Category Archives: #livebloggingparty

Bananas are yellow in Osaka, or an unusual interview with Naoko Amano

This post feels very warm to the author of this blog, because (1) it does not revolve around the author of this blog; (2) it puts an exceptionally kind, friendly, open-hearted, sincere and devoted teacher and friend centerstage.

Wait no more and read what Naoko Amano had to say in the conversation we had in the living room of her apartment in Kishiwada, Osaka, Japan, late in the evening on Saturday, December 6th.

 

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Hello, Naoko! The first time I saw you was at JALT 2013 and you were one of the few Japanese English teachers that I met there (or maybe the only one?). Why did you decide to come to JALT? It was great and refreshing to see you among so many English native speakers.

Hi Anna! It started from a small mistake. I was looking through my friend’s Facebook posts. One of them was about a teaching workshop. I was interested in it but I already had plans for that day and also it was far from my house. So I looked at another post. Soon I got a message from Marco Brazil: “Thank you for joining my workshop”. OMG I did click “GO” by mistake! Then he suggested I should come to JALT 2013 to see his presentation.

I thought only a professional can join so I didn’t think about going there. I thought not yet … But another day, Barbara (Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto) also suggested for me to go to JALT. Then I thought that I should go. I was really scared but it was great to meet lots of wonderful teachers, and I could learn a lot.

 

I see. As you said to me in our conversation a couple of days ago, small things lead to big things. I believe it to be true! But why did you think that you couldn’t go to JALT at first?

I didn’t have any great experience like studying abroad or graduating from a famous college. I can’t speak English like a native speaker. I didn’t have much teaching experience. So I thought “not yet”.

 

Well you were teaching English in 2013, right? What kind of teaching experience did you have by that time?

I’d been teaching children for 5 years then. But the first year I had only three students. In these three years I had more than 30 students. So I felt like I’d been teaching for only two or three years.

 

I see. You mentioned in your answer before the word “professional”. Do you connect this word with teaching qualifications? I know you had some back in 2013.

No, I don’t connect those. I think qualifications are like a ticket to the teaching world. I want to connect experience with professionalism.

 

I agree with you on this. And even then, in my view, you had this ticket to the teaching world: you’d taken a course for teaching English to young learners. You had every right to be at JALT (if one needs to have that). Anyway, I think your story of how you started teaching is fascinating and inspiring. Can you tell it, please?

I met lots of people because I studied English and could speak it. I wanted to keep using English after that. So I changed my job to use English, I went to an English school, I watched movies, I wrote letters and called my friend in the USA. I tried to use the language. One day, my friend in Miami gave me presents for my daughters. They were workbooks for English used in the US (my friend is an elementary school teacher). The workbooks were colourful, cute, not like Japanese ones. I felt excited and I really wanted to show them to children in Japan and to use those books to teach. So I told my friends that I wanted to teach English and some of their kids started to study English with me.

 

Oh really? I didn’t know about that. That must have been fun and also pleasant to feel your friends’ support in this way. I also know that when you got your teaching certificate, you didn’t go to work at a public school or a language school, like the majority of people would do. Instead, you went your own way.

I thought about a franchise but they have their own educational system and I would have had to follow it: textbooks, schedules, everything. I don’t like that. I didn’t feel excited about that. I can’t imagine that I’m teaching English with their curriculum. I think that I can teach in a more fun way.

I made a list of things that I wanted to do with kids in English and looked for music, books, teaching ideas… Then I talked about it with my friends and some of their kids started to study English with me. There were 3 at first. Then I did an English summer program. I made 4 posters to advertise and 15 kids joined the summer program, 6 of them later stayed in my school. “It was fun!” – their feedback made me really happy.

 

That’s really interesting and unusual. So, small things have led to big things – and now you have your own school?!

