Hard Job, Rewarding Pay Off

I wanted to take advantage of today and talk about my job. I realize that I’ve talked in depth about my experiences here but since I’ve started working I haven’t focused in on it that much . Especially since I just recently passed the one month working mark. This one month working mark is usually around where I realize that my job sucks and decide that I hate it and subconsciously plot to sabotage my employment. Somewhere between day 1 and day 31 I start becoming late or taking short cuts in my work or just have an incredible drop in morale, regardless of the fact that I recognize the need for a paycheck. I suppose all the money in the world can’t buy enthusiasm. But here I’m going strong and halfway through my second month and I’m not exactly sure why.

The job is actually quite difficult. Teaching is so similar to a performance art, I would nearly need to change the interests and the age of my audience to become a comedian or a  motivational speaker. Just like any performance art I find myself trying to get my audience involved even if the material I have for them isn’t the most entertaining. I’m finding that some collections of personality types lead to more productive classes than others, and that several individuals can ruin an entire set with only the bare minimum of distractions. Teaching kids is hard…but if thats all I had to do this would be a relatively easy job.

Some of the kids in the courtyard during school wide science day. it's a pretty nice event where all the kids do little science projects and stuff.

On top of teaching the class I also have to create lesson plans. These are slowly becoming one of my most dreaded tasks. Lesson planning is difficult and time consuming. Maybe it’s just because I try to make my lessons interesting and new. Maybe it’s because I have to follow the guidelines in a book that is muddled and confusing, and hides it’s main points behind convoluted themes that teach virtually useless language points. (They used the theme April Fools day to introduce “Guess What” and “You’re Kidding” which really aren’t that essential considering some of my kids barely understand simple prepositions and conjunctions.) Whats more I find myself increasingly taking my work home making it cut into my limited afternoon time, but if I don’t I find myself scrambling for activities and sloppily pre-made lesson plans on a teacher’s message board.

Whats more…I have to teach the teachers as well. Which is becoming one of the most awkward and unpleasant times of my week. The people that come to the class are my colleagues, so there is a big pressure to show that you can actually teach. However….I have no idea where they stand in speaking ability and no curriculum to go by.  So I usually just pick some common aspect of my life back home or find some grammar lesson plan on the message board and present it hoping they can pick it up.  They usually always do, but when there is a language barrier between the student and the teacher it’s hard to get feedback on how you’re doing. Atleast the kids will shout “Teacher! Too hard!” if what I’m doing is too difficult or they’ll shout out the answer to a question before I ask it as they’re trying to show off to the rest of the class. But the teachers just kind of sit there and stare at me, or sometimes laugh awkwardly then say something to the person next to them in Korean.

This week we began a speaking exam. This speaking exam is forth 20% of the kid’s overall English Test Grade..but I have to test them on only three lesson’s work of material. To say the least I really don’t think this is right. The test used to be in October, but this year it got moved to the point where it’s practically detrimental to the student’s grades. I also have to wonder what will keep the student’s interested in the class since we pretty much gave them the final at the beginning of the year. The tests are hard to give. I have to sit down with 750 students (half of the total school population) and test each and every single one for two minutes. Some of the kids are so fluent I wonder what they’re doing in my class (I asked one student “what plays have you gone to” and we ended up having a discussion of Shakespeare’s Mid Summer Night’s Dream) while others can barely speak a word (I had one kid who couldn’t tell me the name of the school he went to) and others still are so nervous they don’t say anything at all (I had one kid just stair at me for 2 minutes strait while I asked her questions). It’s hard evaluating every kid in the school and it really hurts to fail good kids.

But regardless of my numerous complaints, teaching (at least in this country, I don’t know if I can speak in general) is not a bad job. I feel like the students respect me and I care about their performance during classes and tests. I suppose it would be much easier to blow off a job when you’re a replaceable cog in a machine or if the people you work with are full grown adults who expect nothing less than enthusiastic compliance to their every whim.  And while I do still have judgmental overlords and the school does have another English teacher, Simon and I really aren’t supervised. We’re native English speakers so we teach what we know and speak. The other teachers at the school can barely speak English enough to say hello to us so we’re not invited to the boring weekly meetings. It really feels like our real bosses are the kids. Our real job it to make sure they learn the language and thats a real goal. I feel like I’m working for a noble cause here, something that I really and truly believe in. I didn’t believe in making other people rich, I didn’t believe in selling add space for a Sales Paper. But even though I can’t say any of their real names I believe in teaching these kids.

*That said…they drive me insane so I don’t think I’ll make teaching a lifetime passion, especially not for what they pay back in the states…

The kids here were trying to launch soda bottle rockets. It was a fun little project and all the kids got into it. Some even dressed up their rockets with designs and fins.

Well on a less hopey-changey topic I decided to post up more pictures from my travels today. Last weekend I went to a few underground live performances with one of my friends. We just hopped from one venue to the next and had a good time. She wasn’t feeling to well so I helped her get home and she let me sleep in her room while she slept in her boyfriend’s room. I got a chance to chat with my friends, mom, dad, niece, nephew and sister and had a good long chat before I decided to head out the next day. I was tired from the night before so I was going to head strait home, but riding the subway for hours and hours really starts to get to you. I decided to wonder around somewhere…and before I knew it I was in Seoul’s famous Gyeongbokgung palace.

