Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rafting, Etc.

This weekend I went river rafting with some friends. There is a website called Adventure Korea that offers affordable (usually) short excursions around South Korea for various activities. I got up a little after 4 on Saturday to make sure that I would be ready by our 4:50 meet time, after which we would head to the subway and make our way to Seoul.

The whole way into the city I was worried we weren't going to make our bus. One of the girls got stuck at the gate into the metro because she didn't have enough money on her card, and while she added credit to it we missed the first train (which should have gotten us to our destination about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time of 7:15 am). I guided our group through the subway system (not hard) and luckily we made it to the bus at about 6:58. As it turns out the bus didn't leave till about 7:10, so we would have been fine.

After a few stops and a few hours later, we arrived at the Hantan river and separated into our groups. Fortunately, one of the guys in our group spoke passable Korean, and so he could translate when English failed our guide. We learned how we should float down the river, should we be tossed overboard in the "dangerous" rapids, and then set out.

I swear, we were about par for the course in hitting rocks and getting stuck. Our guide was a sweetheart, so she was easily forgiven, but it was a little annoying. The "rapids" were very tame, and for the most part it was just a trip down the river with occasional opportunities to get out and swim. At one point there was a cliff you could jump off, but the Adventure Korea staff refused to let us saying that people had died there before because some places are more shallow than others, while we watched a Korean tour group jump off one after another.

It was all OK though, because it was still a really good time and a nice change from the usual routine of going out to bars on Friday and Saturday.

After rafting we had a very decent lunch and then travelled to a bungy jumping area. It looked really fun, but I just didn't want to spend the money (35,000 Won) to wait in a two hour line for a 3 second jump and a minute of hanging upside down. Instead I basked with some friends in the shade under the bridge, laughing at the girls who screamed hilariously all the way down.


Work has been good so far. I'm getting into the groove of things, but I'm a little annoyed at how challenging it is to prepare a lesson that is even slightly above average without putting hours of work in outside the office. I'm not complaining about getting work done, but I have about 12 different classes, each of which requires different prep (albeit minimal prep considering the straightforward idiot proof lesson design we're asked to follow). So it seems like a waste much of the time to prepare a genuinely good lesson, for a 40 minute class, that I'll never have another opportunity to reteach and tweak, unless I sign on for another year contract and happen to teach the exact same class with the exact some material (which always seems to be changing).

Not to mention many things that are common place in the US are challenging to make work here amidst the teaching styles these kids are used to combined with the lack of proficient English that the class needs to understand what exactly I'm asking them to do. For example, nobody ever does group work here. Ever. I don't know if it's a Korea thing or an SLP thing, but asking kids to get into groups and practice the words and phrases we've been learning can be a serious pain. They just stare blankly and say nothing to each other. I have to walk around and tap them on the shoulder and say "talk! Speak!" three or four times before they timidly roll out the phrases. The classes I've used group work with more than once are getting more used to it, so it's good to know it will take. Eventually.

So, my problem right now is demanding a high standard of behavior from my kids, while relying primarily on talking and asking for a single respondant, and writing and drawing liberally on the whiteboard. The kids who aren't getting called on sometimes start chatting (in broken English, bless them) or goofing around, and rightly so! They're bored! But I have so little time during which to teach them (usually a little less than 40 minutes), combined with the fact that, regardless of whether or not they understand a concept I have to move forward and finish a book, page for page, on schedule, makes it very difficult and seemingly a waste of time (or so I feel now) to put a considerable amount of effort into an excellent lesson.

What can I do?

What I'm considering, and I haven't figured out how yet, is adopting some sweeping behaviors and methods of presenting the information that I can use across the board in every class. That way my effort can be focused on creating a teaching and classroom style that is effective and engages everybody, not just the kid I happen to call on. If there is enough work for the day, I can break the lesson up workshop style and do some initial teaching, let them work, reel them in and reexplain and clarify, then finish work before the bell.

Ideas are more than welcome.


  1. Hey, speaking of you, I have a phone now. I'll send you the number