Yes!! But there was a time when I thought I’d close down the school because I didn’t have many teacher friends. I didn’t know what other schools were doing. It was then that I decided to go to a workshop. It was an Oxford workshop and there was the name “Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto”, who is the author of the book I was going to use. I was surprised to see many teachers there and the workshop was interesting and meaningful for me. On my way home my friend and I came up to Barbara to thank her for the workshop, and she said: “Why don’t you have a cup of coffee with me?” Who would say no?! I was shy and could not speak a lot (my friend did though). Barbara suggested to start using Facebook for professional purposes and she introduced some teachers to connect with me.

And one more thing that I decided to change to keep teaching was my school name. Initially, my school name was “Nao’s English Studio”. We were talking about how important it is to know that English is not just a subject but also a communication tool, and communication is important. It is ok if it’s not correct. “Hello! How are you?”  – “Yellow Banana.” This conversation is ok if it makes you smile. That’s communication. I was inspired from this conversation and then decided to change my school name into “Yellow Banana Kids English”. I felt excited about it and didn’t want to quit teaching anymore. Students love this name and people know it!

 

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Yellow Banana certainly feels positive and makes you want to smile =) I’ve been lucky to see your lessons. I saw how dedicated you are, your passion and concern about making your lessons enjoyable for kids. It seemed to me your students feel very comfortable and “at home” in your class. Their parents smile as they bring their kids to your class, which I think is a good sign. They know you care for their children.

Thank you very much Anna! I’m really happy to teach English. “Teaching” for me is not just teaching… It is teaching a person, having a relationship with students and their parents, relationship with other teachers. How wonderful it is!

 

I thank you! This is, by the way, the most extraordinary post I’ve done in the #livebloggingparty series (note: we were, as I’ve said above, sitting in the same room and having this dialogue in real time on a real piece of paper, in actual writing). One last question in this interview is strange but I want to ask it anyway. How did it feel to you to be having this conversation in writing? It was the first time for me personally. This is the kind of an interview that I’m really interested in for my blog.

It was very interesting and also it was a very good writing exercise for me. I could read your question many times and I had time to think what to write. It was fun!! Thank you very much, Anna!

 

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*****

It is certainly me who has to be thankful. Naoko enthusiastically picked up my *nerdy* idea to spend an evening conversing with each other in pen and on paper, and I doubt it is something many teachers would agree to doing as their Saturday night pastime. For me, this experience was eye-opening in how much I really value the presence of a person I’m talking to. These 90 minutes and 9 pages had (and indeed have) a genuine feel of care, interest, and bonding. Thank you for this, Naoko.  I wish your school to prosper and your energy to be ever-present!

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This teacher behind practice.

You might know I have an unhealthy tendency to write about myself a lot or too much. In connection with this, I am very pleased with the choice of topic for this particular blog post. Basing it on the materials from Thomas Farrell’s workshop “Teacher Behind Practice” that I attended at JALT is a decent excuse to continue conversations with and about myself.

In the workshop we were asked to complete a set of sentences (“narrative frames”) without giving them too much thought. That was an almost traumatizing and certainly challenging experience as I normally would do my best to look for the words which express my thoughts as close to the thoughts themselves as possible, and that takes a lot of time, mental effort, and oftentimes a dictionary search. That fast-paced workshop experience left me feeling unsatisfied. So I want to go through the same set of frames again and have a second, more thoughtful run over them. My original, rushed workshop notes will follow in italics and let’s see how they will compare.

 

***** Who is THIS teacher behind her practice? *****

 

1. To me, the word teacher means … different things in my native language and in English. In Russian, I have recently started to read “учитель” as a kind of a mentor, almost guru. That could be related to my Asian travels. The word “teacher” in English for me at the moment is not really much more than a piece of lexis in the language to define a person teaching, as a driver would be a person driving.

To me the word teacher means a person with students in the room.

 

2. I became a teacher because… I happened to like my first experience working at school when I was 20. Quite possibly I didn’t “become” a teacher, I “happened to become” one. For now.

