This semester I’ve started an English club, meeting at lunch on Wednesdays. It’s just for students in my department who want to practice their English outside of class time (whether that’s my class or an English language class).

I have really wanted to do this for a while, but my eagerness quickly changed from “this will be great!” to “wait, how do I do this?” How do I help a room of 30 students practice a new language, feel comfortable enough to attempt something difficult,  and actually make an improvement all while eating lunch and in 45 minutes?

Suggestions welcome!

In the first week I asked them all why they wanted to be in an English club.

Student 1: Because I want to learn about all foreigners’ perspectives.

Me: All foreigners’ perspectives?

Student 1: Yes, all!

Me: But I’m just one person!? One American person. I don’t know all perspectives, just my own.

Student 1: Oh, right.

After the first week and actually this conversation, I realized that *wait, hold the phone:  it is not my responsibility to answer ALL their language needs, just like I can’t be ALL foreigners.  Sometimes I can just make things SO much more difficult than they need to be!! A little English club is not going to make them fluent but can be one part in each of their journeys towards fluency. And it can be fun- fun in relaxed way that “class” cannot be. phew.

Here are some of the other responses to the question “Why do you want to join this English club?” (we’re going for content here, not grammar!)

  • I want to learn speaking for travel and international friends.
  • Because I want to develop my English speaking so I will go language student in foreign countries and I want have a lunch time effectively.
  • I want to study English speaking and free talking with foreigner friend. Because this social must have needed. I think important speaking more than writing.
  • I wanna learn more natural English communication. Also, I wanna share each others culture. So I want active, natural time. Also, I want to introduce Korean style, culture to you.
  • For my future! I want to meet many people and I will become global designer.
  • I don’t speak English.
  • I want to speak English well. So I want to study English at the first opportunity. Then I like Karin teacher (*^^*) So when I speak English, I am terrified/remove.
  • Because English is important language that find employment.
  • First, I practice English because English is world language and it’s not a choice but it’s necessary. Second, I can focus on major subject. Third, communicate with other grades.
  • English communication very well/and I want to do. I want to meet new friends.

I was cleaning my desk and found the notes I wrote after my first class in Korea. Oh boy, do I remember that day!? I was so nervous and completely lost, with no idea what was up or down. This is what I wrote:

“Sept 1, 2009

FYI- everything opens @9 am, including COFFEE!! (how am I supposed to get coffee before class?)

First class- 4 students.

Everyone is very friendly and nice and warming up.

1 hour- intro and presentation of me

1o min break to happen every hour of class

Next class- INTRO to class, hopefully with more students!”

It’s the time of year when not only Christmas is in the air, but also graduation. The seniors have just a few days remaining and then they will officially be finished with their degrees and I will officially be sad to see them go!

I will be especially sad to say goodbye to these girls. They have been in many of my classes. The girl on the right, Sung-eun, has been my student every semester that I have taught at Keimyung and last semester she was in all three of my classes. She’s special. . . but really, they all are!

Last week was the graduation exhibition for my department, Craft Design. Each student had to create three pieces using materials of fiber, clay, wood or metal. Some students did work across the materials divide but most stuck with one area for their three pieces.

Fiber craft

Fiber craft

Wood craft

Wood craft

Ceramic craft

Ceramic craft

Metal craft

Notice all the flowers on the floor? It is common to bring your friends or relatives gifts when they have an exhibition. There are lots of flowers, but also candy and sweets with notes of congratulations. Instead of giving the flowers or candy to the person, you leave it next to the work for the artist to find and others to see.

Tomorrow night is a party for the graduating Seniors and we have only 7 more days of school before a long winter vacation!

In my class <Fiber & Fabric Exploration> they have been learning to crochet and last week we dyed some yarn to use for their final project.

Notice how they’re all wearing their coats? Even though we have heat in the classrooms, they are still VERY drafty and most of the students wear their coats inside to keep warm.

We often laugh about “dyeing” in this class. To “die” and to “dye” sounds exactly the same, but with SUCH different meanings. For my students, AND for me, this provides a lot of entertainment!

For the last year I have been waiting to get a “name card”, aka a business card. It implies by using the term “waiting”, that I made some sort of effort to get it a while ago, but that’s not exactly true. It is more like it was a very low priority, I had no idea how to do it, where to go, etc.

BUT, name cards are an important part of professional society here in Korea. It’s good manners to exchange cards upon meeting someone new. When one is given to me, it is not polite for me to quickly slip it into my pocket or purse. No,  I need to take a good 2-3 second stare at the card in my hands, usually exclaiming how beautiful it is. Then I can slip it into my bag! This is then done in reverse from the other party.

You might be wondering how I avoided this whole scenario for an entire year. And up until now I would participate but just claim, “Sorry, this is my old one from back in the U.S. The e-mail is correct, but let me write down my phone number. I just haven’t had a chance to get a new one.” I can no longer use that excuse. . .

So I buckled down, asked around, waited 4 months (due to a glitch in the communication somewhere) and now have my very own Korean name card! It’s in English on one side and Korea on the other!!

I’m official!

It’s hard to see in these photos, but each of the students here is wearing part of their final project! This is my Hand Embroidery Class! Their final assignment was to create a collection of 5 broaches. They are wearing their favorite one, although a few of them are doing it quite begrudgingly!

I can’t believe it, but we are quickly approaching the end of the semester!! The next week will be busy with final projects, final notebooks and tons of grading for me. But then we will have Summer vacation and I’ll be heading home for a nice extended visit! I CAN’T WAIT!!!!

By the numbers:

8- days in May that I was out of Korea and in the U.S. for my sweet friend Kimmie’s wedding! It was amazing to be part of the Rayfields celebration of starting life together!!

5- boxes of Little Debbie’s snack cakes that I brought back to Korea for my classes have produced squeals of excitement!

5- the number of class absences that result in automatic class failure. Surprisingly I have a few students who are in that category.

10- days until school is out

13- students from my class are having their designs digitally printed by a company in Daegu. They are all very excited!!

50 final projects + 50 notebooks= a LOT OF GRADING.

28- days I will be in the U.S. for vacation!

This is how meetings go for me a school:

First, a few days before a meeting I get a text (in Korean) or better yet, someone talks to me. I mean,  if I’m lucky I get a few days. And If I type the hangeul into the translator, then I might really know when and where.

This time it was for a high school contest on Saturday afternoon. I asked and confirmed that it would be a couple hours from 3:00- 5:00. Saturday. . . well, OK. 2 hours is not bad.

Then, then on Friday, someone tells me that. . . no, in fact I have to be there at 2:30. OK, got it.

But then, on Saturday morning, I get a wake up call. Literally. “Karin, university arrange lunch. 12 pm. I leave ticket for you in mailbox.” What?? I am going from a now a simple couple hour event to a  day-long event!

I raced to get there by noon, springing the big bucks for a taxi, only then to realize that it’s not a group lunch. I have been late to group lunches in the past, and that never looks good.  But, surprise, this is not a group lunch, just a lunch at a restaurant that I don’t have to pay for.  (Now, I acknowledge that lunch is a nice gesture, but I would much rather be at home for a few more hours. it’s SATURDAY!) I sit at a table with a nice Korean man,  who turns out to be a high school art teacher. He knows about as much English as I know Korean so we talk a little, but mostly just eat.

After that I have an hour and a half to wait before we are actually meeting. . . at 2:30. Hence this blog post. I need to be home. I have an exhibit to hang tomorrow and there’s still work to be done!

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