Category: class

Passion begets passion

So I’ve been learning a lot these days.  I’ve been learning about statistical analysis, international relations theory, the interplay between varying national and multinational institutions, and how to teach 250 undergraduate students about comparative American government.  I’ve been re-learning how to dance, how to navigate Atlanta, and how to cook.  I’ve been studying new languages, making new friends, and creating a new life for myself.

But the thing that I’ve noticed, more than anything, since I came to Atlanta, is this: passion begets passion.  Brilliance begets brilliance.  Talent begets talent.  I’m surrounded every day by really, really smart students from all over the world.  And, while I often feel out of my league, they also make me want to do better.  They make me want to learn more, to prove myself, to do my absolute best.  This is not true in just an academic sense.  I’m surrounded by fantastic dancers, who make me want to improve myself daily.  The people that I’ve met from all over the world – from Germany, China, Korea, Columbia, Brazil, and England, to name a few – serve as a catalyst for me to become more culturally minded and informed about global issues.  The strong Christians that I’ve encountered encourage me to daily become closer to the Lord.

I suppose that the opposite form of this statement is also true – that stagnation begets stagnation, dullness begets dullness, and mediocrity begets mediocrity.  But the great part, is that no one has to become mediocre if they don’t want to.  There’s no reason to become dull if you want to stay sharp.  There are numerous opportunities for growth all around you, if you care to take advantage of them.

The Lord has certainly put plenty of those opportunities into my new life in Atlanta.  I’m only taking 3 classes this semester, plus I’m a teaching assistant for a fourth class (250 undergrad students – I’m going to die!!), but I think that those 4 classes will keep me plenty busy this semester.  Plus, I’m getting very plugged into the dance community here in Atlanta (I’ve gone dancing 3 times in a SINGLE WEEK!  I can’t remember the last time that I’ve done that!).  Actually, I recently met a guy who’s looking for a practice partner, so we might starting doing weekly practices together to improve our dancing faster; we’ll see if that works out.  I’m excited :).  In between classes, I’ve been staying busy familiarizing myself with the campus and Atlanta, making new friends and visiting old ones, finding volunteer opportunities, and trying to improve my Korean and Spanish.  Oh yeah, and doing homework occasionally :P.  One class alone has about 500 pages of reading every week, so homework will definitely keep me hopping :).

I still miss Korea desperately.  I still miss my students so much that it hurts.  I still crave Korean food daily.  I still compare public transportation systems between Korea and America – and Korea always always always wins.  Two days ago was the first day of class at my school in Korea; that was a particularly difficult day for me.  But I have been in this place before.  With Costa Rica, Spain, France, Morocco, Cambodia….it always hurts leaving somewhere you love.  But eventually, the pain dulls, and what you’re left with is just the wonderful experiences, the incredible friends, and the better person that your time abroad made you.  I have no doubt that that will also be the case with Korea.  Until that time, however, I can be content in the knowledge that the Lord has given me a beautiful life here in Atlanta, too.  I can’t wait to see what the next two years bring!

I heart my students

Yesterday, Tuesday, I wasn’t supposed to teach my vocational students.  I have 2 classes, but the first period I was giving them an oral test, and the second period another teacher was supposed to be giving them a vocab review for another test that they have coming up next week.  So after the test, they were all sitting in the room waiting for class to start, and I packed up and tried to say goodbye.My students would have nothing of it.  I was met with a chorus of “Teacher, no go!!  We want you teach us!  Teacher I love you!”  Basically, the class had unanimously decided that they wanted me to teach them instead of their regular teacher.  So I told them that I would stick around and wait to ask her when she got there….but I didn’t really think she would agree.  Well, it turns out that she was very busy, and gave the class over gladly.  So I got to teach my wonderful vocational students – they’re some of my favorites, and I was honestly really bummed that I wasn’t going to be able to teach them.  I was also pretty grateful for my propensity to be over-prepared.  I had already printed out my handouts for my next class, so I just ran down and picked them up and taught that lesson to the vocational students, too.  We had a blast together, if I do say so myself….

