Sunday, January 18, 2009

First Week of School

In light of my last post's topic, I should begin by saying that I am just getting over an awful case of food poisoning! It began on Sunday, the day before my first day of school. I ended up hovering over the toilet most of the night. I almost had to call in sick to my first day of work! Only now, four days later, am I finally feeling normal again. The irony of the whole episode is that is wasn't the raw fish or any other unusual food that made me sick. It was frozen dumplings (mandu) I bought from a supermarket. Definitely makes me think twice about the quality of Korean food inspections. So for the past few days, I have stuck mostly to American food. Luckily, there is no shortage of that. Just in the area around my apartment, I have found Dominos, Baskin Robbins, Quiznos, Mcdonalds, Bennigan's ... the list goes on.

But on to my main topic today, my first week of school. I know some of you may be wondering just how fit I am to teach 3 to 6 year old kids who do not speak English. I would be lying if I said I had no doubts myself before coming. But overall, I am happy to report that the first few days have gone very well. Like I said before, this is a light work load to begin with. I only teach 1 1/2 a day and I am only with a given class for 30 minutes at a time. The kids are, for the most part, a lot of fun and well behaved. The lessons are really easy to plan, too. The school provides me with simple story books that I read to the class and have them repeat to me. I have also tried to work in songs and a workbook activities, with varying degrees of success. For the 3 year olds, I just use picture books, objects, and flashcards. The school's philosophy is to engage the kids with games while they are learning, so I really want too made it fun for the kids. If anyone has any ideas, suggestions would be appreciated!!

Because I am a foreigner to them, I think they are a little nervous around me. It must be different for them, growing up in an ethnically homogenous country, to interact with a foreigner. I even see that even out of school. While standing in line at the grocery store, I'll notice some little kid staring wide-eyed at me at their mom's side. They quickly turn away when I say "anyoung" (hi). On a tangential note, I recieve no special attention from Korean adults. I think part of being polite in this country is to ignore strangers. A subway full of people is dead silent, with everyone closing their eyes or playing with their phones.

My funny story for the week involves one of my 4 y.o. classes. While trying to introduce myself and greet each kid individually, the class collectively decided I was Santa Claus. Of course, this made them all really excited (I later noticed a picture of santa on the classroom wall). At this point, I don't know if I should keep correcting them or let it slide and go with Mr Claus instead of Widmer. I just hope they don't expect presents.

If I have had any problems, it is because I underestimated both the children's intelligence and their wiliness. Already, the five year olds know much more English than I expected. So I think I prepared a lesson for them that was well below their level. Since they had already gotten used to me as their teacher, I couldn't hold their attention and lost complete control of the class. It is not easy to tell kids to sit down and open their books when you are not sure they can understand you! In the end, another teacher had to come in to quiet the class. Afterwards, though, one of the main instigators of the problem came up to me and really quietly said "i'm sorry mr. widmer...." Which was adorable. I also had a small problem with my 3 year old class when one of the kids couldn't stop crying. But I guess I should get used to that. As much as I look forward to learning about Korean culture this year, I expect to learn even more about children.

I am sorry I don't have any school pictures for you yet, but I promise they are on their way! For now, here is a picture one of Busan's many beaches.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Claus, they're probably scared of you because you're taller than anyone that they know. Good luck with that food poisoning, and have fun with the Chinese/Korean New Year!