Sunday, June 30, 2013

Catching Up.

I know, I know. I haven't posted in like, what... a month? I'm a terrible person. I apologize. I plan certain discussion topics but then end up preoccupied with other things. That, and nothing too terribly exciting has happened in the last month. The short version is thus: Muay Thai every Saturday, school stuff regularly, and I've gotten sick a couple times (and am getting sick yet again as I write this). Oh, and it's getting quite hot.

But I won't leave it at that. I'll do my best to go into some more details in various categories.


I've been keeping pretty busy. For a solid 2-3 weeks, they had Naomi and I working with these 3 girls (two 5th graders and 1 sixth grader) to prepare them for an "English Champ Contest" held in Uiwang for all the local schools. There were two primary categories: Story Telling and Speeches. The first stage, actually, was to fix up the stories/speeches. One of my co-teachers gave me a pretty simple picture book to modify into a page-long story, changing and embellishing to my liking. So I did. Then they had Naomi (and later me) fix up the translated-from-Korean speeches that the other two students wrote themselves. Ironically, Naomi ended up working with the one Story Telling student, and I ended up working with the two Speech students.

The Story Telling student was pretty good all around and just struggled with a word here or there. One Speech student was also very good and was the favorite to win of the three, as she competes every year and has won before. The third... well, that was a problem area. She's good, but she's also stubborn and speaks very fast to the point you can't understand her. And no matter how hard you work with her, she refused to change it from her way (to be fair, she did get better, but she never got to the point she needed to get to). Long story short, that girl did not win. Shockingly, neither did the favorite to win, which was a large upset. But, as it turned out, the Story Telling student did win, so that was nice.

Unfortunately, this wasn't good enough for our principal, who wanted ultimate victory. He's currently demanding we start preparing for next year's contest now. So we've already picked the new contestants (I think) and have to start working with them immediately.

Almost immediately after this finished, we had to start prepping for what's known as Open Class. This is when your students' parents come in to observe a class, and then write a report or whatever about what they liked and disliked, which I'm assuming goes to the principal. The first one to prep for was my regular 6th grade class. I wasn't too worried, especially since my co-teacher told me it was most likely no parents would show up (which did end up being the case). But we did prep. Unfortunately, the came I came up with ended up being way too difficult and complex for them. It was the biggest disaster of a lesson I've ever had, and I've never felt so embarrassed as a teacher (which is saying a lot). But I thought on my feet and changed up the game halfway through, and it all worked much better.

But then came the Open Classes for my afternoon classes. I'm not sure I've ever explained this, so I'll explain now: We have two kinds of classes, the regular morning ones, and the optional afternoon ones. Parents can sign their kids up for the afternoon classes to get more practice (they can do it with our school or they can go to what's called a Hagwon, which I have discussed in the past). My afternoon classes are where I do the bulk of my weekly teaching, and they span almost every grade level (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th). And I have the same co-teacher for every afternoon class.

Sadly, she's not the greatest co-teacher in the world. She's nice and all, and she tries very hard, but she speaks very (very) limited English, she freaks out too much, she's very unpredictable, and she generally has no idea what she's doing. So one day--I believe it was a Wednesday (or at least a late Tuesday afternoon)--she tells us we need to have our Open Class lesson plans in to her... by Friday. Uh... sure, OK. We get it all in and whatnot, but the real pain comes the following week. She's utterly freaking out the entire week. She's over-thinking everything, worrying like mad. She's terrified of the principal and of messing this up. She's so insanely stressed and freaking out that it's actually starting to screw up the lesson plans we worked on (Oh how I could go into some stories here... for this and other times... but I don't want to rant here). And Naomi and I are both starting to stress because she's stressing so much. 

And then Open Class days come. The short version: 1st grade was insanely loud, but the parents seemed to love the class. 2nd grade was better, and the parents loved the class. 3rd grade was very good, and it was hard to read the parents. 4th grade ended up loud with the games, but overall it was good and enjoyable. And 6th grade had no parents. And the overall parent reviews? Not a single negative comment. (As far as I'm aware.) And we're so relieved it's over. Except now Naomi and I are having to plan and prep for Summer Camp, which is in about a month (it's 2 weeks of fun English-based games and activities that we plan for a limited number of students).

So the afternoon Open Classes were this past Monday/Tuesday. Following that was a couple days of ice cream for the students... for some unexplained reason. And then Friday was "BEST Shop Day," where student could exchange coupons they earn for snacks or toys. Those are always fun days.

So that about catches us up on the last month+ of school activities, at least on the surface level.

Muay Thai

This will be pretty short. It's been going alright, though I'm not sure if I'm getting any better. The main instructor is starting to have me work alone a lot, which is kind of a bummer. But the people who frequent the class are really cool and really nice. I was thinking about maybe dropping it, because it was starting to lose its fun factor and it was really infringing on hanging out with friends on the weekend (not to mention the hassle of the long commute every Saturday). But as it turned out, a different instructor (who does classes on a different day) has taken over for the usual guy for the next month, and we got along really well. He's a really cool guy, and he both instructed well and kept it interesting (not saying the usual guy is bad. It's just different). So I'm gonna stick it out at least another month.


For those not in the know (i.e. those who don't read my Facebook updates), our school's summer break is the last week of July/first week of August. And during that week, I'm taking a trip to Tokyo! I've wanted to go to Tokyo for... I don't know... something like 13 years? So this is super exciting for me. I've got most of the trip planned so I know what I want to see. I honestly can't wait. Similarly, the holiday Chuseok gives us a 5-day break in September this year, so the plan is to take a few days and visit Beijing to see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, as well as eat some authentic Chinese food! So that's what's going on in the near future.

Oh, and now that I've been here 4 months, I finally bought a scale. It seems I've lost roughly 40-ish pounds (maybe a little less). And hopefully I'll keep putting off the pounds! Whenever I lose weight, this is always the weight area I stagnate at, so I really need to work if I want to put off more.

It's also been getting very hot here. Not Texas hot, but it feels that way with the intense humidity and the fact the air conditioning here is mostly terrible. At least back home, staying inside meant staying cool. Here, I can stay home, have my air conditioning on and my electric fan blowing right on me, and I'm still sweating. I'm sure it has to do with the fluctuating weather, but I've gotten sick a few times in the last month or two, and I'm trying not to get sick again right now. And we're about to start the rainy season this coming week, it looks like. So I'll be in for some non-stop rain for at least a month or so. Great.

And... that's about all I have to update with, I think. Most of the other little things I put up on Facebook. So I'll just leave it here for now!