Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Whiplash with Clenched Fists

I think everyone remembers their desired goal when they were young, even though it is forgotten when we grow up. Whiplash reminds me of it in some hideously brutal way. It is a 2014 American drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle based on his experiences in Princeton High School Studio Band. Miles Teller is the lead as Andrew Nieman as a student at a music conservatory in Manhattan and Terrence Fletcher as J.K.Simmons playing the Band teacher. This film had a big impact on me, so I would like to share my ideas. 

First, the plot is intriguing. A young and talented drummer, Andrew attending a prestigious music academy wants to be the greatest jazz drummer in the world and he quickly learns that Fletcher operates on fear and intimidation. Fletcher does not hold back on abuse towards his students, he pushes his students as much as he can. So some of them give up and the others have to endure his tyranny. Andrew works so hard to be the best and he is willing to sacrifice for it. Why the teacher pushes his students to challenge their limits? Look closely at the end of Andrew’s blind ambition and Fletcher’s madness, the two forge an odd relationship. Then we will notice how the odd teacher-student relationship works, I doubt it happens in reality though.

Second, the characters are lively, so I don’t know who the best protagonist in this film is. Miles Teller and J.K.Simmons both did great a job in this film. J.K.Simmons won a best supporting actor Oscar and others, and he really portrayed the ruthless, brutal teaching style. I was scared of him, the whole time while I was watching the movie. Miles Teller played the young and dedicated student naturally, who had ambition to succeed and to be great. Watching him play, I thought about his blind ambition, which kept him strong, on the other hand played a huge role of destroying his normal life. They showed a really bad model of teacher-student relationship which made me lose myself in the story. It was stellar.

Lastly, Fletcher says “There are no two words in the English more harmful than ‘good job’”. This idea drives his students to excellence or despair by constantly abusing them, their talent, even their identity. In fact as a teacher, I have moments to tell students truth about themselves or their work; however it is a tiny part of my job. Teachers should spend most of their time to encourage students enhance their abilities and potential power. There are better models for teacher-student relationships in our real world, and this movie reminds us of them.

I can strongly recommend this movie because it is well made, the plot is intriguing and the characters are lively. That is why I got immersed in this film, and I was frightened about what Fletcher did to Andrew the whole time while watching it. This film reminds me of my youth and thoughts about blind ambition, teacher-student relationship and society. Therefore I am sure that you can enjoy this film with clenched fists.

Try Hard to Understand Other Culture Intimately

When I went to Greece for my first overseas travel, I saw people walking on the street with swimsuits and cover ups, some people were kissing in the public places. It was a cultural shock for me. Korea was called “the country of courteous people in the East”, so Koreans were very careful about their behaviors outside of their homes. That was why I was shocked. As time went on, I can see people kissing on the street, wearing hot pants, and tank tops in Korea thanks to globalization. People share information through internet and mass media, and pursue convenient modern city life. As a result, people can see the same brand stores all over the world and eat almost similar fast food everywhere. It looks like similar city life; however people have their own ways and different cultures, which I’d like to share here.


First, store opening hours are different. Australia stores usually open at 9:00am and close around 5:00-5:30pm, and Korea stores usually open around 10:00am and close around 10:00pm. Some markets open 24hours with only few days closing or without closing. I think it reflects Koreans’ busy lives. South Korea has one of the highest average work weeks and overtime hours in the world with rigorous work ethic. Most workers have to leave from their home early and come home late at night, so they need some time to buy groceries, food, and some places to release their stresses. That is why Korean stores opening hours are longer than Australia. South Korea is one of the fastest growing developed countries with sacrifice of individuals’ desire, proper work conditions and economic justice. So Korea has a long way to go, even though it is really convenient for people who have lots of money to live.

Second, Korean people share food from one bowl, and Australians use individual plates and bowls for meals. Korean loves to eat a hot pot of stew like Kimchi stew, bean paste stew, tuna stew and pork stew. The best way to eat these stews is to put a hot pot with full of stew in the middle of a table and eat it together. Koreans usually lived in a town with relatives so didn’t feel any tension or pressure. Koreans liked to share food with all of the villagers together to make a closer relationship and to show consideration to their family. It became the custom to share food from one bowl with family, friends and others. Sharing food from one bowl is the symbol of closeness for Koreans; however it is hygienic table manners to use an individual bowl for restaurants. Koreans have a tendency to save words because we believe that doing is better than saying. I think that is why Korean developed this kind of sharing food culture to express the deep emotion instead of speaking out how we feel every time.