I became a teacher because that’s what happened, I never wanted or planned to.

 

3. I DON’T believe teaching is a calling because… No, I don’t believe this, because it’s not true for me or maybe because “a calling” sounds too presumptious and high-flown. I believe a very obvious and inescapable artistic talent is a sign of a calling. I believe teaching requires a certain set of qualities, but then again different students will connect to teachers with different combinations of those qualities.

I don’t believe teaching is a calling, at least from my own experience.

 
4. When I first started to teach I… was very naive and sensitive. I would take every little uncomfortable moment in the classroom very seriously and think about it for days on end. I’ve learnt to let it go since then.

When I first started to teach I was 19 and created my own crosswords.

 
5. The place I teach now is… providing me with enough freedom to think bigger and come up with projects. I’m grateful to my boss and colleagues for giving me the space to feel at ease in my classroom and our shared staff room.

The place where I teach now is interesting.

 
6. My students are… intelligent and open. I’m not sure if it’s about the university they enter and its entrance requirements, or about my attitude towards people I teach. Both?

My students are mostly boys and most often intelligent ones.

 
7. I enjoy going into school each morning because… This is a frame full of limitations (which I believe fits well into the concept of a frame). I enjoy not having to go into school each morning as I’m very happy to be the master and manager of my own working week and schedule. I enjoy going into school in the morning because I’m excited to see what the day may bring.

I enjoy going into school each morning because it makes me wake up early and have a maybe exciting day and be social.

 
8. I find teaching exciting and challenging because… I like to think my students feel free enough to express themselves during a lesson and this eventually leads to interesting discoveries for me, us and our mutual learning.

I find teaching exciting and challenging because …(no answer).

 
9. I do not think teaching is a job because… + OR vs I think teaching is a profession because

These statements are really hard for me to tackle. I don’t see any trouble with thinking of teaching as both a job and a profession. I hope in the comments you can guide me towards figuring out the difference, if you see it here. For me, in any case, teaching English is a kind of a life style that gives me enough freedom, social contacts, and plenty of opportunities for personal development (which I value a lot). There’s no speaking of work life balance in my situation, my “work” is my life, and that’s why I don’t feel bad or get whiney about writing articles at 3 am on the night of the deadline. These are my choices.

I think teaching is a job but also could be just the way you see your life. Communicating what you know to other people.

I think teaching is a profession because there’s room and means to grow.

 
10. The best aspect of my life as a teacher is… being connected to a great number of teachers around the world. I can’t help feeling lucky and special in being able to form these connections, strengthen them, use them to change my own lessons and even probably the course of life and career.

The best aspect of my life as a teacher now is being connected to other teachers and having found good friends.

 
11. The worst aspect of my life as a teacher is… having too many ideas, plans, and projects and too little time to bring them all into life.

The worst aspect of my life as a teacher is …(no answer).

 
12. What I really enjoy doing in my classroom is… challenging and surprising my students.

What I really enjoy doing in my classroom is talking to students about their learning.

 
13. My students believe in…. the importance of having a good relationship and nice connection with their teacher. That is my take on their belief.

I think my students believe that I’m more energetic and positive than I really am.

 

***** Shallow reflections *****

– If you frowned at some of those and categorised them as “assumptions”, you’re with a few people from that workshop and maybe with me, too.

– As I was typing the notes from the workshop after I’d finished with the post, I surely laughed. It was amazing to see how challenging it is for me to think within strict time limits AND with a presenter walking around the room pressing on me AND with a crowd of other people around. It makes me think that some students might be going through a similar kind of process in my class. I would like to decrease the discomfort level in my lessons though.

– So who is this teacher behind practice? I had no trouble or needed no extra time to come up with a positive (though likely not comprehensive) answer to this question. I believe I am relatively well aware of who I am aside from being a teacher. I might very well be wrong but my belief right now is that as a teacher I am who I am as a person.

– “Who I am is how I teach.” I yet have to dig deeper into the “how I teach” part. Coming up, maybe.

