Monday, May 11, 2009

Another Co-Teacher Training Junket

This time, I traveled to the SETI facility at Sadang for the first of a two-day training seminar ostensibly about effective co-teaching techniques. You may be wondering why I'm at the Korean space agency's Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence compound--but actually what we are looking for isn't that much easier to find, which is a useful paradigm for co-teaching in the English classroom in Korean schools as they exist today.

Let's start at 7:30 this AM, when I came outside to catch a bus or hail or taxi (whichever was first) in the wetness of a gentle morning rain. It took ten minutes before a taxi stopped--actually only to let out a fare--and I practically had to bully myself inside for a trip to Dangsan Sta. This is approximately a 15 minute trip, around 5000 W, but today, thanks to the rain compounding the usual Monday traffic jam, it lasted 45 minutes. This is about a five mile drive. The last two miles were accomplished hydroplaning along little side roads in just under 45 seconds. Or so it seemed.

So, I was in a wet, foul mood by the time I got to the platform just as the train doors were opening. Yeah, I made it, but that didn't improve my mood much, since passengers were packed on board about 17 to the square meter. That's probably close to the surface area of your desk.

Someone was pressing the point of their umbrella into my back all the way to Sindorim, which is a lot further than it sounds. Anyway, the umbrella-presser got off there, but three more people moved into the space he or she had occupied. Line 2 is the busiest (read: most crowded) on a system which carries over 8 million riders per day.

At the next stop, a seat opened up directly in front of me, and I sat in it before the previous occupant was all the way out of it. Still, the execrable slowness of the taxi ride had expended the thirty minute cushion I allowed, so I couldn't enjoy my seatedness, what with constantly craning my neck to be sure I got off at the correct stop. Sadang.

Finally it came. Sadang is a transfer stop, so I was swept along with the mass of disembarkers fighting to make my way ever upward to Exit 1 where I was sure no longer did a SETI bus await for the last leg of the trip to the training center. I did point out that SETI actually stands for Seoul Educational Training Institute, didn't I?

Oh, well, never mind, a kid just outside the exit was holding an umbrella and a sign that said "SETI --->". I followed the arrow and got on the last bus(TM), which was held ten minutes late for slackers like me and from which my fellow travelers were deposited at the Holy Land sans signage. Turns out, this SETI of theirs is quite a complex, with a swimming pool, several big buildings, and a playground. We guessed it was the big building in the middle, and were right. If the weather is any better, I'll bring my camera tomorrow.

I didn't feel so tardy after all, because the first speaker was twenty-odd minutes later than me--and she was the first speaker. We got periodic updates about her taxi's progress through the Monday traffic while Dave Deubelbeiss ran us through his website to "kill time". It is a great site (which may require free membership) with loads of great materials and resources that I use regularly, but it is difficult to find your way around--a fact illustrated numerous times during the day.

So, anyway, the first speaker ultimately arrived, and her presentation was a bit unfocused, though whether because she was rattled by her lateness or because she was just unfocused is difficult to discern. When I say "a bit unfocused" I mean I have no idea what she was trying to talk about. I'm not being cruel or flip, here, though I am capable of being both, but if her thesis was anything beyond "I am a researcher" she failed to develop it to the point it was stateable.

Still, she did serve the valuable function of being the trash can into which we, as one or two year NSETs at the seminar, dumped our negative impressions, complaints and general aggressions.

Actually, it wasn't that bad, but it was I that really got it started. I forget what she said to tee me up, but it could have been anything after Hello, how are you? ...

I related to her the essence of my story in a post not far below titled for its whimsy: 'Tragical Grammatical: A Musical in Three Acts', in which I describe the fundamental flaw of the Korean English education program. No, really. Go read it and come back here. There was applause when I finished. No shit. Applause.

She admitted, poor thing, that the testing culture here is seriously awry, but that she sees no way to change it. Then she went on to talk about how Korea is going to make its own English proficiency test, as if that will help. At all. She even provided these statistics to prove that Korea is farting in the wind: ETS has 700 researchers working on TOEFL and TOEIC and Korea has 6 or so developing its "competition".

Moving on ...

If Dave Deubelbeiss gives me one more worksheet where I have to define, describe or imagine the proper relationship between a Native Speaking English Teacher and a Co-Teacher, I am going to say something mean to him! We had this one task to complete a sentence: "Co-teaching is ..." or "The best thing about co-teaching is ..." working with a partner. Mine was good old Max from Yong-In roomie days. One sentence was "My co-teacher and I hardly ever ..." Max felt this was pretty much good the way it was. I laughed till I cried.

So, you'll twig that I was next to Max. Next to him was Nick, and behind us was Karen. It was a festival of friends, which made it better. I had hoped we could go out afterward together, but in the crush of departure, I only stuck with fellow smoker Nick.

Anyway, in the afternoon, we had breakout sessions, where MS and HS split for demonstration lessons. At the HS level, we had three enthusiastic and organized presenters who belaboured each point at least a little (Note to self: always assume an audience of teachers understands after 2 examples, not 4). But they were good points. I found something to steal from each of them, which to my mind makes for a successful seminar. And there's still tomorrow.

Afterwards, I went with Nick to Sillim, which is on my way home and his stomping grounds, for dalk galbi 닭갈비 (spicy chicken stir fry). Then we went upstairs for a couple of beers at "Garten Beer" which has a delightful innovation that should be copied around the world: Every table has a sunken well for each seat, the right size to hold a beer bottle or flute. Each one has a condenser coil or something so it stays at constant 4 C temperature when turned on. Never a warm beer at Garten Beer!


SuperDrew said...

Sorry for coming and going so unexpectedly yesterday, man. I did have a previous engagement with the girlfriend, just I didn't expect her to be so fast. Anyway, I reserved tickets for the Doosan v Samsung game Sunday, and one has your name on it if you want to go. Really good seats.

Kelsey said...

I have never heard of any of these things going well.