Friday, April 30, 2010

Birthday Princess

Today was one of my students eighth birthday. Unfortunately she didn't bring rainbow frosting, sprinkled covered cupcakes, but she did wear a crown.

Also, Happy (belated) Sweet 16th Birthday to Kristi! Be safe driving and have fun!

At Your Service

One thing Korea has is great customer service. From the local convenient store to high end department stores, businesses want to make their customers happy. I guess that's the goal of any business, but here I feel like they genuinely care.

I mentioned that at Home Plus there are 2+ employees in each aisle ready to answer questions, hand out samples and even reach the top shelf for us shorties. I frequently (and when I say frequently, I mean every day) visit the GS25 aka the one stop shop for all of your needs, and the couple that owns the place always greets me with a huge smile. There are also numerous restaurants around Daejeon that recognize my friends and I and treat us like royalty. I've been given free bottles of wine, pop, and even fresh sushi rolls just for being me.

Tonight, I went to a place that just started serving drum roll please... Mexican food! The co-owner is from LA and is going to make a fortune when more people find out about it because Mexican food is a rarity in Korea, especially outside of Seoul. He offered us samples and was so personable.

Another place that has great customer service is the bank. There is a greeter that wears this silly little sash and every month when I go to pay my (one) bill, he's always eager to direct me where to go. So, thank you Korea for your wonderful customer service.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wanted: Mr. Clean

Working with kids, I'm constantly surrounded by chaos, germs and filth which has made me a neat freak, clutter free, germaphobe. Especially, now that the weather is warming up my students come in all sweaty and sticky. Yuck. I have an air purifier in my room. Blue means clean and green means dirty. Whenever it turns green, I freak and tell my students to stop breathing... just kidding!

My students are very generous when it comes to sharing their snacks with me. I'm always hesitant taking unwrapped snacks though because I fear what is/has been on their hands. During these circumstances I usually place it on my desk and tell them I'll save it for later.

I see students picking their noses all the time, leaving the bathroom without washing their hands, and coming in with little dribbles of who knows what on their clothes. We have hand sanitizer dispensers all over so I just keep telling myself that's what they use.

Today I had a student bring strawberries in a tupperware container for snack. She was fusing with the top during class so the red, sticky, strawberry juice got all over her desk and book, but instead of getting a paper towel she started slurping and licking the juice off of her desk and book. I don't even want to know what was on her desk besides the strawberry juice.

Anyways, these dirty little habits have made me a little OCD. I find myself constantly washing my hands and using hand sanitizer. My students aren't allowed to leave my class until their chairs are pushed in. At the end of each day I catch myself reorganizing the desks and chairs so that they are perfectly lined up only to be out of order the next day. Oh well, I try and as long as I'm healthy my hand washing habit can stay.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Today marks one-third of the way through my one year contract! I can't believe I've been here for more than four months already. There's still so much I want to do and I'm looking forward to the months to come!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mona the Lona (loner)

Last week, the unit I had to teach my youngest class was a little ridiculous and even made me a little teary eyed (not really, but it was quite sad).

The first lesson introduced a little girl named Mona. She had a scar on her face, so the boys teased her, and she ate lunch and played by herself. The second lesson went into detail about how Mona walked home alone from school. It was obvious the unit couldn't end with Mona being physiologically traumatized and explaining plastic surgery to first graders isn't an age appropriate concept, so of course Mona had to have a happy ending. I bet the suspense is killing you. On her way home (alone) from school, Mona saw an old lady pushing a heavy cart (perhaps, homeless). Mona helped the lady push the cart and the lady smiled at her. That was it. The end.

I mean, smiles are nice and can definitely brighten someone's day, but what happens when Mona walks alone to school again and the boys tease her because of her face?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sounds like a Broken Record

Here's a list of phrases I hear on a regular basis:

"Teacher, :::insert word here::: spelling" -> They usually ask how to spell pretty easy words, but I've had a few tough ones that I've had to look up... ie: cerebral concussion and adolescence.

"Teacher, acting?!" -> After the 1000th time hearing this phrase it sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Every other week is an "acting" week, but no matter what day/week/month it is, students never fail to ask me numerous times a class period.

"Teacher, :::insert students name::: hacking!" -> AKA a student is cheating.

"Teacher, how old are you?" -> See "An Unsolved Mystery" entry for more details.

"Teacher, where do you live? I want to come visit." -> I tell them I live in the classroom, sleep at my desk, and push a secret button that pops my closet out. I'm pretty sure some students actually believe me.

"Teacher, I'm done!" -> Is it really necessary to announce to the whole class when you are done with your test, memorizing passages, or in-class assignments?

