Back to School, Back to School…

I should have written this post ages ago, but since my kinders graduated this weekend I thought now would be a good time AND I could kill two birds with one stone. Because I’m lazy like that. First things first. Let’s talk about my school. I work at what is called a “hagwon.” This is a private school/after school class. In the morning we teach kindergarten to kids between the ages of 5-7 (4-6 western age). What’s that you say? You don’t know what western age is? Well, let teacher explain to you the difference between western age and Korean age (also know as wiggety-wack age). Western age is the way we count age (you turn a year older every year on your birthday). Makes sense, right? Right. Now listen to this insanity: Korean children are considered one year old on the day they are born because they count the time in the womb. I know what you’re thinking – but women aren’t pregnant for a whole year. Clearly they like to round up because get this, and this is where it gets really interesting,  everyone celebrates getting a year older on Lunar New Year. It doesn’t sound that crazy until you think about it like this: a baby born on December 30 is already one year old. Then, when Lunar New Year happens a week or two later, that child is considered two years old, when in fact they are only about 2 weeks old. Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. So, all of my students are at least a year younger than they think they are, if not more. Anywho, back to the matter at hand. Kindgergarten is basically like a private preschool for them. Children start elementary school at age 8 (7), and then most children attend hagwons after school. So in the afternoon, I have students ranging from 8-13 (7-12). In my last kindergarten class I taught 3rd year students for four 40 minute periods, by myself, solely in English. But the semester ends here tomorrow and on Friday my classes change a bit. I will now be teaching first year students for two 40 minutes periods, and a Korean co-teacher will teach them the other two 40 minute periods. This should be interesting. Apparently there is a lot of song singing involved at this level. I might lose my mind. Overall I enjoy my job. The kids are (mostly) great and I have a lot of fun with them. And I’m pretty much left to my own devices, which I prefer. However, as a highly organized, totally neurotic person, I have a really hard time with the lack of planning on the part of my supervisors and get really frustrated when things get thrown at me last minute. From what I’ve gleaned, this is a Korean thing and not at all limited to my school. I’m starting to learn to roll with the punches, but it’s been an uphill battle. Also, my hours kind of suck. They’re about to get a but better with the new schedule, but before I work 8-11 hours a day with a bunch of tiny breaks that I can essentially do nothing worthwhile with. With the new schedule I will be working more like 7-9 hours a day. I know you’re probably thinking, “What’s she complaining about? That how much I work, lazy brat.” Well, most teachers in Korea work about 6 hours a day because they don’t have the funky breaks I have. So in comparison, my schedule kinda sucks. Will be keeping this in mind when/if I look for another school here after my contract is up. Sometimes I get frustrated because a lot of what goes on at school seems to be more about impressing the parents so they’ll keep sending their checks instead of actually teaching the children. Graduation is a perfect example of this.

Hooray for segues! We have spent the last six weeks at my school going crazy trying to get ready for graduation. Each class had a performance from their music class, their ballet class, this other weird class they have that is basically music, a farewell speech, a skit and then they all performed an opening and closing song together. There are six classes, I think. It took FOREVER! My class’s skit was actually a 10 minute mock trial that I had to write and they had to memorize. On top of everything else they had to memorize. Did i mention that they’re doing this in a foreign language, as well? They had no idea the meaning of half of the words they were saying (i.e. – plaintiff, defendant, sustained, evidence, etc.), but as long as the parents are impressed with the big words, the administration doesn’t really care. We also had to teach them Summer Nights (which I always thought was called Summer Lovin, but, for what I’m sure is the first time in my life, I was wrong). All of the foreign teachers felt SUPER awkward about this because of the major sexual innuendos in the song but, in the end, we didn’t say anything because we didn’t want to risk them changing it to a worse song. Like, for instance, the graduation song, which was like nails on a chalkboard to listen to. They played it over the loudspeakers during all of the breaks to help the kids memorize it. It was awful. I have never been so thankful for earbuds. I even started dreaming about that hateful song. In the end, my kids did a really great job and I was really proud of them. I don’t have a video because I had to be on stage with them, but I have some pretty cute pics from backstage. Hope you enjoy them!

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