Teaching English in Daegu, South Korea!

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category


Truck load of shrimp.



2011-2012 School Year.

The new school year started sometime last week…I think. My first English class was last Friday but the details leading UP to the first day of teaching are equally as interesting my teaching.

It all started the week of Feb 21st. It was a week full of deskwarming and last minute changes and surprises. Tuesday I heard that there would be a meeting with the new teachers who would come to meet the staff AND everyone else would get their assignments. I was anticipating this because I was getting a new contract co teacher and possibly losing my main co teacher.

I met a few new teachers who looked so fresh and wide eyed- ACTUALLY excited! It was nice and refreshing. One of them speaks almost perfect English- score.  Random awards were given to certain people for reasons I have no idea about. Finally it came time for announcing who was teaching each grade along with their class lists.

First grade was called and 2 teachers go up to the principal and choose an envelope from her hand.

Second grade- the same thing.

3rd grade- 3 teachers went up and randomly picked between the three different envelopes.

4th, 5th, and 6th all went through the same process. Wait, what?…the class lists are completely random?

Pick a card, any card type of a magic trick.

During my student teaching last year I was involved in the placing of children to the next grade. It was a careful and thoughtful process. We considered things such as special needs, personality and  structure of the classroom.  It was really hard, but in the end we both felt like it was a good place for the students. Watching how all homeroom teachers and students are completely random was really weird for me.  I felt like it was another example of how students are never really thought of in the equation of their learning.

I realize that because of the way that Korean schools are structured its impossible to go through a process even close to how my teacher did last year. (Korean teachers get new assignments each year potentially. It is usually up to the Principal and Vice Principal what each teacher’s assignment will be for the year. -people don’t apply for a second grade position, most like A POSITION IN DAEGU, then they get a 5th grade job at my school. )

I wonder what their reasoning is? I think that it does have a positive- it is COMPLETELY objective and random. No favoritism is played.

Should I be shocked? Is it really that bad? I just worry about students involvement in their learning on a day to day basis. They are rarely considered.

Anyways, they are all in their new homerooms and they are cute as ever. I saw a lot of familiar faces. One face that I didn’t recognize stared at me in the lunch room then got up and introduced herself. What a brave soul. I don’t know where she came from but I am glad that she is here.


2 new, 1 same. One new English teacher came to my school and I feel really lucky to have her. She is nice and WILLING to let me teach. Interested in my ideas- so far. Easy going and doesn’t believe that she has to be a hard ass to gain their respect. Her English is great and she has traveled around the world- including the USA!

Other new English teacher is actually the head teacher of the school. She is the third in command to the Principal and Vice Principal. It is a little nerve racking but she likes me, so I just have to keep smiling.


The textbooks are ‘updated.’ They are just so silly. The characters however, don’t have Korean English accents. Nami can now say “Is Peter THEre?” I’m so proud of her. haha

Below are the new English books for 3rd and 4th grade. This year is the first year that each school had the responsibility of choosing the new books. As opposed to every other year where EVERY SCHOOL HAS THE SAME BOOK. Thus, www.waygook.org was created haha.

3rd and 4th grade textbooks. ©Camtu

I welcome this new year and hope that all the hard work I put in these past 6 months show for something in the next 6 months!

Lost Footage: My New Roommate-Moldy Molderton.

A few months after I moved into my apartment I began to feel really happy with it. Hanging pictures up, rearranging things to optimize my space. I started think “oh my, this apartment is so cute.”

One evening, back in October, Jeff and I were eating dinner and I was looking past his head and I saw a black mark on the wall. I assumed that I had bumped it with something that was black. I got up to take a closer look at it…

it was black…

it was fuzzy…

it was alive…

My first sighting of the mold.

Another view of the black mold growing on my wall.

There was mold growing on my wall. Before coming to Korea I was frightened by the prospect of mold growing in my apartment after reading about Jimmy and Rachel’s experience on their blog. (Strangelands.) They had a mold problem but theirs was more of a mystery about WHERE the mold was.

The black mold was cramping the style of my beautiful, flower wallpaper as you can see.

After my discovery, I was so shocked. I didn’t even know what to do next. It wasn’t even hot outside! How could there be mold growing on my wall? In an open area, really? I decided not to touch it or else it might want to release mold spores and get in my lungs to make them bleed! …thats worst case scenario… I also had to hurry to Korean class downtown so I couldn’t handle it just yet. During class all I could think about was what that mold was doing in my apartment. Was it throwing a party? Was it growing bigger,  bigger and BIGGER!? On my way home I picked up some clorox bleach and a few other gadgets to try to work some anti-mold magic.

