Saturday, March 22, 2014

First Month of School

I can't belieeeeeve how fast this semester is going! Didn't school start, like, yesterday? NOPE. We just finished the 3rd week of classes at the university. Holy smokes! This semester is only gaining momentum; I have a feeling it's going to spit me out into the summer and I'll rolllllll my way into July like a wheel falling off a moving vehicle on a downward slope. Screeeeeeeeeeeech! bump bump bump bump ...*thud* 

I LOVE SCHOOL. I've been in some form of organized education setting (aka school) for 25 years and I still wake up like Nemo, going "First day of school! First day of school!" I was made to be a teacher. ^^ 

The first week is so neat. It's hectic, we're just getting our schedules finalized, printing our roll sheets, finding classes. Freshmen are so new and nervous, bless them! I love that part so much. They aren't used to campus life yet: they still stop and fold their arms at their waist and bow when they see any professor walking in the halls, even little old me. SO CUTE! That'll fade by the end of the semester! Haha. 

All the instructors assign student textbooks and use get-to-know-you conversation starters or games in the classroom. We scare the students with the university's grading policy that forces us to grade on a strict curve. (As a professor, that's the worst thing, but it does force the students to buck up and study, or else they'll probably get a C, or worse.)

By the second week, we're learning a few names here and there, then reviewing things they should have known 7 years ago (cause most of our students have been studying English for a long time). I really like asking them to read the chapter and do the activities with their book's CDs outside of class, a tip I picked up from Gunther Breaux at KOTESOL last fall (see the tips section below). I've begun using conversation pairings à la "speed dating" - forcing my students to practice and practice and practice the same conversation with many different people for max impact. If they do the book work and basic review activities outside of class, I can spend more class time playing games and actually getting them talking!! That's a priority in a conversation class, you know! Me standing at the front pontificating* about grammar doesn't help them a whole lot. I already speak English, I don't need to practice. 

By the third week, you know most of your students (by their faces, at least), they know you, you've figured out what will probably work with each class based on class chemistry and dynamics, etc. You get in the groove. Things have settled down. You can breathe again. You realize there are only 5 weeks until midterm exams. WHOA. 

*pontificate is one of my favorite archaic and nearly-useless words. I am a recovering know-it-all. Using "recovering" loosely here...I'm a work in progress. 

Next up:

Last fall, I went to the KOTESOL conference in Seoul. One of the best sessions that I attended was led by Gunther Breaux. His website is here, his page is here. Go check them out. He's an English professor in Seoul and he has a few excellent, very very practical books, called Jazz English, for Korean and Japanese EFL students in particular. His website has a lot of tips that I've put into practice this year!! You should check it out and recommend it to everyone. It's changed the way I look at teaching EFL at the university level completely. One of the things he says is "a conversation is like a butterfly, it goes anywhere." I've said that to my students a lot since the conference, and I printed the conversation ideas page (*with an emphasis on follow-up questions*) for my advanced students during exams last semester. It's a GREAT resource! Fly, little butterflies, FLY! 

Sometimes I say stuff like "Well, Gunther says to..." or "Yeah, Gunther suggested..." like we're friends or something. Hehe... I mean... he did email me after the conference with a lot of materials and advice! So...we're kind of on a first name basis now. NBD. Y'all, I LOVE CONFERENCES!!! Professional development, people! It's so good! Again, Gunther's website is here and his page is here. Share the joy of teaching. 

Another website that has changed my game and made my life easier is Engrade is a free teacher resource if you don't have a gradebook site build by (or endorced by) your school. Anyone can use it! AND IT IS AMAZING. I spent hours my first semester building an excel gradebook for all of my classes and then Jennifer, a fellow prof, told me about Engrade and whoa dang did it simplify my life! *Especially* when it comes time to enter grades at the end of the semester. You can use it for grades, take attendance, build a calendar, plan lessons, etc. etc. etc. It's a time saver and a LIFE SAVER, I tell you. 

Also, and this sounds like a "duh" thought to me, but you never know... Use the internet! Check pinterest for ideas!!! If you need a conversation activity, just type "conversation games esl" in the search bar and voila! Your next lesson supplement is planned. Work smarter, not harder. I love technology! Except, well, when it doesn't work. 

A few other great sites are,,  and


Have I told y'all that Jeonju University is a Christian university? It's kind of a mixed-bag, like any "designated religious" thing, like... you are supposed to have a certificate of baptism to work here (but not everyone with a certificate of baptism has a personal relationship with Jesus) and students are forced to go to chapel (which brings up a HUGE list of pros and cons) but sometimes it's really neat. 

For example: 

Our water dispensers have scripture on them in both Korean and English. 

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” - John 4:13-14

It's a beautiful reminder for me on days that I just can't do it. Come ye thirsty, He is ready for you. 

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