Snow Day!

It finally snowed in Gangneung.  It started to rain on Sunday afternoon, and by early Sunday evening, it had turned over to wet, slushy snow.  By Monday morning, we had maybe 18 inches of nice fluffy powder.  Beautiful.

Our co-teacher called and said that classes were canceled.  Teachers still needed to come in, however.  We tromped to school where we found the other teachers shoveling out the parking lot and the roads that lead to it.  Erin and I grabbed shovels and got to work.  After maybe 45 minutes, the principal showed up and sent Erin back inside.  (“Women shoveling?  Unheard of.”)  I kept at it for another 45 minutes.  It was a lot of fun, actually.  Most of the teachers were in pretty good spirits, myself included.

After the shoveling was finished, they set up tables outside the front door and served kimchi, tofu, and malaki (a sweet rice wine).  Once that was finished, we had soup and more makali in the science lab.  Then we sat at our desks for an hour and went home at noon.  I can say with great certainty that this was the best work day ever.

Check out the pictures:

Edit — Erin has most of these photos, along with some others, posted here.

The completely finished newspaper

The last version of the school newspaper that I posted (here) required a few changes.  In addition to the missing photo and a couple typos, the school requested some alterations.  First, the article about school violence was cut.  Honestly, I expected this would happen.  It talked about a tragic incident at a nearby school, in which one student accidentally killed another.  I gently suggested that the author of the story choose another topic, but he wanted to write about this one.  I figured I’d go along with it.  I thought it was a story that actually mattered to the kids, and I’d back it until the administration said otherwise.

Because I no longer have the newspaper class, and the kids are busy with exams, I wrote a brief story about the school festival to fill the hole.  I hated to cut the kid’s story, and I certainly don’t need to practice my English, but there wasn’t much I could do.

The second correction involved the soccer team story.  Evidently, the new team, Gangwon FC, held their draft in December.  Because of this, the information in the article was out of date.  Again, I can’t really get a re-write from the kids, so I ended up re-writing one paragraph and making a few other changes to the article.  It’s not really something I was comfortable doing, but the school wanted things changed ASAP.  My co-teacher seemed fine with me doing the writing.

I emailed both students to explain the changes.  I know it’s like a small thing, but it’s their work, and changing it doesn’t seem ethical to me.  I suppose I should learn from my own lessons.  I taught the kids that one of the first steps in writing should be identifying the audience.  You have to be sure that what you write is suitable to the given audience.  The class decided that the audience for the newspaper was teachers, students and parents, but that’s not really true.  The newspaper is a bragging point for the teachers and administration.  More than anything, the goal is advertisement for the school and the people who run it.  As such, the stories must reflect positively on the school.  Unfortunately, this means that accurate information and “appropriate” content are more important than demonstrating the honest (but sometimes flawed) work of the students.

But ignore my cynicism.  I’m still fairly proud of the final copy, and it was (generally) a fun project.

The (almost) finished newspaper

Well, I promised I’d post the school newspaper, and here it is.  This isn’t quite a final draft.  I need to add one more picture, and I’m sure there will be some fussy little details to edit.  If you see any glaring mistakes, let me know.  (But keep in mind that these were written in just a few hours by Korean middle-school students.)

If you missed my previous post about the school newspaper, you can read it here.

A few older pictures

I found a handful of pictures on Erin’s camera that I had forgotten about.  These are from an afternoon bike ride we took more than a month ago.  They were taken at Gyongpo lake, a small lake near the ocean.  There are paths that circle the lake and run through the rice fields nearby.  A very pretty place.

The pictures aren’t great, but here they are:

Almost finished with a frustrating project

One of my tasks as a native English teacher has been continuing the English newspaper class started by my predecessor.  This has been a fairly frustrating project from the start.  On my very first day, I was shown a two-page printed newspaper, and told that I had to edit some things before it could be published.  I had to find the file on the hard drive, replace a photo, and make some minor tweaks to the layout.  I’d never used Microsoft Publisher before, and couldn’t read the Korean menus, but I’m fairly tech-savvy and managed to get it sorted out.

Then the real fun began.  I was told that I would teach a small class 3 days a week, with no co-teacher.  The end result of this class should be another issue of the newspaper.  The rest was up to me.  Along the way, I was given several other assignments.  For the first few days, we prepared a script for a skit contest, which was later cancelled.  We spent several days in October making decorations for the classroom (because a comittee was coming to inspect the school).  In between these projects, I focused on newspaper-related topics.  We learned about formal and informal English, the use of statistics, and the writing style expected in a newspaper.  This ended up being one of my favorite classes.  I was a little unsure of myself, but the kids were hard-working and spoke excellent English.  They made things easy.

About half-way through October, we picked topics for the newspaper, and began to work on stories.  At this point, I was assuming this was a regularly-scheduled class, and would continue until final exams (the first week in December).  I was wrong.

The third week of October, I was told that my class would conclude Oct. 31st.  I would then have November/December to assemble the paper and get it printed.  This left me only 6 class periods to actually finish the articles.  I had planned for 12-18 classes.  I recruited Erin to help me work with the kids, and we got busy.  In the end, my students did some fairly impressive work.  I had 9 stories (1 from each kid).  Topics included the local English contest, a new soccer team in the province, the Large Hadron Collider, and the sub-prime mortage crisis.  Given the timeframe, it was very impressive.

On the very last day of the class, our co-teacher asked me what topics the students wrote about.  I explained that they chose a variety of stories; some were school-related, others dealt with local, national, or international issues.  I was told that it is a school newspaper, and as such, it should be about the school.  I didn’t say anything at this point, and it hasn’t come up since.  The kids did fine work, and the school should be proud of it.

In the last couple weeks, I have typed the articles that were hand-written and fixed typos and minor errors.  I contacted the students to approve any changes.  I got the text into Publisher, and spent a few hours adjusting the layout.  I found a couple photos to use (under Creative Commons licenses, of course).  It’s been a surprisingly time-consuming project, but it’s almost done.  I’m waiting on a couple photos, and then I’ll need to make some final tweaks to the layout.  I was convinced that the end result would be pretty crappy, but I think it looks OK.  Next semester will be better, but I’m proud of it.  I promise I’ll post a PDF when everything is finished.

Even if the students got nothing out of it, the entire class has been educational for me.  I’m starting to realize how difficult it is to plan a cohesive series of lessons.  Coming up with ideas that are interesting, useful, and build towards a final product is a hell of a challenge.  It’s also been a real eye-opener to learn how time-consuming a small project can be.  I’ve certainly got a new respect for good teachers.  Effective lessons are rarely easy to execute, and teaching energetic students while meeting the expectations of supervisors is a frustrating and sometimes impossible task.

I guess that’s why I’m making the big bucks…