Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is this...Is this the end of Gangwon Notes?

In the next few weeks, I will be moving to Busan, to join  my wife who will be leaving sooner, as she has been transferred there.

I have been looking for work there and have some good prospects.  If nothing comes up, I will look at teaching from my home.

I love Gangwondo and have enjoyed my time in Sokcho and Yangyang.  This is a beautiful place to live and raise a child.  Busan will be nice, too.  I will enjoy having a bookstore with English language books in stock.  Still, from this apartment in Sokcho I was able to walk to the beach and to a mountain.  I was able to ride my bike in safety.  The friends I have here have been wonderful.  I will certainly have many reasons to visit after I leave.

I will not start a 'Busan Notes' blog but I will work on a name and a new (but linked) blogging identity.  The 'Kwandong' in Kwandongbrian is the name of historic tourist areas in the region and won't be all that appropriate in Busan.

This blog is fairly smalltime but would anyone like to take it over?  I might post here once in a while, but I don't know.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Let go

I received an email last week letting me know I would not be offered a contract for the next year.  The formal letter gave no details but thanked me for 'excellent service'.

-I started writing this post on Sunday, Dec 20, but will keep it in draft for a while.  I don't know when I will release it. As you can imagine, my emotional state has not been good and the emotions themselves change almost by the second.  When I am ready, when there is something useful to share with my readers, I will post this. -

Although I am confident of finding something to do by March, I don't think I will get as good an arrangement as I had with the job I have left.  Yes, they let me go, and yes, I had a few complaints with how the classes were run and the teachers were managed (and yes, those two things may have led me to my current position.  'May have', as I don't have a clue why as yet (Dec. 20)), but I still recommend the university as a place to work.  I don't think I should name the university here, but you can find the name quickly enough on this blog.

Anyway, it was a good job and included a lot of free time.  I am disappointed, in hindsight, with how poorly I used that time.  I did write two textbooks for the science class of a summer camp and did prepare for classes somewhat beyond what was absolutely required of me but after seven years teaching with all that free time, my qualifications have aged terribly and I do not have a Masters degree or other qualification that could  get me the next job.  I am even looking, for this January, at getting a '100-hour- TESOL certificate' online.  I am told it will be very easy and will not take one hundred hours, so the only reason I would get it is to improve my paper value rather than my actual teaching skill.  I do expect, though, to learn a few things from it.

Well, New Year's resolution #1: If my work schedule allow this, I will start a Master's degree in TESOL.  I will also work hard to ensure my work schedule allow this.

Updated Dec. 28:
I mentioned that I was depressed about losing my job that is definitely true, but I am also somewhat buoyed by the unanimous opinions of my friends and acquaintances that I am an excellent teacher and that the dismissal from the university is their loss and has nothing to do with my teaching.  Thank you to my many friends and my apologies if I overstated your opinions about my teaching - just a little.

Updated Jan. 26, 2010:
First, I should thank Alistair at Korean Horizons, a recruiting agency.  He wasn't able to find me a job because of my personal situation.  My wife's job appeared to tie us to Sokcho (although now that is changing and I am looking at another city with a Coast Guard station) and I approached Alistair a little late in the hiring cycle for the winter.  Indeed, this is my major complaint with my university - the late notice they offer.  Anyway, Alistair wasn't able to help me find work, but he has been a great help in other ways and even offered a contact name for a location nearby.  He did this after hearing I had already applied so he wasn't in a position to make a commission.  I think he's a good guy and I recommend his services.

He suggested I take a 100 hour tefl course and the classes have just arrived.  I will start Unit one after finishing these next few sentences (but probably before I actually post this).  I do hope to learn something but I am doing it to improve my pay schedule if I am hired with EPIK more than anything else.

Updated Jan. 26 (Later- just started unit 1)
I find myself thinking about how to study most efficiently for the test.  I am sure that there will be useful material in the course - there will be things I already know but better articulated, entirely new material and well-tested material (I've been doing something two ways and the course may show that one method is much better than the other) - but I'm taking this course for the certificate more than for a desire to learn.

Perhaps this is how my students see the academic world!

Anyway, I don't particularly want to read the bulk of the material more than I have to.  If I can understand and absorb it in one reading, I don't want to read it twice.  I am now using mindmapping to take notes while I read - to test how mindmapping works and to pick up the points in one pass.

Updated Jan. 28
I have had trouble deciding when and how to put this message out.  Happily, life has intruded in a way that makes me grateful for being let go.

