Sunday, June 28, 2015

My life and blogging

I know I haven't blogged here in a long time. It seems this is what happens to folks who leave Korea and try to keep up with their life via the web of blogging.

The reality is not many people read this blog.

But..I could transform this into a place where I talk about teaching and my reflections. As we know though that life is busy, so we will see.

Just want to say to those who do read this blog that I am doing well. I have been scheduled for one class this summer quarter, which is an immigrant ESL class. I'm excited because it gives more experience to put on my resume and also I know you can have a lot of fun with these kinds of classes. I'm on the hunt for group activities and other things I can do for these folks so they have a good time.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Keys to Success

So here is the update. I will be teaching two classes at a different community college that I worked at last quarter. This one takes the same amount of time to get to, but is a newer campus. My assignments are a Reading Level 1 and a Speaking and Listening Level 1 class. They meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:15 till 5:35 pm. (Back to back, with the same students). My students will be all Saudi students (4 of them) and male.

They are new to the school and possibly new to being students in America. Usually at the beginning of the quarter teachers hand out the syllabus and go over all the amazing policies. Then the quarter goes on and students forget their homework, use their phones in class...etc. What about all those policies you showed them? Well I will do that but accompany it with a simpler version that is embedded within the theme of "keys to success" where students learn how they can become successful in the class and in school (here in America).

Here it is: *NOTE: some of the policies are the program's policies, such as the "no first language". I make exceptions to it but only after they understand the school's policy.

I'll go over each page with the students helping them understand the meaning and why it relates to the class.

It's not the most exciting part of the lesson, but I feel it's more engaging than a lot of text on several pages. Plus it is easy to refer back to!

So far, I still need to plan my first week out and throw in activities so to get things warmed up. Yet, I want to take a look at the skills and materials they will be learning and make sure I'm not just focused on the "how" of my classes but the "what". Furthermore, it is tough to plan lessons without knowing your students yet. So I'll probably get more into by next week. :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ballard Locks & Tea

Last week, Ian and I found some time that we could spend together and went out to the Ballard Locks (Hiram M. Chittenden Locks). It was a sunny day that brought some warmth and spring weather to the air.

This was my first time to the Locks, which are known for the fish ladder where you can see salmon. However, it's not yet the season for this so we just enjoyed the scenery.

The Locks allow boats to come in and they somehow make the water-level go up and down, which was very interesting to look at.

These days my grad school life is over and I'm hitting the pavement trying to get some work. Last quarter I taught one class at a local community college and was told I would get a few more classes for next quarter. But everything depends on student enrollment, and now they are not too sure. I had an interview at another community college last week and they seemed to like me. I'm waiting to hear from them this week whether they too have availability for me.

I must admit I didn't really prepare myself for this "adjunct" life of waiting for a job. It's not something I'm enjoying, either. I do have a backup plan which is teaching some regular hours at the IEP private school I've been subbing for. This won't get me the income I need to fully survive, but it will do. However, I want to hold out on that as long as I can. The first comm. college may still have classes for me, but won't know until late next week.

Meanwhile, I keep applying to other positions I see out there. I realized that some schools may not be passing my resume along because my transcript doesn't show "graduated" yet, which will change next month.

A part of me really wants to have something secured by now, and another part of me says "wait it'll get what you want". Thankfully, Ian is being supportive and the new spring weather is cheering me up.

A VW Bus:

Ian went to LA for his vacation, and so I've been trucking it along out here. I met up with a friend recently for some tea at a local tea cafe in the International District. The Panama Hotel is an old establishment that use to be a part of the local Japanese residents. It was a very cozy cafe and had that old-timey feel to it.

Tom in the shadows....

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring 2015

Spring is finally, and I really mean it, finally here! Green buds are showing up on trees and warmer temperatures are coming around. It's really a breath of fresh air because I feel like ever since December it's been non-stop work and grueling through winter.

I may not know exactly where I will be working come spring quarter, but at least I have bluer skies and greener trees to look forward to.

I came home from work today and did the necessary grading and preparing, then after some job hunting went outside to see what I could see.

This was all just around my neighborhood, and I really enjoyed my walk. Only one more week left of teaching this quarter and then finals week. I'm also at the end of my quarter at SU as a student. Going to do an informal presentation Thurs, but really that is about it! 

