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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Entertaining Film

Give this short a watch . . . it's a rather unique comedy (primarily for an adult audience):

It's 16 minutes in length.

Phone Number Pressure

The last few times that I have logged into Hotmail and Google, I have been asked to provide my mobile number "for security purposes".

Ha!  Give me a break!

In this day and age of NSA, hacking, international governmental thefts, etc., what bit of information on the internet is truly safe?

Hotmail seemed to threaten me with denial of services if I do not provide my mobile number; I have one week (well, less than that now) to give them that personal information, or else--?

I will not do so, for 2 main reasons:

     1) I do not believe that they can keep my personal information safe

     2) I believe they will use it (or sell it) for purposes other than that which they have told me

Google and Hotmail: I will not give you my mobile phone number, so stop asking.  Stop making me jump through hoops to reach my accounts, stop threatening me.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

I Love Salads!

Salads are great.  Not only do you get the healthy vitamins and minerals, but they taste great.  I usually make a salad to take to work every day, though sometimes I don't want to put the time into it.  I need tomatoes in my salad, and usually olives too.  Cucumbers are good, but I occasionally do without them.  I've been trying to eat more avocados in my salad, as they are supposed to be good for men's health.  I used to really like those gunky dressings, but these days

I go for olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

A Scary Teacher

When I was walking towards the front desk in between my first and second class today, I saw a young girl with tears pouring down her face.

I recognized her as one of my new students, 2nd or 3rd grade elementary school, and I saw my director standing next to her.

"What's wrong?" I asked my director.

My director's answer was the most improbable, and broke my heart: "She's scared of you."

"What?" I replied.

I will admit that I have come down hard on some middle school students who do not do their homework, but even in those cases--in every case--I do not want students to be scared of me.

I realize that I am this tall foreign man, and--for those students who have perhaps never seen a foreigner before--this can be strange, but I go out of my way to try and make kids feel comfortable.

"Amy," I said, using her English name, "it's ok."

She calmed down, and her class was fine; she seemed happy as usual.  There have never been any problems in that class (a new one for me),and she had completed all of her homework (sometimes a stress factor for kids).

My director told me that this was the girl who, last semester, has cried a lot, when her other foreign teacher (a woman) had taught her.

I didn't feel much better.

I really don't like to hear students say that they are "scared" of me.

Kind of a wake-up call, I guess, to remind me that students' perceptions and my perceptions are not always the same.

I like teaching because, in part, I have to be flexible, because things are always changing, but I obviously don't like it when those variations make me, or my students, sad.

Short Films

Here are two that are not really stories but rather mediums (media?) for showcasing technology:

Also, a girl-saving-dragon animation:

You'll have to decide on the "kids' appropriate?" question for these, as they kind of straddle the border . . .

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Science Experiment

I was recently told by a trusted person that she had read that if you watered a plant with microwaved water (to the boiling point), then that plant would die.  Apparently it has something to do with the microwaves changing the molecular structure of the water.

My first thought was, "No way!"

Second thought: I can test this!

Third thought: I should test this.

The third thought came from the conversation that prompted my friend's recalled news.  I had stated that in the summer months I do not use my gas burners (my stove top) because it is too hot to do any real cooking.

Instead, I said, I use my microwave oven to steam vegetables and to cook potatoes, eggs, etc.

Her comment about the potential harmfulness of microwaves inspired me to pursue a mini-project.

I was thinking about buying a single plant and watering it with microwaved water, yet that plan changed when I spoke with my dad, a retired scientist.  He told me that I would need four plants, two for the experiment and two for the "control" part.

So here is what I have: two plants (one basil and one rosemary) to be watered with microwaved water (cooled), and two (of the same) to be watered with tap water.

The plants were first watered yesterday (9-14), and I will update the pictures weekly or perhaps more often.

(btw, the tube in the picture behind the plants is for the air conditioner.)

Korean Thanksgiving Time

Next week is the Korean equivalent of the American Thanksgiving holiday, when most people return to their grandparents' homes; in part, this means a huge exodus of people (and cars) from Seoul (traffic jams are a nightmare).