Fast-forward to Wednesday.  I was told about 30 minutes before the class was supposed to start that I would be subbing for 2 second-grade high school classes, whom I don’t usually teach at all.  So I rushed around getting ready, and printed out the final handouts just before class started.  The first class was a vocational D-level, which is basically the lowest English level possible.  The Korean teachers are all convinced that they don’t speak any English at all, so the teacher for whom I was subbing came up and introduced me first to the students in Korean.  But I know better.  My co-teachers said the same thing about my vocational D-level students, but I have full conversations with them.  Short ones, granted, and their syntax is completely mangled….but these students know more than their teachers – or even they themselves – give them credit for.  They just need someone to help them open up…

So when the whole class started yelling in horror when the Korean teacher started leaving after her introduction, begging their translator not to leave, I wasn’t worried.  I had been through the same thing with my regular students, and we’ve never had a problem together.  Turns out I was right.  After 50 minutes, by the end of class, they were begging me to permanently replace their regular Korean teacher.  A similar thing happened with the other class, a vocational B-level class.

It’s days like today and yesterday that make the rough classes and long days and tedious hours spent lesson-planning all worth it.

Pepero day

I would like to introduce you to the wonder, the joy, the incredible awesomeness that is….pepero day.  I mentioned in my last post that I made some pepero sticks with my host sister a few days ago, but I have yet to talk about the actual event!  I would be highly remiss in my duties as a blogger if I did not do that, so let me remedy the situation now.Pepero day, 11-11-11, was last Friday.  It’s supposed to be a day when students give pepero to teachers that they appreciate.  However, there were 2 things working against me – A) I’m the new teacher, the low man on the totem pole, as it were, and B) I had been told that pepero day wasn’t really celebrated by students in my school, so I wasn’t really expecting that much.  Most of the day went by with my assumptions being confirmed – by 3:30 or so, I had received 1 box of store-bought pepero, and that was it.  I was ok with that, no biggie.

But then it started coming.  And coming.  And coming.  By the end of the day, I had 9 boxes of store-bought pepero, and 4 bags of homemade stuff.  But the best part for me was the notes.  I got some of the best notes ever – the kind of notes that a teacher dreams of getting.  I’ve posted pictures of all of them here, but my favorite one is the one with the butterfly on the paper – she called me her favorite teacher, and thanked me for the work that I do in class.  Needless to say, I was on cloud nine, and her note is one that I will probably keep for the rest of my life.

I had so many wonderful interactions with students on Friday.  It was also dance class day, so that’s always fun.  I met a senior who asked me to help her with a French essay – I’m not sure how helpful I’ll be with that, but her English was really good, and she was bright and ambitious, and so we exchanged email addresses and hopefully we’ll be able to keep in touch.  Also, if you haven’t checked out the school blog lately, you should take a look at it!  Students have started writing, I’m showcasing some of their work, and overall it’s super exciting!!  🙂

Some of my favorite favorite students.  The girl with the red blanket wrote the butterfly note <3
This was apparently not just a note, but a “love note.”  That’s my name in Korean at the top…
For Loren teacher: Hi!  My name is …hehe Su-eun.  Today is peapearo day! (^_^) So I prepared that I give you peapearo and choco.  I hope you love
Dear Lauren ^_^,  Hello! Lauren.  It’s Bo-min Su in class 3 in the first grade.  I said hello to you several times before.  I don’t know if you remember me.  You are my favorite teacher. Your class was more helpful and much more fun!!! ^_^  Playing games with us, simple examples that you gave us really helped our understandings.  Every week, I just couldn’t wait for the A class on Friday.  I hope you also had fun with us, class A.  Then, don’t catch a cold.  Have a good winter. Many thanks for what you’ve done so far.  From, 1-3 Bo-min.
All of my Pepero day loot, minus 3 boxes that I gave away 🙂
My new high school senior friend! 🙂