 

*****

This post dramatically and suddenly ends my Asian series of #livebloggingparty. This time blogging happened sitting on tatami around hibachi (which looks to be the Japanese version of Russian samovar but is a totally different experience as you basically burn charcoal inside a table)), in a traditional Japanese room in a most hospitable and nicest house of Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. As some of you might have already guessed, Kevin Stein is the host and blogger (and friend) and here’s his writing from tatami. Thank you, Kevin! Thank you.

hibachi

I’m going home.

In Mike Griffin’s class.

One of my personal professional goals to achieve during my Korea time was, as you might have read in some posts before, visiting classrooms and processing the experience. I think I started with a lot of zest. As a result, this post came out a very detailed one, took about 5 hours of my time, a lot of concentration, meticulous note-taking of anything I was seeing (and the thoughts those scenes and moments spawned), and then brain effort to structure and write it up in the way it could be readable and telling the points.

Next class I visited was of a very different type and I eventually decided to blog about it in an idle way which would require little analysis on my part but would leave a special feeling of other people being part of this emerging space of a blog. There were voices to be heard, I sensed, and I think that was a good choice on my part to eliminate the thorough scrutiny.

I’m going to go similar way now writing about another class I visited in Korea about a month ago, that meaning I will cut the dissection part. Because it’s too hard and I’m not sure it’s worth it. Besides, I feel like the main interest in that class for you the reader of my blog could be the contents of the class, at least that’s what it was for me.

 

Welcome to Michael Griffin’s English class at Chung Ang University, Seoul. Fasten your seatbelts, or any other belts, I hope it can be an interesting cultural ride.

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 *****

I’ll set the scene for you. Imagine a rainy but warm day in Seoul. That was the kind of day. Mike invited me to one of his classes and I was even going to be more than just a guest taking notes. That is exciting, if you ask me, and exactly the type of experience I’d long been thinking of having.

It’s a rough estimate, but it felt like 2 minutes of class passed after I felt a pang of jealousy. I saw Mike being relaxed but obviously confident and in control of the flow of his lesson, joking around while being on track and giving clear instructions. That was, in fact, pretty much the same Mike Griffin you’d see if you attend a presentation of his (and next chance to do so is in Japan in just 5 days). What was the pang about anyway? Well it struck me like it hadn’t in the months before that I miss teaching. I wanted to teach a/my university class and it was while being in that particular room that the feeling got so intense. I was almost aching to interrupt, interfere, comment, play a teacher, or get involved in any other way.

Which I only had to wait for. The plan for the class was the students (4 Korean ladies) doing the task assigned by Mike for one hour, and then the next hour would be divided into 15-minute “interview” sections, the interviewers being both Mike and me. This was in itself a new and unusual class format for me, and now that I’ve tested it and seen it in action, I’ll certainly try it out with some students in Russia, as soon as I get a chance.

 

So the four students split into two groups of two. There was “a Korean” and “a non-Korean” in each pair. The non-Korean Koreans were to read the questions, the questions that non-Koreans might wish to ask Koreans about their culture. The Korean Koreans, in their turn, were to give their Korean replies and explanations and provide any necessary comments on any further interrogation by pesky non-Korean Koreans.

Some of the questions from Mike were the following:

? Why do so many Koreans wear masks?
? Why are there so many Kims and Parks and Lees in Korea?
? Why do Koreans like Samsung and want to work for it?
? Why do Koreans hate Japan?
? Why do Koreans use metal chopsticks?

 

There were all in all 24 questions, all of them equally interesting or some even more. As you might imagine, I stopped taking notes of the things I could observe about the lesson very soon, for the simple reason of getting too curious about what the students had to say explaining their culture! By that time I’d been in Korea for three weeks and collected a fair amount of questions like that myself, so I couldn’t wait till the interview part of the class.

