Monday, 24 February 2014

Chip the glasses and crack the plates...that's what [Maggie] hates.

For the last few months the ice in my freezer has been building up and I have been steadfastly ignoring it because I really hate defrosting fridges. I know, technically, it's not hard work but it is time-consuming.
Anyway, after months of pretending the problem didn't exist, things came to a head last week when I realised that the inside of my fridge was starting to freeze too. So, with much reluctance I set aside Saturday morning for defrosting the freezer.

To be honest, it went great. I followed the steps on WikiHow and by 1.30 things were looking good. That is until, I was mopping up the floor where the water had run out the side of my fridge! Seriously! I still had a crap load of things on top of my fridge (you can see where this is going, can't you?) and as I shoved around the fridge to tackle the water, everything stayed in place. I was done and dusted and ready to plug in the fridge. So, I adjusted it to shove back into place when THUMP, SPLOT, CRACK. My jar of chickpeas smashed to the ground. It broke everywhere. Glass and chickpeas were mixed together and had flung themselves under my bed, across the kitchen and all around the fridge. I was so annoyed that I cried. I had to leave for a good-bye dinner with my friend at 2.45 and it was 2.15. I had planned to do the dishes, put out the laundry - and get dressed, in  those 30 minutes. Instead, I spent the time cleaning up my mess.

I wish I could say it stopped there but my bad luck continued. I got to the train station and realised my boot had something in it, and worried it might be a piece of glass, I took it off, shook it out but found nothing. So, tying them tight, I got on the train and made my merry way to Seo-Daejeon. Now, between Seo-Daejeon train and subway station there is about a 10-15 minute walk. I had only gone about 2 minutes when I realised the back of my foot was in pain. I decided to ignore it until I got to the subway station but, literally 1 minute from there, I couldn't take it anymore. I pulled off my boot, pulled up my jeans and realised that there was blood on the back of my foot. I checked my boots and sure enough there was a little round spot of blood. Something rough was there and had been digging into me for the 25 minute train ride and 10 minute walk. I didn't know what to do and, not wanting to be late to meet my friend, I decided to suck it up. I put my foot back in the boot but didn't bother zipping it up and made my way to our meeting place.

Looking back I think I might be mad for having been so reckless as to carry on. However, when I got home that night the cut on my foot had scabbed over. I haven't worn the boots since though and before I do I'm going to carefully check that there is nothing dangerous in them. I didn't die but I don't recommend my course of action. Had I not been able to walk, I definitely would have gone to a hospital!

PS This post was inspired by a few disasters in an otherwise lovely weekend. Also, a huge goodbye to a good friend who has been an important part of the Tea Party and the Wine and Crafts Club. You are going to be missed, Addi!

PPS: The title of this post is from Tolkien's The Hobbit when the dwarves are raiding Bilbo's pantry. Speaking of the pantry: a huge thank you to all the people who kindly volunteered their freezers for my food! And a mega thank you to Annette for letting me use hers.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Tell me why, I don't like [desk-warming]?

The textbook and teacher guide for 5th grade
and my trusty 
Essential TEFL
It's that time of the year, the dreaded desk-warming time of the year. School is out, camps are over but your job is not done. What seems like a pointless exercise is indeed upon us. You sit at your desk for around 1-2 weeks and try to find a way took busy. One of my friends, Chasing Glitter, posted a good amount of suggestions about what to do with this time for Reach to Teach. It got me thinking about why we have this time, what are supposed to do with it and how it is usually spent.

Firstly, this is not a blog post criticising anyone on how they spend their desk-warming. Goodness knows I haven't utilised my time very well in the past. This post is only to give you an insight into how I best believe I can make a difference in my time during desk-warming. You can choose to follow my new example or you can do whatever you want including what I used to do which was to spend a lot of time on Facebook, Imgur and Pottermore and watching  How I Met Your Mother. Whilst this latter suggestions sounds like an excellent idea right now, I don't believe it suffices for me. Firstly, I've seen all the episodes, sometimes several times, and I am completely caught up on nearly every single show I like. I suppose I could start a new one, but do you know just how addicted I am to TV as it is? I can't find room for a new series! In fact, the only reason I started watching Agents of Shield with any regularity is because HIMYM and Psych are coming to an end.

