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Archive for June, 2009

A new term started at the hagwon this week. Declining student numbers mean I have a much easier schedule – I’m down to 23 classes a week, as opposed to 29 previously; and on Wednesdays I have two classes. I also have a number of very nice classes – small classes, novel classes, classes with students who are – gasp! – interested in doing some work.

I have three novel classes with elementary students. These have always been among my favourite classes to take. To be honest, they’re quite easy – on both teacher and student, so the classroom atmosphere tends to be more pleasurable.

The three books I’ve started with are The Opera Stories (consisting of Turandot, Carmen and Aida), Heidi and Robin Hood. These aren’t original texts but condensed, simplified versions for students of English. I’m planning to do as I did a couple of terms ago and download film versions (and music) to show the kids.

Yesterday I also started using a student points system on the board for a couple of classes. I tried a couple of variants: three strikes = detention; and a more generous automatic five stamps per student, to be reduced for speaking Korean or for bad behaviour. This latter worked well with my PL4 class of four girls.

One thing that annoys me about the new schedule is that classes now finish ten minutes later, at ten past ten. The ten minute break between the afternoon classes and the evening classes has been expanded to twenty minutes. I suppose the extra time to relax and/or prepare is OK, but I’d prefer to be able to leave earlier.

One final thing related to work: the hagwon finally told us the dates of the summer vacation – it’ll be the week commencing 24 August. I plan to go back to Britain for the week. Unfortunately, I’ve just remembered that my credit card has expired and I’ll need to get the new details from my sister before I can buy a ticket (unless I can pay via PayPal … or maybe just go to a travel agent and pay in cash).

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On Thursday, I signed a contract for another year at E-Castle. Which is kind of silly, as E-Castle is only going to exist for a few more weeks. I have no doubt that my official relationship with the newly formed Ginius [sic] Academy will be technically illegal for eleven months, but the issue will be ignored in typical Korean fashion.

On Friday, I returned to the Immigration Office at Insadong to meet my boss, Sharon. There, we got my visa extended for another year; I’m legal until 31 May 2010. I also made sure I got a multiple entry visa, unlike the past year.

I don’t often see, much less talk to Sharon. Usually, I just pass her at reception on my way to classes on the fourth floor; occasionally I have need to talk to her – but only when there’s contract and pay stuff to discuss. So it was unusual to spend an hour with her waiting for our number to come up. She was dressed casually in a cap, T-shirt and shorts; she looked a lot nicer than she does in her office clothes.

She asked me about Habiba and we chatted about things for a while – the suicide of former President Roh, which has shocked the nation this past week, and swine flu among foreign teachers. She advised me not to go to any parties.

Which was ironic because the following day I went to Paul’s leaving party down at Big Rock hof in Gangnam. Habiba and I got there some time after most people and were sat at a table with some of Paul’s colleagues and Kristian (from the Korean class I used to go to with Paul) and his friend Chris. Habiba had cajun chicken salad while I plumped for fish and chips. After we’d eaten, we got a sampler of five or six types of beers, mostly pretty good.

We didn’t get to spend much time with Paul – he was on another table – but we chatted with the people around us. In particular it was good to catch up with Kristian. With out meal done, Habiba and I and Kristian and Chris passed the time playing table football and darts and drinking black amber ale, a creamy stout.

When we left we met Habiba’s friend Charlie and I persuaded them to go and play pool – in order to complete the trio of bar games played that night. They were pretty awful, Habiba slightly less awful than Charlie. After that we went and got noodles from a convenience store and ate them outside (the convenience stores in Korea provide hot water and chopsticks, and even a slops bin). Then we taxied home.

It was a good night, and, although I haven’t seen all that much of Paul this past year, I’m going to miss him. Hopefully, we’ll see each other one more time before he leaves in about a week.

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