled you will teach 15 first grade classes- 5 of each level.

My third grade classes have never been leveled. There’s rumor every year that the leveling will stop for all the grades. I’m not certain what it will be like for you.

About leveling, it’s important to know that students advance their grade regardless of whether or not they understand the material. Each year the English gets harder and students move into the next grade even if they don’t have any of the foundational English. You will find students in one class who can barely say “hello” to you and others who are as fluent as Native Speakers. This is a hard class to lesson plan for, remember to talk slowly even if a few girls understand everything-including idioms.

Suggestion: A great technique it to have the English Teacher put them in groups with a variety of levels represented. Ms Jung, the third grade English teacher does this. Six students in a group: 2 High level, 2 intermediate, 2 low level. It makes the class MUCH easier.


They have lots of tests-usually two a semester. Four a year. While this might not seem like a lot, it will create lots of changes in your schedule. During the midterms and finals the students are only in school for half days. The teacher schedule varies-expect to stay all day and desk warm. This allows you to be happy/surprised if you get out early. You have no responsibilities during the testing time so it’s a great time to plan ahead or organize files.

The midterms and finals in the spring semester are the same for all three grades. In the fall, the finals are at different times. Your third graders will have Finals 6 or 7 weeks before the end of the semester. They do this so they can get the grades to the high schools as high school has an admissions process. The first and second graders will have their exams about 3 weeks before the end of the semester. ( I don’t know why).

So, what does this mean? This means, that for all your grades, you’re going to have some weeks where they are off the text book and they have checked out mentally because the test is over. For your first graders, this isn’t so bad. They’re still pretty attentive. For the third graders, they really check out (understandably). I usually plan some fun arts and crafts activities, teach card games. Sometimes I move all the desks and play movement games with them. Be creative! And enjoy the freedom to plan fun activities. If I do arts and crafts I use them to decorate Joyland (as maybe you’ve seen).

The last test to talk about it the University Entrance Exam test. As a middle school teacher, this doesn’t affect your students. It’s for the third grade high school students. But, you will get the day off. This is a BIG day for the seniors. They can only take this test once a year and they can’t get into university if they don’t do well. The entire nation shuts down. Businesses have a delayed start time so as to not clog the streets or subways for the students. The airports even plan around the listening portion of the test so the airplanes don’t disturb them. It’s fascinating. If you can, find a testing spot and go check it out. Mothers usually stand outside praying or meditating to support their students inside. WOW! For you, you’ll get the day off. This usually happens in early November.


If you have a western background, the concept of schedules and time in Korea will be VERY different. This will take some getting used to. Please try to remember it is not specific to this school. It is Korea specific. Also try to remember that if you are finding things out seemingly last minute, it’s highly likely that your co-teachers are finding things out last minute. Also please remember they have lots going on in a day. If they forget to tell you sometime, don’t take it personally. Just go with the flow.

Let me give you some examples so you understand how and why this might happen.

· recently I had a training to go to on a Friday. I found out about the training a few weeks prior. Many of my friends found out at the end of the school day on the Thursday before the training. One girl showed up to school on the Friday morning because no one had told her about the training and was immediately put in a taxi cab and told to go.

o Why does this happen? SMOE sends notices to all the co-teachers-but not to their regular e.mail. They have to log into the SMOE site to find out what happening for the NSET. Often months can go by with no notices being sent, so your co-teachers aren’t often checking that site. Then all of sudden, one day, SMOE will send something out but there will be no follow up to make sure the teachers check. While it’s annoying for us, try not to blame your co-teachers. Usually, if I hear talk about a training, I ask Mika to check on it for me.

· CClass changes. A few times I’ve gone to Joyland for a class and no one has shown up. Other times, I’ve had someone come and get me in my office to tell me that I have a class when I have none scheduled. While this is annoying, just go with it.

o Why does this happen? Often schedule changes happen the same day. Teachers call out sick, some presenter comes around, there’s a last minute bit of administration that needs to be taken care of. These notices are sent out the morning of while teachers are in Homeroom. Often, they find out- but then won’t see you or by the time they’ve made it back to the office they’re swamped with other work. Just try to be breath through it, and try to always be ready to teach! (even if you have to wing it).

· VVacation. After the semester you’ll have to teach a winter camp. Finding out the schedule for the winter camp takes forever. This is particularly annoying if you are trying to book a flight somewhere. Take comfort in the fact that it’s happening to everyone.

o Why does this happen? I have no idea.

