What did you say? Things your students say in Korean.

When I started at this school, I had NO IDEA what the children were saying to me. I work in a Korean playschool so the students only learn English as subject. My favourite story is of a day with the 5 year old’s just a month or two after I started. One of the boys said something to me and by the way he was acting, I knew he needed the bathroom. Unfortunately, the assistant wasn’t around so I just let him off and left the door of the classroom open. A few minutes later, he appears back with nothing on from the waist down. Turns out he needed a hand finishing in the bathroom and with no assistant, he just came back to me!

After that, I promised myself to get my Korean together so I’d actually understand what the students were saying and I did. I just listened to them and since they say the same things day in day out, I would write it phonetically, ask my co teachers and then learn how to say it properly. Here are the top phrases my students say;

  • 쉬 마려워요 (she mar yeah woh yo) – I need to pee
  • 똥 마려워요 (dong mar yeah woh yo)- I need to poo
  • 선생님………( sun saeng nim) – teacher
  • 연필 필요해요 (yun pill pil yoh hay yo)- I need a pencil
  • 지우개 주세요 (gee you gay juice a yo)- Eraser please
  • 색연필– (saeng yun pil) crayons
  • 아파요– (app pie yo) I’m sick/hurt
  • 어떻게 해요 ( oh dok a hay yo)- How do I do this.

Here are some phrases and words that you can say to the students;

  • 애들아! (yeah dra)- Guys!
  • 조용히하세요! (jo young he ha say yo)- Be quiet!
  • 어디 아파요? ( o d apa yoh) – Where are you hurt/sick?
  • 화장실 가다오세요 (hwa jang shil gat da o say yoh)- Go to the bathroom and come back.
  • 빨리! (bally) Quickly

Since we’re here to teach English, you should obviously keep the Korean to a minimum but in a a bind, these phrases may help. As ever, my Korean spelling could be atrocious so feel free to tell me any mistakes!

Teaching Kindergarten in Korea – my words of wisdom

Teaching Kindergarten is possibly the most exhausting thing you can do. My school teaches Korean age 3 to Korean age 7 and after 4 years, I almost don’t know what silence is. Between the crying, the talking, the shouting, the laughing, the sheer activity, it’s always go, go, go.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years*;

1. K.I.S.S.- Keep it simple, stupid!

keep-calm-and-keep-it-simple-stupid

It’s a marathon, not a race. Set small goals for every class and work on simple things. Use the same words and phrases until they can use them correctly and then change it up. Little by little, they’ll make great progress and enjoy doing so because they won’t be under preassure.

2. It’s all about being organised.

Yellow sticky notes and push pin on white with clipping path.

They might only be 6 but they will eat you alive if you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to know what lesson you’re giving, what games you’ll play, what songs you’ll sing and you have to have all your materials walking in the door.
If you’re new to teaching, make a lesson plan and follow it.
Also, have lots of activities ready. They have zero attention span so changing lots is the key.
3. Have a routine.
Try to structure your classes the same so that the students know what to expect. Have a proper introduction, main class and conclusion.
Introduction is probably the most challenging. How do you get them to sit down, stay quiet and listen? You can try a few chants;
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My personal favourite is “what sound does sh make? sh sh sh”
Once they’re sitting quietly, do your hello song and things like day, date weather, basic things to get them concentrating.. There are loads of Hello songs on youtube. Choose two or three so that they don’t get bored singing the same song every day. Make sure to have actions so that they have something to do.  I sing the theme tune to Happy Days for days of the week and although they claim to hate it, they can all sing it.
4. Be familiar with what is expected in terms of discipline.
Korea is so sensitive when it comes to disciplining children.  Every school should have guidelines on what to do if a child is unruly. Whatever you do, follow up on threats, don’t make idle promises. If you give them three warnings, outline in advance what the consequences will be and sometimes positive reinforcement works. For example, I have a little boy who is a bit energetic in class. At first, I went for being cross with him but after a while I literally showered him with love. Every little thing he did well, I praised him to the high heavens. Now he’s one of my best. Doesn’t always work, but something to think about.
5. Always shake it up a bit.
Every few weeks, do something different. Sing a new hello song or introduce new chants, make up new games or whatever. It keeps the students interested and keeps you from getting bored.
6. Games will save you……..so will props
Students LOVE to play games. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and anything you call a game is a game.
Some games I use;
Matching game (flashcards)
Find the card (flashcards)
Spell the word ( board and a marker race)
Ball games like Donkey
Fly swatters (beating the words that I call out)
Hangman
Scrabble letter games
Musical words (dance around until the music stops and then find the word I call out)
Sorting games
Dice games (throw a 6 means name 6 words of a category)
Props are also a great way of gaining interest in what you’re doing. Just putting flashcards in a container and making a big fuss of opening it is all they need to pay attention.
7. Knowing that your plan will always go out the window when you step into the classroom.
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No matter how great you are, something always happens that throws your plan off. A child gets sick on the desk, pees on the floor, a fight happens, whatever. Just go with the flow in the most organised fashion possible and if all goes to all, every child LOVES to draw a picture!
If you have any questions about anything, just let me know!
* All opinions are mine. I’m in no way an expert on teaching, these are just some things I’ve learned!

