A Travellerspoint blog

Done and Done

by gabrielle

sunny 40 °F

The end of February marked the end of the school year and all of the kids moved up to the next class level. We commemorated this momentous event with 2.5 hour production that included a musical, 11 song performances, 2 drum performances, 2 poetry readings, 4 teacher speeches and a diploma/gift ceremony. Here are some of the highlights:

First, the musical, "Pinocchio" performed by the two oldest classes:
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Here's a taste of their musical prowess displayed in the finale: (I am still having problems uploading the videos so please just copy and paste the links)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88Z_SXO7dJE&list=UU5-z_95l34RyjlxGdvgI-ng&index=5&feature=plcp

After the musical each class got to sing their two songs. Alan (from another class) doesn't exactly crave the spotlight...
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But my Panda's are ready!
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I have to brag and say my kids were the only ones to sing to just music!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHiLoLGcgNY&list=UU5-z_95l34RyjlxGdvgI-ng&index=4&feature=plcp

And here's their dance party song that they can't get enough of:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bz2CLaZ8OsU&list=UU5-z_95l34RyjlxGdvgI-ng&index=3&feature=plcp

Here is a link to my YouTube channel where I posted a few other videos from the performance and various darling occasions throughout the year:
http://www.youtube.com/user/gabriellemerz?feature=mhee

Now after 11.5 months with my class, the Pandas are ready to move up to the next level. Here are few workbook pages so you can see what my now 4 year olds finished off the year with work wise:
About half of my class could read and match these sentences to pictures on their own:
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These types of exercises would have to be dictated to them but they could do the writing part on their own.
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This was the last page of their last workbook that they completed in February and had a key with all of the feelings listed in it. Their job was to determine the correct feeling based on the picture, find in the key and write it below. I had one student complete it entirely on her own... correctly!
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This is just me bragging about how nice some of their handwriting is! The first pic is from September and second one is from February for the same student.
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After graduation the kids took a week off school so we could move buildings. We only moved about 2 blocks down the street but it was still quite the chaotic mess. On our first "moving day" we were blocked in by the building owner because he and our director were fighting over their contract terms and some unpaid balances... surprise, surprise! Although we arrived at 9 am, we did about 30 minutes of actual moving and I watched two episodes of Grey's Anatomy online, Skyped with friends/family from home, returned some emails and at a long lunch before we got to leave around 3:30pm. Monday and Tuesday were supposed to be moving days as well but it became quickly apparent that the waygooks (foreigners) were just in the way. When there is no system or organized plan in the first place, it's pretty difficult to bark out random orders in Korean and have someone translate them into English so aside from cleaning some cubbies and making a few name tags, we spent both 9 hour work days like this:
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Or like this:
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Once Wednesday hit we had our new kiddos tearing through the halls and exploring the new space. David T. asked me his first three consecutive morning s, "How did we get here?" He was truly thrown off by the new school and told me after his 4th day he preferred the old school and class which I was took to mean he just missed being in my class! ;) I think that means David T. earned himself they most "Kids Say the Darndest Things" shout outs on the year.

The new school was pretty well designed and laid out aside from the fact that it still doesn't have a play area for the poor kids. There were all kinds of intense and awkward quotes on the walls around the school but this one was my fave because it truly epitomizes the attitude toward education in Korea... even in preschool.
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My last week in Korea was just about as emotionally draining as my first; but after the year I've had, it only seemed right I guess. My boss made everything as difficult and miserable as she possibly could for me but I am proud to say I stood my ground and got what I needed from her. Among many things there was a mix up about my flight home. She claims she "heard" me say I wanted to fly to San Francisco instead of Seattle even though I had 3 emails proving Seattle was my nearest international airport, not to mention I am from Washington, not California but don't get me started! The point is she also booked my flight for a day earlier than we had discussed which I didn't know until the day before I was supposed to leave because no one would give me the itinerary. All that being said, the day I found out was also the my last day in the country which meant I had to rush my goodbyes with friends and students and briefly freak out over the last bit of packing I had to do. Honestly, I was so ready to get out of there I was fine with it and it may have worked out better in the end. I didn't have time to prepare to be sad about leaving the kids really but I did cry saying goodbye to Donte. I am glad the kids are so young and will soon forget about me and become attached to their new teacher but I truly will miss being loved and needed by them. I had no idea when I got into all of this that I would fall into the half mother/half teacher role so completely but I sure did. No matter how many bad things I can say about my impossible boss, exhausting conditions and shady business practices, one fact remains the same and that is these kids are precious and I will miss them dearly!
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Even on their bad days! haha poor Olivia!
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I will miss a few other things about Korea... like the knowing smiles from the women at the take out restaurant by my building who start making my order as soon as they see me through the window. Or the giggle of the friendly doorman (the others are kinda mean) when he sees us collected and composed on our way to work when he remembers the state we may have been in after a night out. Or the loaded look you sometimes get from other foreigners you pass on the subway that says something like, "Yeah, I got tricked into this mess too." or "Just gotta make it to the weekend." I will also miss the two businessmen I tutored who provided me with such an unique look into the culture that I would never have gotten anywhere else. I was very curious about Koreans but not very fond of their culture as a whole so I kind of used the fellas as a way to prove me wrong about Koreans or at least show me a different, more positive side which they totally did and I am very grateful for that. The best way I can describe their relationship with me is as a "safe zone." Because of all of the gender role and hierarchical intricacies of Korean culture it is unheard of for a young girl to interrupt, correct or be the leader of sorts to older men but that was the nature of our relationship and we all got comfortable with it. I answered lots of questions they have probably always wanted to ask and they were so curious about so many things specific to American culture they knew and I knew I was the only one they could ask their questions to. I worked with them 5 mornings a week for 9 months and I am so glad I did it. They were an incredible balance to my crazy work day and they are the reason I can confidently leave Korea with a more well rounded opinion of Korean people. Here are the fellas:
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My dad keeps telling me that I got 10 years work experience over this past year and as hard as it was, I learned a lot of valuable lessons. As I count my blessings I acknowledge that I saved the money I wanted to save that will fund my travel habits and cover my bills, I made 3 of the most incredible new friends who will be able to reminisce about this year with me forever (Swhite too of course!) and I got to be a part of the lives of lovable tiny humans who will hopefully remember Gabrielle Teacher as one of their faves! ;) The last teacher to leave before me was Doug and he put it perfectly, "I don't regret it, but I would never do it again!"

Thanks for sticking with us this year, I hope you enjoyed reading our blog. Be sure to check out the pictures in the photo gallery as well and look out for Swhite's last post soon to come. Swhite and I aren't done globe trotting yet and will be starting our England-Thailand-Vietnam-Laos backpacking trip here in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned for the blog address on that one!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 15:38 Archived in South Korea

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This blog has been such a wonderful find for me and my husband. We are adopting a little boy from S. Korea, and I love looking at the pictures of the sweet kiddos you taught. It gives me hope for the future! Thanks for sharing!

by Mandie

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