The Frustrated Teacher Series Part 1-Where’s Recess?

There are not enough words to say about a system that says it’s trying to fix education, only to perpetuate the very problems it has set out to solve. Of course, before we can talk about what it means to “fix education” (especially for kids who are already disadvantaged), you must understand what it means to provide an education in the first place.

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “educate” as “developing skills, knowledge and character (especially within a formal school environment)”.  If this is the definition of what it means to educate, how does our current system measure up?

We can’t talk about how the current system of education measures up without thinking about our own experiences. You might be saying “When I was a kid, we were taught explicit character education alongside our multiplication facts. We wrote in cursive to develop fine motor skills and we played outside for recess.” If you are thinking these things, you might feel like your educational experience was pretty standard and how things in schools remain today. The world, however, has changed since those of us 24 years and older were in elementary, middle and even high school. Even though we still feel young, schools are changing. Schools (and the adults that run them) have very different ideas about what it means to educate today (for better and/or worse in many cases). People who work with children in schools today are worried about test scores, data, growth and performance in ways that would mystify many of us that came of age in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. (Seriously: stop and google  “Pre-K is the new kindergarten”)

Let me give you an example: When I was a kid at all grade levels, we had outdoors time (called “recess”) at least once a day. This was a time when kids ran around or at least freely socialized with each other and adults supervised but didn’t actively interrupt us unless there was a safety concern.  Nowadays, recess is a negotiable thing for students. In fact, the school I currently teach at uses recess as a consequence. If the students are too loud at the lunch table, there is no recess. Currently, we’re on a three month streak of having no recess.

Recess might seem silly but kids really need that time to play, be loud, and socialize in ways that adults don’t always dictate. My current school starts at 7:15 am and goes until 2:55 pm. The building has no windows and for the entire day, students are mostly sitting in a desk. Students DO take P.E. daily, but again that is time dictated by adults and only with students in their assigned class and grade.  Recess also gives kids a time to let off energy and be more prepared to sit down and learn later.

To me, recess is a RIGHT, not something to be wielded as punishment for months on end for every single kid in the grade (seriously, just punish the ones who act up)! Having recess shows that we as educators, parents, administrators and everyone else that cares about children, care to see our kids developing in the less (standardized testable) measurable ways. It shows that we understand that all humans need fresh air, social time and most importantly: A BREAK! My adult brain can’t even handle sitting and working for 6 hours a day with little else going on, so why would a child be able to do it?

 

 

 

 

This post is just Part 1 of many to come about my experiences as a first year teacher.  Stay tuned!

 

My Musings on Dating

I have about three months before I turn 27 and I have some things to say about dating:

Dating is hard.

Maybe it’s because my free time is limited or because I moved to a new place and I don’t have an ongoing social scene. Heck, maybe it’s my more introverted “too many new people makes me a bit crazy” personality but no matter the reason, I come up with the same conclusion: Dating is HARD.

Not every woman or man at this age is looking to play around or date ever so casually. Not all of us can simply “not think about it too much” or “not feel anything”.  Some of us are really wanting a genuine connection with someone special and for some of us that never actually seems to happen.

Some of us are always having to deal with the question “So why don’t you have a boyfriend/girlfriend” and/or “Are you ever going to get married?” like men/women magically fall from the sky and are perfect for us. ( Newsflash to the people who ask these questions: STOP. STOP making single people explain themselves to you. THEY owe YOU not a single explanation for their lives.) 

What really makes dating difficult is that little part of your brain that keeps the compatibility scorecard. I honestly think everyone has this part in their brains, but some of us think of it way more often.  This is the part of your brain that will ask ” but what do we really have in common and is that enough to sustain ANY sort of relationship?” Your scorecard has to be realistic but not to the point of where you’re bored in your relationship. This scorecard contains all your “deal-breakers” and the things you can negotiate and compromise on.

And you know what?

Your scorecard can and often will change with time and experience. So what you tolerated in your college relationship at 20, might not be something you are willing to deal with at 25.

Right now, at 26, I’m watching  many of my friends re-negotiate their scorecards and other who have found the balance they’re looking for and settled into great relationships.

While I wish I could say I have all this figured out, I don’t. I’m not sure when I might have it figured out. I try not to put a deadline on my personal development but it’s hard when you’re watching people fall in love and build lives together (thanks social media).

So again I say : Dating is hard and I don’t know if it ever gets easy.

Update: Almost one year back from Korea. What am I doing now?

It’s December 25, 2016 and this is my FIRST Christmas back in America since 2014! When you’re abroad, you tend to romanticize the holidays, so it was great to actually live through the Thanksgiving and Christmas period in real time!