 

And while I learnt a lot in that interview part of the class and satisfied some part of my curiosity, I’m led to believe the students had a chance to learn from me, too. One of the best examples of the kind of cultural learning that happened that day and happened both ways was talking about the image of Russia. In that hour I heard 3 things which the students  shared with me as their instant associations with my country: (1) Moscow is a dangerous place to go to as there are skinheads who roam about the streets attacking, hitting and killing foreigners; (2) Russian food is greasy; (3) What do you think about Putin? … I don’t believe I need to go into much detail here about how passionate I was dealing with (1) since it’s just not true *anymore?*, and it was shocking news to me that such information travels around. Russian food is certainly different from Korean and it’s common knowledge that tastes differ. I’d heard taxi drivers here in Seoul blurt out “Putin?” first thing after they found out I was actually a Russian, not an American.

 

Among all other things we talked about it might be interesting for English language teachers in Russia to read that I heard this line: “My Russian groupmates struggle with their English”. I realize that it’s just one student sharing her personal opinion and it doesn’t lead us into making this unpleasant conclusion about the state of English language education in Russia, its standards and the levels students get finishing school.. There’s one thing that is certain as it’s a fact: Russian students don’t have to take an obligatory English exam as they finish school education, unlike Korean kids. For the latter English is mandatory for entering any university whatever major they choose, and English scores are in a way crucial (yes, they are a big deal). As I explained what the situation for Russian school children is like, my Korean interviewee said “I think your system is better” (stress related + not all students really need English in the future). Whichever system is better, her Russian groupmates struggle with their English.

 

I’ll share with you my questions about Korea and things Korean I’d been noticing in my time here. I got responses to some of these but still wonder about others. In any case, it’s useful to have them here as a memory of what I had in my mind in October 2014, and it’d be more than great to have some of your replies in the comments to this post.

  • Is it bad manners to tip?
  • Is it bad manners to not finish your meal/ leave food on your plate, if you don’t like it (some parts of pork, for example)?
  • What about dairy products and Koreans?
  • Has anyone here ever tried a dish called “kuksi”?
  • Why do Koreans invent English names for themselves and introduce themselves to me as Suzie, Robert or Jenny?? (note: I got an excellent answer to this question from one student but I’d like to read what your perspectives are as well, teachers who are based in SK)
  • Why are people in the metro or in the street never saying sorry after pushing you, stepping on your feet?
  • Why are people not looking at other people in the street? Or is it just for me?
  • How are people from Seoul different from Koreans from other places?
  • Where does Japan stand in the list of tourism preferences for Koreans? How’s the general *hostile* attitude reflected in daily life – do Koreans use Japanese products? Do Koreans have Japanese friends?
  • Why are you asked to scribble whatever on a special thing if you’re paying with your card? It’s not even supposed to be a signature. Apparently, there are no security reasons involved as there would be with PIN-codes, what then?
  • Names for dishes! That’s just amazing to me. In order to feed myself in a restaurant I need to know the name of a dish (and what that dish is, of course). It’s not as easy as it is to order a steak or pasta marinara, you know.
  • What’s one thing a Korean would never eat?
  • How about going to places, such a coffee shops, alone? It seemed to me it’s not quite typical/ natural for Koreans to hang out on their own.
  • Is there no Korean version of Google?

 

It was a very informative class for me, and even insightful in certain ways. Cultural gaps were filled, for me and maybe for those students as well. In the end I did feel I was a good part of the lesson, and I thank Mike for organizing the time in the way that allowed for that! Thanks a lot, Mike! =)

 

*****

Random analysis points that I couldn’t resist:

 

1)  I enjoyed Mike’s teaching style: very smooth and natural, with interesting and timely commenting and language work. The whole first part of the lesson revolved around one and only task, and that felt right and “light”. There was no hurry to proceed to some next stages and that opened up space for fruiful work on the task there was to be done.

2) I personally learnt a new word (peoplewatch (v)).