3 ways to find an E.S.L. job in Korea

If you had asked me how to get a teaching job here three years ago, I would have responded with a list of recruiters. Now, the method by which teachers are recruited has changed. Lots of schools want to cut out the middle man so here is my list of how to get a teaching job in Korea;

1. Update your status.

Everyone has Facebook, right? Some people use Twitter. These are honestly some of the most powerful tools to get you that job.

Think about it. There are so many people who are either currently living and working in Korea or used to work here and still have contacts.  If you have 500 friends on Facebook and just one of them shares your status about wanting a job in Korea, how many people have you reached? Ask even friends of a friend to get in touch and keep an ear out for possible job openings.

My good friend Janet (http://janetnewenham.wordpress.com) has recruited 3 people for her school alone. She simply used the power of social media to get the word out.

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2. Search the web;

Some school try to hire directly so they advertise on websites like Craigslist and Dave’s E.S.L. cafe. . Recruiters also post here. There are also group on Facebook like  “jobs in Korea” that get a variety of postings from schools and recruiters you can look into.

 

3. Use a recruiter;

A quick survey on my Facebook page showed that people highly recommend;

1) Korvia Recruiting  – For public school positions.

2) Korean Horizons– For public school positions.

3) For South Africans, Teach Korea.

4) Star Teachers 

 

With using a recruiter, make sure they are actually IN KOREA. The exception seems to be Teach Korea. They are based in South Africa. According to a friend this is because there are very specific problems with getting all the documentation in S.A. and this recruiter is excellent at walking you through what needs to be done.

From experience, choose a good recruiter and then trust them.

* All the above were recommended by friends. If you have one that you’d like to share, please comment below!

 

 

Tips for surviving your first year in Korea

Two of my friends are getting ready to come to Korea. They asked me to write a blog on how to survive your first year here. It’s been a while since it was my first year so I took to Facebook to ask my friends. I was astonished at the replies I got back. There are so many things that nobody tells you before you come here. Hopefully we can sort some of that in this blog.

1. Language: Although English is widely taught and spoken by some people here, you should learn Hangeul. You simply won’t survive without it. And the best thing is that so many words are the same in English and Korean, you just need to be able to read out the Korean to understand.  You can learn your letters and a few basic words before you arrive. Although it looks super complicated, you can learn your letters in a number of hours. Here are some useful websites;

http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/

http://rki.kbs.co.kr/learn_korean/lessons/e_index.htm 

2. Culture: Know what’s expected of you in the workplace, when you visit someone, greeting people etc. A simple Google search will provide plenty of articles to read on this issue.

3. Supermarkets: The good news is that there are small supermarkets everywhere but for the bigger things there are two big supermarkets Emart and Homeplus (in Korean). You can buy everything from clothes to household items in these two places.

A tip is to buy with your card. I don’t know the ins and outs with this but it’s preferred to avoid the taxman.

Other tips from my friends include;

“You need to get stickers on your fruit on veg bag before you go to the register” (talking about loose items)

“Know the seasonal fruit and vegtables”

3. Transport: The bus, subway and train system here are excellent.

Subway;To make it easier for you, it’s a good idea to download the jihachul app so you can navigate the subway. system. You can figure out running time and waiting times for subways on this app. And yes, it’s in English.

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For those not living in Seoul, remember that the subway finishes well before midnight so if you live outside the city and you stay out, you should consider alternative transport home.

There is a jingle at transfer stations and end of line stations.

