Daegu Trip

A couple weekends ago, I visited my friend Derek and his girlfriend in a southern city in Korea. Daegu has about 2.3 million people, and I think it’s either the third or fourth biggest city. It’s also on the same KTX line as Daejeon, so it only takes like 45 minutes to get there. Super easy.

We did all the normal stuff, samgyapsal dinner and board games, but then the next day we went to a kind of amusement park and did a ropes course, which is something I had never done before, but Derek and his girlfriend are really into. They are also into all kinds of rock climbing, so having them there made it a lot easier because they knew what they were doing! It certainly wasn’t something I was going to try on my own. The place itself was really interesting, and there was a lot more stuff than just the course. When we went though the ropes course, we were actually above the whole park, and people were staring up at us the whole time. For those of you who don’t know what a ropes course is, and I certainly didn’t before this, it’s a kind of obstacle course that is suspended between trees or anything else I think, that you negotiate while tied to a safety line, which I assume is the aforementioned “ropes”. You had two clips to hold you on to the steel rope, and you detached one all the time to move from the one obstacle to the other, while the other clip was still keeping you attached. The safety instructions were really fun, given in halting English by one of the Korean attendants while his buddies laughed at him.


Here we are in all our gear, which included a complicated harness and a cool helmet.

Probably the most common thing on the course were zip lines, and the longest was 130m if I remember correctly! Here’s some pictures of me using the zip line. Evidently my form is efficient and compact, according to our local experts.


Here are some more pics of what the whole thing looked like in general. You can see there’s a kind of net you have to climb, along with a rope bridge. The way it worked we did the easier course first to warm up, and then tackled the harder course, which actually was challenging and was slightly scary at some points.

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That woman’s name is Chris, and she features so prominently in these pictures because her boyfriend Will took them. Thanks for sending them over Will!


After the ropes course we were all pretty tired, as it had taken almost four hours all together, but we decided we had enough energy for the swinging ship, named “Sea Horse”, that had some pretty strict rules. It was almost a mistake because I felt pretty sick after, and so did the Korean kid who was visibly not feeling well and whose parents were laughing at him from off the ride.


Here are some more pictures of what the rest of the park looked like:

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After the park we went to a nice Nepali/Indian restaurant, played some more board games, and then went home!


Harry Potter Camp Mega Post

Alright it’s finally time. So growing up, my family and I obviously loved Harry Potter very much, why else would you read all the books out loud following the midnight releases. Space camp was a great theme for my winter camp, but summer camp only had one option. HARRY POTTER. I did the camp two times over two weeks, once at my big school, Okgye Elementary, and once at my tiny school, Sanheung Elementary. I’m not going to give a seperate narrative for each, just go through what the camp was like for both schools. At each camp we had around 20 kids, which was amazing for splitting up into the 4 houses of Hogwarts. My co-teacher suggested we do five groups to make thins easier, but I managed to talk him out of it. Didn’t even have to use the words “thematically consistent”.

Day 1

The first little bit we did for both camps was to give the kids some background info about Harry Potter in general. I knew that some of the kids weren’t going to have read the books or have seen the movies, so I didn’t want them to feel like they didn’t know what was going on. So we started off by playing a Harry Potter trivia game, which told them who all the main characters, as well as some basic plot information, like that Harry’s parents are dead, who killed them, and what the difference between a witch and a wizard is.



You can see Hedwig there, and the students are holding the boards they were writing their answers on. Also notice Hogwarts castle in the picture to the right. After this, we were ready to head to Hogwarts!

So as you are no doubt aware, the first thing you have to do when you get to Hogwarts is get sorted into houses. Before we did this I of course had to give some background information about what the houses were, so the kids at least knew what they were getting themselves into.



After this we got into the nitty gritty of the actual sorting. Now because I didn’t do enough planning ahead, I didn’t have a hat that was really going to work as the Sorting Hat. What I used instead was the sun visors that you usually see a lot of older Korean women wearing. The whole set up looked like this:



We set up the Sorting Hat powerpoint to sort the kids into the groups we wanted beforehand. We just called them up in order, and they got sorted into their proper houses. After this they all had to make house posters, which is where we would keep track of all the points and stuff that they accumulated in their pursuit of a House Cup.





The final results were really awesome, and you can decide for yourself which is your favorite. Although the simple Hufflepuff one with the badger on the seal was a really good one in my opinion.

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You can see the final House Cup point totals for Okgye’s camp in the center bottom picture. You can also see that we had them write some adjectives on their posters that matched up with their houses, although sometimes they didn’t know if the words were good or not, which is why arrogance shows up on Gryffindor’s poster. All throughout the camp, we would give out points to the students, whether it be for the best house poster, or who won the games we played. At the end of both camps, all the points were added up and the winners were given prizes, although Okgye’s prize system was a bit more involved than Sanhueng’s, which you’ll see later.  With all of this completed, we were finished with Day 1!

