The Last Day of School

And just like that, the year is over.

Today was the last day of school. It’s strange to think that this weekend, I will be at the airport on my way home to New York. In its own way, the past week has been difficult because I have had to say goodbye to students, co-workers, and friends I have grown close to during my grant year. Here are a few pictures and stories from the last few days at Gimhae Jeil High School:

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Cultural Ambassadorship in the Classroom

As an inexperienced teacher, I have not written much about my teaching ideology, nor have I shared much beyond some of the successful lessons that I have had. As students prepare for final exams and I finish creating my last few lessons, I’d like to discuss my take on what it means to be a cultural ambassador in the classroom and how I have used my English lessons to fulfill this role.

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A Letter From Myself

I walked back to the teacher’s office after sixth period today, and I found an envelope on my desk. A quick glance at the return address, and I saw that it was from the Fulbright Korea Program Coordinator, Amelea. Tearing open the envelope, I saw another smaller envelope, this one with my own handwriting. Nearly eleven months ago, back during Orientation, we had written letters to our future selves. As the grant year comes to a close, I can see what my past self had written, what my goals were, and how close I came to achieving them. Here are the contents of the letter:

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Similes and Metaphors

Continuing with my creative writing unit, I taught my students how to write similes and metaphors in English. Many of my students cannot write a complete sentence without the help of a template, so similes and metaphors were a form of “structured creativity” that would balance their need for a format and my goal of fostering creative thinking. Here are some of the best sentences from my students this week:

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Teaching Poetry

After midterms ended, I started a creative writing unit with my students. For the second grade students, I taught rhythm (using Robert Frost) and rhyme (using Dr. Seuss), while for the first grade students I taught a lesson about descriptive language. For both grades, I did an acrostic poetry assignment because it was the best way to adapt to higher level students who could use full sentences or purposeful enjambment, as well as lower level students who could just write single words.

I asked each student to write two poems: one about them and one about any topic they wanted. I was so impressed by the stories they told or emotions they expressed in such a short poem. It’s hard to believe they were written in a second language! Below are some of my favorite examples:

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Graduation

In Korea, winter/spring vacation is similar to summer vacation in America. Two blissful months off from school (though Korean students and some teachers are often required to come in anyway!). In the middle of the vacation, usually the second week of February, all the students and teachers return to school for the final few days of classes and graduation. Today was Su Bin’s graduation from high school and the end of my first semester as an ETA.

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Glowsticks, Violins, and Cross-dressing: The School Festival

An annual tradition in middle and high schools in Korea is the school festival. In the morning, students turn their classrooms into carnival booths and food stalls to raise money for charity. In the afternoon, they showcase their talents in a concert. Our school festival was held on Christmas Eve, and it was one of the most memorable days I’ve had in Korea so far.

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Interview with a Student

Originally published by Reach the World, December 4, 2015

*Bo Seung is one of my most motivated students and one of the best English speakers in the school. He’s been involved with several Fulbright-related activities, including YDAC (debate conference) and the Fulbright English Program, during which I had my first teaching experiences during orientation. Here is a brief snapshot into his life.

Introduction:
Kang Bo Seung (English name, Bosely Kang) is one of the students I teach at Gimhae Jeil High School. He is in the second grade, or the equivalent of a junior in high school. Bo Seung loves learning about new places and cultures and hopes to travel to many places around the world.  I’ll write these responses from his perspective.

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Interview With a Teacher

 Originally published by Reach the World, November 13, 2015

*This is an interview with one of the non-English teachers who I teach once a week. She is one of my good friends at school.

Introduction:
Today, I interviewed one of the teachers at my high school about her family, her travels, and her life in Korea. She was so excited to introduce herself to American and Canadian students! We conducted most of the interview in English, but we also used some Korean and an on-line dictionary to help us out. The interview below has some minor edits for clarification.

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