Friday, December 18, 2009

Santa Clause is Coming to Suji!

Sweet little Alice :)

Across the street from my apartment: this is what you see

Looking down the street of my apartment...

My apartment is on this street...

There it is!

Zackary- one of my favorites!

This is what happens when you give a swine flu mask to a kindergartener...

(It reminds me of that book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." I should write a children's book called "If You Give a Kinder a Swine Flu Mask")

I don't even know the words to explain this child- Alan. He just cracks me up every two seconds of every day! He's definitely a class clown, but so sweet and loving. He interrupts me every other second because he gets so excited to share his thoughts: "Britney Teacher! Teacher! Britney Teacher! My this, yes! My house, this yes!" (translation: "At my house, I have this, too!") He just loves to be involved in every single happening within the classroom :)
Julie, becoming a bit more photogenic! She really loves to be in pictures!

This is Jack. He's a 7-1 kinder, meaning that he's 7 years old and in his first year of English. He's in my afternoon reading club (only in Korea do you have a reading club for kindergarten students!) He's absolutely adorable- always pushing those big glasses back up on his nose. Don't be fooled, though- he's quite the troublemaker!!

Irene: I had to bribe her with an extra Hello Kitty sticker to make her be in this photo!

Gingerbread village on my classroom window...

Merry Christmas, from Classroom Two!!

It's a pretty crowded classroom, with one teacher, ten students, Santa Clause, and eight reindeer!
"Christmas Tree," aka garland stapled to the wall
I made a stocking for each student and hung them by the "fireplace"

Of course, Irene needed to get in on the Pikachu hat action...
Alan, modeling the Pikachu hat
Ashley wore this hat to school one day. Once I realized it was for real, I absolutely had to document it...
Busy, busy times at school to prepare for Christmas! Song contest this week- my students didn't completely drop the ball, as predicted, but I wouldn't exactly say they did well... :) I think I ended up destroying my vocal cords while practicing that stupid song ("Jolly Old St. Nicholas") with them, over and over again. I could barely talk, let alone lead them in song, by Wednesday! Now it's Friday, and I still can't raise my voice much- these song contests are just torture for me!!

My kinders keep asking me, "How many sleeps til Christmas? How many sleeps til Santa Clause?" They are very excited for "Christmas" at LCI (Monday the 21st). In preparation for "Christmas," we had to do an important activity ahead of time. It was called "Write Down Three Things That You Want for Christmas, and Then "Santa Clause" Will Deliver Them to School (And Don't Worry, Money is Not an Issue)." What fun! The kids wrote down their Christmas wishes on construction paper trees, and then took them home to show Mommy and Daddy. By the end of this week, there was a large, accumulating pile of wrapped presents, all set to go for the kinders next week. And I don't mean little wrapped gifts- these all look like HUGE presents!
My students basically all wrote down the same thing:
The girls...
"For Christmas, I want:"
1. Princess doll
2. Pokemon doll
3. Ice cream maker

The boys...
"For Christmas, I want:"
1. Pokemon cards
2. Pokemon doll
3. Ice Cream maker

I have no idea what this ice cream maker is, but apparently it's very popular amongst the 6-7 year old Korean population. The Pokemon cards and Pikachu doll requests didn't surprise me in the least- they are all Pokemon obsessed here (see photos above...) We have at least two students bring in Pokemon cards for show-and-tell every week. And I have been drawing quite a few "Happy Pikachu faces" when we do "How are you today?" faces on the board every morning.

I did have a few students defy the norm, though: new student Julie requested "princess clothes," Zackary asked for a teddy bear, and spoiled little Alex asked me, "Teacher, how do you spell diamond?" I asked him why he wanted a diamond for Christmas. He said, "Teacher, diamonds are very many money!"

Yes, Alex, I know. But why do YOU know that, as a 6 year old child?
In other kinder classes, students were requesting both endearing and outrageously absurd gifts for Christmas. One of Shauna Teacher's students expressed his desire for an umbrella. Another of her students wrote down "a Christmas decorations-making kit." Many of Gina Teacher's 7 year old students wanted a Hello Kitty computer and Hello Kitty cell phone (don't be fooled by the Hello Kitty label- these are actually real computers and cell phones- that these 7 year olds will most likely get!) Most of Steve Teacher's students just wanted "ice cream" (that's the kind of answer that makes you just want to hug them, because it's such an innocent, little kid wish...not so much with the diamond request).
It's beginning to look a lot like a commercial Christmas....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Four Months

Kinders in Big Gym: Sara, Katie, Ashley, and new student Julie!
Irene! She wears this dress every other day- on the off days, she wears a blue and white gingham dress with bunnies. And then she shows off all her Taekwando moves.
My new kindergarten student, Julie! She is as tiny as you can imagine- I think I could lift her with just one finger.

