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"So I guess this is where I'm supposed to introduce myself. I'm a Canadian male teaching ESL in Seoul, Republic of Korea. This will be my second stint teaching ESL, only this time I'll be teaching at a High School, using my actual teaching experience to use. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me - no question's too small. Take care, and enjoy the ride."

Other Blogs of Note

  • Student in Korea
  • Seoul Man
  • The Daily Kimchi
  • Surviving South Korea
  • Books I'm Reading

  • "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire" by Niall Ferguson
  • "Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World" by Haruki Murakami
  • "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel P. Huntington
  • "The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth" by Benjamin M Friedman
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  • the lunch lady shuffle Thursday, August 30, 2007 |

    Normally, I would never complain about my middle school lunch that I eat in the school's community teacher room. For roughly four dollars (Cad.) I get to eat unlimited rice, some sort of protein (beef, pork, or chicken) a soup of some sorts, and usually more side-dishes of kimchi than I can shake a stick at. Its not the best and greatest lunch, but they do a much better job of making lunch than I could, and not having to bring a lunch with me everyday is quite nice.
    What was interesting to me however was when one of my co-teachers brought up the subject of the school's nutritionist. Growing up in a private school, we didn't have a cafeteria where we could buy a daily lunch; instead, we all brown-bagged it. Over here in Korea, the school forces the parents to buy the school's prepared lunch, and then each class has their own lunch cart, which they wheel to their classroom, to eat all together in their homeroom class. Along with organizing the school's menu, the nutritionist counts all of the calories in the meals, and writes everything out, all the ingredients, everything that's scheduled to be used in cooking the food. That part was not too surprising.
    However, the surprising news was that each school fights fiercely for highly regarded nutritionists who cook good tasting meals. Each school is in charge of paying for their own school's nutritionist. For the past two years prior to my arrival at my school, the school lunch tasted awful, so they fired her. They asked around, and found out that another school had a highly regarded nutritionist at their school. So my school ended up courting, and negotiating her to leave her school, and come to our school. This set off a chain reaction, of that school hiring another school's nutritionist, and so forth. It's all supposed to be very hush-hush, quiet. The parents want their children to eat good tasting food - the girls especially almost refuse to eat anything unless it tastes good, so the parents want good tasting food, so their children eat. I found out that we had to pay a hefty salary raise to get our nutritionist, and compared to before, I'm eating five-star food for lunch.
    It's all quite interesting, and just another way that schools here are quite different (from my understanding) compared to back home.
    don't work too hard,

    Good old checks and balances.... Wednesday, August 22, 2007 |

    For those of you who are thinking of coming to Korea to teach English as a Second Language, make sure that the apartment you will be moving into will have an air-conditioner...without one, your summers spent in Korea will be really long, hot, and sticky. This summer, the nights have been long and hot, and with the weather at night, the temperature remains constant - it doesn't cool down.

    So, onto something new. Lately, I've been quite busy with school work, and it got me thinking about some of the great differences between working at a private institute and a public school. One of the biggest areas is through the age old issue of money and books.

    Back in my old days of working at a private institute, the bottom line was how much cash you brought in. Good teachers were treasured, because their students never left the institute for a different English institute- they stayed. Not only did those students stay, but they are also the best source of additional profit, because people love telling people about another place that they love, or in the case of English, about a teacher they love.

    For teachers, this does not always show itself as a source of revenue, but rather a supervisor who's not breathing down your neck, asking you to do something differently. Now, in reality, public and private schools are not that different in results - either way, if your students don't like you, theirs going to be problems.

    The problems come within teaching, and more specifically, money for teaching. Before, when I was teaching at my private institute, if i went out and did research for books that I thought would help my students learn better, they'd jump over boxes to say thanks to me. You see, most supervisors or curriculum supervisors pick out the materials for your students without barely ever talking to them. The end result is that often if you only had the time, you would, as a teacher, pick out much better books for your students, knowing which areas of English they need help with, and avoiding other areas where they are already strong. At my old workplace, all I had to do was show a receipt, and within 24 hours, I had all the cash, down to the penny I had spent, and all I needed to do was put up the cash, to be reimbursed later.

    Well, with my public school, it's not like that, at least not now. Teaching middle school has its perks, such as working with kids who like to have fun. However, in Korea, the books you're given as an English teacher were written seven years ago, and they desperately need to be republished. Not only are the topics a complete waste of time, but they're boring, and not even close to "real world" English, which is something they are trying to promote. So, a few weekends ago, I went shopping for some books to use during the post-summer vacation semester. I found some, and upon discovering that they were a bit pricy, I figured that I'd be told to find something else. To my surprise, they told me that price is never the problem. The problem comes in the checks and balances. I needed to list the entire book, the MSRP of the book, and its name - for all of the books. Then, I needed to get the signatures of the school principal, vice-principal, and department head. Then, after getting the appropriate signatures, another English teacher would be given the schools credit card, in order to purchase them. Ordering through the internet would be easier, but less functional, as its hard to print a receipt, and the school needs an authentic receipt to match up with the credit card bill. Where it got interesting was when the credit card was denied because someone had forgotten to pay the bill on time, so the English teacher was able to purchase two of the four books; due to the credit limit placed on the card, the bill needs to be paid before I can have my other two. The whole process took six days to complete, and this was during summer vacation, when every teacher had time off. My cooperating teacher, whose partial job it is to help me out, volunteered to pick them up for me, because I'm not allowed to use the credit card. That's just it - I'm at the mercy of the whole checks and balances system...I miss my old days, when I could just go in, buy my book, and have my cash back in double time.

    I'm sure that someone will pay the credit card bill, and then when my cooperating teacher has time, she will pick up the other two books. Both private and public places to learn English have benefits to each other; I'm still happy though that I'm with my school.
    Take care all, and enjoy the nice hot sunshine.
    God bless,

    well, the wellprodigal blogger returns... Monday, August 06, 2007 |

    So its been a long six weeks. I figured that I should explain my absence, seeing as how just about everyone fired me off e-mails complaining about me not posting anything. Right......
    So a long time ago, when I figured that I would be able to get a job in Canada, I finally found out after begging and prodding the gov't of Ontario, I found out that I was missing one university course in order to be certified to teach a second teachable subject. I had the brilliant idea to take the course as a part of a six-week intensive course taught at one of Ontario's Education University's. The first week started off pretty well, and it wasn't too hard to be working full-time, and then going home and doing about three hours of homework a night. After that, nearly everything went downhill pretty fast, and work started getting really busy, and as the school semester wound to a close, my work with my course started heating up. For myself, when the going gets rough, the rough language gets goin'...Needless to say, when the course finished not two days ago, a few "Hazaa's" were hollared, and a flood of relief came over. Now, I have yet to receive my grade yet, so we'll see if any typhoon's will be leaving my mouth when I find out my grade.
    So, onto other things. I'm learning quite a few things about the Korean Education system. One, right now I'm sitting in my office with absolutely nobody else in here right now. When I asked casually why I'm the only one in the office now, I was told "It's in your contract that you're supposed to be here because we "pay" you too be there." It was nice of them to write me up a contract that has me holding down the farm...I'm proud to be here... I'd still rather be here than at my old hagwon, that's for sure. Why is it that when we get greedy, we still want more?
    In other news, if anyone is looking at travelling in an amazing country, check out Hong Kong and Macau. Macau was just amazing, and Hong Kong as well.

    Well, so far, that's all the news I have now. Now that I'm back, I should be able to keep up with the old blog a little more. Sit back all, and make sure to enjoy the ride...