A Tmoney card is the name of the transport card in the Seoul and surrounding area. You can buy them for a few thousand won in most 7-11 and convenience stores. Then use the machines at the subway systems to load them with money or at a convenience store. The average cost of a journey can be calculated approximately using the jihachul app.

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Buses: There are different colour buses depending on where their destination is. Here is a site that explains just about everything transport related, http://www.kias.re.kr/sub06/sub06_06.jsp

You can also download the Seoul Bus app. Unfortunately, it’s in Korean but if you know the bus number you can check where on the route the bus actually is.

You can use your T Money card on the buses also or pay in small cash or coins.

Taxis; Taxis are EVERYWHERE. The regular ones are silver or orange. The should have a meter and the drivers information visible.

The black ones are more expensive. Supposedly they are more luxurious.

In Seoul, you can use your T Money card or a bank card to pay for the fare. You can also get a receipt. Outside of Seoul depending on the place, you can’t use a T Money card. You should have some cash to pay for the journey.

Here’s a nice little article on the whole thing, http://www.visitseoul.net/en/article/article.do?_method=view&m=0004007002011&p=07&art_id=39543&lang=en

4. Banks 

Everyone wants a bank account straight away because they come loaded with money. It’s always preferable to wait until you get an Alien Registration Card to do this. The main banks in Korea are;

Nong Hyup

Shinan

KB*B

KEB

Woori Bank

Some schools make you open an account in a particular banl to avoid transfer fees etc.

Banks are opened from 9-4 Monday to Friday. The exception are the expat banks like KEB who have branches open on Sundays for certain hours.  You should consider this if you have a 9-5 job.

At least 2 of these banks have excellent expat services (KEB and Shinan). You can set up internet banking and download an app on your phone to check your balance etc.

Most banks have someone that speaks English especially the ones with expat services so don’t fear going in alone to set it up.

KEB also have an account called an Easy One that will lodge money straight to your overseas account.

* I should note that other banks potentially offer the same service but I have my account with KEB. You should bring all the details of your home account for registration.

Bank Transfers; You can transfer money from your account to another Korean account  by using either online banking or going to a bank machine. It’s very easy and the machine has English language so you can’t go wrong.

Paying your billshttps://whatawaygook.wordpress.com/how-to/pay-your-bills-at-the-bank-machine-in-korea/

Insurance: Should you need car insurance, travel insurance, health insurance etc, you can contact the Samsung Insurance rep who can speak with you in English. You can reach him at byung625@gmail.com and his name is Byung. I have my car insurance with him and travel insurance and it’s always great value and he speaks perfect English.

5. Apartments; Apartments here are generally a one room or two room for single people. Unless you really luck out in which case you’ll have a few rooms.

You will have a washing machine and  heating to navigate in Korean but fear not, I already have blogs done on how to use them.

https://whatawaygook.wordpress.com/how-to/use-a-korean-washing-machine/

https://whatawaygook.wordpress.com/how-to/use-the-heating-in-a-korean-apartment/

6.Rubbish disposal; This is a tricky one. Every place and every housing complex has a different system. If you live in a huge housing complex, they have one day a week where everyone leaves out their rubbish. This rubbish is separated by recycling, food and other.

If you live in a random apartment this is how it usually works;

1. Go to the supermarket or local shop and buy the rubbish bags. The yellow ones are for food rubbish. The bigger ones (blue in my area) are for general waste. Then I also have recycling. I leave recycling out in a box or a paper bag.

2. Look on the street for other rubbish that is waiting to be picked up. Leave your rubbish here and it’ll get collected.

If you have a bigger item like a chair that you want to get rid of you can either 1) Leave it out and let someone else take it and use it or 2) Go to the supermarket and get a sticker for it. Put the sticker on it and leave it outside with your rubbish.

7. Post Office: The postal system here is extremely efficient and safe. If you wish to send something in country then just put the senders details on the top left corner and the receivers details in the middle. Then send it either the quick way or the regular way. It’s pretty cheap.

If you want to send something home, there are two options 1. Land 2. Air.

Land will take between 3-6 months to reach it’s destination. It’s cheaper than sending it by air and it’s good to send home clothes and other items that you don’t want but are in no great rush for.

Air takes only 7 or so days to get to the destination. It’s the fastest way to send things home.