Day 2

The second day started out by addressing a fairly obvious problem. The students were at Hogwarts (or “Magic students” as they now called themselves), but they had no wands! I’m pretty sure you’re not let on the school grounds if you don’t have a wand. So first we had to learn about the two components that make up a wand; the wand wood, and the core. I taught the students about different trees, and what each means if its what you wand is made out of, then did the same for a ton of mythological creatures. I decided to expand the core materials beyond the typical Unicorn hair, Phoenix feather and Dragon heartstring so they could have a bit more choice. After they learned all, they could choose what their wand was going to be made out of an construction began!





We used chopsticks, pipe cleaner, paper, glitter, glue, colored pencils and markets to make the wands, and even in one case, a balloon. Here are the finished products:



Now that the students had their wands, the next step was to teach them how to use them. We had two classes to accomplish this: Standard Book of Spells Chapter 1, and Dueling Club.

The first was Standard Book of Spells Chapter 1, which focused on teaching the students easy commands like “run”, “stop”, and “hot”. Here they are running around practicing before their pair performances. One student just kept yelling, “fire in the hole!”



Here is one group performing, I’m pretty sure his partner used the “jump” spell, and then the “sit” spell.



Dueling club was very exciting, but required so much teacher involvement that we couldn’t take pictures. Basically, we ran an elimination tournament of speed reading English from the board. There were four rounds of increasingly difficult English, and the winner’s house got a ton of points for the House Cup. It was my favorite class, and I think a lot of the kids liked it too. This was the end of day 2, but it was also the day that they started writing letters to the students at the other school, which I then delivered so they could read what the other students had done (i.e. the exact same thing).

Day 3

Day 3 had only two classes, Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures. Herbology was basically just a vocabulary lesson, with the students learning the words for things like “tree”, “leaf” and “soil”. Afterwards we had a quiz game, which they really enjoyed, and then it was time for Care of Magical Creatures. This class was totally about dragons, and I explained about dragons and then taught them about the names for body parts, so they could say if their dragon had big horns or a long neck or red eyes. We then set about illustrating the dragons, and here is everyone with their final dragons! Bonus pic of me explain the difference between big and little.



That was the end of day 3, so on to day 4!

Day 4

Day 4 also had only two classes, and they were Defense Against the Dark Arts and Quidditch. In DADA I taught the students about boggarts and dementors, and also how to use the Patronus and Riddikulus spells to protect themselves from those creatures. I also felt that I had a responsibility to teach them about the Unforgivable Curses, so they could know what to look for and what to protect themselves from. Constant vigilance! After this we went on to Quidditch! I was pretty excited about this, and the first camp, Sanheung I tried to have the students play a version of the game that still involved the Seeker. This didn’t work out too well, and the boy students were complaining that the broomsticks hurt their balls. The second time though, we changed the game so it was only Chasers, Beaters, and Keepers, and it was much more of a success.












We also played in the gym, with hockey sticks instead of broomsticks, but it was also about 95 degrees outside, so I think that was the right choice. The kids had a good time, and the winner of the tournament got themselves a ton of points for the House Cup!

Day 5

Day 5 was a relaxed affair, with the students first watching the first Harry Potter movie with Korean subtitles. They really liked that!


We then got to put all those points they earned over the week to good use during the auction for a tons of stuff at the end of the camp. The students got a number of “dollars” for what their team did, and also a smaller amount for what they did. They took this total in monopoly money and then got to use it to bid on a whole ton of stuff. At the beginning of the camp, each kid wrote two things down for their “wish list” and then my co teachers went out and bought those things. It was a pretty good incentive program, but it probably was a bit expensive. Here’s what the auction looked like!



The students were really savvy with their money, but my favorite was the one kid who made a huge power move and went all in for the one thing he wanted, and then sat back with a huge grin on his face, satisfied.

It was a really fun two weeks, and with Sarah leaving right after I finished my second camp, it pretty much signaled the beginning of the end for my time in Korea. I had an amazing time doing it, especially with one of my favorite subjects, Harry Potter!

Shirts and Signs #10

For those of you who are faint of heart, this one contains profanity, but I think it’s worth it:


Note him pulling his pockets out to show exactly how out of fucks he is. This shirt was 50,000 won.


The sign underneath pretty much says “for rent”. I wonder how they could have gone out of business?

Harry Potter Camp Preview

Alright. It has been one week since Sarah left, and I’m finally motivated to add to the blog again. I will be doing a big post for harry potter camp, but I’m waiting till I can get pictures from my co-teachers to get a complete overview. Until then, here is a bit of the prep work we did the week before!


