Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Episode 26: In Which DFM Has To Say "So Much For Being On Vacation"

On Sunday afternoon, while I was out with Yoo and Yi,  Lee Young San phoned me up and told me that he needed my help.  His boss had told him that he needed to find an English teacher for one of his schools fast.  Young San told me that it would only be for three days, and that all I needed to do was "play with kids."  Young San obviously doesn't know how DFM teaches.

The next day I got up and met Young San's boss, Mr. Kim, at the scheduled time and location.  Mr. Kim is a bit of a rarity in Korea, and his business is likewise unique.  Mr. Kim runs an education business.  He invents products to teach children English in unique and interesting ways, and he then uses these products in the numerous school he runs.  He started his venture teaching drama to children, but quickly expanded into the English market.  His philosophy is to teach children English using activities they enjoy.  Additionally, he believes that if the body is moving, the brain will work better.  Every activity for learning English involves songs/music, physical activity, or art and it is the process of moving while studying English that is more important than the product.  As far as I can tell there is next to no book learning at this school.

Monday is the physical education day.  Every class came to the gym dressed in red sweatsuits.  Physical Education for private schools is run by private companies who create programs, much like the hagwons create programs, and then market those programs to hagwons who contract out teachers from that company to teach said program.  The physical education teacher for this school is Kim Woojin.

Here Woojin attempts to get the 6 year-olds to stand in four straight lines.  Good luck with that one Woojin.  The boy in the middle of the front row is Louis (you know you're in trouble when the new teacher remembers your name on the first day).  Louis started over in the far right row behind the boy in the sweatshirt with no logo.  However, as soon as Louis saw me pull out my camera he made a bee-line for center stage.

Woojin had the students put their hands out in front of them to make sure there was enough space between each student for the upcoming exercises, but these boys had different plans.  Look closely at the second boy from the front.  That's right, Louis again.  I suspect he started this pile-up too.

Eventually Woojin performed a miracle and got all of the students to stand in their own place.  Tai chi exercises were performed to music, and then there were some stretches.

Stretching up to the ceiling was no problem, but as you can see from this picture some of the boys had trouble with the concept of "keep your legs straight and touch your toes" (check out the kid in the front row).

Louis got to demonstrate his splits for the class, and after that he was more than willing to show them off any time I brought out my camera.

Every class went through a target game involving tennis balls and a Velcro target that hung over the back of a chair.  The target was an invention of the Phys Ed company, and was quite ingenious I thought.  This game was a real hit with the older children, but the four year-olds were more interested in singing to the music that was playing.

After about five PE classes in a row, Woojin and I finally got a twenty minute break to eat some lunch.  The cooks in the cafeteria make us a wonderful meal every day, and today's meal had all sorts of pickled vegetables and some minnows that still had their eyes.  Yummy.

After class I would go and teach the "special art" class to the six year-olds (the four and five year-olds had gone home).  The teacher would generally give the instructions, but I was called upon to give the English names and test the children's mastery of the shapes and colours.  I also introduced myself and listened while each child stood up and introduced him/herself in return.  After the first child said his name I responded with "nice to meet you."  Since that was one of the first phrases I learned in Korean, I figured it would be one of the first phrases taught in English.  I was not wrong.  As soon as I said "nice to meet you," the teacher's face lit up and the boy responded "nice to meet you too."  "Thank-you" I responded.  So, from then on, after each child said his/her name I had to respond "nice to meet you" and then listen to "nice to meet you too."

Today's assignment was "A Famous Building In Korea."  The picture was of Dongdaemun and was constructed of circles, rectangles and triangles.  The children would rip or cut out pieces of colored paper and glue them in the appropriate places (or anywhere even close was considered alright too).

While the children were cutting and gluing I would walk around and ask each one randomly what a certain colour or shape was called in English.  The vice-principal happened to walk in at this moment and thought it was great.  At the end of school she said to me "David come to kindergarten every day!"  I guess I'm now The Korean Kindergarten Cop.

On the walk back home I came across a section of sidewalk that had images from various movie posters out of some sort of metallic sidewalk tile(s).  There was everything from classic black and white films to Hollywood blockbusters, Korean films and even some French films.

That night Lee phoned me and said that I needed to meet Mr. Kim after work the next day.  I have a suspicion that I am going to be asked to keep working after this week.  We'll have to see what happens.

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