During my vacation, I hope to get out and explore around the area more, and just take in the missing personal time that's been vacant over the past 3 or so months. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

shelves - shelves - organizing one's workspace

I've since moved into a 3 bedroom house with my boyfriend. We each have our own room, which is strange to some people. Here are some reasons why...I am a morning person, and he is a night owl (a very long night owl). I love to be around Tom and cuddle with him at night (Ian is allergic to cats). Third reason? I have my own darn space! The other bedroom is occupied by our roommate who isn't around much...he's leaving in July so we might fill that space with a studious grad student (maybe an international person..)

Since moving into my new room, I've painted the walls an antique blue and today installed shelves and things. What you see here is the fruition of many hours of labor. We have plaster and lathe walls that make it quite difficult to drill into, but after some screw ups we finally got the hang of it.

I really wanted to get things off the desks...Ikea has many wonderful wall organizing systems, which you are seeing here.

Also, half of my desk area is meant for my art, which now that I've got it all organized should have no excuses not to do. Below you see my "art cart" that houses many of my supplies. The pink blanket is a designated sleeping spot for Tom, which he has already catered to. I hope he starts to sleep on the red shelves so he feels he has more room in here.

For the rest of the house we got the living room painted (hope to show pictures soon) and Ian has been working on fixing up his room as well.

That's been my life in the past few days, and no these aren't exciting adventures, but it does feel good to know you have a comfortable and cozy place to call home. I also definitely feel I hit my dream of finally living in a house and not studios, like I did in Korea. A lot of the time in Korea I fantasized about more windows, yards, and just rooms. Well, if you wait long enough those things will come to you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Successful lessons or interactions with your students - how it feels

Today I brought in two take-out packages of Chinese dim sum treats for my students. Lunar New Year is upon us and many of my students are from countries where this means a break for them. Yet, they are in America where we just glance over this special time in the world. So I thought I would share a little of those fun times with my students today.

I was quite nervous that they wouldn't like the treats I selected or that they would feel awkward being treated by their American teacher. However, it went well (of course). They loved the egg tarts more than the sesame buns, and I was happy to see they like the mango juice I brought as well.

Now I'm not really trying to "butter up" my students but the program I teach at is so intense and busy that I haven't had much relaxed fun time with my students. (This is at an intensive English program at a local community college). I felt like at the smaller private schools they  have enough in-house events that I can get to know students a lot more, so I wanted to mimic that.

I still taught the class, as we did a few pages in the book and then I held a quiz game. This week I also have scheduled a visit to the school's library for the art exhibit, so a lot of fun things to do.

My hectic quarter is finally starting to feel balanced. School work for my one and last class is getting done and my move to my new place is feeling more settled.

I'm doing my best to accommodate my students and figure out the best ways to teach them the material. I don't know what's going to happen next quarter, as I applied to another job. I'm hoping I can continue at my current school - ah this reminds me to put out more applications.

So in essence having a successful lesson or good time with your students is always a real treat. Sometimes it's because you plan something that works and sometimes it happens cause you put everyone in a good mood. I just hope for more of these good times as the weeks go by.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Passing a test and coming out the other end

I have passed my comps test.

What was the test like?

When I opened up the envelope and read through the questions I did become overwhelmed. There were a few questions that I didn't want to see as my choices, and a few I felt like I couldn't strongly answer them. Nevertheless, I did my best and seemed to have done it right. I wrote about 3 pages for each question, which is a page over the minimum required.

In the end it was a bit stressful taking it, but my answers seemed to flow out of me. Maybe it's because I studied so much or that I tried to write about how I felt in regards to the subject matter.

Anyway, having passed the test I definitely feel relieved. I can move on with my life...I can see that I definitely finished my M. Ed. TESOL degree and that life as a graduate students is going to fade away.

Other life things...

I moved! I moved into a 3 bedroom house with my boyfriend in a neighborhood near where I last lived. The house is a bit of a fixer upper (we're renting), but the landlord is super okay fixing things. My room has a closet and enough space to put in my two desks, so now I have space for my work and my art!


I have been teaching one class, a writing one, and it hasn't been easy. The students are great, they are not a problem. The class involves three different things going on and you kinda gotta get to it all. It's already week 6 and I think I've got the hang of things. At first I went at it trying to make lessons with materials and activities, but time kept getting the best of me. Then I realized that it is better to get to know the material and what I'm teaching and how to say it. Now I'm at a point where I need to just organize the day-to-day and pepper things with activities, but most importantly try to understand the material and give students time to practice.

