Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Conference 2012 (pt. 1)

Part 1 of 5 from the Fulbright Fall Conference.
Just an arbitrary Korea-themed photo I took in Gyeongju.
I'm back from Fulbright Fall Conference, or the "workshop" (워크샵) that I attended last weekend in Gyeongju (경주). It's hard to explain the nuances between workshops, conferences, conventions, and things of this nature in Korean, but the abovementioned Konglish loanword seems to suffice.

The weekend was definitely a throwback to Orientation, and this not simply on account of all one hundred-and-twenty-something Fulbright ETAs being together in one place for the first time in seven weeks. In true Fulbright fashion, the hours were packed with panels, discussions, small groups, large groups, and presentations that covered every issue under the sun. The main focus overall, though, was on improving our teaching skills, classroom management strategies, and getting along in the homestay (for the first-year ETAs). It was a day and a half full of talking, listening, talking, listening, reflecting, and listening some more.

Here are some stray notes I jotted down. (I wasn't as assiduous as I normally am, due in part to being slightly overwhelmed by all the information pouring in.) Yes, I guess this is the boring part of my updates on the conference, but I think they're necessary -- helpful for me, at least -- and maybe you'll find them interesting. Here goes:

3rd-Year ETA Panel:
- In the classroom, content is important, but Korean students get tons of content already from their other English classes. If you want to change things up and/or burden your students less, focus on caring for them. It's arguably more important to show them that you care than to perfect their English.
- A tip for reaching out to introverted students: don't rely on speed and volume (such as using games like Speed Quiz). Use critical thinking problems, which require time to think and to focus on accuracy, to let the quiet students shine.
- Think, Pair, Share is an excellent Independent Practice model that will have every student speaking at one point and reduces the embarrassment factor when it comes to speaking in front of the the whole class.

SG Discussion on Building with the School Community (Sam & Dan):
- CoolMessenger is a good computer program that connects faculty and relays important information. Get connected with it to stay up-to-date and avoid pitfalls such as having a class canceled without your knowledge.
- Give food! Share generously. You can always connect over food.
- Offer to help with anything and everything -- especially if, like me, you have not been asked to do much at all in the past two months.
- On a free weekend, be so bold as to ask some co-teachers if they'd like to hang out -- go hiking, fishing, whatever. Folks at my school are insanely busy at this time of year, but it's worth trying!
- Find out the PE class schedule and make the gym your new haunt. Often, students are totally willing to chat with you while they're not testing or even include you on their dodgeball team.
- Memorizing names is like memorizing vocabulary; make your own mugshot flashcards (camera phone apps) and flip through them in between classes.
- Giving your students your KakaoTalk (Korea's ubiquitous instant messaging app) ID is an option. I think I may do this for my second-years after they graduate.

SG Discussion on Drama Activities (Vinnie):
- Keep your goals simple at each meeting/class. For example, in one day choose to focus on just the vocal projection, just tone or enunciation, just making good eye contact, just gesturing, etc. Don't overwhelm students with everything all at once. My first-years have a speech test coming up, and I have to train them on how to properly give a speech. I hope I have enough time to address all the important aspects individually.
- Some random fun ideas for class warmups, skits, etc.: acting like old people, Zip Zap Zop, 1- to 5-word sentences, "Sausage", Magic Doctor Chair... I should also browse Whose Line Is It, Anyway? for some more skit ideas.
Another photo that doesn't really have anything to do with the post. This was also taken in Gyeongju, which is home to a billion beautiful and interesting things to photograph.
SG Discussion on Teaching for Introverts (Anne):
- Yeah, I went to a small group for introverts. If you know me well, you'll know that I'm an introvert. I love hanging out with my friends, but being around large groups for too long is draining, and I cherish my alone time. So a group of Fulbrighters similar to myself gathered (ironically, there was a rather large group of us) to discuss how this affects our performances as second language teachers.
- One issue that introverts may face is the utter exhaustion that follows a day of "performing" in class and being around people -- strangers, really -- without a break for down-time. On one hand, you can remedy this by making your own down-time, finding the teachers' lounge and napping, or going to the gym. I go to the gym, and I also read in my office. I'm fortunate enough that my 교무실 (gyomushil) is tiny -- just my co-teacher and me -- that it's generally very quiet already. On the other hand, as you become accustomed to teaching, gradually the exhaustion will lesson, and your stamina will build, and soon you will become SuperTeacher and tackle all those classes like a boss.
- Stay natural in your teaching persona; whether or not you "perform", don't stray too far from who you are normally. Your students will soon stop comparing you to last year's teacher, Ms. Always-Played-Games-And-Sang, and learn to appreciate you for being you.
- Try to relate to your quieter students. If you're an introvert and they're an introvert, you have a connection there. Don't surprise them with anything that you yourself would be terrified of doing -- dancing in front of the class, for example. Exercise your compassion.
- Repetitive conversations with students ("Hi, how was your day? Oh, busy? Tired? Again?") are... repetitive. But they lay the groundwork for future gains in relationships with students. So don't write them off.

SG Discussion on Reward Systems (Bryce):
- To encourage individual participation in addition to classroom participation (I'm having my classes compete against other classes, but some students aren't buying into it and thus don't ever raise their hands), you could have a raffle system where individual participation is rewarded with a raffle ticket for an occasional drawing. It's cheaper than most prizes, more suspenseful than stickers, and healthier than candy.
- Also opt for verbal encouragement whenever possible. It is, after all, more English. I'm also entertaining the idea of teaching my entire classes stock phrases ("You rock!") that we can all use together to praise an individual who does well, although it smacks of an elementary school classroom...

Spare Ideas:
- Hangman tip: don't just have students guess letters, but challenge them a bit to say, "A, as in apple", for example.
- The Kid Should See This
- Incorporating the arts into education is important... not just mental education, but physical, emotional, civic, and artistic education are also important. This is actually a huge topic, and I'd like to write some more about it in a later post.
- Many of my second-years are graduating soon. It'd be nice to have them write advice letters to new students, who will arrive on campus next February.
- Including common classroom expressions ("Could you repeat that, please?" and "How do you spell..." are the ones I find myself constantly reminding my students) on name cards is a great idea.
- Seat students in a circle and have a discussion by throwing a ball to one another. I even got an awesome Switch Ball for this purpose! It's good at keeping students engaged, maybe even motivating them to speak up in class.
This is a Switch Ball. When you toss it, it flips itself inside out and changes colors. 헐! (Wow!)
Okay, that's it! I promise more beautiful things (photos, etc.) in the next post.
exempli gratia pretty leaves, as Korea slowly turns toward autumn.

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