It’s winter and that means one thing…winter camp. Public school teachers often have several weeks off from classes during the winter. These breaks are divided into vacation time and winter camp time. Nicole and I have 4 weeks of vacation starting at the end of January. However, before sweet sweet vacation we have 3 weeks of winter camp at the Gwangyang Foreign Language Experience Center where we work. It sounds like a lot but it’s pretty manageable. [divider_flat]
A Winter’s Camp Day
Our winter camp is broken up into 4 different classes. Nicole and I, and our two Korea co-teachers, each teach a 40 minute class. Just like at English Town, our groups of students rotate from one class to the next, so we each teach the same class four times.
My class is Space Camp. My students and I are making our own solar system mobiles and constellation guides. Nicole is teaching Harry Potter Camp. Her students are making their own wands out of pipe cleaners and made “potions” with vinegar and baking soda. Our Korean coworkers are teaching “American’s Big Holidays” and “DoDo English” (pronounced doo doo). In the holiday class, the students are making mashed potatoes and Jack-o-Lanterns. [divider_flat]
The rest of the day we do group activities with the campers. One day we have a field day with wheelbarrow races, three legged races, and crab soccer. Another day we are teaching a dance to the Pharrell song “Happy”. Thursday we play “Running Man”, a word scavenger hunt.
“Running Man” is the name of a Korean TV show where contestants must complete challenges in groups. Our version of “Running Man” has students running around English Town looking for words on little scraps of paper. After the students collect the paper they must assemble them into sentences. The team with the most sentences wins. My team, green team, won the first week of camp.
On the last day of camp our students compete in a Jeopardy review game. All the questions come from the different teachers and their respective camps. At the end of the game the team with the most points wins. My team, green team, won again the first week. It was pretty awesome to win twice in the first week of camp. I was really proud of my team. They worked hard and they succeeded. I just hope I can keep the winning streak going for the next two weeks of winter camp.
Last year I wrote a blog post about my life working, teaching, and living in Gwangju, South Korea. I taught in a Hagwon, an after school English academy. My hours were 1-10 and I taught small classes of very gifted students. If you’re interested in more information, I encourage you to read “A Day in the Life”. This year, I thought I would share a day in my new town of Gwangyang.
The Morning Routine
Nicole and I get up around 7 or 7:30 and prepare for the day. We leave a little after 8 and walk to our elementary school. The trip only takes about 10 minutes. It’s an easy walk. We’ll usually arrive at quarter to nine and start preparing for the day.
Nicole and I share a small office on the first floor with our 3 Korean coworkers. We each have a cubicle and a computer. It’s no different than an office in the US. There’s an electric kettle we can use to boil water for tea or instant coffee, a laminator, 3 printers, a coffee maker, a table and couch and a giant paper shredder labelled “Spy Killer”. After our coffee and/or tea, Nicole and I are tasked with turning on all the lights on our floor and opening every window on our floor. We’ve gotten pretty good at it. Nicole and I can blow through this in about 5 minutes. [divider_flat]
I should mention, Nicole and I don’t work specifically for the elementary school. Technically Nicole and I, and our 3 other coworkers, work for the Gwangyang Foreign Language Experience Center, also known as, Gwangyang English Town. English Town is a field trip center where students from all over Gwangyang County come to practice English in a hands-on Environment. The field trip center is divided into 5 different sections. These sections vary by semester but currently they are: airport, supermarket, broadcasting, bank, and sports. Students from 3 and 4th grade come one day out of the semester in Fall and in Spring, 5th and 6th graders come. Each day we see about 60 kids split 5 ways so classes are about 12 students apiece. All in all, Nicole and I end up seeing every 3-6th grader from our county over the course of the year.
We Run This English Town
After coffee and window opening, Nicole and I start English town. I help the Korean teachers seat the students in the auditorium then we give a short welcome presentation. We go over the different corners and introduce some vocabulary that the students might need for the day.
