So I am sat in the Incheon International Airport, waiting to board and I am not surprised in the slightest that there is WiFi everywhere.
Much of the same today, so I will keep things short. It was my last day at Unnam Middle School, I have had a great time there and a fascinating experience. I have been welcomed by everyone, met some kind and caring teachers and taught some of the freindliest children I have ever met.
So I started with a final culture lesson then a double Art lesson, making more Angel of the Norths, before having a my last school dinner. Today was a cold soup served with some nooldes and Korean pancakes! I then shared some goodbyes with Sun-a’s form class, exchanged a few gifts and headed back to my hotel to pack for my return to Seoul. Later that evening, we went out for a farewell meal with all of the staff from the first grade staff room.
Thank you Gwangju and Unnam Middle School for having me! 🙂
Wow, what a day. Myself and Suwhee (Art Teacher) went to Gwagju’s Creative Arts High School where I was pleasantly surprised to see an array of high quality Art, Music and Dance. The quality of all work and performances were brilliant, again every student showed a hard working and determined approach to their study – they are very independent in this sense. You will have to wait for the videos as I took far too many to email back to Jonny. Then, and I can only put this down to Korean culture again, I was given gifts by the 3 Art teachers, purely because I was visiting their school. I was offered a traditional Korean drawing inks, one teacher painted a typical Korean art landscape and the other handed me another original piece of his work. Which I was later told would be worth quite a bit of if he was selling them! I felt completely honoured and this can only be explained by the kindness and generosity Korean people have flooded me with over the last 3 weeks. Thank you.
It was then back to Unnam, just in time to watch their summer term dance festival (again, videos will follow). Students had rehearsed well practiced routines and executed them with enjoyment and skill. A nice way to end the summer term I thought, everyone was involved in cheering on performers and celebrating exam completion.
Sun-a, Suwhee and myself then drove 30 minutes north to the bamboo forest, another national park, and you can probably guess what was there. We had a walk through the bamboo, before rounding up in the local community art gallery. We stopped off after a busy day for some fried fish with plenty of side dishes at a local restaurant, arriving back in Gwagju ready for bed.
I can’t believe I only have 1 day left at Unnam Middle School, time has well and truly flown by!
Well they finally got me, I had been going good so far, but I woke with a few red nibbles here and there, maybe something to remind me of the weekend.
Jeju Island kept me busy and entertained, it was hot and sunny which always helps, time was spent visiting more museums and viewing the island, plus there was time for a quick dip in sea. The volcanic island and rugged landscape provided the perfect setting for an amazing sunset!
Monday, it was back to work, in early for an end of term staff briefing in the lecture theatre, then straight into things. I think Sun-a plans to keep me busy this week with 5 lessons on the cards today. And somehow we managed to squeeze in a game of table tennis with the year 7s just before lunch! I taught a mixture of classes, both Art and British Culture, concluding with a double Art lesson with the year 8 boys. It was their turn to create their own clay models inspired by the Angel of the North. I think they equalled the girls on quality and maybe even a little more creative, which surprised Suwhee their Art Teacher.
Another great day in school today, I taught my first art lesson and got a double period, so the artwork was fantastic. The class was year 8 girls and I introduced some famous British Art to them, focusing on Antony Gormley and his Angel of the North.
I had planned to do more than one clay sculpture but the students were that intricate and took so much care we only managed to make our own slightly modified Angels! But they loved it and the outcomes were very good!
I’m off to Jeju island for the weekend, as I have been told by Sun-A that it is a must see, and a bit different to mainland Korea.
I’ll keep things brief today; I started my final 5 days back any Unam Middle school. I arrived early to meet the school cabinet, they spoke great English and we had some fantastic conversations about school and life in Korea / England. I then taught for the remainder of the morning, a Year 8 boys class and a Year 8 girls class. For some reason the boys lesson was sidetracked by talk of football, everyone is aware of NUFC out here. I taught again in the afternoon, I will teach an Art lesson tomorrow and then more after that, so it will be fun!
Sun-a then took me to a local national park to visit a temple in the mountains, it was really refreshing to be out of a city actually. Before returning to Gwangju center for a traditional Korean music concert. A busy day had by all, and boy was it hot!
My last morning in Seoul for a few days started with breakfast delivered from Dunkin Doughnuts, of all places. We packed and left Cassaville for a trip to Yonsei University; Korea’s oldest and most prestigious campus. We had a talk from a Tae Lee, an American lecturer who has worked at the university for 15 years. She spoke about how Korean culture plays an essential role in academic success.