The class involves learning sentence structures, editing and articles. I'm a little worried with the amount of energy I spend on one class, as I hope to be teaching 2 or 3 classes in the future. Teaching full on in an intensive English program definitely is different from what I imagined. However, I'm doing my best to make it work. Now with the comps past me I think I can feel less stressed.


I'm still finishing up my last class (a Reading in TESOL one). I have two more assignments I need to finish before the end of the quarter, plus whatever reading is left. At this point, I'm interested in the subject matter but ready to say so long.

I really enjoyed my program and being a grad student. There were definitely some tough times and I did some growing and learning through the process. My two years back in America is coming up and I remind myself I once lived in Korea. I've been focused a lot on the present and future that I hope I take some time to look back on the past.

My job is 30 minute away (by car), so I hope in the future my commute isn't something of a bother. Who knows as I could end up at a school, which is closer. But this first job has been a blessing and I'm really grateful.

Overall, I've moved my things into a new place and been busy unpacking. I'll take and put up pics as soon as things look less chaotic.

That's the news...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Calm before the storm?

Well I'm still here. It's been a few weeks since I started my new job at a local Community College. I've been teaching a mid-level Writing class that focuses on sentence structure and using articles. It's been interesting in that I've discovered I need to spend some time on the content and how I will present it to my students.

Besides that I'm still studying for my Comps exam, but I think I have a good lead on that. Just really want to take it and get it over with. So it seems things are a bit more balanced now and I have fallen into a bit of routine. I go to work in the morning, come home and then do some lesson planning - work business. Then I pick up my binders and study for the Comps, while getting distracted with videos related to the topics I have to study. By then it's dinner time and veg-out time with videos.

I'm really eager to have the Comps behind me so I can get my projects done for my one TESOL class I'm taking. Then I'll have more time available to really work on making my lessons come out better, but also just general leisure time! I need a good hike through the woods or a good sit on a park bench somewhere.

I know it's still winter, but I feel like spring is coming little by little. The sun is staying out just a little bit longer and I even hear bird songs now and then. Can you tell I care nothing for winter?

Anyway, hope everyone who reads is doing well. Chow!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

"I can't move back to America, I won't have a job." And other myths

As the New Year is here I can't help but look back about two years ago when I was about to leave Korea and head back to my home country (America). Years before that decision, while I was still traipsing around Seoul I thought to myself that I could never return to America because I wouldn't be able to get a job, I would need a car for wherever I went and things would just be too difficult. I saw Korean life as easier, more convenient and well fun.  But as you know, I came to my fifth year and realized that I needed to think about my future, especially my career in Korea. I was working at an immersion style public / private school, which I probably could have kept for years and years. However, I felt like I was stagnating. I wanted to know more about the profession and most especially I wanted to be treated as one.

That's where I changed my mind and decided I will go back to America and try my best to make it in my home country. My plan was to pick a new city I would be interested in living in and attend a graduate school where I would earn my MA TESOL degree. I'm almost done completing that and although I know I will have student loan debts to pay, I feel however I'm one step closer to my goal of being a professional in this field.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk and news about how Korea has been cutting back public school jobs from many areas around the country. This means that most teachers who have been teaching at public schools will have as their choices either teaching at hagwons (private schools) or universities. However, universities in Korea now can only really accept teachers with an MA degree (preferably in the field) and with at least two years experience teaching adults. I've heard you can get into Unis with less experience or some kind of magical number of years teaching children. But all in all, the opportunities and flexibility that were once a staple in Korea have been disappearing for several years now.

So then you start to hear rhetoric on online forums about how their choices in America aren't that great. That you're going to head back home to no job or the prospect of having to live at home. To that I say rubbish! That's why I want to dispel some of these myths and remind people that there are great benefits to leaving the exciting life abroad to returning to your home country and yes it will be harder than what you're use to abroad but all of it is truly worth it.

Myth 1: I can't get a job.

According to my off-hand understanding of the economy, American has been generating a lot of jobs lately. Also a lot of immigrants have been coming to America. When you have an influx of immigrants then you have a need to teach them English, because in order for them to be successful in our system they will need English. You also have an influx of international students from many countries, which come here to study English to either return to their countries for jobs or to advance in their career field. So it is my humble opinion that there are indeed teaching English jobs here in America.