My wife is being transferred to Busan and will leave in a few days to start work there and look for an apartment.  I guess I will be packing and such, getting ready to leave February 8th or the like.  I wish my university had told me earlier that I would not be offered a contract for this year, but the notice I did get has put me six weeks ahead of where I would otherwise be.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Being an enthusiastic teacher

I described a friend and coworker as being enthusiastic and she immediately (and enthusiastically) returned the compliment.
-Ah, we both took it as a compliment, not as a form of damning-with-faint-praise. "Oh, um, your skills?  Your methodology? ...  Uh, you're enthusiastic?"

Having a son and living an hour away from work has meant that the expression of my enthusiasm has diminished somewhat.  Connecting the phrases, "a 9 to 5 teacher" and "an enthusiastic teacher" almost makes an oxymoron*.  With limited expression, I feel my enthusiasm itself is fading somewhat.

Still, I consciously work to restore it.  If you fake or act out an emotion you quickly begin to feel it for real** and I am not really faking it in this case.

Taylor Mali has a talk about being a teacher that is inspiring (and short- for those of us who are enthusiastic but only for the short-term).

Another remarkable teacher is Rafe Esquith (and thanks to another coworker for lending me his book, There are no shortcuts (Amazon)).
From my Goodreads pageThis is a remarkable story of one man's dedication to teaching. There is a lot to admire Esquith for, but I can't imagine attempting to imitate his success. 

The book is about his teaching and his classes, not his family or private life so likely there is much going on that I don't know about. Still, the man put himself in debt to fund his school projects, going so far as to get one or two night jobs to make money to pay for his class activities...

Esquith is also on Youtube.

Anyway, despite my somewhat lukewarm approval of his lifestyle, reading about how much he puts into teaching makes me want to do more.  Although this March holds more mystery for me than the past seven, I want to start planning how and what to teach now.***

* An oxymoron consists of two words that contradict each other, while I made a 'phrasoxymoron'.  On a family note, my son has four stegosaurus toys and will sometimes ask for the 'little-big' one.  It makes perfect sense to him.

** There have been times as a teacher and a camp counsellor that I needed to convince my charges that I was angry so I would deepen my voice and chew them out.  Partway through each speech, I would find my voice rasping and feel genuine anger and would have to calm myself down again.

***More about mystery in a later post.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Volunteering might officially be legal

I couldn't find any reports from the 2006 bust of a group of performers in Busan who were charged with illegally staging a volunteer performance.  Actually, they seemed to be charged with illegally volunteering as the performance was for a charity...I think.  it was well-covered in the k-blogosphere but not be me and now I cannot find any of those posts.  Here is what i quoted from the Korea Times:

Foreigners may face deportation or fines if they volunteer at orphanages or organize performances without reporting them to the authorities.

The interpretation came from Joo Jae-bong, an official at the Ministry of Justice. He said there should be no problem with joining a poetry club but that volunteer activites should be registered with the ministry.

``If it 's just a gathering of friends, there should be no problem,’’ he
said. ``But if they are organizing performances, they need to register to do
those things because they are changing the purpose of their stay here.’’

He said the same rule applies to those who wish to volunteer in an orphanage.

Foreigners need to register those activities with the ministry

some strange formatting there, at least in the editor.  If you can't read it here, follow the link, although there isn't much there.

Anyway, in Friday's Korea Herald, we are told that volunteering is legal, but if you are doing a long-term thing, the immigration office should be told.

According to the Immigration Control Law & Relevant Rules, Chapter 4, Article 20, "When a foreigner staying in Korea intends to engage in activities corresponding to a different status of stay in addition to those activities corresponding to his/her original status of stay, s/he shall obtain permission for activities beyond the current status of stay from the Minister of Justice in advance."
Though no part of the law specifically mentions volunteer work by expats, this clause - as well as rumors circulating in the expat community - has discouraged them from such activities in the past.

Baek said that he received advice from a government-run office that volunteering was discouraged, but eventually learned through Korea Immigration Service that it is legal. In fact, he was told Baek that teachers on work visas can not only volunteer, but even receive compensation for transportation and food expenses while volunteering.
"We found it astonishing," Baek said of the experience. "I was even more convinced that I needed to do something about it."
All this took place a year ago, and Baek said he believes that the government agencies that have advised teachers against volunteering no longer do so.
HOPE began its own activities in May 2008. Currently 27 foreign teachers and 20 Koreans are volunteering with the organization, and about 50 have worked with it since it began. Those who volunteer with HOPE sign a three-month contract to teach English to underprivileged children at places like welfare centers and childcare centers who don't have access to English education elsewhere.