Lastly, Korea and Australia probably have same ideas about well-raised people. If some people are well-raised then they say thank you, please and sorry whenever they need to. They will help people hold doors for next people, ask people with smile and greet people sincerely with kissing, handshaking or bowing. No matter how different the cultures, people can distinguish what is discreet, wise, or appropriate behavior in their own way, and we can feel even though without communication.

People have developed their own cultures for a long time in different ways. Korea stores opening hours is longer than Australia’s, and Koreans share food from one bowl to show their closeness which makes westerners shocked due to personal hygiene. However if no one forces westerners to share the pot with Koreans, then sharing one pot with family isn’t a big matter. Therefore people have various cultures, and try hard to understand other culture intimately.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Koreans’ Favorite Messenger, Kakao Talk

Koreans’ Favorite Messenger, Kakao Talk
I wasn’t a big fan of smartphones because they have caused my kids stay up late night which caused arguments, my students fought each other using their text messages etc. Despite negative effects of it, I get used to using the smartphone such as, wake-up call, a pedometer app, a face book app, and banking apps. These apps make my life much easier and convenient so I can’t help using it. Especially Kakao Talk, which is one of the most useful apps I have ever used, so I’d like to present the reasons here.
First, Kakao Talk offers free chat rooms one-on-one, or multiple friends without limitation worldwide. I use this function organizing a gathering especially for my old colleagues. As soon as I open a chat room with a notice of a meeting, we can discuss the details all together, the date, the restaurant, the cost for a person, etc. It saves my efforts to call personally asking their opinions and adjusting the opinions. After gathering I usually share my photos by uploading in the chat room up to ten photos at a time. It helps me organize a gathering efficiently with pleasant communication to all the members and sharing memorable photos.

Second, it provides free calls all around world, so I can talk to my friends everywhere. I didn’t have a chance to talk to my friend who had emigrated from Korea to Canada for a long time ago before I lost one of my closest friends. After her death, I realized that I have forgotten people who I love so much. Kakao Talk is a really useful tool for me to keep in touch regularly with my friend in Canada. In addition, Nancie, who was my homestay owner in America three years ago, has kept in touch with me through chats, voice notes and free calls. Thanks to Kakao Talk, I could hear that Nancie was counting down her retirement day. Thus, it gives me a chance to maintain good relationships.

Lastly, it sells gifts from its gift shop, so people can send gifts from the store. Recently, I received two Starbucks coffee coupons through a Kakao message unexpectedly from a retired teacher who retired this February from my school. She wanted to express her gratitude for what I did for her at the retirement ceremony. The gift wasn’t expensive, however it made me surprised and happy. Unexpected presents make people feel like dancing, so I love Kakao Talk so much.

Kakao is developed into a versatile tool like free chatting, free call, multimedia messaging, fun games, and gift shop. These functions offer us keep in touch with people, share meaningful memories, strengthen our ties, and exchange gifts. Therefore, I think Kakao Talk is one of the most useful apps I have ever used, and it makes our society a better place like a bridge for a good relationship.

A Sad Reality of Cram Schools

A Sad Reality of Cram Schools

What factor determines the future of your life, your dream, your talent, educational background, or financial support from your parents? If you have a guarantee of a stable job at a major company, would you be willing to sacrifice one or two years of your life doing nothing but studying in a rural area with limited freedom. It sounds crazy, however here in Korea some high school graduates who have failed to get into the university of their choice are preparing next year’s entrance exam at the cram schools. The graduates and their parents believe that it is worthy to try, then is it worthy or not?

First, most Koreans consider the college entrance exam as “the chance to make or break one’s future”, so Korean parents focus on their children’s education as a ticket of a prosperous life. They believe in “no pain, no gain”, so one or two years sacrifice for getting into top-notch university is worthy to endure. However the circumstance around the job market is changing as time goes on, so a diploma of top-tier University does not guarantee a stable job anymore, it is only a stepping stone for it. Wealth is also no guarantee of happiness, it can only give material affluence. Therefore, describing the entrance exam as “the chance to make or break one’s future” is exaggerated, and this phenomenon looks like people chase a vague dream that is a waste of their money and time.

Second, if the graduates have a specific goal for his or her future and he or she decides to go to cram school to achieve it, then the cram school can play a positive role to help students. Most cram schools in Korea adapt their regulations to a Spartan regimen, so no internet, no make-up, no televisions, and no relationships. The system can help them pursue their goal without interrupting other factors, if they agree to limit their freedom willingly. Nonetheless, the idea of isolation, limitation of someone’s freedom doesn’t seem to be appropriate.