3) Several times Mike referred to Korean in his comments on the use of some phrases in English. I’m sure making connection with L1 is useful for students at any level of language proficiency. That is my humble assurance.

4) Here is a post to read to learn something more or less up-to-date about Russia (Moscow?).

5) I asked one student to share 3 important things my students in Russia should know about Korea. Here are her replies:

– Korean parents have high expectations of their children. They want them to study hard and get best scores.

– Wifi connection is excellent in Korea.

– Delivery service is just as excellent in Korea. Your order will arrive at your door within 10-15 mins from your call.

6) I paid special attention to Mike’s phrazing of “non-Koreans” instead of “foreigners”. I’m determined to stick to “non-Russians” from now on, whenever that comes in handy.

 

*****

This post is the forth (! already) in the #livebloggingparty series. This time Mike himself and I got together and blogged. We also ate this kimchi pizza. I hope you enjoy his post that you’ll find here. And with this post the blogging party moves on to another country! Expect to be continued soon-ish.

Big thanks to Josette, Anne and Mike for agreeing to go through this with me. I’m going to leave Korea with exceptional memories.

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Thanks for reading!

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Free writing at #livebloggingparty with @AnneHendler

I’m thinking of…

 

 

… a beach. This beach is long and stretches all the way into the horizon. It’s wide and deserted. It’s not a bay but an open coastline, so waves come crashing at their own good times, there really is no way you can get away from the powerful sound of the waters here. The other side of the wide sandy beach line is framed with the green, fresh and pine. Green hills slightly clouded by a bluish mist are on that other part of the horizon, facing the azure of the ocean.

There’s an occasional couple or a family to be seen here and there, as well as those seeking their solitude. It’s not hot, you actually have to be wearing jeans, jacket and sneakers to feel comfortable, though the sun is really bright and you wish you had your sunglasses on. It’s breezy enough but somehow there’s no disturbing feeling about it. The beach is in a city, so you can easily imagine it crowded at the weekends. Now it’s weekday daytime. Perfect time for a stroll.

This is what I’m seeing right now. This is what I’m experiencing. This might actually be My Perfect Beach. And I’m thinking of finally writing down and getting out what I’ve had imprinted in the back of my mind for 20 years, what I’ve told at least 4 people here in Korea about, something that has now gained enough strength to show up from the deep corners and is not afraid to grow.

 

my fav pic ever

 

This not-so-secret “something” is about the beach.

 

I don’t see how I could possibly write anything other than ultimately personal from a place like this. I see myself coming to such quiet beach on my own, sitting down facing the water, which would be coming as close as only 3 meters from reaching my feet in its mighty tidal wave. I cannot picture myself writing down pretentious lines from this place. I can, though, imagine I would yield to letting go of barriers that keep my mind (and language, as a consequence) think in terms of limits. I can imagine I would write my heart out, because it’s being called out from a source more demanding an honest answer than that of a promise to myself, a resolution “to write”, or a blog post title and notes in drafts.

 

So I used to think I can’t write from anywhere else rather than my desk in Moscow, at any time other than comfortable, safe and lonely nighttime. Apparently I’ve been proven wrong, by this beach, this day, and this ocean, as this post is just writing itself.

 

This place makes me think of other things, too.

It makes me think of just how many beaches I haven’t seen, and how few (and awful as in touristy) those I have seen are.
It makes me think again of how lucky I am to have found out I enjoy being on my own (and that I can bravely enough openly state it here).
It makes me think it’s relatively easy to live with no strings attached, or to cut those strings, in order to indulge yourself in what it is your soul is asking for. Or at least to go looking for it.

 

My perfect walk on a beach is a walk I make on my own, all the way along, stopping where I want to, staring at the sand, seashells, masses of water that I’m actually so scared of. This walk gives me a chance to stare into those parts of my Self, which so easily get neglected and underrated in the busy city routine.

 

I am thinking of a beach and what my life would be like in a place like that.