I bought a ticket and decided to have a look around and I was lucky enough to find a Middle school English speaking volunteer tour guide. I had a pretty good time and the kid and I talked about the history and politics of both our countries. It was interesting and educational.

I believe this is the main throne room form the outside. There were three paths, the center where the King walked, the left where the scholars walked and the right where the military walked. I should also say the Koreans traditionally favored the left side and looked down upon the right. So needless to say the military was looked down upon historically in Korea.

There was this beautiful mountain in the background that just made the place look majestic no matter where you looked.

This is supposedly where the ruling King would hold parties and big events. Alternatively it's only open for parties and big events. My tour guide and I tried to sneak in but we didn't have any luck.

Walking through the place you really felt like a member of the nobility. Even though the palace was mostly destroyed during Japanese occupation it was still beautiful.

This is the actual throne room! If you look in the back you can see a painting that is very symbolic of korea. The 5 mountians are the five famous mountains of korea. The sun is the king and the moon is his wife. The trees are the nobility and I don't know if you can see it but there it waster at the bottom which of course represents the subjects. This is a very iconic image, you can see it all over Korea.

I wish I had gotten a better view of it, but that building to the right is where King Sejong (probibly the most well known and revered king in all Korea) actually sat down and invented the Korean language. Very rare is it that you get to go to the birthplace of a language, especially one that is so well known it's been adopted by other cultures around the world.

Also since some more people have taken a keen intrest in the food section I decided to take some more pictures of food from some of my travels. This weeks theme is  Street food! Street food in Korea is faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantastic. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s cheap and delicious and if you buy the right stuff it can actually be good for you.  (Ofcourse…it doesn’t have to be.)

Yes..those are corndogs with french fries stuck in them. Yes this is delicious.

A truck located pretty far away from my house. I dont know if you can see it, but those are full sized rotisserie chickens

This stuff is called dongbang which loosely translates to poop-bread. NO! There is no actual poop in it. Its just a sales gimmick. Like most Korean pastries its filled with sweet bean paste. But if you squeeze it and watch it ooze out you might lose your appetite for it. .

Street food in this country is insanely popular (and for good reason). This was just one of about fifty stands I saw on a single street.

Hotteok, the closest thing to a pancake youll find in Korea. Its a dough pastry thats fried with a pocket of brown sugar in the middle. When you bit into it the brown sugar has pretty much turned to syrup. Its delicious. (Image from wikipedia. Sorry I forgot to take a pic myself.)

Sundae, not exactly my favorite Korean dish but at least I can say Ive tried it. The small and large intestines of pigs are salted and stuffed with a mixture of pigs blood, rice, green onions, garlic, minced pork, and vermicelli before being steamed. The sausage is sliced when served and some steamed lung and liver slices usually accompany it.(The image came from another website and the description too.)

Ohhh...Dukbokki...How I love you let me count the ways. This dish has become one of my favorite treats and its pretty simple. Its nothing more than a fat cylindrical rice noodle cooked in a hot pepper paste soup. Its delicious. (this picture also isnt mine)

I hope you all enjoyed it! Thanks for being patient. This post actually took me a few days to make. Hopefully the next one will come sooner.

8 Responses to Hard Job, Rewarding Pay Off

  1. Marty says:

    Most jobs have their challenges. It’s about the total experience. I’m sure when this journey is over. You’ll look back on this as one of the greatest times of your life minus the teaching. 😉

  2. KiofNC says:

    Yea I agree with Marty. One day you’ll look back and see how these experiences made you grow. The food looks really interesting.. I’m really interested in seeing more of their desserts!

  3. Deloris says:

    Ryan, very interesting post again. The salary for teachers in the US is increasing. Teachers in DC are getting $100,000 plus a year if they are good. You have the potential to be excellent at teaching and it can be a solid fallback plan while you are waiting for your star to rise in the film industry. Like Marty said, most positions have some elements that we don’t like, but most of us have to endure to make a living. Only a few fortunate people enjoy what they do and make lots of money or very little money. Perhaps from this experience you will discover your true life’s calling.

    So glad to see you made that trek to the historical district. You are getting invaluable experience in another culture.

    PS – On another subject, Loretta has the document we need and is emailing me the information and she will mail original. Love you. Looking forward to seeing you on Skype and reading your next blog. Take care of yourself. Mom

    • Marty says:

      Hey Ryan, go for the GUSTO Lil’ Homey! lol No need to have a back up plan man. Go after your dreams. This experience could be your inspiration for your first script, play or novel. Love u Mom, but Ryan has to DREAM BIG!!! Ever time I watch Outsourced, show about an American working in India, I think about you. Looking forward to the next post.

  4. B says:

    Your hard work will pay off. Just think next year you will be able to use the lesson plans from this year. Continue to work and play hard. Love the pictures.

  5. Rodney says:

    Hi Uncle Ryan. How Are You Doing In Korea? Have You Made Any Friends? Keep It Cool! Love You And Miss You.

  6. Deloris says:

    Ryan, what are you doing for your birthday? We here at home are looking forward to a special birthday post. We Love you.

  7. Jackie Brewington says:

    Hi Ryan, thank you for sharing the wonderful pictures. WoW so breathtaking. You have not mastered everything as you like yet but you have come such a long way in such little time, I can hear the difference in your words. I am so proud of you nephew and honored to be able to see your journey. I pray for you day and night and I know God has his hand on you. THE BEST IS YET TO COME!!!!!!!!!!! Love YoU;)

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