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Monday, 23 January 2012

One Thing . . .

One thing that bothers me is that my students don't like our heaters.

In summer there is no democratic process whatsoever.  If it is hot, I turn on the wall-mounted ac unit in the classroom.  I don't want it to be frigid, but I am determined not to sweat in my classroom, and I don't want my students to either.  I will admit that my attitude is not entirely Christian . . . the students just can't concentrate when they are hot, and they are in my classroom to learn.

From questioning them, I know that Korean elementary schools have ac units in the classrooms; however, most students report that the units are never turned on.  The public schools want to save money, they say.

I say kids can't/don't learn if they are sitting in hot classrooms.

If it is mild, I turn on a fan in the classroom.  There are some complaints, but the rooms--which aren't all that big--get smelly after a while.

As for heat in winter, it is a different story.  I bring enough clothes to work that I can be comfortable in a cold classroom--I often teach wearing a scarf--simply because our school is cold.

The whole building is cold.  This is normal.

There is no hot water in the bathrooms, so washing your hands feels like a lesson in artic survival.

It's not unusual to enter the teachers' room and see one or two teachers huddled next to the space heater, rubbing their hands after a trip to the bathroom.

You don't get used to it, but you learn to accept it.

However, heat, to me, should be a different thing.  I mean, heat is something I can control;  wall-mounted heating units that produce warm air were installed in each classroom last fall.

Heat, in winter, is good.

Yet most of my students would rather sit, bundled-up in their jackets, than have the heater on.

I have gone into classrooms (we have 9) where the air is cold, and asked the children, "Do you want me to turn on the heater?"

The answer is almost invariably "NO!"

So I go and get my jacket.  Sigh.

It might have something to do with the Korean belief in 'fan death' (check Wiki on that) as our heaters blow warm air, but I am not sure.

One thing I am sure of is that we will all be glad when spring gets here.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

CNN's "Chocolate Child Slaves"

Welcome to CNN.

For the past week or so, CNN has been pushing--heavily advertising--a series of stories about child slavery within the cocoa industry.

As a teacher, I know that there are susceptible young people out there who watch the news and think, "Hey!  This is a cause I need to join!"

And perhaps it is and it should be.

What those young people don't realize is how some news conglomerates like CNN go about choosing their news.

Yes, "choosing" it.

Their goal is to make money.  And to make money they have to sell news.

What sells best?

News that tempts, horrifies, seducts, pleases.

And so we have the "Chocolate Child Slaves".

It is almost certainly a very real world problem, but that is not the reason CNN published the story.

They published it because they think--and they are right--that such a story will attract viewers.

And viewers mean money.

CNN claims that they are "doing the right thing".

In this case, "doing the right thing" = exploitation = money.

If CNN really wanted to help the children within the cocoa industry, then they could take all of the money that they have spent just within the last week--at the minimum, hundreds of thousands of dollars--and provide a support network for the children (escape, education, retraining, etc.).

Instead, they continue to bleat and blare, "Here is some sensational news!  Come and read it!"

Shameful exploitation.

Welcome to CNN.

Kimbap, the Korean Rice Roll

Kimbap (김밥) is a Korean rice roll, often eaten as a quick and cheap lunch.  The outside is a pressed sheet of dried seaweed upon which warm rice is spread; inside you might find strips of ham, egg, cucumber, Korean radish, etc.  Rolls with basic ingredients cost about $1.50 each, while those with tuna (the canned variety) cost $2.  There are a few other varieties, but not the wild assortment you can find in the U.S.

I like to eat mine with some wasabi and prepared mustard, though most of my Korean friends would find that quite abnormal:)

Advanced Class Picture

Here is a picture from my advanced class; each of the two students had to read about 25 pages in "When You Reach Me" as part of their homework, and then write 6 W-H questions.  They wrote the questions on the whiteboard and then changed places and answered each other's questions.  Aside from a few minor errors, mostly with verb tenses, they did a great job.

Advanced Class

I am fortunate to be teaching an advanced English class at our school.  Initially, I had only one student, a girl, who is very bright and creative.  We began by reading some of the condensed novels that my middle schoolers are reading (this girl is 12 years old and speaks fairly fluent English), but then switched to short story writing, as that is what she wanted to do.

I asked my student to type her story; initially her mother did it, but then my student took over the job of typing.  The girl has about 8 pages of typed text so far, quite an achievement.

A boy with similarly advanced English skills was added to the class, so I chose to go back to a reading format.  We started reading the "Harry Potter" series, but then I found out that both of the students had read it (the first book, in English) previously.

A bit frustrated, I did an internet search and came up with a 2010 children's literature award winner, "When You Reach Me".

Turns out they have both read the book, but only in Korean (I had no idea it had been translated so quickly). So we are continuing reading it in English.

Very intelligent kids!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Lunar New Year

Unlike the solar new year holiday (January 1st), the lunar new year holiday changes dates every year.  Sometimes it is in February, but this year it is in January, tomorrow (Sunday) and Monday.

The biggest human migration on Earth occurs at this time in China, as millions of people return home to celebrate the holiday with their families.

Here in Korea there is also a big movement of people; it's a very bad time to travel, so myself and the other foreign teachers at my school are mostly staying put.

It's still a nice break from work though:)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Freighter Explosion

The freighter (ship) explosion off the Incheon port (the west coast of korea) will undoubtedly lead to speculation that it was caused by North Korea, perhaps in an effort by Kim Jong-un (the son of the former dictator) to gain the favor of the military.