Sunday, 24 April 2011

New school year, new strict routine

Way back in March, we started the new school year with a fresh batch of 1st year middle school students (12 -13 year olds in Western age) to shape and mould in our own image (I wish). In Korea the school year runs from March to February rather than September to June like in the UK. We both had high hopes for the new school year and wanted to enforce a consistent and straightforward discipline/rewards system to try to instigate better classroom management this time around.  

One of the problems with being a native English teacher in a Korean public school is you usually don't have any teaching experience and are just dropped straight into teaching a class of 35-40 kids s soon as you get to your new school. No support, no training, no guidance on what you should be doing and not even a chance to sit in on other teachers' classes to see what they do. At least that is our experience anyway. In fact, I've met teacher's who have had to teach a full day of classes straight off the plane before they've even seen their apartment, let alone had a chance to recover from jet lag or anything. This means, of course, that you end up learning everything as you go, from lesson planning, effective classroom management to how to use the classroom equipment and what the school actually expects you to teach in your lessons. One of the many disadvantages of this is that for many people, including us, the first few months of your new job teaching English in Korea can be confusing, frustrating and stressful. I remember how difficult it was for me to get even the smallest amount of information out of my Korean co-teachers when I first started. 

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Seoul Grand Park Zoo

Way back on the last weekend in February we went to the zoo in Seoul Grand Park.with our British 'chums' Danny and Charlotte. This was their last weekend in Korea as they were heading off to Thailand to teach and travel later that week so this was one of the last times we would see them for a while (sniff sniff). Actually, this is a problem that seems common to life as a teacher in Korea - you find some people who on get along with, become good mates with them and then you're brutally wrenched apart when they leave to go back home or move onto a different country. Suppose that is a situation common to most ex-pats though, regardless of their country of residence or their profession.  

So we were pretty sad that they were leaving but we had a good day out at the zoo. Even though it was still only February it was a pretty pleasant day, not too chilly and clear. It's a really cheap day out, at only 3000 won (about £1.80 or $3) for an adult ticket which is incredibly cheap though I think you have to pay extra if you want to see the dolphin show (we didn't bother with it). It's a big zoo, with the usual animals on display and most of them seemed to be well looked after with plenty of space to move around. The most notable exception was probably the wolves who looked bored and thoroughly miserable pacing up and down in  their too-small, glass fronted enclosure. The zoo is actually within the grounds of Seoul Grand Park and we took a colourful little motorised 'train' from the main gate/car parking area of the zoo to the entrance. We took a leisurely stroll around the zoo, checking out the monkey house, the giraffe enclosure, the tigers and various other exhibits. I used the zoo as an opportunity to get my dslr camera put and test my tripod skills, taking lots of pictures of the animals - I even managed to snap the extremely rare Lesser Spotted Horned Waygook that had managed to slip out of it's pen (see below for the incredible picture - National Geographic eat your heart out!).