Stories from inside the classroom.

There are days at school when the students annoy me so much that I want to walk out the window and take my chances. But other days, they are so funny, I almost can’t remember the bad days.

I’ve learned so much from the students and whether they learn anything is beyond me. When first I started at this Kindergarten, I didn’t speak much Korean. Since it’s a Korean kindergarten and I’m the only foreigner, I wasn’t too long learning!

One day at the start, I had a five year old class and no assistant. Everything was going really well until this boy kept repeating something to me in Korean. I had no clue what he was saying so I just ignored him, hoping he’d stop. But he didn’t, he got out of his chair and made a gesture which made it quite clear that he needed the bathroom. I let him out and three minutes later, he’s standing at the door, butt naked holding a piece of tissue! Of all the days not to have the assistant!

 

I’ve learned that no matter how close to five the four year olds are, you probably shouldn’t give them scissors. I learned this the hard way. To be fair, they get scissors in art and other classes so I thought it was a fairly ok idea. I just let them off to cut the paper and when I turn back around one child is holding a clump of his hair. My only thought was ” I am such a failure”.

That’s a thought I have every day though. When one child is spread eagled on the table and another looks like he’s going to use his pencil as a weapon, I feel like a failure.

Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder what the children are thinking about when I give them a task. Today, their task was to draw their family. Ryan called me over and said; “Teacher, this is what people look like on the inside”

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He went into some serious detail about how the blood works with the veins and arteries so I looked at him and said “What does this have to do with your family? It’s my father”, he replied. Insert a shocked silence here.

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Just when I think I’m getting through, I realise I’m totally not. The above is supposed to say “This is my father” etc. But the student just did it phonetically, as in Korean so it ended up as “deesmebab” Quite clever if you turn the B’s around. At least he’s making an effort.

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This picture is the “family” of another student. I think that’s him in the middle, the dominant male. I have no idea who the other people are although the person on the right yielding what looks to be an axe looks a little malicious.

The most enjoyable time of day is just after lunch.  The children line up, class by class and brush their teeth. Since the staff room is on the 3rd floor where the four year old’s hang out, they are who I see most of. It is the funniest thing you’ll ever see. They get toothpaste on their faces, in their hair, on their clothes, they let it fall on the floor and then pick it up and brush their teeth, everything. If they eventually manage to brush their teeth, they “rinse” their mouths with water. This means the water ends up on the mirrors, on the floor, they just drink it, they spit it at each other, they try to talk with the water in their mouths, everything. At the end of it all, most of them have soaked themselves and their clothes have to be changed. Funny times.

You should see what happens when they get to play soccer in gym class. The gym teacher throws the ball to them and they try to kick it. What actually happens is that they just miss the ball and then they can’t figure out where it is so they run in circles looking for it. It cracks me up!

I know I’ve made it out that I work in a jungle or somewhere but we have a lot of fun and despite what I actually think, they do learn English!

 

 

How to make Galbi Onion sauce.

When I go for Galbi, I eat the onions in the sauce by the bucket load. For so long, I’ve wanted to know how to make the sauce but I could never get it right. I’ve finally got it down so I decided to share it here.

 

What you need;

1. Soy Sauce

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2. Apple Vinegar

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3. Onions. (You know what they look like.)

The quantity to use depends on you. I pour more vinager than soy sauce but I don’t use an exact measurement.

Simply mix the two together until you find the taste you like, add the onions and enjoy!

 

 

An afternoon around Shanghai

sh2Last weekend, I found myself in Shanghai to play in a football tournament. Arriving Friday afternoon, I just had a few hours to dedicate to tourism.  Since I was staying in the Jing’An Temple area, I first headed to People’s square.

This area, once a racecourse, is now home to Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Urban planning and exhibition hall and the grand theater. While these were all great to see, the square was all about the people. People were sitting out on their work breaks, some were waiting for their friends, some were meditating, feeding the birds giving it a great vibe.

