For the last week I’ve been trying to compile a post, adding a little here and there… only to look at it the next day and find it totally outdated already. In deference to this, I’m just going to skip most of everything that happened (for now) and talk about Naju!
I found out where my placement would be a few weeks ago, but I only learned about my home-stay on Monday night. That gave me only one full day, Tuesday, before my ceremonial departure on Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t know what I would do if I got a huge family — I’d gone broke shopping for gifts in Seoul, and only had enough items for three people. I also hadn’t been able to turn up any gifts for boys. If I got a host brother, I’d be screwed.
Fortunately, there are three people in my family: my host father, Jino, my host mother, Jinheui (sounds kind of like Jenny), and a six-year-old host sister whose English name is Olivia (real name, I believe, is Kio). Olivia is still a bit young for the gift I bought, but I think she can find some use for it. : ) All of them are very kind and interesting people, and really good at English. Jino works in city hall by day, plays on a sports team by night, and built the family home by himself. Jenny is an archeologist who studies the local ruins in addition to doing all the household chores and much of the child-rearing. She’s also a really good cook. Olivia is an amazing little girl who loves, and is very good at, origami. She seems really happy to have me around after two years with only host brothers, and I feel like we already have a strong connection.
Geumseong High School:
Visiting my school for the first time yesterday, I found myself in the care of two male co-teachers, the first of whom picked me up with my principal on Wednesday but is in a different office, and the second of whom has the desk next to mine. I also made friends with one of the substitute teachers, Keumna, who is fluent in English and is studying Linguistics in order to pass an exam and become a certified English teacher.
I think the most outstanding memory I’ll ever have of my first day at this school is the students’ reaction to me. The student body consists of mostly boys, with only two out of eighteen classes being girls’ classes. Walking into the building yesterday morning, a fair number of the boys that were around stopped to stare; some of them even tried a few variations of hello.
But then I went to the cafeteria for lunch with Keumna. The boys were already waiting in a line that stretched outside. As each boy in the rear of the line noticed me, their conversations just shut down and a falling domino effect of “woah!” swept across them. Until I hit the cafeteria entrance, anyway. At that point the dominos were devoured by a deafening storm of the same exclamation. There wasn’t a single pair of eyes looking away from me.
“Ah,” I thought, “no wonder the school requested a female ETA this year.”
I was able to sit in and observe my second co-teacher in one of his classes, but all it did was confirm the lack of communicative learning in the typical Korean classroom. The fifty-minute lesson was essentially:
Lecture, IN KOREAN, on what three parts of speech can modify English nouns.
Turn to this page, answer these questions in Korean.
Check with your partner.
You two, come up and present in Korean.
Now write me a summary, in Korean, of this English text.
Check with your partner.
You two, come up and present in Korean.
And that was it: pure Grammar Translation, like studying Latin back in the 1930’s. I heard literally about a dozen English words the entire class, and the students themselves barely said a word, even to each other. A total of four boys got called on to speak before the class, and both times one of the pair just hung back while their partner did all the work. This, unfortunately, is the typical Korean English class, yet even my Korean co-teacher doesn’t like the methodology.
Seeing this, I’m more determined than ever to utilize TBLT to its greatest effect. I want to use the Noticing Hypothesis, Krashen’s N+1, even Robinson’s terrifying framework for task complexity.
But mostly, I want my students to know what’s it’s like to have fun with English.
My friend Jason and I went exploring today and discovered that Naju may be rural, but it’s also pretty awesome. They have the standard Lotteria and Paris Baguette, and the downtown area has two personalities: quaint and posh. The first part kind of reminds me of Goesan, with a true small-town feel, lots of wood structures, lost of restaurants and uneven pavement and a distinct lack of walkways. But it also has a charm about it. This is where the mom-and-pop restaurants are, as well as the bookstore, the Korean equivalent of a dollar store, and the bus terminal. The posh side is perfectly geometrical, paved with granite cobblestones and filled with high-end clothing shops with large front windows and a distinct lack of city grime.
Just between these two areas is a convenience store that sells real espresso for only a thousand won. The money I spend there will probably single-handedly fund the next upgrade on their espresso machine.
Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Gwangju, the neighboring city, with the rest of the Naju Nine (of which there are five) to meet some of our fellow ETA’s there. We have no idea what we’re going to do, but today Jason coined the term YOLiKO — You Only Live in Korea Once — and now I feel that we must live by that!
Jino offered to take me hiking on Geumseong Mountain this Sunday. It’s become my favorite landmark when I’m out and about, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what the view is like from the top. Hopefully there’s a good place to get photos of the city.
My school kind of asked me to write a textbook for my class. I’m not entirely sure how legit it has to be or how long I have to do it, but I would assume “fairly legit” and “uncomfortably soon,” considering I teach my first class on Monday. At least I’ll be able to say that I’m a published author…
In the long term, I’m still hoping to keep up with my Korean through either self-study or a class, and to find an archery school in Gwangju that will take me as a student. I already know I’ll be doing a ton of traveling this year — no worries about that. And I set myself a completion deadline for the second draft of Ciphers. December 1 is the day I must have it query-ready. Just in time for the holiday rush!