Updates from February, 2015 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • timothyhampson 5:00 am on February 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Learning Korean, Working in Korea   

    How do you communicate with fellow teachers? 

    An assumption I made before I came to Korea was that everyone I worked with here would speak English, that’s not always true. The schools I’ve worked at have taught lots of subjects alongside English. At my last school there was me, two Korean English teachers and eight maths teachers who didn’t speak any English. At my current school we have a spectrum of teachers some of whom speak lots of English and some of whom don’t. I speak either mostly English, somewhere in the middle (Konglish?) or mostly Korean depending on who is there. I have a couple of thoughts on this, I’d be really interested in other peoples comments about this issue, it’s important to communicate well at school, but it’s also interesting to know what creates good environments for communication. If we know what makes a good environment, we can create one in our classrooms.

    Firstly, things work really well; we get things done. Sometimes people have to say things a few times but everyone always understands what’s going on in the end. The thing to take from this is one doesn’t need that much of a language to make oneself understood. Actually, a lot of times I’ve been told something, not understood any of the words that have been said and still been able to figure out what’s going on from context and other clues without thinking too hard.

    Secondly, my favourite conversations have been the ones that are exclusively in Korean. Two of the teachers there don’t speak much English but are my favourite people in school to make small talk with, both in terms of fun and practicing Korean . There are a few reasons I can think of

    1. They speak banmal to me. Banmal is an informal way of speaking Korean. It’s for friends, family and (sometimes) people younger than you and people who work for you. Apparently they maybe shouldn’t but kind of can. My boss always speaks formal jeondaemal to me so I think it’s kind of fun that they don’t. I speak jeondaemal back to them but it still just feels easier and more laid back than when I make conversation in with them. All jeondaemal seems a bit too serious for easy conversation.
    2. They chat about normal stuff. People often want to talk about England and cultural differences which is interesting, but talking about food, the weather, our weekends and so on is more fun and easier to talk about in Korean too. Sometimes talking can be a little bit ‘person from country A to person of country B’ instead of just ‘person to person’. I like ‘person to person’.
    3. Humour. It makes a huge difference. If(when) I make a mistake we laugh about it and correct it, it’s not a big deal. When I accidentally did speak banmal to them last week they  gave me a very over-the-top offended look (I was technically being really rude). It was the funniest moment of my day. I feel much less scared of making mistakes, and therefore feel more confident, when there is less pressure like this.

    Obviously not all learners are the same but these might be things that are worth considering modelling in ESL classrooms. I’m going to try and learn more from what I like/dislike about communicating in and learning Korean and apply them to my teaching.

    The Breathy Vowel has been doing a very interesting series of posts about his experiences learning Korean and what he’s learned from them, check out the most recent one here, and then spend ages browsing everything else there, it’s all good.

    • teachingbattleground 4:02 pm on February 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


    • breathyvowel 2:35 am on March 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Shamefully, I didn’t realize you had a blog Tim. I do know and have added you to my Feedly.

      Interestingly I’ve grown much more into speaking jeondaetmal the longer I’ve lived here. I think for professional discussions in my workplace it might foster a sense of respect for the other persons’ words. These days, I feel more uncomfortable speaking banmal to anyone but very close friends. This might have been reinforced by the Korean class, where everything was conducted in jeondaetmal with the honorofics, and even a fair bit in nopeunmal. Again, I quite enjoyed that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • breathyvowel 2:35 am on March 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Ah sorry and thank you very much for the blog link.


  • timothyhampson 1:38 pm on February 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply

    Thoughts while painting classrooms 

    Tuesday was the last day of the academic year at my school. Wednesday was a day off on which I achieved absolutely nothing (and enjoyed every minute). Today is Thursday and I was told we’d be preparing for a new school year. I was expecting to drink coffee, think about schemes of work and jot down some lesson plans. In actual fact today was a DIY day. It was surprisingly fun, definitely an adventure as I don’t think many jobs would have you come in to paint walls all day just because. Here are some things I was mulling over while I was painting.

    My beautiful blue wall

    My beautiful blue wall

    Taking ownership over your classroom feels good

    When I first started at my school I didn’t feel like I owned my classroom, it had lots of old posters and pictures that someone else picked, now I’ll be able to say I painted the walls myself. It’s also nice to know that I spent ages on all the little details like having a whiteboard in pristine condition. Even if the pupils don’t notice it’s going to make a difference to how I teach because I’ll know I did it. (The next step is to pick posters for the walls, so if anyone has any ideas, please drop a comment below.)

    Good management means getting your hands dirty (and buying pizza)

    Our boss was on the front lines painting walls and cleaning. She also bought us pizza at the end of the day to say thank you. It was really nice to see; I think I’d be a bit annoyed if she was just telling us what to do. If you want people to follow you you have to lead the way, pizza is also nice.

    The circle of school life

    I was really sad on Tuesday when our oldest class graduated. They were one of the easiest to teach and kindest classes I’ve ever had and so it’s a real shame to have them not there. My co-teacher is off on a really wonderful long vacation too, so I felt like I was losing a lot. Now that we’re getting ready for the new year I feel excited to meet the new pupils to the school, especially as they’re mostly going to be very cute 2-3 year olds. I also got to meet some of the new teachers who seem really nice and I’m looking forward to working with them and getting to know them.