The result of my purchase…


I tried to kill it with bleach but all I managed to do was find out that there was more underneath and ruin my wall paper.

Gah, I just felt more scared after splashing mold on it and trying to just ‘grab’ the mold. IT really didn’t work that way. I ended up doing anything I could to try to get rid of it. I have never really dealt with this type of a situation but I am sure that this was not right. To add another factor in- I have  an allergy to mold so I was really scared about my breathing. So, I did the only thing I think of. I used plastic.


My attempt to NOT breath in the toxic mold fumes was to put a piece of plastic around it and SEAL it off. Ultimately it became a really great breeding place for more mold.


Yeah, so I found more mold. Yeah, so it might not have been the brightest thing to do but  I was desperate.


Breeding ground.






I broke down after this, I called my coteacher. I might have sounded panicked and hysterical. (note to self don’t ever do that again.) She said that she would come to my house the next day.

The next day…

My coteacher seemed really short with me, and was kind of avoiding me.  She didn’t want to discuss the mold whatsoever. Actually, she thought it was very funny that I was reacting so strongly. I tried my best after that to be as calm as possible, but come on, it was my health. At the end of the day we headed to my apartment. After taking a look at it (through the plastic barrier) she went to get the landlord. The landlord came to look at it and didn’t really believe it was mold. She needed her husband to take a look at it, so he would try later that night or the next night. It was the next night.

The next night, I dropped my keys off to the landlord and headed for Korean class. I asked my co teacher to please explain HOW important it is to keep the plastic on. whether or not that plastic was doing anything, the placebo effect was working on me. After class I came home to the plastic on the floor along with little bits of mold. It was basically just ripped off and exposing itself to the rest of the apartment. Thanks. They were unable to do anything else until the next Monday so I stayed away from my place for the weekend.

Monday ( a week from the first sighting) the job was going to get done while I was at school. As it turned out, the prior tenant wanted to hang a picture up on his wall, thats fine. The only catch is that all of the walls are solid concrete. Oh, this didn’t stop him. He took a nail and a hammer and he hammered that nail in nice and good. So good in fact that it was rest in a water pipe. That puncture to the water pipe had grown bigger and water was running into the wall, causing mold to grow from under the wall paper.


The crack in the wall from the previous tenant who wanted to hang up a picture on a concrete wall with a nail.

After they 'patched' the leak in the pipes and re-cemented my wall.

Currently, over this giant patch of exposed concrete hangs a picture that Jeff and I painted together in Jinju at the light festival. Thats my Moldy Molderton tale, and I hope to never meet him again.

Winter Camp. 영어 캠프

I’ve read about.

I’ve hear about it.

The stress.

The anxiety.

The madness!!!!

Winter English Camp. NET’s are responsible for this camp, and I guess for the first time ever the Korean teachers do not need to be at the camp. Interesting for me since I teach 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade in elementary school. I rely on my Korean co-teachers to help with understanding and to get the blank stares to go away. For 3 weeks I will be solo, ‘teaching English’ to 3 groups of 20 students; all of whose English proficiency differs widely.

First thing- I was told I need to make a schedule for Winter Camp. Soon that turned into a schedule and a booklet. This booklet I thought was just an outline, something to show the principal that I was working on it. After two days of working on it, I found out that it was the workbook/guidebook for the camps. Shit! I have to make 3 workbooks in 1 week!!! Each different levels and differing subjects. I could do nothing else but panic. For a week, I lived, ate and breathed in Winter Camp. I did not do my homework for Korean class, I did not go to the gym- I just planned, planned and made a workbook!!!!!!!!! Somehow, I pulled it off. Friday night I finished and e-mailed it to my co-teacher.


9:00-9:20 Routine, Key phrases and Vocabulary

9:20-10:20 Teaching subject (“class”)

10:20-10:40 Snack and Break time

10:40-11:00 Story time

11:00-12:10 Game/ Movie/ Choice time/ Free time/ Arts and Craft- whatever!

I had a hard time deciding how to divide the time and kinds of things to do. I found this blog- Kimchi Icecream and she talks about how she set up her Winter Camp. She brought up great points like; it is 4 hours of English. They are not used to such a long time having to think in English. I wanted there to be time to be free, less structured. I know that they wont be used to it, but hey, they wont be used to just having me as their teacher either! A lot to get used to haha.