Why can't you get a job? Do you think that your experience teaching children for the past x amount of years renders you without any job skills? If you were at least somewhat cognitively aware of what you were doing during your teaching hours you have some skills to reflect on. I have to say this but if you just showed up at your school hung over or hardly caring about your classes then yea I think you will return with a basket full of no skills.

But in essence you can look back at your work in Korea and see that you have a lot... A LOT of transferable job skills. Here are some I would like to mention:

  • Team work: you had to work with either a Korean team of teachers, a foreign staff or both. This mean negotiating activities, ...etc. Team work is a highly sought after skill and I know that when you work in Korea you have to be very patient and open-minded to deal with not only work related challenges but Korean-work-culture related troubles. These skills are incredibly transferable as employers in our field (teaching ESL) want to see you can work on a team of teachers to discuss curriculum, testing...etc. 
  • Class management: Believe it or not, but adults need to be managed as well. You should have developed some sense of class management with your classes. 
  • Teaching the 4 English skills: You should have something to talk about when an employer asks you, "How would you teach a lesson on speaking, especially the topic of debates?" 
  • Personal beliefs / teaching philosophy: You can definitely look back at your experience and consider a philosophy that kept you going throughout the years. What were some really positive experiences you had? negative? What did you learn from all that? Employers in America want to see that you not only can teach the subject matter but that you care about it.
  • Lived abroad: Just living abroad means you have the skills necessary to understand your student's perspectives of studying / living abroad. Knowing the challenges of living in a culture with a language different from your own, is incredibly valuable. Even if you never spent hardcore time learning Korean, you know what it's like to have to use it daily and to be around people who speak it and don't translate it.

Those are just a few examples of transferable job skills you can bring back to America. I also like to think that these skills can be transferred over to any job you're looking for when you come back.

Myth 2: I'll make less money and work more...

Actually, this in most cases will probably be true. You really can't beat Korea's pension, healthcare and other benefit systems. However, you have to consider what you're giving up for each. In Korea you will have amazing benefits but you're not at home. This is fine for some people, but after a while and having to visit immigration every year, it wears down on you. Not being a voting citizen also wears on you. If money is really your objective and you don't care about having everything your home country can offer you then by all means stay in Korea. But if you can handle making less and with less benefits then take that sacrifice.

Also, I feel that in America you don't really start making the "real money" until after you've been back a few years and you have some solid experience here. Then you can move your way up and get into other jobs in the field (administration) which do pay more. 

With that said, you can work at private adult-language schools and make (in my estimate) up to $25 an hour. Full time, will get you benefits of course. 

I definitely miss making a lot of money in Korea and having all those benefits, but the amount of things I don't miss about living in Korea end up winning. Actually, it's a constant debate whether I should go back abroad and teach after my Master's, which means that in general my life abroad impacted me more than just the money I made. 

Myth 3: American life sucks, it's boring...expensive and rife with political problems

It's no secret we are rife with a lot of social and political problems. But at least now you can be involved without fear of deportation. 

After coming back I have been instilled with a stronger sense of what it means to be American, white and female. This has allowed me to make better social and political choices, to voice myself more clearly and to understand my role as an instructor. Coming back and feeling this sort of empowerment will make you get involved in immigrant rights and access to English classes. 

American life is not boring, because really it's all about your own habits and personal life style of living. 

However, I would agree that American life is expensive, but somethings that were expensive in Korea are cheaper here like salads at food...clothes...etc. You can get things in your size, not have to ship it from abroad. 

You can get a job and you can make a life for yourself back home:
This post, though isn't meant to be a comparative battle between which country is better to live in. My main point is that you can return to America, get a job and enjoy your life here just as you did in Korea. 

For sure a lot of repatriated souls have returned to America to find themselves jobless and living in their parent's or friends basement. But I have to ask to what effort did they put in to searching and looking ahead?

If you can move anywhere back in America, then you can research which cities have a high population of immigrants and / or international students. Look at job ads and see if you match criteria. Talk to people already there and in the job field. Don't just come back to America and expect a job to be handed to you! 

So some word of caution, though, as this post is not based on any expert analysis of trending jobs or numbers. Just based on my own experience, the knowledge of talking to other repatriated people I know and general observations of working at several schools in my area. 

I hope this encourages some people out there who feel their options are getting thinner in Korea and that they dread having to return home to America. When you're at that point you have other options such as teaching in other countries, too. 

Well then good luck to all of those out there and a Happy New Year!