The Korea Post website is in English so you can go ahead and check the rates and fees etc…..http://www.koreapost.go.kr/eng/sub/subpage.jsp?contId=e1010601

The post office is open from 9am-6pm .

8. Alien Registration Card

Your alien registration card is the card you get when you become officially registered with immigration. You will need this card for the following;

  1. Visit to the hospital
  2. Visit to the dentist
  3. If you’re stopped by the police
  4. Entering and leaving the country
  5. Opening a bank account
  6. Making a loyalty card
  7. Getting a phone contract

It’s so important. If you lose your ARC you must immediately report it missing with the police and then go to immigration and apply for another.

9. Expat websites and finding groups

There are some seriously useful websites out there for expats. I’ll list a few here;

http://seoul.angloinfo.com/

http://www.korea4expats.com/

http://www.iherb.com/

http://global.gmarket.co.kr/Home/Main

http://english.11st.co.kr/html/en/main.html

http://www.thearrivalstore.com/

For the teachers among us……

http://www.waygook.org/index.php?wwwRedirect

For the Irish;

http://iak.co.kr/

http://seoulgaels.weebly.com/

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

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

Also USE FACEBOOK! So many areas have their own Facebook pages. In my area we have Geumchon Crew, Ilsan have their own page and so on. You get the drift. Google it or Facebook it and you’re bound to find some groups.

10. Random tips;

You have the option on taking over a phone contract from someone who is already here. Keep that in mind before going off and starting one of your own.

Olive Young sells lots of foreign brand cosmetics.

Don’t open your gas valve all the way. Open it just enough so the meter turns otherwise you’ll have a big bill.

Bring a huge towel with you.

Go to cineinkorea to find out what movies are showing in a theatre near you.

Just go with the flow if you have no idea what’s happening.

You can call the tourist information people on 021330 if you need some help.

In the deep winter, don’t leave your heating completely off if you leave for over a week. If your pipes freeze and burst, your entire floor will have to be taken up and replaced. No one wants that………..

Never trust the green light when crossing the street. Pedestrian crossings are out in the stupidest of places so always look left when crossing and don’t take the chance if it’s a bus approaching.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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*If you want to add something to this list, leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

My sister is stealing my country and other random thoughts.

For four years, I’ve been the only Browne in Korea. It was a great novelty back home, “Shauna,  the one in Korea”. I had a monopoly on this country. It distinguished me from my older sister ( “the one in Spain”) and my younger sister ( “the one in college”). Such distinctions are extremely important.

Now, in exactly 2 weeks, my sister and her partner are moving here. She took my friend’s job and coincidentally her apartment will be literally a 30 second walk from my one. So many thoughts come to my mind, most of them purely selfish of course and I wonder if all expats feel like this when a family member comes to live in their country.

I literally spent all four years telling her that she should move here but it wasn’t until she finally came on a summer holiday that she saw that we were in no danger from the dreaded North, the food was edible and although the people don’t speak English and there are oh so many of them, we all still manage to hang out and have a great time. Also, on the plus side we have phones that she’s never even heard of, internet that’s so fast you wonder why someone would live anywhere else and a transport system that is extraordinarily efficient. So Korea is a natural choice.

But, one little part of me is thinking “really, you couldn’t just pick a different country?” It’s going to confuse everything. “Shauna, the one in Korea or is that Majella that’s in Korea. But aren’t they both in Korea now”? She’s already friended some of my friends on Facebook. I’m sure there’s some etiquette law against that sort of thing. Really? You stole my country, now you’re reigning in on my friends!? It’s almost like this is one of those ready made lives. A great job in a great school she knows she won’t have any problems with, a great apartment, a sister who already knows the area, already has the contacts and has already made friends that you can be introduced to. When I think back to my first time coming here, like all my friends, we did it on our own so in some ways, I find this to be the height of cheating although if I were her, I’d probably be moving to Korea now too. I know a few people with siblings here in Korea and I wonder if all of them think the same thing or is it just me.

Then there’s her partner. He’s Spanish and although they’ve been going out for years, I’ve only ever seen him about 3 times. The only Spanish I know is Hola and a few other random phrases I learned from Dora the explorer so Skyping is like speaking to the U.N. I say something. My sister translates it and then translates his response. Recently though, he’s learned English so this will be the chance to actually get to know him.