There lots of other small things that might be frustrating to you. You might come to school and be told you have picture day. The laws of probability say this will be on the one day you dress down. You might come to school and be told that today’s sports day has changed from a morning event to an afternoon event and now you teach your morning classes. Or maybe you’ll have just gotten a nice bright green track suit from the school and you wear it because it’s nice and your co-teachers encourage you to wear it to the teacher dinner you’re going on that day-but after the dinner they announce that you have to go to a funeral with them and you feel awkward wearing neon green to a funeral for a man you hardly know. (happened to a friend) Or nice things like, today lunch is free! Or people want to take you out for lunch! Just be flexible!

A simple way to make your life easier is to use google translate and copy and paste the messages that come through cool messenger. Google translate isn’t perfect, but it gives you an idea about what’s happening and at the very least you know to ask.


Obviously you are part of the English Department. But that’s not all. Each teacher is usually part of a few departments. For example: you are part of the English Department. There are 8 English teachers (including you). But each English teacher is part of another department they must also do work for. This department probably consists of the people in the office you are sitting in or the people closest to you if you are in the Main Teachers room. In Seongdeok, for this year, you’re in the Club Activities Department. As the foreigner, you won’t have to do any work for that department, but you will be asked to go on department dinners with that department. In Seongdeok you are also part of the Foreign Language Department. This includes the English Teachers and the schools two Japanese teachers.

Department Dinners

These happen a few times a semester. They are usually called “meetings.” That just means “dinner.” They are usually delicious and fun. Enjoy them! Sometimes there is a full school dinner/meeting. Also fun.


You might be asked to drink Soju with the various teachers at the school. If you don’t want to drink that’s fine. But be consistent. Either drink or don’t. While you might think it fine to refuse a drink if you’ve already had a few, it’s a bit strange to drink with some people but then start to refuse others-even if it’s only because of your tolerance level-people might feel slighted. You can ask for less in the shot glass-that’s always acceptable. If you’re a woman, it will be easier to stop drinking-Mika and the other teachers will just tell people to stop giving you some. Note: If you like to drink, people will talk about it. Not necessarily in a bad way, but just be prepared to be talked about. I wrote a blog entry about drinking culture in Korea. It’s not necessary for you to do the things I wrote about, but watch the younger Korean Teachers and you’ll see lots of it happening. It’s pretty neat and fun.

Your classroom, Joyland

Your classroom is called Joyland. Great, isn’t it? I thought it was strange at first, but I really like it now. For the most part you’re the only one that teaches there but the space is not exclusively yours. The English department uses it for meetings, practice for the various club performances, teaching on Saturdays and a variety of other things. No one has ever really said anything to me about what I do with the space in terms of decorating/classroom arrangement but just remember that it’s not solely yours so don’t get possessive and try to leave the desk area clean at the end of the day.

The Touch Screen

You’ve got a great toy in Joyland. A touchscreen! I’m not computer saavy so I haven’t used it to its full ability but it is nice to move through a slide show or to let the students touch it (it’s such a treat for them! ) The remote for the screen says lots of stuff. I just use the power button and the off button. If you figure out more-go for it! Mika has a great remote device for your PPT slides so you don’t have to touch the screen or the computer. It’s in the drawers next to your desk. Feel free to borrow it from her again this year. It’s got a laser pointer!

AirCon and Heating

The aircon and heating get turned on by the school but you can turn the individual fans on in your room. However, if the school hasn’t enabled the AirCon it’ll just be a fan. The system works really well. Be thankful! Some NSETS aren’t so lucky.

The “Corners”: SD Super Market, Incheon Airport, SD CafĂ©, Library

I haven’t been so great at incorporating these into my regular lessons but I had fun playing there with my afterschool classes. The students love them. No, I don’t know the combination for the cash register in the supermarket-yes, the students still manage to open it. As for the library. Create a sign out sheet for the books. Check with Mika about what she wants.

Plants and furniture

There used to be plants. They got left in Joyland over the winter. Now they’re dead. But aren’t the pots lovely?

Over summer break, push hard to get the furniture (including your two desk chairs) moved upstairs. If you don’t they will be covered in mold in August. The student tables and chairs have been fine.

Cleaning Joyland

There should be a group of students assigned to clean Joyland. More than likely you and another teacher will supervise it. It’s an annoying job. The students don’t get assigned to clean the area because they speak English well they get assigned because their homeroom teacher is an English teacher. I’ve tried a few different things with them and my current strategy works the best- for me anyway. The first day I show them a powerpoint and meticulously walk them through everything I want them to do. You must show them. Then I create a rotating cleaning list. Each week their jobs change. This is good because some jobs are really labor intensive and others are not. This is also good because I assign a supervisor each week, this way if something needs to get done or they’ve forgotten something I can just tell the supervisor. Or rather, bring her to the place and point if she won’t understand. Anyway, the system works pretty well. I left the PPT for cleaning and my cleaning breakdown on the desktop. I make them line up at the back and tell me their finished. Otherwise they just mill about awkwardly. This is also good in case there are any announcements. Watch the nurse! She’s a pro. Her students get a lecture every day!

