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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tonight's Dinner

I ate dinner tonight with another teacher and his wife at a nearby Korean restaurant.

My order was for some cold noodles, while he and his wife had pork cutlets:

Next to the bowl of cold noodles you can see a hard-boiled egg and a slice of asian pear.  The two squirt bottles next to the bowl contain a mustard sauce and vinegar, both of which are usually added.

The food was good, not great; the nice thing was the price, about $15 for everything (we had water to drink).

Cell Phone Ban: The Big Lie

Last week at my English academy, where a cell phone ban was enacted at the beginning of the semester (see old posts), I happened to see a group of boys, maybe 5th grade level, huddled around another boy who was sitting on a chair in the hallway.

Based on past experience at the academy, there is usually only one reason for such a physical grouping: they were watching another boy play a phone game.

Since I wasn't sure what was happening, however, I wandered over and, as the one boy made to hide something in his pocket, gave them a warning: "No cell phones are allowed to be used in the school.  If I see you using a cell phone I will take it, ok?"

Nods all around.

End of action.

Or so I thought.  About 5 minutes later--when I was walking to another classroom, I happened to see the same boys in their classroom engaged in the same type of huddled activity.

I entered the classroom and held out my hand.

The boy whose hand was hidden under his bookbag on his desk started to make an excuse, but I just said, "Cell phone please" and he reluctantly handed it over.

Without another word I took it to the front desk and put it away in a drawer.  A short while later, when I saw our school director, I informed her briefly about what had happened.  Since this was a Thursday, and the rule is that the cell phone would be kept at the school until the next class, in this case Tuesday (unless the boy's parents came by to pick it up), I wanted the director to be prepared for any potential complaints.

A few hours later, as we all prepared to go home for the night, my director mentioned that the boy had stopped by the desk to pick up his cell phone before he went home.

"He did what?" I asked, a bit surprised.

"Didn't you tell him that he could claim his phone before he went home?"

"No," I replied, "I didn't tell him anything.  I just confiscated his phone."

"Oh," she said.  "Well, in that case he lied to me.  But I asked him about it and told him that if he was lying I would confiscate his phone when he comes back next Tuesday."

I forgot about the little drama until Tuesday night rolled around and my director was sitting at the front desk.  She held up a cell phone and said, "I took that boy's cell phone.  He started to say that maybe there had been a misunderstanding because of language . . ."

"Like maybe he didn't understand my warning?  But he felt he had to hide his phone?" I replied, a bit sarcastically.

Later I thought, what if this boy was smart enough to know that:

a) having a phone confiscated for 2 days (Tuesday to Thursday) was not as painful as having one confiscated for 5 days (Thursday to Tuesday)


b) bold/dishonest/attached enough to lie about what had happened?

Hmmm . . . maybe we have a politician/celebrity in-the-making.

Saturday, 22 June 2013


I bought these lovelies--first nectarines on the season--yesterday

As you can see by the green coloring, they aren't ripe yet (they were strategically placed upside down to show their red bottoms).

However, if you hold one up to your nose, you can smell that wonderfully fragrant nectarine scent.

Nothing like it in the world.

Last summer, here in Korea, I decided that nectarines were the best fruit on the market.

I hope that will be true again this summer.


I read on the news that Snowden--the NSA whistleblower--has been charged with crimes.

Charged by the U.S. goverment with revealing the government's crimes against the American people.

Not unexpected, but, in my opinion, completely wrong.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Short Film to Watch

Here is a young age "girl power" short film to watch (family friendly).

It's live-action and about 7 minutes long.

You can find it by going to and clicking on "films" then on "comedy" and then on page "3".

Or, try this link:

Not great, but well-done and worth a watch.


In one of my first classes on Tu/Th, 2 or 3 girls come early, and I go to the classroom early to start checking homework (otherwise it takes up too much class time).

Today, my bottle of water provided some entertainment.  I like to drink a brand of Korean mineral water:

It's relatively cheap (about $1 per bottle) and tastes great.

Anyway, the English name "Chojung" is written on one side of the bottle:

and the Korean name "Chojung TanSanSu" is written on the other side.

The girls were interested in the bottle, so I told them it was the bottle I reused and filled up at school every day.  I read the Korean side to them.


They said, playfully, "Teacher, you spoke Korean in class, so you get an "X"! "

(X's are what many teachers use to motivate students to focus on using English in class.)

Somehow, though, the girls kept working the X's upward--they were writing them on the whiteboard--so I ended up with 18 or so X's.

They found that extremely funny:)

As long as they keep playing with English and don't get too silly, it's a good thing.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Moon (La Luna)

Tonight in my middle school class I had the students watch a short Pixar animation entitled "La Luna".  As before, they then had to collaboratively write on the whiteboard (and in their notebooks) a summary of the short film.

It's a family-friendly animation, about 6 min. long, and good for the type of activity that I do every few weeks with some students.

I decided that I am going to do the activity (with a different short film) one more time, with me as a participant, and then I am going to require them to write the summary on their own, as a collaborative exercise.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Chicken at Last!