"Monkey Songs" -> During the speaking section of each class there's a roll play part where the students get to pick a character. More times than none they pick the monkey character. Last term, my older students made up a "Monkey Magic" song complete with gestures and it was actually quite good. This term, one of my youngest classes made up a "I'm a monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey..." song. I think the ... explains it all.

"Teacher, Teacher, Teacher!!!" -> Students rarely call me Michelle, but when they do it's Michelle Teacher and pronounced, "Meeshell Teachuuuh".

There you have it. The phrases that are constantly ringing throughout my head.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

R.I.P. Point Stamper

For a reward system at April, each student has a point card and can receive or lose points based on behavior, test scores, homework, etc. At the end of each term we host a point-day where students spend their points on food, games, and prizes.

Most students are obsessed with points. They follow me around like little puppy dogs when I carry my point stamper in my hand, they cry when I take points away, and some even carry their point card around as if it were glued to their hand. At the beginning of every class period I check their homework and reward their efforts with points.

During my first class on Friday I was happy to give everyone points for doing a good job on their homework. In between classes there's a five minute break. I usually like to step out of my room and get water, chat with students or go to the bathroom. As the five minute break came to an end, I went back into my room and reached into my desk for my point stamper to begin checking homework only to find that it wasn't there. I double checked my pockets, the ledge on the board, the other drawers, and even the trash can thinking it might've fallen in there, but still no point stamper.

I told my students the problem and asked if anyone had taken it by mistake, but obviously nobody fessed up. I told the front desk about my missing point stamper and they watched CCTV to see if they could catch the thief. CCTV is a security system used in most businesses and buildings throughout Korea. At first it freaked me out thinking that I was being watched all the time, but for instances like this I was glad I had CCTV in my room.

I figured that the crime of the missing point stamper happened within a seven minute time period so that helped narrow down the footage to watch on CCTV. Unfortunately, the angle the camera is in my room cuts off some of my desk and there were so many students crowded around it that we were unable to see who the victim was.

Later that night, I was at a friends place and somehow the story of my missing point stamper came up. Another teacher mentioned that he saw a point stamper in the toilet, in the boys bathroom, but didn't think anything of it at the time and threw it away.

So my point stamper is gone forever, but the pool of victims got narrowed down to a boy in my second class. I have my suspicions, but you know what happens when you "assume" therefore the whole class will get punished tomorrow. Mwuuahhhaaahaaa.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


During my college career, I had a handful of odd-end jobs. From telemarketing and working in retail to hostessing and scooping up ice cream (CS wouldn't let me wear nail polish so this job was short lived haha) I always had a different perspective on that industry after working in it.

For example, most people can't believe that I lasted as a telemarketer for a record breaking four years. I'll admit telemarketers are quite a nuisance especially during the coveted dinnertime, but I vow to never hang up on a telemarketer again. It's not easy cold calling, let alone asking for money, so the least I can do for my fellow telemarketers is listen. Also, ever since I worked in the restaurant industry and saw what goes on behind the scenes, I feel bad asking "to be moved to a booth or a seat closer to the window" because I know that I probably messed up the servers rotation and their sections.

With that being said, ever since I became a teacher, I now respect what they do even more than I did before. Thanks to TweetDeck, an interesting article about elementary school teachers popped up. Here's the link, but incase you don't check it out, I'll summarize it below:

The article basically listed six things to know before going into elementary school education.

1.) If you're expecting you'll feel appreciated every day, think again.

Kids will be kids. They'll say things they don't mean and act like they don't care, but I know that one day they'll look back and thank me.

2.) Unless you have unwavering patience that can outlast the most frustrating of events, get out now.

I believe this is the most important thing to know. Teaching in general requires a lot of patience, but being an ESL teacher requires even more. Sure, it can be frustrating when students don't understand what simple words mean or forget to put a verb in a sentence, but I always take a step back and put myself in their shoes. After taking Spanish for four years and not understanding anything (shout out to Senora Urian's class), I can relate to my students being overwhelmed by English.

3.) If you want to make a big impression and really touch your students in a memorable way, learn everything you can about teaching with technology.

My lesson plans are planned out for me, but they are all interactive through the computer. Whenever I can, I also like to show videos and pictures on the internet related to each lesson.

4.) If you're still in college, do everything you can to spend as much time in classrooms as possible.

Even though I didn't pursue education in college, before I started teaching, I had a week of observation. It really did help seeing different teaching styles and techniques.

5.) If you're not happy with teaching, don't do it.

I'm happy, even if my feet aren't after standing in heels for eight hours a day.

6.) Remember why you went into education in the first place.

