Sunday, February 21, 2010

Festival Miracles...and other milestones

NOW it's more like spring in Suji...because Festival is OVER!
I know these look disgusting (as I think most Korean food does...), but they're acutally delicious dumplings called Mandu, with seasome soy sauce to dip them in. After a hard days' work at Festival, we needed to refuel with some Mandu at our favorite Korean restaurant!
Me with Lucy, my head supervisor

Flowers from my students' parents after the performance!

Just before their last big performance of the day, their instrumental Korean piece
This kid wasn't too happy about his costume

This class looked like a bunch of pirates...
My Boys (Alan, Tony, Zackary), preparing for their instrumental piece in front of the audience
This is Samuel from London's class...he was probably the only kindergarten boy who enjoyed being dressed in lime green ruffles and sequins

Seriously- look at these costumes! Some of them just had absolutely nothing to do with the story or speech or song that the students were performing! Ridiculous!
Shauna's class: Hoony and Andrew. Check out their spangled bellbottoms pants and sequined shirts! Jack, from my reading club...part of the pirate (?) class!

Christine's class: shiny, electric-blue tuxedo jackets, sequined bow ties, and top hats. That's normal for a 6 year old...only in Asia
This is Judy, from the 5-year old class. I think she loved her costume!
The 5-year old class, excited to go onstage!
All my little animals, ready to perform!
The tiny backstage room was so crowded, and sabsolutely chaotic!
Alex is ready to be a little frog!
Sara's part was a little old whale...but her costume looked more like a bug!
Zackary, the perfect little lion
Julie, in her fish costume (which actually looked more like a dinosaur, or maybe a lizard?)
Tony in his mouse costume, getting ready backstage!
Irene in her bunny costume- I think I was the proudest of her for Festival. Six months ago, she couldn't even tell you a letter of the alphabet...but she memorized all her lines and delivered them perfectly!
My class onstage, performing our story, "Where Have You Been?"
My class onstage, during the last chords of our song, "I Will"
They were such great performers!
And's OVER!!
On Saturday, LCI Kids Club, Suji School hosted its 8th Annual Festival...and I have to say, that despite the complaining (on the teachers' part) and stress (on everyone's part) for the past few months, it was an absolutely exciting, successful, and unforgettable day. I never could have imagined just how proud of my students I'd feel on this day...I felt like the happiest teacher in the world! Seeing them arrive backstage, ready for the day ahead with the biggest smiles on their faces, bouncing off the walls with excitement...getting them in a line just before going onstage, with each one tugging on my shirt to repeat their lines to me one last time...kneeling in front of the stage, mouthing the words along with them, beaming when each student completed a verse...leading them offstage proudly, feeling so excited to congratulate them and see the look of accomplishment clearly written across their faces...and then seeing their parents afterward, unable to stop smiling and bearing flowers for their children and for me.

I think this was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had...I know that sounds trivial to label a kindergarten song-and-dance performance as "the most rewarding experience," but it's true! Even now, the next day, I just feel so proud and happy for my students. I think we all gained a lot of confidence in our abilities through this students and myself, and all the other teachers. I really thought the school was CRAZY when they first introduced the plan for Festival, a few months back...and I do still think they're a bit crazy, after witnessing so many weeks of frustration and criticism and impossibly high standards for the students...but now I think that a lot of the struggle and necessary effort was such an incredible learning experience for everyone involved. It really made me realize how far my students have come in the past 6 months. When I first started teaching them, they were 5 year olds with just half a year of English experience. They could only say things like "My bathroom, please!" accompanied with lots of whining. Now look at them- they can sing a whole song in English (and a Beatles song, at that), accompanied by choreographed movements...and can recite verses of English stories in front of an auditorium full of people! I actually had tears in my eyes at a few points during the day...and not just tears of frustration, like I'd had during Festival practice the past two months...!
I hate that I have to think about this, but I also hope that the students received all the congratulations and happiness from their families that I felt for them after their I've definitely noticed, and dealt with before, their parents are truly the toughest critics. Just one day before Festival, I had a student's mother call the school to express her concern over my students' overall pronunciation of their lines for the Festival story. She just wanted to make sure that our class would be as good as, and hopefully better than, all the other kindergarten classes, pronunciation-wise.
I know that this is the structure of their education system, that their standards are sky-high even for the youngest children...but it still made me sad that the parents can't simply tell their children to "have fun" on Festival Day. I can't help but compare that to a similar scenario back home...when we had Christmas concerts and Spring concerts in elementary school, weren't we just given a hug, a kiss, and a "good luck, have fun!" before hopping onstage? I made sure to tell each of my students, individually, before they went onstage, the same thing...with a few rounds of "congratulations" and "great job" afterward!
I never thought I'd be sad that Festival Season is over...but its completion signals the end of the school term, and thus the changing of classes. The 7-year old kinders "graduated" to elementary school on Saturday (Korean students don't officially start school until 1st grade), so they'll no longer be part of the big kindergarten family. And my class will move on to the 7-year old I'll most likely no longer be teaching them. We haven't found out officially yet, but it's most likely that I'll be teaching a fresh batch of 6 year olds (without any prior English experience) starting in just a week. I'm very sad that I will no longer be teaching my kindergarten class...I said this onstage during Festival, when us teachers had to introduce ourselves and offer comments about our classes, and I really believe it...that coming to school every day for the past 6 months, with the anticipation of teaching my kinders, has been like getting to see my best friends everyday. They're the ones who could instantly put me in a good mood with just a smile or an excited shout of "Britney Teacher!" There were really just a few days in those 6 months that I felt truly enraged or frustrated with them. I feel so attached to them- they're my little babies, and I'll be so sad to see them move on without me.