My first period of desk-warming was way back in August 2012. That was so long ago I can barely remember what I did. However, I also only had about 2-3 days and I spent the time I had working on blog posts, preparing what I could for my first week of classes the following semester and playing around on Facebook and catching up on the aforementioned TV show. A lot. I think that is also around the time I heard of Lamebook and I spent way more time on that site than I ever should have. My first winter was a long one and both before and after I went to Vietnam, I had way too much time to kill. That's also when I was introduced to Imgur and Pottermore. If you are a Harry Potter fan this last site is amazing, time consuming and way too preoccupying. I did spend some time preparing things but I wasn't really sure what my role was going to be and, in fact, two of the teachers changed their minds on how they wanted me to participate once I was actually in their classes. The little preparation I did didn't benefit me much! I also spent some time working on my blog. Which brings me to August 2013. I spent quite a bit of time on my blog, very little time on Pottermore and little to no time on any other sites that weren't school or blog related. I was a lot more prepared for my classes and it made a difference for me.

To that end, I am starting my desk-warming on Monday. What will desk-warming 2014 bring me? What changes to my lifestyle do I want to make and what can I do to improve my time? To begin, I spent quite a bit of time in between camp and classes (I am on double duty this week) reflecting on why we have this time. Yes, in many ways it is pointless - if I were able to be at home I could go to the bank, clean my house, catch up on laundry and maybe go on a visit to some interesting place in Korea. However, most schools require their teachers (English and homeroom teaches alike) to spend time in school. During this week, most homeroom teachers know where they will be assigned when school starts back up in March, so they will spend that time clearing out their old room and/or setting up their new room. Time will be spent on lesson planning, and if it the summer, evaluating the materials and lessons you have left for the remainder of the year. For us NETS, the time goes very slowly. A week spent at your desk and not teaching is interminable.

This time is, ostensibly, to prepare for your camps/future classes and if you are not renewing your contract preparing things for the incoming NET. However, there is only so much time you can spend on these things. They are times when you need a break. This is where I have had trouble in the past. Either the break from lesson/camp planning becomes the main focus or I just don't ever get really started on what I need to do. I've thought long and hard about how I want 2014 to pan out. I want to be in the TEFL game for a lot longer than I have been thus far. This means that not only do I need to "up my game", I also need to be on top of my game. I think upping your game is really important. Whether you are here for another month, six months or several years, why not up your game? It benefits everyone, especially you.

Whether you like teaching or not. you are here to do a job and I know, from personal experience, giving 100% is so satisfactory. Therefore, for 2014 here are the 5 things I want to accomplish during this years desk-warming:
  1. Plan my afterschool lessons. For my phonics lessons prepare worksheets, games and ppts that can be used for any number of students. (1 hour per day)
  2. Talk to the home-room teachers once I know what classes I will teach and plan my textbook lessons using original materials and adapting materials from (1 hour per day)
  3. Book and start my final 20 hours of my i-to-i TEFL online course to boost me from 120 hours to 140 hours. (1 hour per day)
  4. Start studying TEFL books for CELTA and/or TEFL Masters programs (1 hour per day)
  5. Reorganise my class room. Plan boards for each season and boards with target language from text books or the TEE book (1 hour)

You might think I'm mad not "wanna shoo-oo-woo-woo-woo-oot the whole [desk-warming time] down". However, by just doing these things I will have used up 5 hours of my 8 hour day. For the rest of the time, I want to work on my blogs (this and my new cooking one), work on things for The Sejong Dish, read and do something fun. I don't know yet what the fun thing will be - maybe planning my trip to Taiwan? Either way, I refuse to let the grass grow under my feet this year! And, I'll still get some relaxation time.

PS Links to the above distracting websites were not included because if I had visited any of these sites this post would NOT be ready to be published before the end of March! However, please feel free to visit them yourself.
PPS This post was inspired by my own experiences, the article linked above (click on Reach to Teach) and the Boomtown Rats "I don't like Mondays".

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!

Imagine standing at the top of a hill. Excitement fills the air. A cacophony of sounds fill your ears. Fear fills your tummy: "What on earth have I done?" There you are standing at the top of a hill that suddenly seems a lot steeper than it initially looked (ok, Irish readers, it was twice the size of the hill in Griffith park. It's scarier than it sounds!) and sledding seems like a very bad idea.