Sure, I have bad days being a teacher, but so do celebrities and CEO's of major companies. Luckily, the good students outweigh the bad ones and they are the ones that make each day worth it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

P is for Parking

The picture above shows an example of parking on the streets of Daejeon. Notice the cars facing each other which means that one of those cars is parked on the wrong side of the road (obviously the red one). Also, the silver car next to the gold one is not only parked on the wrong side of the road, it's blocking the gold car in. It's not unusual to see three parked cars deep that block an entire side of the road, cars blocking each other in, cars parked in no parking zones, or cars parked on the sidewalk. It's a relief not having to worry about driving, parking and everything else that comes with cars. I do however miss my buggie boo.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tempted by the Fruit of Another

First of all, Happy Easter! Even though the Easter Bunny didn't find me in Korea and I didn't dye any eggs this year, I went to an Easter party last night. We played some of my favorite games, Apples to Apples and Taboo, and even had our own Easter egg hunt... there were even pink-camo, candy-filled Easter eggs! Anyways, this get together was a potluck so I decided to bring fruit kabobs. I put pineapple, green grapes and strawberries on skewers and everyone must've enjoyed them because the plate was left empty.

Earlier that day I went to Home Plus to buy the fruit and skewers. I got to the check out and the HP employee started ringing everything up. She asked me a few questions in Korean, such as "Do you have a Home Plus card?" and "Do you need a bag?" and I just nodded my head no and continued to put my items in my pink, polka dotted, re-usable bag (super cute!). Then she got to the grapes.

Some fruit is packaged and priced, ready to be rung up, while some other fruit you need to have weighed, bagged, and priced in the produce section. Well I didn't realize the grapes happened to fall into the second category. The line was getting a few people deep and I didn't want to be "that girl" holding everyone up in the check out line, so I just told her to cancel the grapes. She picked up the bag of grapes to put aside, but she picked it up upside down! All of the grapes fell out of the bag and were rolling around everywhere. She even had to call over reinforcements to help her pick them up. I felt so bad.

After that fiasco, I went back to the produce section to get more grapes. I picked out a bag that looked good and put them on the scale for the guy to weigh and price. After he put the sticker on the bag I went to a different check out line to pay for them. The total showed up on the monitor and came to about 13 USD! I mean it has been awhile since I've bought grapes in the US, but $13 for a bundle of grapes? They were delicious, but I'm not sure they lived up to their $13 price tag.

On my way home from HP I noticed a vendor selling fruit. Even though I had just bought fruit from HP, I decided to check it out. The prices were half of what HP offered and the fruit looked a lot fresher. I ended up buying more strawberries and they were so much better than HP's.

It's the Final [4] Countdown

On the banks of the Red Cedar,
There's a school that's known to all;
Its speciality is winning,
And those Spartans play good ball;
Spartan teams are never beaten,
All through the game they fight;
Fight for the only colors:
Green and white.

Go right through for MSU,
Watch the points keep growing,
Spartan teams are bound to win,
They're fighting with a vim!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
See their team is weakening,
We're going to win this game,
Fight! Fight! Rah! Team, fight!
Victory for MSU!

This time last year I was frolicking around the streets of East Lansing wearing (the only colors) green and white :::sigh::: and this year I'm cheering the Spartans on in Korea! Woohoo! Go State!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Matza, Merlot and More

While most people claim to hate middle school, I actually really enjoyed it. I loved it for many reasons including:

-Contacts: I tossed my over-sized (understatement), green, round glasses and was finally able to wear contacts. Amen.
-Team Elan: Minus the 5:45 a.m. practices, during middle school synchronized skating was a huge part of my life.
-Walking to school with my favorite neighbor, P: And when I say walking, I mean P's mom driving us two blocks so we wouldn't be late.
-Keeping old friends and making new ones: We were best friends then and we are best friends now...

And finally...

-Bar and Bat Mitzvahs: From airbrush tattoos to t-shirts galore, what could be better than attending over the top theme parties every weekend? Nothing.

Growing up, I was surrounded by many Jewish friends (shout out to J, K, and P). Because of this, I was able to attend Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Hanukkah celebrations, and I even learned some Hebrew along the way (Mazel Tov!). Well, I'm proud to say I can now cross "Passover Seder" off my list.

Before last Saturday the only Passover Seder I had seen was on a dramatic episode of Gossip Girl (Season 2, Episode 21: "Seder Anything"). I was told to bring two bottles of wine and a "Seder friendly" dish to pass. I quickly learned that Seder friendly is anything that doesn't rise and even though my cooking skills and equipment are limited, I resorted to chocolate covered strawberries. Yum.

Once everyone arrived, the service began. We sat around a table filled with Seder friendly dishes, tons of matza, a stack of yamakas, a variety of wine, and the Seder Plate. There were even printouts of the service so that everyone could follow along. Being in a room full of teachers, people joked that we had to highlight each transition word and prepositional phrase (ha). Overall, the Seder was very informative and even though I didn't find the afikoman, I still had fun.