Teaching victories

I’ve had some great teaching moments this past week.  One of my classes with whom I was mute the week before (because I had lost my voice) gave me a standing ovation when I walked in and started talking to them.  Yesterday, when I felt like crap, I had about half a dozen students tell me, “Teacher, today you very very beautiful!”  And the fact that these comments came from some of my lowest level girls, whose English is really rough, made their efforts to speak to me all the more meaningful.  Two days ago a student came up to me in my office of her own accord and asked me if she could eat lunch with me sometime.  So I met her and her friend for lunch yesterday in the school cafeteria, and we just sat there and talked.  It was awesome.  Today a student gave me an origami bird that she had made for me.  Multiple students have started coming up to me after class or in the hallways to ask me to correct things for them, or just to talk.  A few days ago I sat down and started eating lunch by myself, and a group of second-graders (not even my students!) came and sat down with me and started talking to me.  I guess my new habit of walking the halls in between class periods and talking to the students that I see has started to pay off… :)I’ve been doing a lesson this week on the differences between Korean and American high schools, with a side tangent about homeschooling, since that’s what I have experience with.  My students have absolutely LOVED the pictures I included.  Every single one of them, even in my worst classes, has been glued to the screen and totally engaged.  Photos of boys from the homeschool group or men in my family have been met with entire roomfuls of gasps and cheers, plus comments like “Teacher, boy very very handsome!” and the occasional “Teacher, give me friend!”.  Hahaha….  I also threw in a few Korean words during the lessons, and they absolutely flipped out.  I’m pretty sure they’re convinced that I’m fluent now.  Maybe it’ll help me with classroom management if they think that I can understand them, hehehe… 😀  I don’t know if my kids paying more attention and getting more into the lessons means that they’re getting nicer, or I’m becoming a better teacher, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.

But my biggest victory came a few nights ago.  About 2 weeks ago, I started a new blogging website for my school.  I’m the primary poster, but the idea is that it be open for students to post on, as well.  Although the page count is steadily increasing, I was getting discouraged because none of my students had written anything.  Well, last night, guess what?!?  One of my students posted a message!!  I was sooo excited!  Check out the blog – and her post – by following this link:

School is a nice contrast from my homestay.  Yesterday, I was moved from my homestay to my friend’s house, amid a flurry of last-minute phone calls and tears.  She is Korean, but since her husband is not (he’s Canadian), it’s not going to be a permanent homestay, and I’ll be moving again within the next few days.  Lots of frustration going on on the home front right now.  But my school is doing their best to resolve things quickly, and I’m confident that it will all work itself out within a few days.  I’ll keep you posted on what ends up happening.  I sure am glad that God is in control of this mess, though! 🙂


Masquerades and fireworks

Well, I’m in rather better spirits than I was in my last blog, although far more sleep deprived.  Let me explain… :)So my voice finally came back on Thursday, and I taught my four classes.  I did a lesson on Halloween and my girls LOVED it.  And me?  Well I was just happy to be teaching (and therefore talking) again.  Their gasps of wonder at the pictures in my slideshow and sighs of understandment during the lesson was just icing on the cake :).  On Friday I didn’t have class, although no one told me that until I actually got to school, which was a bit frustrating.  So I edited some students’ papers and did administrative / emaili stuff for most of the day, and then went home early.

That night there was a masquerade party for another one of the English teachers in town.  I hadn’t planned on going, so instead I went home and ensconced myself in a blanket and watched the Chronicles of Narnia – love that movie :).  But around 11:00 pm, my friend texted me and said that I should come to the party – I would really enjoy it.  It was already so late, and it really took some convincing to persuade me to leave my warm little bubble, but I finally did, and was happy that I did.  There was dancing, I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in a while, and overall it was lots of fun.

Harry all dressed up for the masquerade

On Saturday I went with 4 guys from church to Busan, to see the fireworks.  Busan is renowned for their incredible fireworks shows on one of their many beaches; they had such a big turnout last year, in fact, that this year they stretched the event into 2 weekends instead of just 1.  I wasn’t able to go last weekend because of my Fulbright conference, so instead I went to the finale show.

What a trip that was!  We got there early, to stake out our spot.  The fireworks weren’t supposed to start until 8, but by the time we got there around 4, the beach was already almost full of people.  We just randomly happened to come across Lorna and a few other people that I had met at the Kyrios church retreat (it’s a small world!), and so we set up our blankets with them for the afternoon.  We played card games – I taught the South Africans how to play Apples to Apples, gotta love being a cultural ambassador! – sang songs, reminisced and caught up, ate lots of food, and overall had a great time.  I was glad to have some female companionship :).