This January, at the end of our week long English Camp (the theme was Around the World), we went to a nearby English Village. The highlight of this trip was sledding and I was super excited for it when my teacher told me about it. Although, I thought she said we were going "sleighing" and had an image of all of us in a sleigh with Santa going around the English Village much like how you see people go around Central Park in the movies (by the way, can any New Yorkers tell me if that does really happen?). I was a little shocked when I realised that it was actual sledding. However, I've been wanting to do a winter sport for ages and it just hasn't happened. So, after a cup of tea, and handing over my purse to my co-teacher, I headed up to join our students. I, luckily, bumped into one of them straight away and she took me under her wing. We got our sleds - they looked like inflatable rings that you use in the swimming pool but with a bottom that you sat on (when I sledded as a kid it was on a tray or plastic bag in the local park!) - and headed up a hill to join the other sledders. My students who spotted me were delighted that I was that brave to go up with them and the strangers who were there stared, pointed and chatted about me. Meanwhile, panic was starting to bubble up and I really wanted to turn around and run away: I was having images of breaking a leg or tumbling out of the sled and not being able to get on my plane home that evening. 

Then, a small hand tugged on mine and I looked down to see my student smiling and saying "Margaret Teacher - together." I was instantly grateful and I squashed down the fast building panic, rearranged myself so that I was holding on to her sled with one hand and she could do the same for me. A few seconds later the whistle blew and we were off.  I thought my heart would fall out of my mouth on a few occasions but it was so much fun. I did squeal but it wasn't from fear as much as exhilaration! I got up and, this time, I went with two of my students. 

One of the other teachers joined us on the next run but decided that hill was too tame for her. She wanted the higher one and encouraged me to join her. It wasn't until I was on top of that hill that I realised why the other one worked for me: Joining your students in going down a hill at lightning speeds is definitely easier - you can't show them your fear! However, on that second, higher hill, you could only go down alone. I still enjoyed it but I thought my heart would stop.

So, you might think I'm mad but that despite having a ton of fun, I've no desire to go back to that English Village, and in fact would strongly discourage others from going. The reason for this is (obviously) not the sledding but that I don't think that the program they run actually encourages students to learn English. The games they played (domino towers and musical chairs) don't practice any conversational English. Further, the market roleplay didn't teach target sentences that are appropriate to a class of mixed level learners (approx 30 kids from 1st to 4th grade). A higher level of English was required than I think should have been and all of our 1st and most of our 2nd graders were left floundering. They didn't make sure that all (or most) of the students knew the sentences before they started the roleplay and the general negativity energy coming from the facilitators was discouraging for me, my colleagues and our students.

Bad angle but these are the sledding hills!
However, leaving aside the dismal encouragement of English, this sledding, apart from my trip home, may have been the highlight of my winter. It was liberating, fun, and it showed me I could face my fears - even the little ones - I could make that "leap". So here is to 2014 and facing one's fears. No matter what they are, and how deep they are, let's try "defying gravity"! Except for snakes. That one is NEVER going to be faced. Uggggh.

PS This post was inspired by Wicked's  "Defying Gravity" and a wonderful few, bruising, hours of sledding!

Monday, 3 February 2014

When you walk through a storm.

No matter how well life is going for you, you are going to have "off" days. Today is one of those for me. I don't know what's wrong or what is causing the "off" feeling. I know that it's making me feel alone, tired, angry, weird and listless. I was sick last week so I know it could just be from that. Whatever is causing it, I do know though that it's hard to have an "off" day no matter what but it can be harder when you are away from home. And that's ok.

On Saturday, I couldn't get to sleep until pretty late and when I woke up on Sunday, I was feeling off and it has continued to today. I made sure that I got outside for some fresh air to clear my head and I tried to not think during that time. I watched Friends to see if some laughter would disspell my mood and I talked to one of my sisters. These things helped at the time but the feeling lingered. It sucks, it really does, and it's hard if you feel like you have no one to talk to - or at least no one to talk to right when you need it. Time differences suck. I have an 8/9 hour time difference depending on daylight savings time and having to wait to call home to chat stinks.

You might think I'm mad but I don't have a fail-proof solution to offer you or even really any advice. Just some  words of comfort: You are not alone. Just talk to someone. Anyone, even yourself. Just talk, cry if you have to and try to get it out of your system. However, don't dwell on it too much or do anything rash when you feel like this because it is just a phase and you are not alone. Someone, somewhere, is going through what you are going through and you have people who love you. "Keep your chin up high and don't be afraid of the dark" because you, and I, are going to get through this. There is light at the end of the tunnel. And, whether anyone can relate or not, just talk and maybe you will find your peace and the hope that you need to "walk on".

PS. I'm really sorry for this post being a downer but having a bad day is a normal part of life and everyone has a bad day in Korea - even me.
PPS This post's title was inspired by the song "You'll never walk alone" from the movie Carousel.
PPPS: Thank you Mlle Awesome for cheering me up. I really needed it!