Discipline and Classroom Management

As I mentioned earlier, if you are a seasoned teacher you probably already have your own system. If you need some ideas, here's what I do. If you’re a teacher but have never taught in Korea, some of these ideas might be useful for you as well.

Name Bag

As you can imagine, student participation varies greatly from class to class. A name bag has been great for me to get students to participate (or others to step back). I literally pull a name out of a bag. This way the choice is completely random. I’ve noticed that if the students think that I have no control over who is forced to speak they do it more readily. Before I used the bag, I just used to randomly choose a student. They would routinely refuse whatever I asked them. But with the bag-no problems! They’re resigned to it.

Naming the seats

I was really resistant to this originally. I hated the idea of forcing western names on students. I thought it was imperialistic and self-centered. But then I realized I have 700 students. And that I can’t memorize 700 names-let alone 100 korean names my first year. Also, I couldn’t read Korean Names fast enough to be effective in the classroom. Ultimately, I changed my mind. It has changed my entire classroom experience. I can call on students who aren’t paying attention. I can create ONE name bag to draw names for participants instead of having 22 different ones. Even if a student’s doesn’t exactly know her name, someone at her table will and they will get her attention for you. Note that I named the SEATS, not the students. This is also really helpful because I know exactly what the name of every seat is and where she sits and, by extension, the person.

Your third grade students are accustomed to this situation so they won’t think it’s strange. You’ll have to explain it to your first graders. Feel free to keep the names that I’ve already chosen-but note that they are eclectic. I did that intentionally. My co-teachers wanted “American/western” names but I wanted to make sure the names didn’t illicit only white western names. The only name you really might want to change is “Maggie.” In Korean, the name “maggie” sounds like the word for cat fish!

Rotating the Groups

Each group has a color. Each week I rotate the colors. This means that students that are sitting in the back get to sit in the front. It’s been great to keep the students happy with their seating arrangements. Often the group that is front and center are the best behaved and most attentive. Rotating the groups has allowed each group to play that role.

The only problems I’ve had with this is that it’s harder for me to remember the names exactly. Before I did this I knew that Janine was always the front table girl on the left. Now it changes and it gets confusing for me. If you want to do this, Maybe you could rotate the tables monthly instead of weekly. Something to think about.

Team competition

I’ve not done this as much this year as last but making each class a competition between teams is a good way to get them to participate. Teams that answer questions, have the most creative answers or just behave well get points (in my system). I also deduct points if they are unruly, forget their books or refuse to participate. For while I was using little dollar bills with my face on it, I would give them to the tables as points. They had to keep them and not lose them to cash them in for a prize. Or for when I decided to collect them. That worked well and the students got a kick out of the “keller dollars” Many teachers keep this system going all semester or year and give a prize or party to the best team (or even between classes).


I’ve stopped doing this so much, but I’ve often given candy at the end of every class for the table with the most points or the tables that won games. I’ve seen candy given for just speaking in class, but I avoid doing that. It gets out of hand and they then expect candy every time they open their mouths.

Writing lines

If a class gets so bad I can’t teach or if students have, for weeks in a row, forgotten something I’ve asked them to bring to class I’ll make them write lines. This isn’t hugely effective as a punishment to make them remember but if I can’t teach class anyway-it’s a good alternative to trying to get them to be quiet for 15 minutes with their heads down.

Standing in the back

If one or two students are being bad, make them stand in the back of the classroom. (you can’t actually kick people out). If you are diligent about doing this at first, It becomes something you can just threaten and they tend to get back in line pretty quickly. If you do send them to the back, talk to your co-teacher about having her make sure they don’t just play with the things in the corners. After about 5 or 10 minutes I let them come back to their seats.

Getting their attention

I have a bell. It works pretty well. I use it all the time. I really hate to yell.

HA! Did you love that poem?

Anyway, the bell-it’s in Joyland on the desk. Before the bell, I did a count down from five. I counted 5,4 they counted 3,2,1. Both of these systems work. I prefer the bell. It’s less effort for me. Whatever system you use, make sure to use it EVERY TIME YOU SEE THE CLASS. I suggest you use it to start class and get their attention. If you don’t, it may be 2 weeks or a month between some of your classes and your students will likely forget all your classroom rules.