I’m thinking of a change to make.

 

*****
I’m grateful to Anne Hendler for several things: (1) for letting me spend the whole day with her and her students; (2) for the sweet tangerines; (3) for the attitude towards students I have yet to learn; (4) for showing me the wonderful, special beach and in this way  helping me (maybe unknowingly) find the right mood and enough courage to write this blog post. It is as different as my writing could ever get in this space. It is as personal as I can possibly make it. It is quite scary to hit “publish” right now, several hours after writing it from that rocking bench on that fantastic beach in Gangneung, too. But long live #livebloggingparty 🙂 I can hit “publish” now as I’m not alone.
Thanks, Anne!

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*****
Thank you for reading. Here you can read Anne’s post written on that beach.

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My unique Daegu time: with @JosetteLB and 16 Korean teachers.

On Friday October 17th I visited Josette LeBlanc‘s class at Keimyung University. The class situation is pretty unique to me: 16 school teachers have taken a 6-month break off their jobs to go through a full-time teacher training program, which involves various types of language and teaching practice classes.

In fact, there was no class that Friday, as in there was no class that Josette would teach and I would observe. What happened was a discussion, about English language education, Russia, Korea, me, them, students, geography, and my granny. I think I was too verbose, as I usually am as soon as I get emotional. I’d never been in a similar situation and I wish we’d had more time to share our experiences, especially theirs.

My original *big as always* plan had been to write a detailed and thoughtful analysis-type post based on all my many notes (somewhat like this one). Now I think there’s a different way to do it, and also probably a better one – let the teachers of that class speak about our time spent together in their own words.

We asked the teachers to answer one question: “What was significant to you about this discussion?” The teachers were free to put a check on the paper if they didn’t mind their response being shared in this post. Some also wrote down their names. (I thank all of you, teachers of Josette’s class, for being willing to talk, listen, reflect and connect with me!)

So here are their/ your thoughts. My thoughts and comments will follow at the bottom of this post.

 

***** What was significant to you about this discussion? *****

 

… Your personal story about studying English… Taking a glimpse of Russian culture and education system. (Jeong, Hyekyong)

 

You are jealous of our supportive Korean education system and I envy the huge country of yours. Thank you for your advice. Reading and writing are good for fluent speaking. (Kim Yoomi)

 

It was interesting to compare the university education for major of English in Russia and in Korea. We have native professors here. And also your hard work for keeping and improving your English was very impressive and helpful for me. The reason why I attended this course was only that I wanted to improve my English that I started slowly losing. I wanted to tell you this.

 

I checked that there is no royal road in learning English. Practice, practice, practice! Hard work and intensive studying is the only way to improve English. (Choi Jungsook)

 

I think there’s a big difference between Korean English education and Russian’s. The attitude to English is different. It seems like Russia doesn’t think English is so important. That’s why you don’t have teacher training courses like us. Our government treat English as a VIP language, more important than our own language. I hate this but it is true. That’s why we should compete with each other and develop our ability continuously. It’s a too big responsibility. (Geum Eun Ju)

 

It’s good to meet and hear from Anna, stories from a Russian English teacher is quite new and interesting. I was surprised that her English was bad when she started university studies because I didn’t know English classes in Russian secondary school were focused on grammar, reading, and receptive skills. That happened in Korea, too. I admire her courage to quit her job and chase her freedom.

 

 

I also felt I wanted to teach adults, not kids, because I wanted to communicate with students as well as teach. After hearing your words, I have empathy with you. I’m interested in your experience and your process of thinking. I was impressed with your decision and action.

 

I’ve learnt that studying English as a foreign language is difficult for everyone. We need to make some effort to speak it fluently. I remember your sentence: “Expressing your thought in English will help improve your English skill.” I will do the same thing from now on. (Sujin)

 

I considered all circumstances of learning English in Korea as some pressure, but comparing to your situation in Russia, I realized that those are such amazing opportunities to learn a language. We, Koreans, are blessed. Thank your for your insight. 🙂

 

The most interesting thing to me is in Russia people who want to be teachers have one whole year training course in their last fifth year. In Korea, we usually just have one month training course in our last fourth year.