On our way to Busan!!
Our friends from Kyrios 🙂
I stole Anthony’s hat!!! 🙂
Norman….I don’t know, lol

About an hour before the fireworks started, however, it started raining – hard. But we had come all this way to see the fireworks, I was darned if I was going to go home now!  So we got out our rain jackets and umbrellas, and hunkered down to wait out the rain.  It was still raining when the fireworks finally started, but you know what they say – the show must go on!  And what a show it was!!  An hour of nonstop lights, lasers, flying fiery kites, and fireworks synched perfectly to music – made the trip and waiting in the rain completely worth it.

Sitting out the rain….
Me and Lorna <3

We didn’t want to stay the night in Busan, though, so after the fireworks ended we headed back to the train station to catch a late train back – us and all the other 3 million people in attendance.  I have never seen such a crush of humanity in my life.  We had to fight for every inch we got, and there were times when I was being squished on all sides so hard that I literally couldn’t breathe.  I was glad when we finally made it to the train station.  We had about an hour to kill before our train left, so we went and got hamburgers (and randomly ran into Megan, my friend from Andong!), and then got on the train.  More people.  In fact, it was standing room only for most of the hour and a half ride back to Gyeongju.  I finally fell into bed, completely spent, around 2 am.  It was sooo worth it, though – check out my pictures below :). The last one is a video!!

So yeah, Sunday came, I dragged myself to church – found out about 45 second before the service started, in fact, that I would be leading it (gotta love Korea!) – came home and took a nap.  I’m finally feeling human again :).  Please continue to keep my homestay situation in your prayers, I’m hoping by next week to have a definitive answer.  Au revior!

Some of the night shots before the rain started
Isn’t that an awesome picture??  I love my camera.  I would marry it it I could…. 😉

Make sure you watch the video directly above!! 🙂

Rice cake festival, Seoul, and Hwacheon

Whew!  What a whirlwind weekend I’ve had!!  I’m grateful for the opportunities to see so many things, but MAN I’m looking forward to not traveling every weekend!  I’m sooo tired….but let’s start at the beginning, shall we?Last week was fairly uneventful.  Classes and study went by as usual, with nothing particularly exciting to report.  The one exception to that would be Wednesday.  A bee got into the classroom in the middle of my lesson, and I quickly realized that ignoring it, my preferred choice, was not an option.  The girls were screaming and running away from it, and there was absolutely no way I was going to get them to pay attention to the lesson.  So I intended to just shoo it out of the classroom, but he wasn’t cooperating and time was a-wasting.  So I must admit, I was forced to sacrifice the poor bee in the name of education.  The response I got from my girls, however, was quite amusing.  I got a standing ovation, a chorus of “We love you, teacher!” and even “Teacher, you’re my hero!” a few times.  Almost makes me want to let bees run loose in the classroom just so I can kill them, lol…

The other excitement on Wednesday happened after school.  Songi, my host sister, had a test, so she got out of school early.  She actually asked me to walk home with her – at which I jumped at the opportunity – and then I suggested that we go to the Rice Cake and Wine Festival, which was happening in Gyeongju at the time.  She agreed, and we spent the whole afternoon hanging out together at the festival, even making rice cakes and eating dinner together.  With all of the stress and tension that’s been happening in my homestay lately, it was so wonderful to just be able to enjoy her company for a while.

Songi convinced me to dress up like the ancient Queen Seondeok (who my school is named after)
Making 똑 (rice cakes)!
Apparently she WAS smiling!  Lol…

I also have a newfound respect for her.  On our way back we decided to take a taxi, and long story short he basically totally ripped us off.  He went the ABSOLUTE longest way back home that he could, and our fare was about 3 times longer than it should have been.  Well, I knew what was going on but wasn’t really able to do anything about it.  But Songi?  She would have none of it.  First she called her mother (while still in the taxi) and starts complaining about how the taxi driver’s ripping us off, so that he could hear her.  Then she hung up and starting laying into him.  Then she called the taxi company and complained about him to them.  And THEN, when we finally got out of the cab, she warned the people getting in after us to find a different taxi!  This coming from the girl who’s normally so shy she won’t even let me put the camera on her face when we skype with friends back home!  I was so proud of her!!!!

