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authorSean Whitton <>2015-11-18 10:09:12 -0700
committerSean Whitton <>2015-11-18 10:09:12 -0700
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+[[!meta date="2013-12-27 12:14:00"]]
+[[!meta title="First eight weeks in Incheon"]]
+[[!tag imported_PyBlosxom writing diary]]
+Today was the last day of the school academic year and I'm at the start
+of two weeks off before I spend the remainder of the school vacation
+teaching special vacation classes. It took a long time to get settled
+here since there were so many things to sort out and so many things I
+didn't know. Though of course my life here both inside and outside of
+school will change from month to month as I meet different people and
+spend my time doing different things, as of maybe two weeks ago I have
+felt properly settled and able to spend all of my free time on things
+that I am interested in rather than things that I have to do (with one
+exception to be described below). So now seems like a good time to write
+about my everyday life here. I won't write much about Korea more
+[[!more linktext="continue reading this entry" pages="!blog/entry/*" text="""
+My ordinary lessons during the school term have become very routine in
+two ways. Firstly, we have lots of classroom routines: lots of
+activities that we have done with each class lots of times, of course
+with different target language to learn and practice. This is sensible
+practice when teaching with minimal use of one's students' native
+language because it reduces the amount of misunderstanding of classroom
+instructions, and since we still give instructions it's another
+opportunity for our students to process the language we're using to give
+them, since they already know what we're trying to get across. But it
+does mean that I rarely put any thought into the educational value of
+the activities I prepare, instead thinking in terms of filling the time
+in which the class is supposed to study English with something similar
+to that which has filled that time in previous weeks. I do try out new
+activities once or twice a week, but in choosing these I'm usually
+thinking about variety and fun rather than education.
+Secondly, I care a lot less than I did, and I think at this point a lot
+less than my co-teacher, about how the classes actually go. When I
+started I was frequently worked up about activities and indeed whole
+classes falling apart, as often happens, both for my sake in trying to
+pull the lesson together and my students' sake. But now the only thing
+that genuinely annoys me in lessons is when the class won't shut up and
+listen to our instructions for an activity that I think they're going to
+really enjoy (often because they're already excited after having
+completed the first stage of that activity). When things fall apart I
+don't mind that much. I reflect on when this happens and my co-teacher
+and I discuss it and what we should do different for the next class---we
+teach almost all of our lesson plans more than once---but I don't feel
+that I care all that much, which I find sad.
+I don't have enough experience in education to say whether the above two
+observations about my attitudes towards my lesson planning and teaching
+are signs of becoming a complacent teacher, or just the results of
+settling into the job that should not be seen as negative.
+How much I enjoy teaching classes varies a lot, depending most strongly
+on the attitude that a class of pupils brings to a particular lesson. I
+guess the class they have had immediately before we see them has a big
+effect. Sometimes they're just not interested and sometimes they come up
+with fun contributions and sentences, expressing their personalities.
+Aside from a ten minute session once per week I teach third, fourth,
+fifth and sixth grade. Most of my time is with the older two grades and
+I am happy about this fact, since I enjoy teaching them significantly
+more than the younger ones. The young ones are incredibly smiley and
+very willing to listen to my voice and loudly chant back to me, but
+they're just a bit too young to be interesting: their language level is
+very low and also they don't have much to say for themselves. Of course
+there are plenty of boring older students too but the 5th and 6th grade
+classes have enough interesting characters for me to enjoy myself.
+My relationship with my immediate co-workers, the two Koreans whom I
+co-teach with, and my relationship with the wider school staff, are very
+good. It's clear to them that I'm making a serious effort to learn some
+Korean since I frequently try out new things I've learnt and, of my
+immediate co-workers, as plenty of questions. I think this is probably
+the foundation of the general goodwill that exists between me and the
+other staff.
+With my immediate co-workers I do worry that I am making them
+uncomfortable and perhaps occasionally being rude, as a result of my
+feeling close enough to them that I'm being much less careful about
+cultural differences. That is, I'm being myself, and there are aspects
+of my personality that are very very western (more specifically, very
+Oxford philosophy student...) that are hard for Koreans to deal with.