After the presentation, the students are divided into 5 groups. The groups cycle around English Town visiting the different corners and doing different activities. In the airport corner, students role play as passengers and security guards. In the supermarket, the students must find all of the ingredients on their shopping list. In the bank, students practice opening an account as a teller and as a customer. In the broadcast area, students report on the weather as an anchor and as a reporter.
The five groups visit each corner for 20 minutes an practice the role play a few times as well as some key vocabulary and maybe one or two games. It’s a lot of fun and the students get to use English in real world situations. Between each class students have 10 minutes of break time to get some water, talk with friends, or use the bathroom. At noon, the students gather in the auditorium for a game of Jeopardy. Each of the five groups takes turns answering questions from a Jeopardy powerpoint. At the end of the game, the group with the most points gets small chocolate biscuit.
The Weekly Haps
English Town is everyday except for Wednesday. On Wednesdays we teach first and second grade students at the elementary school connected to English town. We teach 4 classes; two first grade and two second grade, 40 minutes each. We swap classes so I’ll teach one class with my Korean coteacher then switch to Nicole’s class. At the same time, Nicole and her coteacher will teach a class then swap and teach the class I just taught. Sometimes these classes are cancelled if we have a lot of students and need to schedule a Wednesday English Town or if there is a school function like a performance or an exam.
Whether we have English Town or first and second grade classes, they all finish around 12:30pm. This gives us time to plan for first and second grade classes, plan winter or summer camps, or just catch up on reading. It’s a nice schedule and it’s allowed me time to work on personal projects such as this blog, learning HTML/CSS (more to come soon), and planning awesome vacations (also coming soon).
At around 5pm we go home each day. If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday I go to the gym with my friend Brendan and work out for about an hour. If it’s any other day I go home with Nicole and work on my blog or try to teach myself something new before we make dinner and settle in for the evening.
Life in Gwangyang
Teaching in Gwangyang this year is a very different experience. However, I much prefer it. My classes are shorter. I get to teach a wide variety of students. Each day and each class is different because my students are different. I also have a lot more vacation time, fewer classes, higher pay, and a larger apartment.
This year, Nicole and I are teaching in public school in a small town in South Korea. Our town is called Gwangyang. It’s in the Jeollanamdo province. The province is in the Southwest corner of South Korea. We live on the Eastern border of the province. It’s divided, by mountain, into two districts Dong Gwangyang and Gwangyang-Eup. I live in Dong Gwangyang.
The town isn’t very big. There are about 140,000 people. There’s a Pizza Hut and a Dominos, but other than that, no foreign chains, that I know of. There are little grocery stores, called “marts” and shops. There’s a place called Cacao Churro across the street from our apartment. Downtown there’s a large department store called HomePlus. It’s owned by TESCO and it’s where Nicole and I go to get anything we can’t find at the local grocery store, such as fine cheese and stuffed olives.[divider_flat]
Gwangyang, South Korea is perhaps most well known for POSCO, the local steel plant. It claims to be the largest facility of it’s kind in the world. This is quite possible considering it makes 18 million tons of steel per year. It’s a self-described “tourist trap”…no seriously, it’s on their Wikipedia page, although I think they’re using the term incorrectly. I haven’t seen any tours promoting the plant. Here’s a neat video below about POSCO steel.
On the weekends Nicole and I walk downtown from our apartment. It’s about 20 minutes. Downtown Nicole and I will stop into Flora’s, a local Korean-owned italian restaurant. Sometimes we’ll go to Goldfinger, named for the legend of King Midas, not the James Bond movie. It’s a little wine bar with exposed wood and brick. There’s another bar that many of the foreigners from Gwangyang and the surrounding cities visit, called String. It’s a good place to hang out, but nothing about it in particular stands out.
There’s a small but vibrant foreign community of about 20-40 people, although I only know about 15 of them. On weekends we get dinner together or visit String or Goldfinger. Sometimes we take weekend trips together to Gwangju or Busan. The community feels more tightly knit than in Gwangju since there are fewer of us. Overall, I really like living here.