The end of 2013 is mere weeks away, and thus will close the busiest year in Korea I have yet experienced. If you’re a stalwart reader of the blog, and have been visiting on a daily basis, furiously checking for updates, all I can say is: sucks to be you.
Insulting aside, I was often too busy to write anything of substance this year, much to my chagrin. I very nearly bit off more than I could chew, which meant a distinct lack of free time. Teaching wise, I had anywhere between 24-29 classes a week (with some weeks having several seven class days), and then I was busy on many Saturdays with the GYL initiative. Lesson planning took place on weekends, as I had no open slots during weekdays, and was usually bushed by night.
English speech contests, and after school programmes kept me working late, sometimes past 6:30. At the start of this year, the English department was entirely new, which meant I shouldered quite a bit more responsibility than the average EPIK teacher (actually, I think about 80-85% of all the teachers at my school were changed at the start of the year). Since I was the teacher with the most “seniority” at our school, I had a better grasp of what went on throughout the year, and I played a much more active role.
This year had me host a consultation class. That was when bigwigs from the office of education came to my school to see how team-teaching could be improved. After that, I was referred to another middle school in Gangneung, to help choose their English conversation teachers (which was a bit like being on a panel at talent contest). These kinds of events allowed me to stretch my wings a bit, and sort of network with teachers I would have otherwise not met.
Throughout the year, I was also providing input on an activity booklet for Gangneung middle schools. When classes were all finished, there would be a workshop-type discussion period. We tried to come up with dozens of different activities English teachers could resort to if they had enough free time in their classes. Quite a few of my lesson plans and activities made it into the booklet, including the list of games I have in this blog. Sometimes, we would be joined by English teachers from other schools, who wanted to join in on the discussion. The booklet was published this week, and then distributed to different schools. It was a nice chance to add to the dry curriculum, and we were fully budgeted by the provincial office of education. I don’t know how useful other teachers might find the booklet, but at least they’re asking us for input, which is more than what can be usually said.
Despite my previous reservations about the EPIK video contest, I was encouraged to participate this year. Last year, I didn’t think it was a good idea for me to be involved, as I had my own YouTube channel. I didn’t think it was very sporting, because I edit a lot of video every year. However, one of the head honchos in Gangneung really wanted someone in our city to win. Word was filtered down to me, as my YouTube channel really made the rounds this year thanks to KakaoStory. I wasn’t sure which category I would be entering originally, so I prepared footage for both, which took up quite a bit of time in its own right. For the co-teaching video, I thought it would be more helpful (and honest) for prospective teachers to upload the entire 45 minutes. My entry ended up being for the EPIK Life category, so that’s what I submitted. I got word last week my video won the gold prize, and now I am a few hundred thousand won richer. The last few days have been full of congratulatory messages, and I’m in the awkward position of trying to accept the praise but not appear too cocky. A humble and modest Scroozle, is a good Scroozle.
Earlier this semester, my school hosted a high school student from a foreign language school in Seoul. She had stumbled across my blog and contacted me on Facebook concerning an opportunity to have a lecture on climate change. I thought it would be a great chance for my students to see someone from their generation take an active leadership role, so I informed the higher ups of the possibility. It was quickly agreed that we would give her the chance, so she made the trip over here in the sweltering heat. It was great to have her, and I wish there were more opportunities of a similar nature happening throughout the year. Quite a few students were afterwards inspired into joining my debating class.
On the after school front, my Monday and Thursday classes had the same activity in the first semester. They were told to create a fake company, and then they produced advertisements, a website, and a product video. That ended up being pretty ambitious, but also a lot of work. Once they wrapped, I decided to make things a little simpler for myself. For the second semester, I chose to make the two days different. Monday would cater to students with lower English levels, or anyone wanting easy English conversation. The conversations were generally silly, and a stress detoxifier. Thursdays were for more serious topics, as I tailored it for full-on debates. For the third year in a row, I continued my volunteer-hour-long English Club classes (where non-English teachers try to engage in discussion with their peers and I). Monday’s and Thursday’s after school classes fell squarely into overtime, which meant I was guaranteed at least two hours of overtime every week.
A lot of work also went into the winter and summer English camps. I really knocked them out of the park this year. The winter camp was pitch perfect in every aspect. It went by so smoothly, and the kids were so great. The schedule and activities were absolute perfection. The summer camp improved upon that, and I still can’t believe I got away with a Star Trek theme. It was a lot of work, but I managed to pull it off thank to all the experience. The coming winter camp will be upon us in one month. I’ve decided to go with a Lord of the Rings theme, and it’s going to be more epic than the Star Trek one. I’m taking everything that worked in the previous camps, and further refining the formula. When I’m through with all this, I should sell the formula for mega bucks. It practically guarantees a kick-ass camp (provided you’re willing to sacrifice every ounce of your energy to make it perfect for the students).
This year, I also went on quite a few outings with my coworkers. Once every three weeks I would either be on some trip (sometimes to the opposite coast!), out for dinner, or at the movies. In fact, this afternoon, 20 of us went to a Buddhist temple in Gangneung, famous for its coffee brewing monk (and being featured on the hit TV show “Dad! Where Are We Going?”). I’m rarely treated as the token foreigner along for the ride on these things, as there’s a very inclusive atmosphere complete with mocking and self-deprecating humour. These excursions are a good way to unwind with the “family”, and provide some quality bonding time.
Looking to the future, I don’t know if 2014 will prove to be more accommodating for blogging. As 2013 made clear, my job always takes precedence over blogging. As teaching takes up more time, there will be less time to allocate for writing in the ol’ Sanctuary. My teaching schedule probably won’t let up any, but even if it did, I fail to see how I could produce entries at the rate I did prior to 2010. There are still a few entries I want to crank out, concerning EFL, but with the amount I have already written, there isn’t a whole lot more that needs to be said. Every now and again, an important issue will pop up (probably when North Korea is bored and wants international attention) and I’ll rant about it. Until then, let no tears of sorrow be wept due to my lethargic updates. There will always be a need for me to blog, but Twitter is the place to go if you enjoy frequent Korea-themed updates from Scroozle.