Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Daily Routine

**Sorry everyone for the delay in posting... I planned to write this weekend, but I was very ill.  Thanks for your patience! :)

My alarm sounds around 7:00 AM telling me to shower, get ready, and eat breakfast.  Sometime between 8:15 and 8:30 I leave for school with a few other teachers.  The walk begins through cross beams and plywood piles: construction prepares the city of Incheon for the 2014 Asian Games.  There is a short break where we almost forget we're on a main street in Korea.  The trees block out the tall buildings and allow the morning light through. 

We enter another wave of construction, then suddenly, the skyscrapers are in view.  The first set contains Lotte Mart, a multi-level shopping mall akin to Wal-Mart.  Lotte Mart offers everything from clothes... to pets... to electronics.  On the top level there is even a Toys-R-Us!

We stop at one of two cafes each morning, Latte King or Paris Baguette.  Unfortunately coffee is not the fad in Korea, and the tea is usually rice-based, which tastes very strange (nasty) to me.  At Latte King the closest thing to a regular coffee is an Americano, which is espresso mixed with hot water.  It's not perfect, but it is tastier than the instant sticks of coffee-cream-sugar combos at school.  Sometimes we visit Paris Baguette twice or even three times a day.  The cafe offers pastries and baked goods, both sweet and savory.  Some days I'll grab an egg and cheese bagel for breakfast or a snack for after school.  The prices are extremely reasonable; you can always find something substantial for under 2,000 won (or about $2).

Paris Baguette
Latte King

We continue to school.  We ride up the elevator to floor seven and begin prepping for preschool.  Morning teachers arrive at 9:20 AM, and we must be in our classrooms at 9:40 AM.  We copy papers, type lesson plans, choose a hand puppet, and head off to class. Then, the children begin arriving! We spend 10 minutes welcoming our students and helping them change into their indoor shoes, hang up their jackets, and put away their bookbags. 

Twenty minutes are spent on warm-up.  During this time, the children drink a glass of milk, and roll is called.  The students practice saying, "I'm here," and "I'm good/happy/fine/great."  One girl in my class answers for anyone who hesitates, especially if we are singing.  We talk about the weather and the date.  Of course, there is plenty of singing and dancing with songs like "Good Morning," "What Day is Today?" and "How's the Weather?" 

I'm still trying to figure out how to get these songs out of my head..."How's the, how's the weeeeeather? How's the, how's the weeeeeather? It's sunny. It's sunny. It is sunny now. It is sunny NOW!"

After warm-up we start the language lesson.  This part of class teaches the students new vocabulary and phrases.  For the first week we taught expressions like, "May I go to the bathroom, please?" We complete a page in the Activity Book, maybe play a game, and introduce Today's Sentence.  Each day the children are expected to remember one sentence.  My school is very adament about teaching their students to speak in full sentences, which I fully support.  The daily sentence correlates with the language lesson, and we have the children recite the sentence many times throughout the day.

After language, the children take a break! They have playtime with the toys, while the teacher checks their bookbags for notes from the parents.  I also periodically beg them to play nicely and not hit one another.  I also prepare for the next lesson, phonics.

For the first month or two, phonics is very basic.  We spent about a week per letter of the alphabet.  We practice writing the letters, picking out big and little "A," and learning words that start with "A."  One boy just likes to sing the Alphabet Song the entire 30 minutes. 

Next is a part of the day called plus time; there are two plus times each day.  Plus time varies each day.  We do an extra phonics lesson, an art lesson, a drama lesson, or a sing along session.  My favorite is called R&E - rhythm and exercise.  A phys. ed. teacher runs the kids around the gym until they're sweaty, thirsty, and exhausted.  Another plus time activity I enjoy is Marina's Lesson.  Marina is the principal who once a week gives the children a lesson in Korean about culture and customs.  She also teaches them good behavior.  During R&E and Marina's Lesson, teachers get a break.

After plus time, it's lunch time! We wrangle the children into a line, pull up their sleeves, and scrub their grubby fingers.  They return to a class filled with sticky rice, steaming soup, and spicy kimchi.  We say, "Thank you Teacher. Let's eat together," in unison and dig in.  At this time, I switch with my co-teacher from Calf Class to Bear Class.  We eat together, practicing good manners.  The children are learning to take their trays to the cart by themselves.  Then they go brush their teeth.  They return for another short playtime.  Then, I teach phonics again, because only foreign teachers teach phonics, not Korean teachers. 

Next is story time.  We spend one week on a story, reading together, singing songs, and finally the children try to read to me on the final day. This week is Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed! Everyone loves role playing in this book.
We have one more plus time, then it's time to go home!  I help kids pack everything up, change to outdoor shoes, line up, and try to get everyone to the proper bus line.  Sounds easy, right?  Of course throughout all of this, kids get bloody noses, scratch each other's faces, chew their nametags to shreds, hide under the table, shove play knives into outlets, wrestle eachother into glass doors, and yank on my hair, "Teacher!"

But they also laugh at all your jokes and funny gestures, give you kisses and hugs, cry on your shoulder, hold your hand, scream hello to you in the hallway, bring you gifts, and (usually) follow your every lead.  One girl's mother wrote a note explaining that after a full week of good and happy reports, her daughter suddenly felt very sad. She told her mother that she can always speak to Iryne Teacher to get to know her.  Shelly Teacher doesn't know Korean, so the girl feels sad that she can't get to know her better. 
I about cried when I heard this! She is now learning as much extra English as she can, and we have a 5-minute discussion after lunch each day to learn more about one another.  What. a. doll.

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