Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Typical Day

My workday doesn't start until 1.30 PM or so. Still, I'm usually up by 9. Until I have to go, I waste time in my apartment or maybe go grocery shopping.

Once at work, I spend half an hour planning lessons, then we have off for our half-hour lunch break. A few of the other foreign teachers have a routine of going to what I guess is the Korean equivalent of a diner, and I've sort of blobbed on to it. It's a bit of a hole in the wall, with bright yellow walls and tiled floor, limited seating and a stove right in the middle of the place. You call in your order beforehand and they have it ready for you when you arrive, or soon after. It's just two women who run the place, and do all of the cooking, serving, etc. There's no cash register or check, when you're ready to leave you tell them you want to pay and then tell them what you've ordered. You pay up and all of the money lives in a little woven box on a table by the door. But the food really deserves its own post, so more on that later.

After lunch we wander back to Sherlock Academy, where we finish planning whatever lessons we have left. The first class of the day at Sherlock starts at 2.50, but only one of us (or, one foreign/Korean teacher pair) has a class then, so that's another 45 minutes to plan or just mess around. I usually read or browse the Internet if a computer is available.

Classes run on alternate schedules, so one day I'll have one set of classes and the next day I'll have my other set of classes, etc. I have four classes both day (one of which just started this week). Today, I didn't have a class until 4.30, but during the 3.40 class period I had one of my students in for extra tutoring because he doesn't understand phonics worth a damn. (His English name is "Casey"; on the last quiz he had, he put the name "Cash.") There's anywhere from three to eleven students in a class. I probably have about 65 students all told.

The last class runs from 7.10 to 7.55. After that, I stay for another half hour or so to grade tests or, like today, babysit the study hall that they have in the "Library" room. That's a rotating responsibility; I have it every other Thursday. Then I go home, have a really lazy dinner like PB&J or, if I'm feeling ambitious, pasta. After an hour or two of reading or cruising the Internet, I go to bed.

Classes, as I mentioned before, are very structured and repetitive. I always start out by calling roll, checking off homework, and handing back quizzes (they have vocabulary quizzes every other day). Then there's an obnoxious little ritual where I have them spell out the date for me. ("What day is it today?" "Today's Thursday." "How do you spell 'Thursday'?" etc), then I assign the homework for tomorrow. I go over vocabulary and, if they're young enough, their current storybook, including such riveting tales as "Good For You," "Crossing the Road," and "Richie the Greedy Mouse." Then comes the actual "lesson." Usually this means going over a page in their textbooks and then playing a game to reinforce whatever the textbook had to say.

I use the term "textbook" very very loosely. It's mostly just illustrations with speech bubbles, written and developed by this skeevy-looking fellow:

David Paul

Yeah, he looks like someone you want alone with your kids for forty-minutes at a go.

It's great for teaching younger East Asian kids the alphabet and phonics but terrible for imparting any meaningful knowledge of English and it's just stupendously dumb. Here's the cover of the highest level, to give you an idea of how insipid it is:

Now imagine being 13 years old, learning from a textbook that looked like that.

It's a series, according to the back cover, where children are not "taught" language concepts, but "find out," "discover," and "learn" them.


Ah, I've gotten carried away. I just really, really, really can't stand that book and I want to burn it.

But yes, then the vast majority of the lesson is spent playing some kind of content-appropriate game. Occasionally there are "Exercise and Dictation" sections to do, when you get to the end of a unit, which are just fill-in-the-blank activities and then a quick listening exercise, where I read some words or phrases and they write them down. If the students are on a team that wins the game, or get a perfect score on their test, or do the exercise and dictation perfectly, then they get stickers.

The bell rings, they pack up, and then it's five minutes until the next class. Lather, rinse, repeat.


  1. "lather, rinse, repeat" .... remember, you are a creature of habit

    ask around if anyone plays "settlers", i'd be willing to part with it

  2. Actually, I've come into contact with someone in Seoul (via an online meetup thing) that has Catan. So I'll still be Settling, no need to send it along. And only one of my coworkers seems like the Settling type, anyway.

  3. Doesn't sound much different than American schools. "keep them entertained...". What aboiut sports?

  4. I don't know about public schools, but this is strictly a "learning factory" so sports would be a waste of money.