So anyway, that was my week’s worth of excitement…now on to the weekend!  On Friday night, after my dance class, I went up to Seoul on the KTX (Korea’s super-fast bullet train) with my friend Harry.  THAT was an adventure before we even got to the train station!  My school took me out for dinner after dance class, but I had to leave early to make my train, so I took a taxi back home….and then I realized that I had forgotten my credit cards at school, so I had to take a taxi there to get them, and then another one back home; I got into my fourth taxi of the night to FINALLY head to the KTX, but then we had to turn around again because Harry thought he had forgotten something (which it turns out that he hadn’t).  So by the time my FIFTH taxi of the night brought me to the KTX station, we had to run to make our train – we did make it, but it was tight!  Not the way I would have wanted my weekend to start, but I guess it makes for a good story, right? 🙂

My first KTX ride ever!!

So Saturday we spent milling around Seoul.  There was an expat festival that we went to in the morning.  I met some cool people there, but the festival was all outside and they weren’t prepared to handle the rain that came, so we left a little bit after lunch.  We were contemplating going to Lotte World, which is like the Disney World of Korea, but the torrential rains kind of killed those plans.  So instead, we decided to go see…Cats!  Yes, the award-winning dancing and singing extravaganza has made it all the way to Korea!  And, while I’m sure some of the brilliance was lost on me, since it was all in Korean, I was still definitely able to appreciate the fabulous sets, talented singers, and incredible dancing.  Add to the mix smart phones, with which we could look up the synopsis of Cats during intermission, and we got along just fine :).

One of the performances at the expat festival
Left to right – Tony from Sweden, Yu from China, me, Harry, and Fabriccio from Italy.  I love traveling…….but man, I’m tiny!! 😀

Our evening was spent in the rain in Itaewon, the foreign district in Seoul.  We went to a Jordanian restaurant called Petra Palace and got hummus and falafel for dinner, and I was super happy :). Sunday morning we found an early English speaking church service, and went there together before we parted ways – he went back to Gyeongju, and I went up…to Hwacheon!!

The Petra Palace 🙂

My dear friend Sarah’s 21st birthday was this weekend.  And, it just so happened that I don’t have school this week, and I was already in Seoul, so all I had to do was go a little farther north and I was there!  She had a party on Sunday night with her host family, Leora’s host family, her co-teacher, and Adam, another Fulbrighter.  I stayed with her in her homestay both Sunday and Monday night, and went to school with them on Monday.  I got to observe some of both her and Leora’s classes, as well as be there for the party that Sarah’s co-teachers threw for her.  Her family took me on a walk around the town on Sunday night, and out for dinner on Monday night.  They were so amazingly loving and wonderful…her host brother, Eun-chan, who speaks near perfect English, took a liking to me.  We when on a walk after he finished school on Monday, while we were waiting for Sarah and Leora to finish.  Her host sister, Eun-song, is in high school.  So I didn’t get to see as much of her, but she’s super sweet (and also speaks English really well), so when she was around we had fun.  Her parents don’t speak much English, but they try, and you don’t have to speak the same language to see the love exuding from their pores.  They are all Christians, so I even got to read the Bible with them both mornings that I was there.  It’s a daily tradition that they have now – Sarah and the kids take turns reading, first in English, then in Korean.  It was so cool to be able to share our love of Jesus together :).

Beautiful Hwacheon

It was so hard to leave them, and the ride back to Gyeongju was very long, but I’m sooo glad that I went up there.  Meeting these wonderful people, getting to see Sarah and Leora and Adam, seeing what a real homestay family should be like…it was just so refreshing!  But now, I fear that I shall have to cut this short – this blog is getting long, and lessons for next week must me made!  I’m sure you’ll hear from me again soon… 🙂  Check out pictures from Hwacheon below!

Leora’s host sister
Sarah and Eun-chan, her host brother
Leora and co-teacher
Fulbrighters reunited!!
Eun-song (Sarah’s host sister), me, Leora, and Eun-chan
Leora’s host brother
Eating cake with chopsticks, gotta love it <3
Happy birthday, Sarah!!
Cuddling in the park….man it’s cold up there!!
Sarah’s host parents and Eun-chan
Me and the whole family.  I love them….. 🙂