When people ask me if I’m excited for her to come, I’m fairly slow to respond. When we were young, fighting was something we were champions at.  Obviously we’ve grown up now but we still manage to have blazing rows over What’s App. Sending each other messages in CAPITAL LETTERS to make a point. And a few times, we’ve had to cut off Skype because we will have gotten into a fight and hanging up is the only option since we can’t just hit each other.

So, with her living next door, I wonder how our relationship will develop. Since I moved to Korea, we’ve stayed close enough but I wonder how it’s all going to go. Will she look to me for advice or will it be the other way around since I’ve been here longer. Will she be my left arm or will she branch out and do her own thing and get her own hobbies etc?  So many questions that only time will answer.

Of course, after it’s all said and done, I am delighted that she’s coming here. She is my sister after all. Stay tuned to this blog for more on what happened after she arrives.

 

Majella

The Korean education system

I just had a conversation with a middle school girl.  During the course of the conversation, I asked her why she looked so tired.  She told me it was exam month and that every night she would study until 2am.  She would then get up at 6.30am and leave the house at 7.20am to walk the 40 minutes to school with her friends because it was the only free time she would have in the day.  I asked her if, after the exams, she would have time to relax and rest and she replied no because she was then going to prepare for high school. I also asked her about her hobbies and she told me that she effectively doesn’t have time for hobbies because she’s expected to study so much. 

This got me thinking to my life, in Ireland, at her age.  I would go to school from 9am to 4pm.  Go home, study for a few hours and go to bed.  I would also play music and sports and enjoy regular social activities even in the dreaded “exam month”. My parents forced upon us the belief that you don’t always have to get 100%, as long as you can stand by your work and say that you gave it your best, then that was the most important thing.

What that student described to me was the life of a regular middle school student in Korea.  Expected to study so hard for so long that she has been denied the opportunity for hobbies.  It’s not surprising that suicide is the leading cause of death among the young people in Korea.  They are simply following what society expects them to be, not what they truly are.  Korea is a country that prides itself on the academic achievements of its young people.  There is nothing wrong with this, it’s the sacrifices it makes to achieve those results that’s wrong. 

Education in Korea is a factory like machine.  Everyone does the same thing, are expected to produce the same high results and anything outside of those high results are disregarded as substandard materials. It’s not just a middle school problem.  This mindset starts as early as kindergarten.  The 7 year olds at my school are expected to complete an English exam at the end of term.  Our school is not an English academy, it’s a Korean playschool with English as a subject.  We do mock exams to prepare and it’s gotten to the point where I can only give the results to the teacher because the competition was so high among the students. It wasn’t just the competition, it was the fact that the students who got lower scores, even though they passed, would be looked down on by the higher achievers.   

What should also be considered is what the Koreans actually call “education”. Students are only encouraged to memorize and repeat.  No form of understanding or independent thought is necessary, just remember this and it’s all fine.  There is no room for creativity or critical thinking.  Twenty hours of studying wouldn’t be necessary if it was quality study that was occurring.  Native teachers will tell you that students in Korea, although they study, score very poorly on comprehension and even worse on open questions.  We should also look to the relationship between teacher and pupil in Korea.  Although students show a great ability, Korean teachers quite often don’t trust the students enough to independently answer a question.  Instead they spoon feed the answers to them.  The lack of trust in this critical relationship is what makes the learning environment uncomfortable and stressful.

A few weeks ago I watched a TED talk by Sir.Ken Richardson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LelXa3U_I). What I took from this speech is that education systems dislocate us from our natural talents.  This happens worldwide and is not just a problem isolated to Korea. But I feel Korea could learn a lot from transforming their education system.  To say “reform” here would not help because it would be a case of same same but different.  In fact, I really wonder if transforming the education system would do anything to transform the mindset of the Korean people.  People here expect the great results and fantastic achievements because it’s what they’ve grown with, it’s the only thing they know. 

But it’s not working.  In 2012, students and young people should be encouraged to be more than what society simply expects them to be.  I saw a clip from a documentary recently on the pressures faced by high school students in Korea http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5GvkcjszLk.

I’m sure the problem of industrial like education is not Korea’s alone.  No education system is perfect.  What Korea needs to understand and appreciate though is that all students are not Einsteins.  Each has their own talent and ability and we, as a nation must start encouraging our young people to foster and develop those talents, alongside a healthy education.