Now, I think I have touched upon this before but I’ll try to go into more detail. I have been fascinated by Korean culture, everyone is very respectful, polite, organised and friendly, but I don’t think that this is something that is taught, it just happens. Tae said that her son now goes to a Korean elementary school and he has just picked everything up from being around other people and now insists on doing things the Korean way. It is not taught, just passed on through action and routine that everyone practices. In a educational sense this is passed on through a clear underpinning notion that all Korean students share. They realise that achieving highly is essential for employment and future life, they believe in education. But it is not just students, this belief and expectation oozes out of society, wherever you are. This is the biggest difference I have noticed so far, it does not matter how rich or poor you are, where you live, what you do, everyone holds education with a very high status and therefore wants to achieve highly. I am not trying to suggest that as a British culture we do not care about education, we clearly do, I just think that as a nation we do not quite believe in education on the same widespread level as Korea does. Perhaps something to take note of, but you will struggle to change cultural understanding overnight.
Here are a few facts for you to ponder:
– 90% of Korean students enrol at a high school even though it is not compulsory
– 55.5% of university student graduate and share the view that a degree is essential for employment
– The government state it costs them $7,434 (USD) to put every child through education
– The average cost for families per student is $231,000 from birth to graduation
-75% of all students have some form of extra tuition after school hours, and I will talk about this is more detail later…
Everyone successfully arrived at our new accommodation, in another different part of Seoul. We had breakfast delivered to our rooms at half 7 and then it was straight out to the APCEIU Building for the start of our 2 days educational conference hosted by EIU (Education of International Understanding).
There we were joined by 15 teachers from the USA and another 20 from an Asia-Pacific network. We were introduced to the EIU goals by Francis Daehoon Lee, who explained the need for global citizens and appreciation of all cultures. We had some lunch and a few of us had arranged a visit to a traditional Korean village about an hour south of Seoul. Another eye opener, away from the hustle and bustle and bright lights of Seoul, it was very soothing to embrace the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere. Family’s still live from the land, use traditional methods to farm and create their products, which are subsequently sold to intrigued tourists.
Tuesday was another early start, breakfast in the hotel then off to the conference. Today’s workshops were more about applying the notions of EIU to our teaching practice. Again, with a focus on global citizenship and making students more culturally aware throughout the world. Now, I personally believe we already do this quite well, it was definitely the general consensus amongst UK teachers. I think in this case, Korean and other Asia-Pacific countries can learn a lot from what we do.
What a weekend, I don’t think this city sleeps, there is just so much to do. Sightseeing, shopping, skiing, you name it Seoul has it. We thought we would make the most of our free time this weekend, so Saturday started fairly early meeting at Gyeongbokgung Palace (pictures below).
What a place, although a lot has been rebuilt, everything is immaculate, the throne halls, the gardens and even the smaller out buildings. Built in 1395, this has served as the main palace for Joseon Dynasty – it was hot and busy, but spectacular! We then refuelled and cooled down in the national museum just around the corner. This houses a lot of the palaces artefacts and treasures, another interesting viewing.
We then moved onto Cheonggyechon River area of the city, which was once one of the city’s poorest areas. The river has now been cleaned and revamped, and the surrounding markets are a hive of activity. Thriving with small local businesses and stalls, the markets offered some great sight and some interesting food too. We sat like locals in the street, sharing traditional Korean pancakes and drinks.
We then hurried to meet Mr Choi (Simon’s host teacher) as he had booked us in at the indoor ski slope. We hired all the gear, booted up and enjoyed 2 hours on the slopes. Well I never thought I would be skiing on this trip! The escape from the heat and humidity was pleasant, but the skiing was a real treat, thanks Mr Choi.
Sunday was slightly quieter, we met in downtown Gangnam first of all. A real business part of the city with some breathtaking skyscrapers! We visited another local monks temple which provided a soothing contrast to all of the modern architecture. We browsed the 4km underground shopping mall before meeting later that evening for a Korean baseball game. Doosan Bears v Samsung Lions, I have never been to or watched a lot of baseball, but this was not what i was expecting. The stadium was by no means full, but for £6 the entertainment value could not be faulted. Family’s take picnics and ice boxes in, music is poured out of the speakers providing a booming atmosphere for the fans to sign and dance too. All of this whilst there is huge sporting derby taking place. Amazing.
Today we got up fairly early to grab some breakfast from the recommended cafe around the corner. Then met up with the other Newcastle teachers from Heaton Manor and Longbenton, before arriving at our host school in Seoul for the day.
First impressions were very good, greeted by a large banner with our names on and then a breakfast meeting in the library, before have cactus juice with the head teacher. After an hour’s meeting we were then taken on a tour of the school by Miyung and Year 8 students. On first comparison, there appeared to be a bit more discipline around the corridors, but still fairly bare in places. Both schools have only had 2 computer rooms and every classroom has a large TV for displaying PowerPoint slides – nothing cutting edge as yet! However, the top floor was gated off due to suicide risk! It hadn’t happened in this school, but has occurred in other Korean schools.
Lunch was an interesting experience; as student are mainly taught in the same form room all day they also eat in them too. As soon as the bell sounded for lunch to begin, food trolleys were wheeled out into the corridor and outside each room students would serve portions of food to their classmate. All in a very sensible and mature away, they ate the food in their room and washed and tidied everything away for lunch to begin. We ate our own lunch, and observed a few more lessons in the afternoon, all very similar to those in Gwangju.