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After the square, the original plan was to walk through East Nanjing Road, a shopping street, to the Bund. However, I got completely distracted when I saw the Bund in the distance and just walked in that general direction. Although this method took me through some side streets and had the locals looking at me funny, it made for a true Shanghai experience.

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Finally, I made it to the Bund……..

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This whole area features beautiful architecture and the boardwalk is the perfect place to relax and see the area at your leisure.

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I did manage to find Nanjing Road on the way back…..

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Feeling a bit hungry, I followed some locals into this food alley and using charades, bought a delicious vegetable pancake…

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East Nanjing Road had so many stores, this would be a day trip in itself

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My final destination before leaving was the area around my hotel. This is the Jing’An temple area. It looks great during the day but is at it’s best at night.

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All China Gaelic Games and GAA in Korea

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to join 2 ladies and 14 men from Seoul Gaels in Shanghai to compete in the All China Gaelic Games. Teams from Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Dalian and Seoul, over 200 players from 10 different nationalities took part in the competition.

This was a weekend that showed that GAA in Asia is well and truly alive. I can’t help but wonder if, in 1884, Michael Cusack ever thought that 130 years after the GAA was founded, it would see clubs doing so well in Asia, thousands of miles from Tipperary.

I also think about how we, as Irish people, take GAA for granted. Every parish, village and town has a pitch with proper goals, people who know what Gaelic football is and how it’s played, access to footballs, jerseys, sponsors and trainers.  In Seoul, I see the committee struggle each week to secure a pitch for us to play. Each year, due to the very nature of expat living, there is a huge changeover of players. But despite all the difficulties, clubs continue, training goes on and so starts the dedication to the season and the team.

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Playing here is a little different to how we play back home. Games are 7 minutes a side, 9 players per team. In 30 degree summer heat, 7 minutes is a long time. In Korea, we have our own league with teams, mens and ladies from Seoul, Busan and Daegu. If numbers allow, teams are divided A and B. The league has at least 3 rounds so it provides a great opportunity to improve on fitness and skills between rounds, especially for new players.

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Then, there are Asian competitions like the All China Gaelic Games (ACGG’S), North Asian Gaelic Games (NAGG’s)and the Asian Gaelic Games (AGG’s). For the ACGG’s, only three of us were able to travel from the Seoul ladies team so Shanghai kindly agreed to let us play with one of their teams. This is the perfect example of how attitude is the winning formula for GAA in Asia. There is literally no such thing as “can’t” here. Everyone is welcome regardless of age, nationality or skill set. Everyone is encouraged to come out and get involved regardless of whether they’ve played before or whether they can commit to every tournament or not. It’s that welcoming approach that makes me regret not joining my team sooner. Despite never having met the women from Shanghai before Saturday, they welcomed us as part of their team and by playing with them, we walked away from the tournament having learned a lot that we can bring into the next games with us.

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Our mens team enjoyed exceptional success in Shanghai, losing out on the gold medal by just one point. Two of our players also won All star awards so overall a successful outing.

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It’s not all about the football either. Being part of the team is as much about the craic we have off the pitch as it is about the football itself. The theme for the after party last weekend was “Pirates of the Carribbean” and there were a few strange looks from the other guests in the hotel as pirates walked in and out of the lobby!

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Here in Korea, we’re preparing to host the North Asian Gaelic games this year which we’re really looking forward to. Teams from Japan and China as well as our own Korean teams will travel to take part in the tournament on July 5th.

If you’re interested in getting involved in GAA in Korea, you can contact our clubs;

http://seoulgaels.weebly.com/

https://www.facebook.com/daegu.fianna.3

https://sites.google.com/site/busangaa/home

Or for GAA in Asia

http://www.asiancountyboard.com/

Oh to have some relish!