 

It was good to know the different style of English education in Russia. “Hard work helps, always..” I need to keep that in my mind to improve my English. It’s amazing again how important English is in Korea.

 

The most impressive thing that you said is “Writing in English is helpful for improving English”. I’ll try to follow your advice. Have a good time in Korea. 🙂 (Choi Sukhee)

 

Thank you for sharing your story. I truly felt your heart. Good luck. (Kwon Jihyun)

 

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***** My thoughts and comments *****

 

So, there’s no big need for me to go through the nitty-gritty of our discussion as most interesting points can be seen through the teachers’ lines above. I did talk a lot (which I’m not very happy about because I wish I’d listened more), answering questions and oftentimes being carried away. The topics that were touched upon include:

– Scattered bits of info and a really rough overview of English learning and teaching in a Russian school (based on my experience, so obviously it should not be taken for granted as the only existing way)
– How Russian students get into university (exams before and now)
– Importance of English in Russia vs Korea
– My preparatory year for entering university, curriculum and the basic description of what my 5 years at a teacher training university in Moscow were like
– Native speaker professors at a university level *that we didn’t/ don’t have in Russia*
– Co-teaching practice *that we don’t have in Russia*
– My personal interest in Asia, why and such (that was a tough one!)
– Geography lesson and working with the map to find some Russian cities on it))
– Many specific personal stories/ situations from my life that came to my mind on the spot as I was talking about something
– My experience learning English

I guess the comments the teachers shared with me on those sheets of paper are saying more than I could have said analyzing the discussion. If I am to answer the same question as they were answering, I’d say that it was significant for me to feel these teachers’ willingness to learn from whatever that was that I had to say, reflect through the lenses of their context and experience, compare but not necessarily bear judgement of either of the sides. Some things are similar, some are different.

I’m very glad I’ve joined their group in BAND app and can keep in touch. I’m going to write a letter to these teachers, say what I wanted to say but didn’t have time or the right moment, share the link to this post, invite them to leave a comment.

There is one crucial point I never managed to mention in our too short conversation, though, and I want to have it out here.

Hard work is important. Enjoying English is kind of key, though. I sometimes might forget to say it out loud to my students and just focus on hard work (which I do believe is what moves mountains and brings progress) but… You’ve got to love it. I might be naive but I strongly believe that loving what you do (in this case, learning English) is the right way to eventually becoming good at it.

Thank you, Josette and the 16 teachers of this KIETT course. I feel lucky to have shared time in class with you, and I’m still jealous. 🙂

 

*** Random but nonetheless very important facts related to this post ***

 

1. This post was typed using my right hand only. As have been and likely will be all of my posts.

2. This weekend I found out I’m not the only person in the world lacking the wonderful skill of typing using both hands. I’m glad Josette is that other person. If there are more of you, Right Hand Only type writers out there, please let us know in the comments below. Thank you.

3. This post is part 2 of the #livebloggingparty series. The glorious idea and plan I want to try and follow through is to meet a teacher-blogger offline, sit down in some place and blog together. Hitting “Publish” simultaneously is part of the deal. Part 1 of the series can be found here (blogging with @KateSpringcait). This post (part 2 of the series) was written sitting next to Josette on the couch in her home in Korean countryside, listening to the chirping of birds and looking at a praying mantis moving around on the window glass in what I take to be its Kung- fu fashion, scheming an attack. I am forever grateful to Josette for this chance. You can read her *excellent* post entitled Turning Points here.
Part 3 of the series might be coming very soon 🙂

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Final note, added here in order to be very honest with you readers: the post was finished in and published from A Twosome Place cafe area at Dongdaegu Station, Daegu, South Korea. Thanks for reading!

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