Now this also means that I’ve almost been back in the states for an entire year! Instead of talking about Korea, I’ll have more references for my young adult life in America!

So what exactly does a young adult do after returning from working abroad? Well, for me and several of my friends (who also taught in Korea), the next step was teaching here in America.

I am now a 6th grade social studies teacher at a local charter school in Louisiana. I have to say that if someone had told me I’d be here doing this in say 2012 (the year I graduated from college), I’d have laughed at them. Teaching in America was not a part of my plan when I was 22 or even at 24, when I left to teach in Korea, but here I am! I just finished my first semester of teaching.

So, you might wonder: If this wasn’t a part of my plan, why am I doing it?

I have so many answers to this question, but one always stands out. I chose to come and teach (even if I had many other choices) because I really do enjoy the learning and growing process that happens in the classroom. I enjoyed it in Korea and I still enjoy it right here in Louisiana!

Now of course I’ve had MANY surprises this first semester of teaching and I really hope to share many of them here, so stay tuned and of course: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

 

What Teaching Has Taught Me

I’ve always talked about what South Korea (or Korean culture) have taught me since arriving in this country in July 2014, but I haven’t really reflected on what teaching has taught me.

So here are a few things that teaching has taught me:

  1. Kids are kids, no matter where you go- I’ve heard many English teachers say that when they decided to come to Korea to teach family and friends said something like “Oh you’re going to Asia? The kids are going to be quiet, smart, and well behaved all the time,”. Okay, truth time- Korean children are just like the children you’ve observed in your home country and culture. They are loud and energetic and they want to have FUN! Luckily, I came into a teaching program that told me “You’re going to teach in the country/rural area. The kids will have big personalities,”- and for me, that has been a wonderful experience.
  2. Teaching is hard but it’s awesomely rewarding too- Teaching children to speak English is difficult sometimes. Since I don’t speak Korean, I have to rely on examples, repetition, acting, making silly sounds, singing silly songs, and anything else I can come up with. I also have to rely on the help of my Korean co-teacher, who assists with translations and class management.  There are challenges in the classroom. A kid may not understand the material or they’re tired and don’t want to participate. I’ve dealt with tears, angry outbursts, and meltdowns too. But for all the difficulty teaching has presented, I can say that it’s a wonderful feeling when your students actually understand something new or you see their ability to speak and understand in English begin to grow overtime. It’s the days when you say something in English to a kid, thinking that they won’t understand, only for them to answer you. As one of my most energetic third graders has said (in Korean to my co-teacher) “I understood what Tabitha teacher told me to do”. He couldn’t respond in English but he comprehended enough to follow my directions with no help or translation. And trust me, for a kid who jumps off desks and runs laps in my classroom at 9 am, that made me feel great!
  3. When you teach, you will feel OLD!- My students are the MASTERS of making me feel old! I keep telling myself “I am NOT old! I just graduated high school 7 years ago! Things haven’t changed that much right?” Well, turns out things have changed that much. I asked my 5th and 6th graders when they thought the very first IPhone was made and they said “2002”. These kids think smartphones have been in existence for as long as they have been. They have no idea that Spongebob Squarepants has been on air longer than all of them have been alive (whereas, I still remember its debut on Nickelodeon). They don’t understand why old flip phones did nothing but call people. They also don’t understand why I’m outraged at them having smartphones in the 1st grade (I didn’t get a flip phone until 16!). And most of all EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE SO MUCH TECHNOLOGY, THEY STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT.  I still have to say “Hey why don’t you use that translator app on your phone to help you write in English,”- they understand smartphones are for playing games and texting friends, but they’re still kids. They still don’t understand the amazing technological capabilities they carry around in their pockets every single day.
  4. Teaching has taught me to love the “little kids”- Before coming to Korea, I was extremely concerned about teaching elementary school students. Before even applying, I always saw myself working with high schoolers because, in my mind, little kids where just not much fun. Now, I love the little kids. I love teaching the ABCs and shapes and colors and watching my students learn to say their first English phrase and be able to answer their first questions in English. It’s amazing! The enthusiasm of a first grader is contagious! It MAKES you want to work hard to teach and engage them! And hey, they’re also the only students who tell me they love me on a regular basis. AWWWW <3!
  5. Teaching and education make you a critical thinker– I’m always considering the “why” of things- it comes naturally to me. Teaching makes you consider the very purpose of education. You find yourself wondering why what you are teaching is important and how will it help your students throughout their lives. You are constantly thinking about your lessons and how they will help your students learn the material, and even why that material is important in the first place. Teaching is very much a field for critical thinking and learning new skills and new ways to help your students.