I’ve been in Korea long enough to not miss any food too much but there are some times that I could really go for a bottle of Lucozade or a double decker bar. Or when I’m on the first train home from Seoul on a Sunday morning, I’d love to know that a big fry up was waiting for me at home, but sadly it never is (*sob sob*)

Here are a few of the foods I miss from Ireland:

Relish:Let’s face it. Ssamjang is a fairly poor substitute for relish. Nothing says sandwich like a good spoonful of Ballymaloe Relish. For anyone who has no idea what I’m talking about, you can check it out here. Eat that sandwich with a packet of cheese and onion Taytos and a cup of tea and it’s a perfect meal.

I’m quite partial to relish at the best of times and did bring some back with me at Christmas that I’m rationing but to have a constant supply of relish would be like all my Christmas’ in one.

While stalking the internet looking for relish the other day I found this on the Viking.ie website of all places.  All that relish in one basket……

Clonakilty fry making materials: Burnt sausages, a few rashers, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, brown bread are all the perfect Sunday morning breakfast. Any substitutes are just not the same here…..

Brown Bread: Nothing goes better with a cup of tea than a slice of Mammy Browne’s brown bread. Of course I could and have made it myself but it’s just not the same.

Barry’s Tea: This one technically doesn’t count since you can get Barry’s tea here. There has not been a time in the five years I’ve been here that there hasn’t been a supply of Barry’s in my press. Boxes here are the small ones but I think I could somehow convince someone  to bring me this one………..http://www.vikingdirect.ie/catalog/catalogSku.do?id=0465&cm_cat=2000000361

Double Decker Bars & Curly Wurly’s: Double Decker bars and curly wurly’s eaten straight out of the fridge are perfection.  Other Asian countries stock Cadbury’s so whenever I’m on holidays, naturally I stock up on such items, tell myself I’ll ration them out but then have 75% eaten by the time I land in Incheon.

Cheese: Some mature dark cheddar from Kilmeaden is exactly what Emart needs to start selling. Cheese here doesn’t even come close to what it is back home.

Coleslaw: Here’s a random one. Coleslaw from Supervalu Roscrea is my favourite by a very long mile. It’s perfect and my attempts to replicate it have failed miserably. I got “coleslaw” with a meal I bought here once and what I got was nothing more than a dob of mayonnaise and a piece of cabbage. Imagine a sandwich with Bernie’s coleslaw and Ballymaloe relish. Since I try to keep things going to Tipperary and Roscrea in particular, here’s a link to their Facebook page

Fizzy Drinks: Or “minerals” as they are sometimes referred to in Ireland.  As mentioned above, there are times when you would just love to have a bottle of Lucozade or some club orange. So delicious, it deserves a picture;

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If anyone should so feel the need to buy and send me one of these, I would be your friend forever. In the meantime, I’ll continue eating this poor excuse of a sandwich while sobbing quietly in the corner……………..

CCTV in the classroom- pros and cons

The first thing I thought when I heard we were getting CCTV in all the classrooms was that the parents could access it and every day would turn into our very own drama. Thankfully, only the boss has access but it got me to thinking about the pros and cons of having cctv in the classroom. Before I talk about the whether it’s a good idea for my school, let’s take a look at some of the general pros and cons.

Pros;

1. Can prevent bad behavior- If the students know they are being watched, they might be better behaved. This might prevent bullying and intimidation. It can also prevent inappropriate behavior from teacher’s/ care givers.

2. Accidents- If a child gets hurt, the footage of the reason/cause can be seen.

3. Teachers-  Can use footage to improve on classroom management, problem areas etc. Teacher evaluations can be done using video footage.

4. Parents- feel more secure knowing that the classrooms are being constantly monitored.

5. Security- Students and teachers possessions are secure.

6. Protection- Teachers and students can be protected from false accusations.

 


 

Cons

1. Privacy- One could argue that CCTV in the classroom is an infringement of both the student’s and the teacher’s privacy.

2. Trust- Installing CCTV sends a clear message that no trust exists between the principal and teacher and between parents and school.

3. Performance- Constantly being watched might affect a teacher’s performance.

4. Parents- Turns already picky parents pickier.

5. While it might prevent bad behavior, it might also just encourage students to take their bad behavior to areas not accessed by camera.