Lastly, the popularity of the cram schools means a failure of public school system. Lots of high school graduates face this kind of problem every year, and it is a sad reality in Korea. I think it is time to change the education system, limitation of cram schools as a business, and social attitudes towards jobs, even though it needs to go through extremely hard procedures.

The popularity of cram schools means a failure of public education system, thus lots of high school graduates go to cram schools spending one or two years giving up their freedom, normal daily life, and their parents financial sacrifice. If students have specific goals to achieve, the cram schools can have a positive role to help students though. The cram school is a hot potato in Korean society, however we need to change the system together no matter how hard it is for the sake of Korea’s future.

Hiking, One of the Most Popular Hobbies in Korea

Hiking, One of the Most Popular Hobbies in Korea

Hobby means an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure according to Oxford dictionary. It means that people take up various hobbies to entertain themselves, release their stresses, and maintain their health. Koreans especially enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and skiing. One of the most popular hobbies in Korea is hiking, why then do Koreans like to go hiking so much?
First, Korean mountains cover 70% of the land mass and Korea has twenty one national parks including three marine parks. It means that most of the national parks have the mountains and they are located from the north to the south. For example, the first and the largest national park of Korea is Jirisan National Park in the southwestern region, and the third highest mountain Seorak is located in the northern region. Korean national parks also provide various hiking courses, so people can choose certain courses according to their state of health or their levels of hiking experiences. Therefore the geographically accessible mountains make it, so people can go hiking easily.
Second, the Korean mountains have many historical sites to enjoy. Most of the Korean famous temples are located in the mountains due to the history of persecution of the Buddhist faith during the Joseon Dynasty. So people can enjoy the antique Buddhist temples while they are going hiking. In addition, the Korean mountains have various sceneries from spring to winter. Cherry blossoms, forsythias, azaleas, magnolias, lilacs and other spring flowers are in full bloom in spring. The lush green leaves and the cool shade of green trees are all over the mountains in summer. The gold and crimson autumn leaves under the blue sky create a picture-perfect view in autumn. The heavy snow is covered all over the mountains in winter. Therefore people go hiking every season to enjoy the different spectacular scenery.
Lastly, Koreans enjoy hiking with their families and friends to release their daily stress, breathe fresh air and strengthen their ties. Most of Korean workers have to work long hours with short breaks and in almost the same pose so they need to stretch their bodies. Koreans also believe that a sound mind is in a sound body, so most parents want their children to exercise regularly. Hiking is the perfect solution for the parents and the children both and if they go hiking together, then they can talk about their daily lives. Therefore Koreans think hiking is one of the perfect activities for all ages.

In conclusion, mountains cover 70% of Korea’s land mass, so it is easy to go hiking and the mountains have the antique Buddhist temples with spectacular views and scenic beauty of the seasons. Hiking encourages people to take a break with fresh air and strengthen ties among the family members, therefore hiking is one of the popular hobbies in Korea. Korea is truly a hiker’s paradise.

Start the DMZ Adventure

Start the DMZ Adventure
It’s in our DNA. Whether we’re haggling with the locals, trying weird and wonderful food, or exploring new territory, we like to keep things interesting. It’s the whole reason, we set up the DMZ traveling.

#1. Where should you start your journey?
Seoul has been the capital of South Korea since the formation of the Joseon Dynasty by the first king in 1395. After that Seoul has been a heart of dynamic Korea, so enjoy your journey in Seoul. You can stay as long as your journey allows to explore several palaces which were built in the Joseon Dynasty, to experience the traditional culture of Korea or to taste modern city life etc.

#2. Why should you take the DMZ adventure?
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is the only symbol of a divided nation in the world. It has been over 60 years since the outbreak of the Korean War and the drawing of the 248km (155miles) cease-fire line along the 38th parallel, which created the DMZ. If you really want to explore the age of cold war, you should go to DMZ which was set up according to the cease-fire agreement on June 27, 1953. If you visit there you can go to Yelsoe Observatory, the only barbed wire fence of Korea, here you can experience a military camp, walk along the cease fire line, and feel the division of the peninsula. You can experience the cold era vividly.

After taking DMZ tour, you can take more adventures such as rafting at Donggang River with marvelous nature, or going hiking to Mt. Seorak which is one of the most famous Korean National Parks. It has several hiking courses from one to three days long. You can choose whatever you like. If you don't like to go hiking, you just ride a cable car to see the beautiful scenery. If you don't like rivers you can go to Hangyeryeong pass to enjoy the scenery.

