Sports and the Sexes

As the 4:30 bell rang, I grabbed my change of clothes and rushed into the restroom. It was our monthly Teacher Sports Day. Throughout the afternoon, I had flashbacks of elementary school Field Day. Relay races. Tug-of-war. Red Rover. And, of course, the fear of embarrassing myself.

Athleticism is not my strength. I remember that when I was in my seventh grade gym class, I tried to shoot a basketball into the hoop, but it bounced off the rim, then hit one gym teacher in the face and another in the stomach. When I didn’t think it could get any worse, I did the exact same thing the following day.

Nope. Definitely not my strength.

As the teachers filed into the gymnasium, I noticed that the women were still wearing their office attire. Most of the men had changed into shorts or gym clothes. I felt a little self-conscious and wondered if I had missed something.

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Humans of Gimhae Jeil High School


Working with a textbook is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it provides exercises and prompts around a theme or a unit, so lesson planning is much easier. On the other hand, many of the units or individual exercises are not fitting for my students’ level, or they are awfully boring. This week’s textbook lesson had an interesting topic about future plans, but the textbook exercises would have been too hard (and let’s face it, too boring) for my students.

Luckily for me, I am responsible for teaching the writing section of the textbook to my second graders, while my co-teachers teach the reading and vocabulary sections. That means I have a lot more leeway to adapt the material or substitute my own exercises for those in the book. So this week, I did exactly that.

“Pick up your textbook,” I said to each class after ten minutes of doing the textbook exercises. My students looked at each other. “Go on, pick it up. Pick it up. Now close it. Put it down. We don’t need it.”

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Pronunciation Problems

As difficult as it is when you and another person are speaking to each other in two different languages, it’s much more difficult when you are speaking the same language but cannot understand each other due to pronunciation and regional accents. While I run into the former problem in my everyday struggles with speaking Korean, the latter problem is most common when I am helping my students with their English writing.

Today my students were writing a few sentences about their future plans. As I was walking around the classroom to help them, one of the girls called me over.

“Spelling…’liber’?” she asked.

“Liber?” I repeated, glancing at her paper for a clue as to what she meant. “What is ‘liber’?”

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Ten Points to Gryffindor! …I Mean, Alabama!

Some of my students love my English class. Others, not so much. Because my class does not give a grade, some students are not motivated to participate or do their work. To motivate my students, I decided to combine some popular classroom management tactics – competition, rewards, and group accountability – into one super-tactic.

Behold, the United States of Janine’s Classroom.

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Casinos, Polar Bears, and Dinosaurs: A Lesson on the United States

*I cannot take credit for creating this lesson. I adapted it from a lesson another ETA created a few years ago. The joys of sharing!*

Twice a week, I teach special “Speaking and Writing” classes for the more advanced English students in the second grade. Unlike most of my classes, which I teach from a textbook, I create my own lessons and materials for these two classes. With the dizzying freedom of being able to teach whatever I want, I decided to do a lesson on the United States, complete with a USA Bingo game and a postcard activity. As you will see, my classes are a little too obsessed with gambling and Coca-Cola advertisements.

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Departure Day

Goodbye Jungwon, hello Gimhae!

Today was yet another ceremony to serve as a farewell to the friends we made in Goesan and as an introduction to our co-teachers and schools. In the morning, the ETAs and OCs said tearful goodbyes and took pictures with each other. I never imagined that I would become so close to my fellow Fulbrighters in such a short amount of time. Luckily, we will all be together again for the fall conference in October!

Avalon crew

After taking pictures, the ETAs, both new and renewee, entered the auditorium the same way as for the Placement Ceremony. We stood in a horseshoe around the audience, and we stood with the other ETAs in our provinces. This time, the audience was filled with co-teachers, vice principals and principals from our schools. The OCs called our names one by one so we could step forward and bow. Some co-teachers stood up or presented flowers to their new ETA, while others took note of what we looked like. Fulbright also gave us flowers as a goodbye gift, which was a pleasant surprise!

After we finished our bows, all 120+ ETAs rushed to find their co-teachers in the audience. My co-teacher did not stand when I bowed, so I hoped he would remember what I looked like (there was a reason for my bright red blazer!). After a few minutes, my co-teacher, Mr. Hong, introduced himself and we went to the goodbye luncheon in the cafeteria. After lunch, we started the long drive to Gimhae.

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Site visit to Gongju Sa-Dae-Bu High School

Today the ETAs went on site visits to elementary and high schools across Korea. I was in the group that shadowed David, a current ETA at Gongju Sa-Dae-Bu High School, and sat in on a few of his classes. During the day, we met the school principal and a few of David’s co-teachers, and we also ate lunch with the students in the cafeteria. It’s hard to believe that this will be me in a few short weeks!

Like in America, it is common for Korean high schools to be all girls or all boys. But even coed schools in Korea often have their classes separated by gender. Such was the case at David’s school. The ETAs in my group shadowed two of his female-only classes.  Each class had a different lesson, but both were equally fun and successful for the students.

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