Below I have given a couple examples of my workbook. I found out that I get paid for making sheets for camp. Strange incentive- “We want you camps to be fun but we will pay you if you make worksheets.” ??? Where is the logic. The catch is- it is capped at 10. I made 3 workbooks 1 17 pages, 2 19 pages. intermediate and advanced are very similar but still!!!

The front page to my workbook. : )

Table of Contents and the Camp Rules. I left space so that they could put examples or maybe even some sort of translation into Korean to help remind them.

Example of the layout of the book. This is the intermediate book Day 1.

Although I am ‘finished’ with the workbook, I have a long road ahead of me. I plan to use this workbook as only a guide. I would be bored to death if this was the only thing we were doing. They will be doing more interactive lessons and to appease my co-teacher I added a little box at the end of lessons so that they could record in some way what they learned. I want them to making something with their hands- not doodling in a workbook.

The Issues:

Other teachers at the school have expressed how “concerned” or “worried,” they are about me at English camp. I am not that concerned- I am way more excited. All of this “worry” is giving me a complex and making me feel like I should worry more? I have done camps for years. I know how to run a camp- let me try it people! Stop projecting your fears onto me. My co-teacher doesn’t want to plan or have much to do with the Winter Camp but her stressing about WC is stressing me out. She asks me nit picky questions like; “What will you do when a 3rd grader is doing (blank) and another is doing (blank)? What will you say exactly? What will you do exactly?”

Seriously? I can’t plan for that, all I can do is put in place an infrastructure that the student will KNOW what will happen to them if they do (blank) and another does (blank.) I think it will be a breath of fresh air for them to have some sort of consistency at school.

In short, I am super excited about Winter Camp and everyone else can get an ulcer while I am getting stickers and glitter. After Winter Camp I am off to a Daegu orphanage and then to Beijing for Lunar New Year : )

Happy Birthday to my dear friend; Merlyn!!! : ) Miss you and love you!

Also, Happy late Birthday to; Candi and Seany!! ❤ you and miss you two as well!!

Work, work, work.

First work, then play.

Work has been a mad house these past few weeks. I have been so busy with work, Korean class and whatever commitment I made too far in advance. Last week my coteacher and I had our first Open Class where 2 other Native teachers came to watch and my supervisor. It went really well- but with this class it always does! The only hitch was that we were relocated! Usually we have all of our routines and a comfortable feeling our ‘English Zone.’ That day the principal decided (and did not tell us until 5 days before the open class,) that she had scheduled a meeting in the English Zone. She wanted it to be held in the “most beautiful room in the school.” Thanks a lot. So we had to move all of our materials for our routines to the students homeroom. This particular group of students is always behaved but they were EVEN more polite because their homeroom teacher stayed in the room! haha. Anyways, we were doing the lesson about “This is  bedroom.” I ‘introduced’ my house to the students and that is what their task was. Now I thought that this idea was neat, give them some markers or crayons or construction paper and make a house. No. My teacher instead printed off a lot of vocabulary about what belongs in a house and they were to pick the pictures and glue it in the right room. Fine, I can’t argue. At least we are not opening up that god forsaken book.  Once the lesson was over the supervisor pulled me and the two other NT’s aside. She continued to correct my teaching IN FRONT of these other people that I hadn’t even met yet. It was really embarrassing. We then met for a brief meeting ‘what went well,’ ‘what could change.’

THEN, after lunch it was another hiking trip with my school. This time we went to Apsan- front mountain. It is like 15 minutes away from my house! It was unbelievably beautiful. I wanted to take pictures every 3 steps. Tanpoong was in full swing (tanpoong: when the leaves change from green to red, orange, yellow.) I was very tired from all of the street of the open class that it took me a really long time to climb. Yun could not attend this meeting because she had an open class to see. Kyuong Ok and I went together. Open we reached a high peak we could see ALL OF DAEGU! She pointed out Camp Walker and how it takes up a large portion of the city haha. It looked so neat from up above. The countryside is so close to the city. After a quick snack at the tip top we RAN down the mountain. “Dinner will be served in 10 minutes.” We were at the top of the mountain!!! We ran as much as we could without breaking any ankles or falling off of a cliff. At dinner I got to know Kyuong Ok very well and her and I both went to the ‘after party.’ The ‘after party’ consisted of soju, raw shrimp from Jeju island and steamed shrimp. This is where I learned that more people speak English than they let me know. I poured Soju for my Vice Principal and convinced everyone it was TIME to go to a norebang. Of course, if you know me, I love singing and dancing and norebangs are somewhat of a ‘home’ to me. I attempted to sing two SHINee songs…wow…little did I know how much Korean was in those songs. I had made up my own English words haha.

