Tuesday, March 11, 2014

And another year begins.

Well, school has officially been back a week, and I've taught most of my classes. Things got shuffled up a lot this year. I'm now teaching half of every grade and will see the 2nd graders fortnightly for speaking practice. This frees me from the book a little but means I need to prepare extra activities for practice, and most of the kids were my first graders last year so they've seen the best of my materials already. Well, that's life as an ESL teacher in Korea: constantly having to download  make new materials.

I've changed up my discipline plan this year as well. Last year I used a chart with random 'candy' blocks. Do well on an activity, or your team wins? Get a stamp, and maybe candy. This didn't work very well at all. I don't have my own classroom so I couldn't keep the charts myself. Most kids lost theirs, lost the books they were glued into, or just didn't care enough about candy. It also rewarded ability over behaviour which wasn't the aim of a successful motivation/discipline plan. Also, I kept forgetting to buy candy.

This year I am ONLY giving candy out to third graders who have perfect dictations after the first, high-speed reading. Instead, classes will compete against each other by earning points for good behaviour and losing points for bad behaviour. Each lesson is worth either +1 or -1. If a class hits 0, they have to apologise and either lose break time or do a ridiculous and embarrassing chicken dance. If they hit ten, they win a star. At the end of the semester, the class with the most stars in each grade will get a pizza party, ice creams, chocopies, or a movie outing (depending on how awesome they are and how much money I can afford to spend on 90 students). After a star or an apology, the score resets to 5. So far it seems to work. Classroom implementation doesn't really require the co-teacher (mine are sometimes absent): I draw a smiley face and a sad face on the board with a line dividing them. Depending on how things are going, I move a magnet to either side of the line. It is not affected by skill in English, but by behaviour. The point for the class is determined by which side of the line it's on at the end. I decide how far it moves. Eventually I should be able to deal with bad behaviour with just a pointed look and the move of the magnet, without disrupting the lesson, yelling or singling students out. Getting the magnet to the positive side has been enough to prompt answers from students already. If there's a tie between two classes at the end of the semester, I'll have some kind of score-able quiz/activity and see which class gets the most points.

I have to teach with a lot more co-teachers this year, with only 2 classes or so with each of them. They all seem to have different expectations of what my responsibilities are, so I'm wiggling my way around all of them to see exactly where I fit in. The 3rd grade classes so far have been a breeze after I worked my butt off preparing stuff for them last year. I'm trying to put more effort into my 1st grade classes now, and have never taught 2nd grade before. 1st grade seems to be the same plan as last year, and 2nd grade will just be that speaking practice.

I'm in the nice new English Teachers' office, only have 2 classes with my main co-teacher, and so far life seems to be pretty good.

Howdy, neighbours.
Another great change this year is that our little neighborhood of foreigners seems to be becoming more social. My awesome Canadian neighbours were great, but I did feel like it would be nice to have someone to go to dinner with nearby. Sadly they have moved out, back to Canada and travelling elsewhere this year. I am the only foreigner in my building. But there are a whole lot in the building across the alley! One of the new people, Steven, has just moved in. We discovered about 10 minutes into a long anecdote about my first day that Steven reads my blog. Hi Steven.

It's pretty weird to have a lot of the newbies coming up to me and saying they read this blog. I feel like I haven't put that much effort into it lately and could be doing more. I've started doing some editing work for the Daegu Compass and Platform Daegu magazines, to keep busy and keep my CV good for more than just teaching.

Other news? My relationship is going well and we're planning our next steps for After Korea. This will be my last year in Korea, and then I guess the Red Pen of Doom will be giving new expats tips on how to order food and so on from, oh, I don't know... South America?

We'll see.