+Various mental barriers to certain behaviours have melted away. In the
+first few weeks I frequently caught myself and didn't criticise things
+or make complaints, or do things like correct my co-teacher's English.
+But now I've realised that I'm doing these things unthinkingly.
+Here's an example. I'm generally pretty chatty and I tend to complain
+about things that I don't actually mind very much about. But my
+co-teachers frequently interpret this as me asking them to do something
+about the issue, and very often it is something out of their control so
+they just feel bad about it. If I want them to help me out with
+something I'll ask them directly, but they don't always see it this way.
+My cultural insensitivity here creates unnecessary stress for them.
+Another example is making comments about Korean culture. This is
+philosophy student territory: my style is to make harsh critical remarks
+about things to provoke a defence of them and therefore come to
+understand them. A man's true nature is revealed in war etc.etc. For the
+first month or so I caught myself and avoided this, but now I realise
+that I'm not being so careful. And Koreans aren't keen on confrontation.
+Hopefully I can learn to be more careful again with all these things
+around my co-teachers.
+My Korean is coming along okay. I can express a lot more than I could
+when I arrived because attending classes has got me a bunch of new
+grammar that I try out at school. But my level is still very low and
+it's essentially just a way to break the ice with Koreans, and get by a
+little easier in shops, services etc., rather than a way of
+communicating very much. I wish I could put more time into studying, but
+I find it hard to fully commit when there is also philosophy to study,
+and on the grounds that I could well not be here for any longer than a
+year (see below).
+I have met and continue to meet various people without really trying
+that hard to meet new people, which is nice. Generally I meet foreigners
+rather than Koreans, but I have met some Koreans too. I want to put the
+effort into finding Korean friends by doing language exchanges; there
+are websites to meet people who want to meet foreigners and have enough
+English to do so under the assumption that you'll teach each other your
+native language. A lot these devolve into hookups, and a super-serious
+language exchange is beyond my current level since I'm not
+conversational. Something in between would be good: some more Korean
+friends to teach me some language and also show me some cool stuff to do
+in Incheon and Seoul would be great.
+I consider myself to have missed Christmas this year since aside from
+serious Christians it is not celebrated here. It is a national holiday,
+though, and in the morning I headed out to a coffee shop to study some
+philosophy. This turned out to be a really great idea because by
+starting my logic textbook, I broke my mental block to sitting down and
+studying that was built on the assumption that it would be unpleasantly
+hard and serious. It is hard and serious, and I need to figure out what
+attitude to take towards it while not being at university. But now that
+I've started the textbook it's much easier to continue. Not putting off
+doing this should allow me to spend my free time better than I have been
+doing; fear of effort has kept me procrastinating a lot lately.
+I try not to think too much about the future, but recently I completed
+my applications to graduate philosophy master's and doctoral courses and
+so this makes me consider how long I'll stay in Korea. Some days I think
+I should restrict myself to a year even if my applications are
+unsuccessful, on the grounds that this isn't a job that I can really
+progress in. Other days I think that I should just continue figuring out
+to live a life without huge looming priorities like I had while at
+university. I don't know what to think or what my priorities should be,
+but I do know that I want to work on living life healthily, and that's
+something that involves focusing on now rather than the future.
+The biggest thing in this area, as mentioned above, is figuring out my
+attitude towards study. I sometimes find it hard to see how it can be
+worthwhile if I'm doing it outside of universities; it's so easy to go
+wrong and get the wrong ideas in a subject like philosophy, and I find
+myself being rather utilitarian and perfectionist about getting on with
+doing it.
+I'm pleased to have got my grad school applications sent in at last. I
+missed the deadlines of two places I wanted to apply to: I thought all
+the deadlines were around 31st December, and I didn't note down that two
+of them were earlier in the month. Since I prepared notes and documents
+for the appplication process before I left for Korea, it was frustrating
+to find that I'd missed this aspect of the process. One thing that's
+nice right now is that my self-esteem is not really tied to the outcome
+of the process since I know how random is it. I know I'm good enough to
+get into the places I've applied, and if I don't it's just a case of not
+having done well in the lottery: there are just so many applications.