Reader’s Theater

The school district in Daejeon used to have an inter-school English contest, but apparantly people got “too competative” and the stress and time commitment was too much for the parents, teachers, and students, so the contest was called off this year. However, my principal wanted our students to have an English contest within the school (as did Clarke’s) so one of my co-teacher’s suggested that instead of speeches and skits, we do Reader’s Theater. This is a technique of reading a story that is in the format of a script. Students stand in a line and face their audience; they mostly act with their voices and maybe a few props or gestures.

To put it to the test, Ms. Ann wrote a Reader’s Theater script for the fifth graders to try in class. We’ve made one every chapter since!





We put together a proposal for the Reader’s Theater English Competition, incorporating evidence on the efficacy of Reader’s Theater for improving ESL students’ vocabulary and comfort level in English. Since I found myself with too much planning time (said no American teacher, ever), I volunteered to set aside some time to help the contestants practice. We announced the competition in our English classes, showed some examples we found on line, and asked them to turn in a script in 10 days.

The next 6 weeks of practice and preparation were a little bit hectic and stressful at times, but overall it was a really great experience. I got to know some of my students better and I had a great time helping them spruce up classic fairy tales (what if Little Red Riding Hood lived in 2015…in Korea?!?!?). The competition was almost postponed/canceled because of MERS (it was June 9th), but they decided that as long as only the participants came it wasn’t any different from being in school, and we had class that day. Having pulled some scheduling gymnastics to get every team time for a dress rehearsal the past week, I was really thankful it went on as scheduled.

We had 6 teams of 5th graders and 10 teams of 6th graders. Although the 6th graders were noticeably better at reading through their scripts in the first few practices, the fifth grader soon overtook them with sheer effort and enthusiasm. On the day of the contest, the 5th grade teams showed up in full costumes, where most of the sixth grade teams hadn’t gone much farther than name tags…hehe…I had promised all the 5th graders not to worry about the sixth grade teams because they were being judged separately (we planned to pick a winner from each grade) but turns out it was the sixth graders that should have been scared!

Anyway, here are some pictures from the day of. I’ll work on getting a video clip up, but the camera was in the back and it’s a little hard to understand!

Editing Scripts




Practicing in the English room after School



Team pictures (every team had a picture on our bulletin board to get people psyched!)

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dreaming sprout
Back row: loves it. Front row: hates it.

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The Day of the Competition

Future fifth grade winners, anxiously awaiting their turn…The boy in the train conductor outfit it too cute for me to handle…his voiced cracked every other line!
Judges table
They were *mostly* quiet when it wasn’t their turn…
Fifth grade winners-mid performance
Sixth grade winners’ performance

Doctor’s Appointment

Last Friday I was at Sanheung and was heading back from lunch. Lunch at Sanheung on Friday is always seafood, and I’m not a huge fan of that. I did a good job of not making that obvious until my new co=teacher came to the school. She has very good English and quickly found out that I’m not a huge fan. She’s very nice and even asked the lunch ladies if they could switch the schedule for me! They said no and I joked that they must be Catholic to only want to eat fish on Fridays. She took this seriously and actually asked the head lunch lady if she was Catholic, which she is, which totally explains the whole thing.

Anyway, I was heading back from lunch when a swarm of 1st graders came out of their classroom and pulled me inside. It turns out that they had converted the classroom into a doctor’s office, and I was coming in for a check up. They asked what was wrong, and I told them I had a headache, for which they gave me a prescription:



After this I went over to look at some of the stuff they had set up, which looked pretty legit.


Then I headed over to the pharmacy, where I got my medicine:


Following doctor’s orders, I took it all, and felt a lot better!

Shirts and Signs #9

So here are a larger collection of things we have seen around Korea!

First, a misspelling of the country closest to them! Although perhaps I might misspell Mexico in German.


Another treasure trove is on the notebooks the kids have for English class. Here are two shining examples:



And finally, some questionable spelling during a writing game. The attempted word was “pencil”


As Sarah points out, where do they think the “s” sound comes from?

My “green” school

Yes, my school recycles but that’s not what I mean by green…as the weather continues to warm, I’m noticing plants growing all over the hallways and classrooms. It seems every fifth grade class is growing tomatoes…


hot peppers…


and morning glories!


What’s more, every single student has a plant that they are responsible for watering. They are on the windowsills in the hallway, outside every classroom. It’s pretty great. (My co-teacher said parents that don’t trust their kids to keep a plant alive get cacti, since they require minimal care!)


And here’s a picture of Leo, who was in the middle of a huge stretch when he noticed his toy on the pillow and then just chilled like that for a bit…haha look at those legs oh my gosh I love this cat…