It also means that everyone is buying presents, mostly pre-packaged gift sets from stores.  Here are two pics of the offerings:

Busy Pedestrian Area

In my city there is a pedestrian area filled with restaurants, coffee shops, cell phone shops, etc. Most of the day and into the night it is packed with people, many of whom live in the high rise apartments that surround the area (this is not a big city, so it's easy to gravitate to the middle):

Chicken in a Cup

One popular take-away food in Korea is chicken-in-a-cup.  It's like chicken nuggets, only better.  Most people get the sauced version (a bit spicy), but I like mine plain, fried.

small cup = $2
regular cup = $3
box = $12

Here are two pics from a

popular place next to the subway station where I live:

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Short Animation

I showed my middle school students "The Legend of the Scarecrow" tonight to continue our practice with writing summaries:

It's a production from Spain, so you can find the original in Spanish; there's also a version with spoken Spanish and written English subtitles (maybe that's the original--?) . . . here:

The content might be a bit spooky for young kids, but I like the film a lot.  It's sad, but well-made. The film tells the story of why crows are black.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Tired of Negative News

The websites that I usually tap into (a variety because of their different perspectives):

BBC (first and foremost)
Guardian (a close second0
CBS News

Well, what can I say, they all mostly go for the sensationalistic stories . . .

Whereas others, such as


Tend to be in the middle category.

When I want news that is not about deaths or killings or bombings, I look at or (also a middle ground, but not sensationalist, usually) or national geographic magazine.

But that's just me . . .

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Jungang Park

After my friend and I had lunch, we strolled around a park.  The day was quite warm but nice; there were quite a few people camping in the park and/or just spending the day there hanging out in the shade of the pine trees.

Across from the park there is a soccer stadium, and I was told that in the basement of the stadium there is a full department store (Lotte).


I had a wonderful lunch with the former (Korean) director of our English academy.  The restaurant had traditional Korean food with a modern twist, or "fusion" style.  Very nice, and more than two people could comfortably eat.

The 1st and last pics are the same; in between are some individual shots of the food dishes in those pictures:

Shared Bikes

At the subway station (Jungang) of a city close to where I live I saw a shared bike set-up, the first of its kind that I have ever noticed.  More surprisingly, the electronic menu that I had a look at included instructions in English.

It appeared to be a bike-friendly place, as there were a lot of bikes around, both parked and being ridden.

Short Films (not for kids)

Here are a couple of interesting--and very different--short films; the language and content make them inappropriate for kids, I think:

Friday, 6 September 2013

Interesting Class Conversation

My middle school class tonight had to write some sentences in their textbook in response to several pictures and word prompts.  All three of the pictured scenarios required the use of a polite question, which, of course, necessitated using the word "please".

I suggested to the students that, in the case of a of a visit to a customer service desk in a department store (one of the scenarios), it would be a good idea to move the "please" to a location closer to the beginning of the sentence/question (most of our student are used to placing "please" at the end of a question, such as "Teacher, may I go to the bathroom please?").

In the customer service situation, then, instead of saying, "These shoes were delivered with stains. I would like to exchange them please", it would be better to ask, "These shoes were delivered with stains.  May I please exchange them?"

My point was that the sooner a clerk hears the word "please", the more likely that person will be to help you.

To elaborate the point, I told them that if they wanted something from their mothers, they should try paying a compliment, such as, "Mother, your hair looks beautiful today!"

We were about to move on to a new exercise when one of the students said, "Teacher, I have a question."

Knowing the student, I thought the question would probably not be about the exercise that we had just completed, and I was not wrong.

"Is there a time when we can drink juice?" she asked.

I looked at her for a moment, trying to shift my brain gears.

"Do you mean now, or next week, or when?"

She replied, "Anytime."

"So you want to drink juice tonight?"