Shauna and I, out in Seoul to celebrate her birthday!
Christine and I, at Shauna's birthday celebration. Oops, we are dressed same-same but different!

Christine and I are excited to eat "Thanksgiving!" (that's Alan Teacher in the back)

Making Christmas cards at Christine's...sitting on heated floors, drinking hot cocoa, and eating Korean nut mix and sampyeon...great night!

Teachers at "Thanksgiving" (Clockwise, from Left: London, Christine, me, Alan, Steve, Janice, James, and Michael)

Oh weird, I found a tambourine at noraebang...or maybe, it found me???

Just rockin out to Oasis at Noraebang...typical (it's okay because James Teacher is British...that's him on the right, and Steve on the left)

Once again, I find myself thinking back on the past few weeks and wondering, where has the time gone???
Tomorrow is December 11. Four months ago to the day, I left the Minneapolis airport with tear-stained cheeks and shaky confidence. I remember thinking, "I hope it goes fast." Part of me wished I could just fast-forward through those first few months, so that I could sit comfortably with a good 15 weeks under my belt, knowing that the weeks in Korea would quickly slip away from me in the blink of an eye.

Right now, I sometimes wish time would stand still. Every day seems to be over before it even begins. It is Monday morning, and I am walking to school...and then suddenly, it is Friday afternoon in the staff room, last class before school is over the week. The weekends, too, pass in what seems like moments (as they usually do for everyone, I suppose). There is so much to see, so much to take in, so many new streets and districts and corners of Seoul to explore...and suddenly, so little time...
The last few weeks have been a blur of stress, excitement, planning, decorating, evaluating, celebrating, preparing, and trying to find some time to sleep. Thanksgiving: missed the sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie at home...but oddly, it wasn't the biggest thing on my mind. Without any reminders or commercialization of Thanksgiving around me, it just didn't feel as though I was missing out on much- and going to work that day just felt like any other day (although I did award my students bonus stickers if they could tell me what "American holiday" it was that day!) Alan Teacher very graciously hosted a Thanksgiving meal of sorts at his apartment that weekend, for all the foreign teachers. Potluck style, and bring your own plate, cup, and chopsticks! We all chipped in for a few rotisserie chickens...which we were all pumped about, until we "carved" the chickens, took a few bites, and slowly realized that they tasted just like the processed hot dogs and other "meats" that Koreans love so much. Sorry Mom- couldn't eat that rotisserie chicken after comparing its taste to a processed Korean hot dog!
Like any good Thanksgiving, we piled our plates with salad (made by London Teacher), cheesy grits casserole (Alan Teacher- and truly, it was much better than it sounds), about 5 lbs of corn (Shauna Teacher- she overestimated our appetites for corn, just a bit) a most wonderful apple pie made by Michael Teacher! (with vanilla ice cream provided by yours truly)....and of course, a bottle of wine for each person. And if you give a bottle of wine to each person...then he or she will inevitably suggest a trip to noraebang later that night! Hot dog chicken, apple pie, and noraebang...that's a memorable Thanksgiving :)

Preparing for Christmas at school- which means Christmas decorations in my classroom!! I'll put up some pics of it soon. Cutting out reindeer, trees, and gingerbread houses in every spare second I have...I'm pretty sure I could do this for a living, just make themed decorations for classrooms! Aside from making decorations, I'm working on teaching my kinders "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" for the schoolwide Christmas song contest coming up. I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about the song contest this class is pretty notorious for absolutely bombing their song performances when the moment comes...but they're learning the lyrics to this one pretty quickly! We had a whole CD of Christmas songs to choose from...but really, how do you even try to have a 5 year old whose first language is Korean memorize verses like, "don we now our gay apparel" (from "Deck the Halls")??
Last week I got a new kindergarten student- so I am now back up to 10 students. It's amazing how much the classroom dynamics change with the addition of just one more student! Her name is Julie, and she's impossibly tiny and light as a feather. She was very quiet last week, but this week she has opened up a bit and even started to play House with the other girls during Play Gym time (this game always starts with one girl asking, "who my baby? who my sister? who my mommy? who my puppy?" Translation: who would like to play a baby, and cry in a high-pitched voice? Who would like to be the sister, the mom, and the yipping little puppy? SAME THING every day!) It is stressful to have a new student- even if it's a nother 5 year old, it throws off the whole classroom routine and creates a lot more worries...I feel like I should be patroling the classroom all the time, making sure that everyone is being friendly and welcoming to her! It's hard to step back and realize that I can't control every situation...some interactions and socializing need to happen on their own, or these kids will never learn anything!