*It was my first experience going to a norebang (singing room) with my co workers. I have to admit…it was slightly awkward. I do not want people to view me as anything but SHANNON and that I love teaching and my job. In the end it was okay, I honestly think that it brought me closer to my Vice Principal. He now says “Hello.” or “Good morning.” : )


View of Daegu from Apsan ^-^


Working in a foreign country comes with all kinds of unexpected speed bumps. I knew that the language barrier would be a huge isolating factor but on same days it feels so bad. It is no one person’s fault either, its just a feeling I have to know how to curb. Sometimes I just want to say a joke to a co-worker without it sounding really strange or make a pun to a student. I laugh a little because I can’t help myself but my oh my people just don’t get me sometimes. It goes both ways as well. Sometimes I just don’t get my coteacher. One period she is nice and is willing to help, the next period she is cutting me off and angry at me. I am afraid to suggest ideas because 100% of the time she says “maybe” which is Korean for “no.” Or she says “Yeah, you mean like …(change the entirety of what you said.) I think it would be better like this.” Of course you do. So that can be crushing. I feel like my Masters of Education goes to waste. Even after all of this frustration with my ideas being changed and my coteacher on my back about WHAT I AM GOING TO WEAR- she let me do a Halloween lesson.


Interactive Jack-0-Lantern carving on the touch screen!



Two Jack-0-Lanterns.



5th graders and their jack-0-lanterns. They were so happy to make them, my god.


From the photos you would have never known that I completely failed at teaching this lesson haha. The original lesson was to brainstorm ‘scary’ words. We had learned 6 from a song called ‘The Halloween Song.’ -Which they loved. I wanted to write a poem

1 word

3 words


:Using scary words and read it all spooky-like with the lights off. Instead….


What is SCARY????

Whats a jack-0-lantern?

*blank stare*

*almost in tears*

ahhh jack-o-lanterns creations were going to be the last thing and the students take them home and whatever but, I wanted there to be some English learning and writing. I was determined to show my coteacher that I could do it and so could they!!! I still believe that I could do it, even after that failure but I think that I need to SIMPLIFY and use some direct teaching and very clear expectations. A failure of a lesson but a lot of lessons learned for me. Even after 3 months of teaching these students I don’t know their levels!!! Repeat after me is NEVER a clear example of who can speak or understand English.

Work is starting to slow down and this week I get to go to an open class at a near by school and next week I get to see my friend Shelley teach at her open class for our CFG. haha (CFG= critical friends group.) DMOE set up a triad for NT’s to critique teaching. Sounds a little too familiar to a ‘Consultancy Group.’ I am suspicious…Barb…Nicole?

❤ Shay

p.s. I finished my pre orientation course!!! On October 31st at 10:00pm.

Sun Seng Nim

First off, my ‘air con’ smells like pee and I don’t know how to change the filter? Can I change the filter?

I have come to the realization that I am an English teacher- not a homeroom teacher anymore. Things will be different and I need to accept and adjust. Yeah, I don’t get to teach every subject anymore and get creative and go over in time and say; “we’ll do that tomorrow,” but that is okay. I am an English teacher so I will have to work on things with students such as pronunciation and introducing ‘key phrases’ in a mundane way- but you know what I am okay with it now. No matter how much I hate that text book and curriculum I am determined to try to have fun with it. Today I made up dance moves that would accompany the song we had to learn. I tried to get the students UP and MOVING with them but they were resistant for the most part…I guess they are 6th graders haha. It was great though. My co-teachers and I are getting along great, working together and talking through problems and PROBLEM SOLVING! hooray!

The students are also so wonderful. I mean in class…they are reluctant to speak…but when you catch them on the playground boy are they ready to test out ALL THE ENGLISH THEY KNOW. I had students ask me;

“Do you havea a cell pone?”

“What is your cell-a pone numba?”

Then I had a conversation with a 6th grader about how his “pone” has internet on it and he can play a game called Star 65 or something. He was asking me if I was going to teach him pronunciation in English class. In class he was not paying attention though so…haha.

I have received a couple of gifts over the past few days from students. : )

Strawberry Head handkerchief from a lovely 4th grade girl.

A pencil holder from a 4th grader.