So there they are. These are a few things I’ve learned from teaching English in South Korea over the last 15 months!

Journaling: Why is it important to me

I’ve been journaling in some form or another since I was 10 years old. I got my very first journal back then and I’ve been using this method of stress relief and self-reflection ever since then. As a kid, I didn’t always know how to express myself, but sitting down with a journal and writing really helped me express my emotions better.

Here’s a few reasons why I enjoy journaling:

  1. I find the process of taking time and writing (or typing if it’s an online journal) extremely peaceful. It’s the ultimate form of “me” time and I can be honest and write about whatever I want.
  2. Journaling allows for self-reflection- well, if you take the time to read over your old entries from time to time. Often times we have thoughts and issues in our lives that are reoccurring, yet we don’t take time to reflect on them. When you write about those thoughts and issues in a journal, you are free to go back and reflect on them and you can realize patterns in your thoughts/behaviors you may not have realized otherwise.
  3. Sometimes I sit down to write one thing and I end up writing about something else completely- sometimes you will spontaneously write about something in your journal. It may not be what you wanted to write about in the first place but often times you’ll find that it’s just as important as what you were going to write about in the first place.
  4. I can write as often or as little as I please- I make my journaling habits very non-judgmental. I have no set schedule for writing in my journal. As I get older, there are not very many areas of my life that are not on some sort of schedule, so being able to freely journal as I choose gives me a great sense of freedom.

So there are a few reasons why I enjoy journaling. If you’ve never tried journaling, give it a try! Remember your journal is your free space, so do with it as you please! Feel free to draw, write, use song lyrics or whatever else helps you express yourself!

What Korea Has Taught Me #2

Oh Korea! We’ve almost been together for a year haven’t we? Our relationship isn’t always perfect but we have great times!

So what has Korea taught me lately?

Korea has taught me that I must have time for myself and developing my sense of self! I must take time to meditate, enjoy the little things, and be very conscious of my relationships with other people.

Yes, I know this sounds silly. I mean, haven’t I always enjoyed life, meditated and been conscious of my relationships? In a way, yes I have, but in other ways Korea has provided me a unique space to really look deeply at these three things.

1. Enjoying Life- I live on an island and it’s considered the most beautiful place in Korea, with thousands of tourists traveling here every year. Instead of looking for a bar or club to go to, my friends and I are happy to head to the nearest beach, climb the nearest oreum (Korean name for a volcanic hill) or mountain, or just walk around discovering new parts of the city or island itself.

2. Meditation- While I grew up in a religious home, in my opinion the art of meditation and journaling was overlooked in my childhood church experience. When my mind feels heavy, I try to take a step back and really survey what’s bothering me and I often do this by writing in my journal. Sometimes I sit down to write one thing and end up writing something else, giving me new insight on the issue that is troubling my mind. Meditation is still very new to me, but taking quiet moments to breathe and think seem to help me reduce my stress levels.

3. I have to be Conscious of my relationships with the people around me- We often take our friendships for granted. I was very guilty of this before coming to Korea. I have an amazing group of friends and coming to Korea (and dealing with tons of new people) made me survey why I appreciate those people I call my friends and what my criteria for friendship is. Not every person I’ve met in Korea is my friend; some people are just acquaintances and some are not meant to be in my life and that’s okay! That’s how life works!  Often times in the age of Facebook will make us feel guilty for not considering someone a “friend”. Let me be the one to warn you: don’t allow yourself to accept mediocre friends into your life. It’s not worth it in the long run and you will be disappointed when those mediocre friends don’t truly care about you. Real friendships are so much more than clicking “like” buttons and posting cute pictures online.  I also learned that sometimes your family relationships will need adjusting while you travel abroad.  I’ve learned to be careful not to let one or two people control how I view my family members and to actually reach out to family members and try to see  things from their points of view. I may not always agree with them, but I will listen to them (unless the conversation takes a prolonged negative tone and then I will cut that off).

 

Living abroad has truly given me the time to survey my life in a way I never had time to do in college or graduate school. As people, we are very busy, but taking time to survey yourself and where you are currently (along with your successes or things you want to change) will help you reach more of your future goals. So stop and relax sometimes because in those moments, you may find your next inspiration!

 

I plan to write more about the power of the journal soon, so check back if you’re interested in how keeping a journal can help you!

 

SAMSUNG CSC
     The Natural Rock Pool- Fun and Scary at the same time!
Seogwipo-si, Jeju Island
Seogwipo-si, Jeju Island