    If I ever get bored of teaching I could get a job as a professional decorator

    We also had a few professional decorators who were in doing some of the more difficult jobs. One of them saw the wall I painted and started telling everyone that he was going to hire me as a painter. It’s nice to have options.

    Manual labour is good for thinking

    When I used to jog regularly I also found that busying my hands (or feet) helped free my mind for thought. I did lots of mulling today (If you must know, I’ve also resolved to try using puppets in class and that we’re going to make smoothies next cooking class) It’s my goal to find something like this I can do regularly to have more time to think things over. I’m considering cycling but we’ll see.

  • timothyhampson 1:50 pm on February 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

    A questionnaire for TEFL bloggers 

    I’m running a workshop on TEFL blogging next month. I thought it might be interesting and helpful to get some views of TEFL bloggers on how blogging has been helpful for them. It would be really nice if any bloggers reading this could take five minutes to answer a few questions on your experiences. It might be a chance to give some helpful advice or inspiration to new bloggers.

    There will also be a lot of thanks and love for anyone who tweets/shares the link.

    Thank you ^.^


  • timothyhampson 8:23 am on February 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Rants,   

    ‘That’ class 

    Another rant today, sorry!

    Everywhere I’ve taught there’s been ‘that’ class, the one you just can’t seem to get through to. There was one class, and in fact one student, who stays with me; a girl with quite serious behavioural difficulties. I put a bunch of strategies in place: she could leave the classroom if she was feeling angry. I could tell her to leave the classroom if she was angry, it didn’t mean she was in trouble, she could come back into class in five minutes and it would be like nothing had happened. She started doing better and I started emailing her tutor and head of house every time she did anything well, asking them to tell her teachers were saying good things about her. There was a month of trying to build her confidence and then out of nowhere there was a really serious incident and she got expelled from the school. It was really heartbreaking for me and I felt like I didn’t want to teach for quite a while. Knowing that you can do everything right and still get it wrong is a horrible feeling.

    The thing about ‘that’ class is that they’re the kids I judge my teaching ability on. (Hopefully) every teacher has a few classes who love school and do whatever they’re told to the best of their ability. When things go well with them it’s because they did well and not me. It’s not much of a confidence boost if they get great results. Surely they’d have got them with anyone? I’m not sure if that’s a sensible way of thinking about it but I can’t really help it.

    At my most recent school I also, of course, have ‘that’ class. It’s my sixth week at the school and I feel like I’m getting somewhere with them. Monday was a good day for them, Tuesday was bad, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were great too. I’ve not seen behaviour like this from them before. It’s Sunday night now and I’m both excited and apprehensive for what’s going to happen in class, fingers crossed!

  • timothyhampson 1:20 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    The whys and hows of cooking in class 


    Cooking as a part of an EFL class might not be something you’ve thought of before. I certainly hadn’t before I got asked to do one last week. I did the class on Monday and Tuesday this week and immediately knew this was something I had to write a blog about to encourage others to get cooking in class.

    Why cook in class?

    1. Everyone loves food.
    2. You can use lots of Task Based Learning. I’m not really enough of an expert on ELT theory to say I have a really informed opinion on TBL, but lots of people who are experts do recommend it.
    3. All the language usage will be authentic. The students will really care about getting their recipe right, so when they’re asking you questions or listening to instructions they’ll be very engaged.
    4. It’s not as hard as you think. Even if your school has no ovens or anything you could probably do a lesson on different countries’ favourite sandwiches, right? People who teach adults might think ‘oh I couldn’t do that’, but I’m pretty sure that lots of adult students would also enjoy something like this. There are probably lots of ‘write up your favourite recipe in English’ follow ups that adults could do that children would find hard.
    5. You can teach other life skills. Learning to cook is an important thing to know. If you can teach it at the same time as English, that’s great!
    6. It’s a lesson that you get to eat food at the end of, obviously it’s a good idea.

    What we did

    I decided to make pizzas for the first class. We’re going to do nachos next time around. I followed this recipe to make the pizzas. We cheated and used tomato ketchup for the sauce (not my idea!) which I was worried about but turned out fine. The class took an hour and a half but it would have taken about 50 minutes with a bigger oven.

    There are a huge range of options that it would be possible to make. If you decide to do a cooking class make sure you think about what equipment, time, and space you have. I’d recommend pre-teaching some of the vocabulary, especially weird cooking verbs (no one knew ‘sprinkle’ or ‘spread’).

    Happy cooking, here are some pizza photos from class.


    What it looked like before we cooked it.


    Pizzas in the oven, we really needed to be able to fit more pizzas in there. 

    • Adi Rajan 1:47 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Did you do a language analysis towards the end? I’m curious about what sort of language items you may have discussed with your students.


    • timothyhampson 1:53 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Mostly the point was that the students could understand the instructions in English and ask questions in English. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by language analysis but probably not. 🙂


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