6. Can lead to a “guilty until proven innocent” attitude.


We’ve all heard the horror of children and teachers being mistreated at schools around the world. It happens. Everyone has their own opinion on whether a school should have cameras installed. This blog looks at my situation here in Korea.

I work in a Korean Kindergarten that takes children from Korean age 4 (western age 3) to age 7 (6). In September, it looks like we’ll open a 3 year old class. We have over 100 students over 2 floors so that makes for a lot of little people walking around at any one time.

Parents tend to be extremely picky here. Everything from the condition of the chairs in the classroom to the temperature we set the air con to is questioned by one parent or another.

With this many students, accidents happen. The younger classes have an assistant in the classroom with the teacher at all times but even that isn’t enough to prevent a child falling or a fight or whatever. No matter how small the injury though, we are always the first ones blamed.

For this reason, I believe CCTV in the classrooms at our school can be a good thing. Parents can come in, see the footage and the situation can be solved faster than it could have been previously without the cameras.

New parents are put at ease when they discover the classrooms have cameras so it encourages them to send their children to our school over another.

One of our classes has also turned into a fight club this year. It’s very difficult to get through the class without at least one fight starting. For whatever reason, the children are woefully behaved in that particular class but when the teachers complain, the parents can’t possibly believe that their little angel could be capable of the things we’re had to witness.

Now, with CCTV, we can show them exactly what happened and hopefully do something to stop the bad behavior.

The cameras are only picture, no sound. If a parent was to review footage, they can only judge on the physical actions and this can be interpreted differently. One could argue that their child only behaved in a certain way because they were verbally provoked by another student.

However, most of the teachers feel that installing the cameras screams that the boss doesn’t trust us and as a result the atmosphere could be cut with a knife around here. Everyone is afraid to do anything close to fun for fear that it would be seen as a negative thing and used against them.

The school has turned into Big Brother. The second you walk off the elevator, there are cameras. The only place minus a camera are the bathrooms, the corridors and classrooms are all monitored. This is a great thing for keeping the children, the teachers and all our possessions safe. It also acts to deter any thieves etc that might be hanging around.

On the other hand, privacy is something that doesn’t exist here, neither does trust. At the end of the day, while this is a kindergarten, it’s also a business and money is the bottom line. My boss will do anything to keep a child here, I’ve seen that before. Parents don’t particularly trust us, and head office haven’t trusted us since day 1.

We’re only a week into this so I’m still on the ledge about whether this Big Brother style school is more good or bad.

*Everything in this post is my own opinion*

If you want to share your, leave a comment below.

 

 

 

5 best songs to sing at the Norebang.

I bet you’re reading this going “what’s a norebang?” A norebang is a singing room in Korea.  We all call it Karaoke. You pay for whatever amount of time you want (one hour, two hours etc). This is usually pretty cheap, 20,000won an hour or sometimes a little more expensive but divided by the amount of people in your group, it won’t leave a big hole in your wallet.

No singing talent is required really. Show up for the craic, grab a tambourine and off you go.

I am the biggest fan of the norebang and let my competitive nature get completely out of control. If the machine doesn’t show a 100% score or a very high score, it’s clearly broken. There could be no other reason for a low score. Broken, it’s broken.

No more small talk. Here are the 5 best songs to sing at a Norebang as chosen by my friends;

5. For anyone who can read basic Korean. Or if you can’t read it, it’s still pretty entertaining singing baaa baaa baaa and doing the dance. This song has been everywhere. Everyone knows the jumping song.

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4. What does the fox say? 

 

3. Barbie Girl.

 

2. Anything by Abba. Unless you’ve been living under a really big rock, you’ll be able to join in on at least one of these songs.

 

1. Anything by the Beatles. Everyone knows the Beatles. You can’t go wrong with this.

 

Added Bonus if you live in Korea and go to the Norebang with Koreans;

I have yet to meet a Korean adjussi who doesn’t know this song,

 

Leave you’re favourite songs in the comments below!