"Yes," she said.  But she was not done.  She launched into an account of how, before class, she had gone to a store to buy some juice with her T-money card (a transit card for the subway and buses that can also be used in convenience stores).  However, she said, there was a grandmother working there who didn't know how to process the card, so the student couldn't buy her drink.  In addition, the grandmother/clerk had asked her if she didn't have the little bit of cash it would take to buy the drink--which she didn't--so she felt humiliated and would never return to that store again.

Wow--talk about going off-topic!

But, the students are there to communicate in English, and she did a great job in doing so.

"Here's what I'll do," I replied.  "I have a cup of coins on my desk, and before break time I will give it to you and at break time you can make a dash to the convenience store (less than a block away) and buy juice for everyone."

"Thank you, teacher," she said.

"But you didn't say my hair looks beautiful."

(For those of you who don't know me, I buzz-cut my hair every week, so it is very short.)

All the students thought this was quite funny, and one of the boys piped up with, "Your hair is so beautiful!"

Thus my point was made, and I was satisfied to leave it at that.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

New Semester: 1st week

It's Wednesday, so we have had 3 days of the new semester.  It's off to a good start, partly because I am teaching a lot of the same classes.

Before this week quite a few kids were taking a break from our academy during their summer vacations, but now they're back, so there have been some noticeable reunions of friends, but also questions, such as (most commonly), "Teacher, where's _____ ?" (insert student name.)

My answer has usually been, "I don't know.  I think he/she is coming back.  Maybe they'll be here next class."

This week, often 1 or 2 students in a class don't yet have the new books (or they have the wrong books), so I'm working with them and the front desk to sort things out.  I also want to make sure they have an equipped pencil case, a notebook, and, for the students who need it, a diary.  For students in some classes, this might mean a total of six books (and then they have a Korean teacher with her book requirements, so it's no surprise that a few parents call in to the school asking how many books their kids need to bring each day--the weight can really add up).

(And our English academy is only one of several academies that many students attend after their public school day finishes--I have blogged about that before and I will again.)

The school director and the front desk staff have been a huge help in these cases.

A lot of my classes have changed classrooms (we have nine), and they are usually excited about the change, though one student told me she wanted her old classroom back.

One great exchange that I had today was this: I entered a class and a female student (5th grade) I have been teaching for 2+ years asked me, "Teacher, where is my diary?"

I replied, "It's Wednesday, and you get your diary back on Friday (they turn it in on Monday). Why do you want it now?"

She smiled and said, "I only wrote three sentences in my diary."

(Which is not good.  And she knew it, but where almost all students would have remained silent, she spoke up--wow!)

"Do you want to write more today or Friday?" I asked her.

"Today," she replied.

(Very good answer.)

"Come with me."  We went to my desk, found her diary, and I gave it to her.  She wrote in it and gave it back to me.  I am very interested to see how she updated/developed it, but I didn't have the time or the free thinking to look at it today.

During the three days we have experienced so far this week, I have noticed some of the new students looking at me, kind of measuring me up as a new teacher--fair is fair, I am doing the same thing.

In the first week I am very intent on establishing order, process, and alleviating any stress that new students might feel; creating a comfortable atmosphere is so important for the rest of the semester.

What else is new?  I have one new class which has 9 girls, 0 boys (our class max is 10 students).  I am very interested in that class because, from my experience, girls in elementary school are often better students than boys (in Korea, but I think elsewhere as well).  I have high hopes for them (4th graders) . . .

And the week is not yet finished . . . I hope it goes well and ends well, for both myself and my students.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

New Semester

Tomorrow, Monday, is the beginning of the new semester at our English academy.  It generally coincides with the Korean public school semester.

We will have quite a few students returning from taking a break during their summer vacation, plus a bunch of new students.  We also have 2 new foreign teachers, so, in addition to new books, it will be quite a change.

Most of my classes will be the same, but with a number of new students mixed in.

We--the teachers--had a workshop on Friday to talk about issues like presentations (teaching students how to do them), discipline, diary writing, functional English, etc.

Some students I have been teaching for a year or more, so I am looking forward to welcoming them back and continuing to work on improving their English skills.

I will teach a range of classes, from beginning English to essay writing; that variety is part of what keeps me interested in teaching English in Korea.