And finally, the other big milestone...6 months down, 6 months to go in South Korea! It's official- the half-year mark has passed. That was such a strange feeling, counting such major events and times off my calendar of time in Korea. Halloween and Thanksgiving, check. Christmas preparation and Christmas vacatuion, check. Darren coming to visit, check. Festival, check. And now the Six-Month Mark, check. I just have a feeling that soon will be spring, and then the months will just roll by from there...


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's Festival Season...

Here are some of the props I made my students for our Festival story. My right arm almost fell off from coloring so much. Thank God for lamination machines...these pictures wouldn't stand a chance otherwise with a bunch of wild kindergartners

Alan: his part is a "little old bee, in a pink apple tree, drinking honey and tea." Like his new hairstyle? It's pretty trendy...he just grew out his perm, and I'm pretty sure that now his mom straightens his hair every morning before school.

Alex: he is a "little old frog, sitting on a great big log in this big blue pond!"

Alice: nope, she's actuallyt NOT singing "She's Got the Whole World in her Hands"- ha! Her part is a "little old cat" who has been "Around the world." Pretty cute!

Tony: this is the little boy who recently told me the name of every planet in the solar system, according to their respective distance from the Sun.

Irene: "little old bunny, little old bunny, why do you run?" I'm still amazed that she learned all her lines! She likes to try to get me to speak Korean, just so that she can say, "Teacher! No speaking Kor-eeeee-an!!"

Benjamin and Julia, two of my kindergarten reading club students. They each have to memorize a speech for Festival. Benjamin's speech is about Napoleon Bonaparte, and Julia's is about Macchu Picchu. A bit advanced for a couple of 7 year olds??
Julia: she's very giggly :)

More reading club students: Belle and Claire
This is Belle. I'm pretty sure that she is me, in the 6 year old, little Korean girl form. She is quiet and shy, loves to read, and is very smart- but she has the cutest little smile and laugh- and the most stylish little red boots. Claire and Clara Belle and Jenny: reading club snack, processed peanut butter filled white-bread pockets. Yum!
This is Woon. He says all of his 'o' sounds like 'ooooooo.' When he sees me draw something, he always says, "oooo, very goooood!" He pronounces his name "oon," without the 'w.' Koreans can't say the 'w' if it's followed by the 'oo.' For instance- they can't say "wood"'s kind of funny to have them all repeat a word like that at once!
Alice is excited because she got cute new bangs? Or because she is Girl #1 in love with Zackary?
Ashley: Girl #2 who is in love with Zackary
Irene: only girl who is NOT in love with Zackary- although probably just because she doesn't even know what's going on half the time...

And here is Zackary...the object of affection in Classroom 2
Sara: the first girl to fall in love with Zackary. Although I'm not so sure he feels the same??
Suji: The ice has thawed on the sewage stream, the ground has turned soft and muddy, and the stores are setting up their spring displays. Even the days are finally getting longer. This can only mean one thing in Suji...Festival Season is here.

Festival Season: the only time of year in which you can both love and hate your kindergartners at the same time. True, they test your patience every day of the year...but the days during Festival Season feel like the longest days with the least amount of patience to test. It becomes a grueling journey to the finish, the much-anticipated Festival event on Saturday, February 20th, in which the students showcase all they have learned in the past year. The event will be attended by such prominent and honorable guests as Mommy, Daddy, Grandmother, and Grandfather. Since before Christmas break, all the kindergarten students have been practicing their songs, stories, plays, and speeches every day- with their parents at home, and countless times during the school day. There have been fights and tantrums, tears and bloody noses (unrelated to the festival practice, actually- but those two things incidents seem to always coincide in the worst possible way).

One day in the future, Festival Season will be over, and classes will resume as normal. Kindergarteners will have playtime again...students will only have 4 hours of homework each night, instead of 4 hours + 2 hours Festival practice...and the teachers will hopefully regain their sanity.

Eyes on the prize, eyes on the prize...

In all honesty, though, it has been a very interesting experience to prepare for the Festival Season. I've spent a lot of time drawing and coloring props for my story, leading verses of our song over and over until my voice has gone hoarse, and practicing dance moves. But I think it will all pay off! I'm so proud of my students for memorizing their lines and putting so much effort into their parts. I can't wait to see them up on the stage, in their costumes, trying to do their best for Mommy and Daddy and Grandmother and Grandfather! :)

Aside from the stresses of Festival Season, it's been nice to experience some warmer, more pleasant weather here latel. One of my kindergarten students came to school on Monday morning with an interesting story about a winter activity from the day before: apparently, "Mommy skate, then this" (motion of falling on floor, face plant) and "teeth, no!" Translation: Irene's mommy fell while her family was skating, and she knocked her front teeth out! All the little girls in class were giving Irene hugs because Irene said she was sad for mommy's teeth. That was cute, but kind of overkill...sometimes all these little girls are just too much!

I've had 6 girls and 4 boys the past few months (and usually just 3 boys, because one is absent a lot). That's A LOT of pink, and princesses, and pouting. And apparently, the warmer spring-like weather has also brought out some feelings of love in my classroom...all of the girls have been "secretly" fighting over one of my boys, Zackary. It's not really so secret, though...they won't leave him alone! It's been a bit difficult to fashion a seating chart in which NO girl in love with Zackary is sitting next to, love triangles don't mix well with Festival Season. I'll keep you updated on this exciting drama in Classroom Two...