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3 September 2004
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Korea Life Blog - Off to Work

Feel a little odd in this shirt and tie today. Haven't had to dress like this since, well, since I came to Korea. See you later with a full report on the new job.

Update: I really lucked out with this job. The school is surprisingly nice for the area it's in, very big and new. I have my own classroom AND a large playroom next door where the kids can hang out if they're early or if I finish class a bit early. I was really surprised to find out that both of these rooms will only be used by me, my Korean assistant (graduate student majoring in English Education) and my students. I can decorate them as I please, though the agency will be doing this for me to begin with.

The classroom has an air conditioner, a standup fan, a new whiteboard, a nice TV/VCR combo, a stereo with a tape/CD player, and loads and loads of teaching materials. The playroom also has a virtual library of English resources in reserve, storage shelves and a matted floor (as if for wrestling) for the kids. Some of the materials at my disposal: videos (including a stack of Wallace and Gromit and Sesame Street), a thousand flash-cards, bags full of velcro puppets (clothes, fruits/vegetables, objects, numbers, letters, etc.) games, crayons, glue, boxes of pencils, scissors, rulers, stacks of colored paper, puppets, ESL posters of every kind, story/song books and tapes, and shelves of different teaching books/workbooks. And all of this stuff is there for only for me.

The students are mostly kids whose parents can't afford to send them to pricey hagwons. Little do those parents know how much better their children will learn in this kind of environment, and they only have to pay less than half of the cost (60,000 won, about $50, per month vs. anywhere from 150,000 won on up.) The downside is that these kids have studied English very little and it shows. With only a few exceptions, most of the kids were clueless when I did the oral placement test today. This is good though, as I can start off with the basics and see progress. As to be expected, there were a couple of exceptions. One girl studied English in Beijing at an international school, and talking to her was like talking to an American kid, and one other boy, who, when asked, "Can you say the alphabet?" replied, "Do you want me to say it or sing it?" (Most kids just looked at me and said, huh? duh? eh? molla! until I started saying A, B... and then they would break into the alphabet song).

The assistant, "Kathy," is very nice. She has a meeting twice a week at the agency office and has to develop the curriculum and lesson plans for me to use, though the boss said I can do whatever I want. The plans will serve as a basic guide for me to follow. Kathy's responsible for all the paperwork, calling the parents, recording grades, etc. (My first secretary?) She's also there to explain directions to the kids if they don't understand me, and basically tell the kids to shut-up and listen.

All of this is a big relief. I was really on the verge of accepting another crummy hagwon job, and in this area, that would have meant 8 hours/day. Now I'll be making just a little less money and I'll only be working three hours and in a much more professional setting. This is the first time I've ever been excited about teaching.

I hope I continue to feel this way. As long as I get paid on time, I can't forsee any major problems. But then again, anything can happen in Korea. Crossing my fingers...


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