Trial by fire

Our first full day at the Changnyeong English Village flew by in a blur. After unpacking early in the morning, we met everyone downstairs in the lobby of our apartment building and walked four minutes away to the teaching building.

We had 30 minutes to tour the place, and we four new teachers acquainted ourselves with the simulation rooms, classrooms, teacher room, and where the bathrooms are. It’s really great facilities. The school was formed in 2005, so everything is still pretty new. Our colleagues are awesome, and Jordan and I are already happy to be living/working with them. The other new couple (from Syracuse) is across the hall from us, and it’s nice to not be the only newbies. The other two couples that work here have been extremely helpful and friendly, making sure we settle in and always willing to explain things to us (like–never write a student’s name in red. The color symbolizes death).

All the schools in the surrounding area send their students to CEV once or twice a year, for a week at a time. This week a middle school boys’ group was here in the afternoons. At 1pm the four currently teaching went to their classrooms to greet their students while us other four scurried along after, trying to get a sense of how the days go.

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We learned that on the first day, students are tested and then placed into groups by their English abilities. Each group has a teacher, who takes them through a workbook and gives them opportunities to practice English in simulation rooms and classroom activities. The environment is laid-back compared to regular Korean schools (public or hagwon), so the children laugh, joke, and overall have a good time while learning English. I was really happy to see that the school’s approach to learning was so relaxed (yet high-activity). I’ve heard too many horror stories of teaching 5-year-olds until 10 pm, high schools students writing three essays a night, and rigid classroom procedures. One of the reasons we picked CEV was because it seemed to value the same teaching/learning principles Jordan and I thought were important. I was very relieved to see that it was the case.

Because each class is only at CEV for a week at a time, we don’t have a lot of opportunity to make relationships with the students. That is disappointing, but sometimes a week is enough to make a difference in a child’s education and future goals. I hope we can do well! We begin teaching next week, on Monday. I think our classrooms will be assigned to us today (Friday) and we just hop right in as soon as we can.

Teaching usually ends at 4:30 pm (on regular weeks–there are special times of evening class that I don’t understand yet). From 4:30 to 9 pm we do paperwork, prepare lessons, and find new teaching resources. There will be a lot of paperwork involved in this job, I believe.

Overall, it looks like this job will require a lot of energy, creative communication skills, and diligence in the evenings to get work done. And a hobby–we do have some free time if work gets done early, we’re told.

Jordan and I think we’ve stumbled upon one of the best jobs in the industry, based on benefits, pay, and the workload required of us, so we’re incredibly pleased and really excited to jump in. Now we just have to figure out Korean and Hangul.

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(The view out our window–onions, the village, and the mountains)

Our medical check went well, we think, though we’re still waiting on the results. Richard (our boss) drove us to a local hospital and we gave our blood and urine, had our eyesight and hearing checked, as well as an x-ray of our lungs. It’s basically to make sure that we’re not coming to Korea for the healthcare (in case you’re wondering, we aren’t). Then we went to the dentist. They stuck a mirror and a tool in our mouths, poked around for five seconds, and that was it. We were told that we all need cleanings, but beyond that I think we’ll pass the tests. So far, so good!

In the future I’ll write about campus and the village we live in.

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Morgan S Hazelwood

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