HOPE sounds like a good organization to work for, if anyone is interested.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Or, you could close the door, I guess

The Herald has an article about saving energy by reducing the room temperature for businesses and government offices.

Banks, major retailers and hotels plan to keep their temperatures down at 20 degrees Celsius on recommendations, or some say indirect pressure, from government officials, who themselves have pushed their office temperatures down to 18 degrees Celsius to reduce power consumption.
In a meeting the Ministry of Knowledge Economy had with representatives from the services industry yesterday, a 5 percent decrease in power consumption was made as an industry-wide goal this winter.

Participants also agreed to encourage employees to wear long johns and turn off decorative lights.
"Most banks maintain their office temperatures at 20-22 degrees Celsius, but I expect more companies to join the nationwide campaign and lower it soon," said Shin Dong-gyu, chairman of The Korea Federation of Banks.

I've gotten used to teaching while wearing a winter coat.  somewhere I have a pic of me teaching while wearing a wool hat, scarf and gloves in addition to the coat.  18 degrees isn't anything like that bad and one could easily be comfortable without extreme measures.

I approve of trying to saving energy, but I think they are going about it wrong.  If citizens could be taught to close doors when they enter or leave a building, energy costs could be cut tremendously and rooms would be much warmer.

Another option would be to properly seal doors and windows to keep the heat in.  This option might be dangerous if gas powered heaters rather than electrical heaters are used.  There's a geek in Korea trying this out now.

Previously at Gangwon Notes:  controlling air conditioner use and open door policy(1, 2).

Sorry about the lack of posts recently.  I just haven't felt like writing much lately.  I'm sure there will be more to come.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Have some water, use our clean toilets, relax

I have never had too much trouble at airports.  I've planned ahead a little by emptying my pockets into my carryon so going through the scanners was, aside from taking my shoes off, quick and simple.  Still not too much trouble is hardly a ringing endorsement.

This article about the already much-mocked Visit Korea Year 2010-2012 does seem unfortunately timed, coming, as it does, soon after the underpants bomber:
Organizers of "Visit Korea Year 2010-2012" said Thursday that welcoming events will be held for foreign tourists at the nation's major international airports on the first day of 2010, according to Yonhap News.

Getting onto the plane is quite challenging:
Here are the rules:
  • 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less for all liquids, gels and aerosols; placed in a
  • 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag to hold all small bottles;
  • 1 bag per passenger placed in a screening bin
Larger quantities of breast milk/baby formula and medically necessary liquids are permitted but must be presented to an officer for further inspection.
Additionally, TSA does not permit snow globes through the security checkpoint because they contain an undetermined amount of liquid.

As Boingboing points out, TSA needs to review it's physics - Archimedes determined how to measure volumes easily and snow globes are clearly constrained to physical limits.

Anyway, lets say you get on the plane, now you can relax?  Only if you plan ahead for the last hour:
Incidentally, I took an early morning flight on Delta today from Latin America to the US, among the first international flights subject to a TSA security directive issued this morning. The pre-boarding procedues included the most invasive hand pat-down I've ever had, and a long line of guys with gloves at the gate, going through everyone's hand luggage in more detail than I've ever experienced.
As we boarded, the flight attendants announced that all passengers would be prohibited from getting out of their seats (for instance, to go to the toilet) or from using any electronic devices (phones, laptops, games) or having anything on their laps (even a book or a blanket) during the last hour of the flight. I tweeted about it from the plane. Bottom line, the new rules make your fellow passengers farty and crosslegged

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy dinosaur holidays!

The little guy really loves his dinosaurs.  I did, too, at his age, and, to be honest, still do.  He received  some gifts for Christmas and more than half were dinosaur-related.

The little guy is seated in front of 'T-rex' boardgame, with 13, wow! 13, dinosaurs.  On the sofa are some dinosaur books, dinosaur print underwear, a growing dinosaur (see below) and a BBC DVD called Walking with Dinosaurs.
Not shown is a nearly life-size T-rex that That's good Engrish gave him.

After three days in water, this dinosaur doubled in height and thickness.  It is now dry but still feels unpleasantly squishy to me.

This crossword was in an otherwise excellent dinosaur games book.  Okay, three words on the right and three words to fill in. Easy?  No.  Nowhere on the right is there an 'M' word, but the 'E' in 'teeth' would fit if the crossword had a 'T'.  To relate this post to Korea somehow, let me just say that problems with English proofreading can occur in English-speaking countries as well as here.