I teach one class that consists of 4th and 5th graders, but they are way behind in their English skills.

They are studying Let's Go 2 when they should be on book 4 or 5.

For whatever reason their parents got them started late.

Last semester, in the fall, when I was teaching the students and when I discovered their shortcomings, I added a phonics book for them and instituted daily tests (they attend our English academy 2 days a week, so 2 tests a week).

The students' scores on the phonics tests were very poor at first.  Granted, the tests were not easy, since they had to listen to me say a word and then write the English spelling of that word.

However, in the phonics books the words are grouped into categories such as double-letter combinations (sh, ch, ea, etc.), and the tests consist of 6-12 words.

At the time--about 7 months ago--I thought they could be doing much better.  They are all bright, but some of them are lazy and weren't studying for the tests.

I started approaching the students in the hallway before our class and told them to study for the test.

I told them that if all of the students in the class got 100% on the daily test, then I would buy them chicken (that's usually a real motivator).

The students got excited at first, then kind of shrugged off the reward, maybe because there were a few students in the class who were below level and who were not capable of getting a 100% score.

Recently, however, the class has evened out skillwise (the low-level students have left), and the goal has been within their reach.

In the last week they have twice come breathlessly close to the goal; only one student out of the 7 has failed to achieve the 100% mark, and then by only 1 word.

On the last test, all of the students spelled words correctly, but one student spelled a wrong word correctly ("food" instead of "foot").  (I was tempted to give it to them.)

Finally, today--after 7months of students coming and leaving and growing their skills and everything--they all scored 100% on their phonics test.

It was an easy test (I think), but for them it was a huge mile marker.

When I handed back the tests, casually saying "100, excellent" and giving out a piece of candy (the only time I give candy is for 100% scores), I acted as though I didn't know what was happening, as the 100% scores piled up:

"William, 100%, excellent!"

"Chelsea, 100%, excellent!"

"Yoon-jae, 100 %, excellent!"

Classroom gasp . . .

"Hyeon-ji, 100%, excellent!"

Gasp . . .

"Bella, 100 %, excellent!"

And so on, until all 7 students had received 100% scores.

I calmly walked back to my desk in the classroom.

One timid yet excited voice spoke up:  "Teacher, next time chicken?"

"Yes," I replied, "I am very proud of you! All students got 100%!"


They deserve it:)

Thursday, 13 June 2013

New Short Film Site

This is my new go-to website for short films of all types:

Most of the films are not for young kids; a few are adults-only . . . so preview first.

I showed these two tonight during a break time:

but stopped short of this one, which had great graphics but too much blood:

only pencil-drawn stick figures, but also too mature/violent:

For the rest, you'll have to view yourself.  A lot of the short films are artsy/experimental, and I salute the creators, but some of them have a limited appeal.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Flooding in Europe

Here is a link to some great pictures of the terrible flooding happening in parts of Europe:

"Aerial Views of Severe Flooding in Central Europe"
Time Magazine

Video Summaries

Here's a pic that I took with my ipod (not as good as my older Canon camera, I think) of three middle school girls in a class I teach.  Maybe once every two weeks we go into the room with the large video screen to watch a short video, and then they take turns writing a summary of the video on the whiteboard (1 student writes 1 sentence, then they switch).  It's a good activity, though I talk/direct too much.

Moving In

I'm getting settled in my new apartment and have a lot to learn with my new computer.

The only negative aspect with my move so far is that I seem to be surrounded by cigarette smokers, and I really dislike having the smoke come into my apartment.  I may have to keep my windows closed and use my aircon more this summer, which is unfair.

South Korea and North Korea have broken off an attempt to start talks on their shared industrial complex and other problems, but there has been at least one news report here that it (the suspended talks) was all a sham by North Korea to appear touchy-feely while the U.S. and China were having meetings (that is, NK never intended for the talks to happen anyway, and set up the collapse of the talks so as to blame South Korea).

Seems like business as usual with NK.  No surprise there.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Busy Time

This week I am moving to a new apartment, my online Coursera class is starting a research paper, and I am changing computers, so I am behind on many things, but I expect to post more once I get moved into my new place:)

(Thank goodness that Thursday is a national holiday--Korea's Memorial Day--or things would be completely bananas.)

Sunday, 2 June 2013

High Rises

Though I don't live in Seoul sometimes it feels like I do, especially when I see these sights every day on the walk to work:

But, then again, the high rises here are all apartment buildings (though a LOT of them . . . maybe 40 apt. buildings with more than 18 floors in a circle around the city center/subway station (actually out here it's an elevated train, but it turns into a subway just a little ways towards Seoul)).  In Seoul there are a lot of corporate high rises.

Spring Weather

The last  few days we have experienced great spring weather in Korea.  It's working up to be a hot summer, but sunny and warm with a slight breeze is something I can enjoy for now.

Looking ahead, the hot summer might be difficult as Korea pulled several nuclear reactors offline due to parts quality concerns, so there is some worry about national power for all those ac units.