A beautiful picture drawn by a 5th grade student : ) I called her an artist the first day I met her because she was sketching a picture of a rose and then I got this 2 weeks later : )

So I am really enjoying my life at school and making a lot of friends; Korean and non. Right now Jeff and I are planning a trip to Seoul with a group of other EPIK teachers. Franki, Alex, Jeff and I are going to share a bunkbed hotel room in Seoul for a couple nights. Christ is going to be there too!!! THEN THEN! Then Jeff and I are heading to Anyang to visit Lana!!!!!!!!!! She is finally here! So we will go explore Anyang for a night and head back to Seoul to catch our train to head back to Daegu for the weekend. Then…then…then…we go back to work : ( I am really looking forward to a long break though.

On another good note, I start Korean Survival class this Friday and starting in October Jeff and I will be learning Korean Monday’s Thursday’s and Friday’s. In no time we will have a better understanding and be communicating more with co-workers and people around us. I can’t wait to show my Principal and Vice Principal what I can do haha. I am having a hard time buying the tickets as of now but hopefully we will be smooth sailing on a BULLET TRAIN by next week

: )

Hopefully soon we will be on a KTX to Seoul!

P.S. When the humidity went away the mosquitoes got worse and I was eaten alive in my apartment yesterday!!! I smashed one this morning with my bare hands and when I opened up my hands…there was blood- MY BLOOD I’M SURE!!! “It’s a sort of revenge,” says my co.teacher. teehee

P.P.S. This is my new pet…another type of flying species that lives in my bathroom. Apparently I have to have the pips cleaned because they are born inside ::shutter::

So they are shaped like a heart...but are some sort of moth or fly. I don't really care, I just want them gone.

More than an Accent

My breakfast, lunch and dinner recently...I need to buy more food.

I am beginning to understand Korean school culture a little more with each day. It is drastically different but so much the same as American school culture. Teachers are still closed off and too busy to focus on anything other than their one track mind- surviving and teaching their homeroom students everyday. That poses a problem for me then you see because, classes come to my classroom to learn English and there are times when I don’t even know what is going to happen in class because the teacher didn’t meet with me during our scheduled meeting time. I work with 5 coteachers. One of which is my main co teacher and we spend all day together anyway- so we haven’t had a problem. There are 3 co teacher thats I work with once a week only for 40 minutes and I don’t think its high up on their priority list to let me in on the goods for their class. I had to repeatedly say- I like to plan things for class. I would love to help with the planning, the stuff that happens before class AND while in class. I kept pushing and pushing until one day I just said “I can’t only do Listen & Repeat, I will go crazy.” It is embarrassing to me. I can be a good teacher if they’d let me.I know that I must stay positive and know that its not that bad. Things aren’t that bad! I just think that maybe, just maybe having a degree in teaching- studying ways that people learn and knowing what makes someone learn something is counting against me. So maybe for future EPIK teachers if you have a teaching degree maybe S. Korea isn’t the best place to come and teach. On the bright side though, I am getting a new perspective on how to do things within a school system and how to treat your teachers. Korea does something right about this. Okay, for teachers it is mandatory to stay until 4:30 everyday but that forces people to use their prep time for hopefully good things. I don’t know how I feel about handing in lesson plans and having the vice and principal sign off on what you do…but I think that giving teachers time during the school day is a brilliant idea. The teachers at my school get 1 hour for lunch- 1 HOUR. That means that the kids play for 1 hour as well. Oh, did I mention that the kids play unsupervised and are able to go wherever they want around the school property. Yeah, and its harmonious. Crazy right? They go to play soccer and tag and hang in the bleachers with their friends if they want. I asked about this though- “Don’t students get into tiffs or get into trouble?” The answer was “these students are always fighting but nothing serious has ever happened.” She was right, Korean students FIGHT ALL THE TIME. Its irritating they are constantly slapping each other, pinching. The slaps are not soft AT ALL either, and they are exchanged from girl to boy, boy to girl, boy to boy and girl to girl(although this is more rare). Another aspect of Korean school culture is the bureaucracy, hierarchy part. You have to make sure that when handing something in, getting a signature or approval you go through the right tier levels. For me to leave an hour early to go get my internet and cable hooked up.

Now, don’t get me wrong- the people I work with are really caring and I love my students. I mean, on Friday one student came into the English room and said “I have a gift for you,” I think she was practicing that phrase all day. Then continued to pull out of her bag a pencil holder! I really am having a good time, adjusting is my life and I think feeling a certain level of being uncomfortable all of the time can take a toll on you.

I made a slide show of what I have been up to recently. I tried smilebox slideshow but its not that good. If anyone has any other suggestions I am looking for a better one!!!

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PS: Koreans don’t eat the skin of the grapes…

Grapes with the skin off. Oh, its okay to spit them out on the plate too- you don't have to be dainty about it.