#3. Where should you end your journey?
After visiting DMZ, Mt. Seorak, Dongang, has some old temples and you can go along the east coast to go to the beaches which have tremendous views. If you go to the east coast you can go to the other province to explore the other part of Korea or go back to Seoul to wrap up your journey.

DMZ is a haven of rare animals, birds and plants. You can enjoy a truly unique experience in South Korea and it will make your heart beat and give you unforgettable memories forever.

Pros and Cons of English Only Approach

Pros and Cons of English Only Approach
Studying English has been one of the major concerns of Korean society for a long time so the Ministry of Education (MOE) has been developing English curriculums, evaluation systems, hiring native teachers, offering various English courses for teachers etc. As a result, MOE adapted the Teaching English through English (TETE) policy when I started to teach English. At first I suffered from my poor English ability. Because MOE's TETE policy gave me stress and anxiety to use English only in class even though there was not obvious pressure. After acquiring English speaking skills, I was frustrated because my students could not understand my English at the time. So I have been trying to figure out how to teach English properly in my classroom. It took several years for me to focus on teaching English itself and now I would like to clarify my ideas on teaching English in the classroom as I present this essay. 

1. What are the advantages of teaching English only English?

Krashen(1892) described that the effective language teacher is someone who can provide input and help make it comprehensible in a low anxiety situation. I agree that languages are learned most effectively when students are exposed to lots of comprehensible input in context of real communication. However Korea is a monolingual country and Korean Elementary School only provides three English classes a week for 5th and 6th graders, (two classes for 3rd and 4th graders) so there are no places to listen English outside of the school. That is why it is difficult for students to expose to lots of comprehensible input, therefore as teachers we have to use only English as much as we can for students’ benefit. An ‘English only class’ can give students a chance to be exposed to instructional, communicative English, so they can get used to the vocabulary, the phrases and the conversations.

An only English class can encourage students to think and to give speak in English naturally. English pronunciation and intonation are totally different from Korean that is why most of students feel awkward when they speak in English. They don’t have a chance to speak in English in their home lives and they don’t want to feel embarrassed making bizarre sounds. They want to avoid that situation and keep silent, however if teachers make English class an only English environment, then students are more willing to try. In this way we encourage students to speak out and practice hard naturally.

2. What are the disadvantages of using only English?

For a long time foreign language teachers were fascinated by using only the target language in the classroom because they believed that the monolingual principle was the best way to learn a foreign language, however students can’t understand what they hear during the lesson. How can they learn?
Korean elementary school has mixed level English classes so when teachers speak only English without Korean some excellent students were expected to translate for their classmates. Some of them can’t understand and some of them need to pay close attention to understand, so sometimes they want to rely on the excellent students as interpreters. It is difficult for students to learn English effectively, so some low level students can give up learning English quickly. Therefore teachers should consider students’ various levels and whether the TETE policy benefits them or not.

Kim (2008) pointed out Korean teachers’ limited proficiency in English is a barrier to the successful implementation of the TETE policy. I agree with her, however I think the TETE policy can give too much pressure to teachers, even though skillful teachers who can speak English can lose their confidence. On the other hand, I saw an English only teacher[1](Korean government hires English only teachers to back up the TETE policy, so the teachers only teach English even though they don’t have teachers’ certificates.) who could speak English fluently, however she didn’t know how to teach elementary school students. Her fluent English had students dancing and the class was chaos. She can teach English using only English, however she can’t manage the students properly, and then how can students learn? Therefore we have to think about the purpose of using English only.

3. How can modify?

Let's think about the reason for TETE in the classroom. The reason using English only is to expose students to lots of comprehensible input, however they cannot understand what they hear, or it takes too long to understand the concept, then there is no point but wasting time and energy. Using English itself cannot be a goal, it is only a tool to teach English naturally, however it seems like some teachers are stuck using English only. That is why I think teachers should think outside of the box and consider them seriously; Peter Mckenzie's idea (2006) that teachers use the mother tongue sparingly in class and Butzhamm's sandwich technique to teach English efficiently in the classroom. There are some arguments for and against the use of the mother tongue, however "the best solution is to make limited use of students’ native language at appropriate times and in appropriate places" (Rao Zhenhui, 2000).

Mckay(2009) suggested that teachers use Korean in their classrooms with discretion, and I think it needs for mixed level elementary school students. If teachers do not have strategies to use the mother tongue efficiently, then they could abuse it unconsciously or students could rely on their mother tongue so teachers have to think about it carefully.

-When should teachers use it? For example when teachers start the semester they have to share classroom management with students to make sure the students totally understand what they have to do or what they are expected to do, and so on.

-How should teachers use it? Teachers have to plan how often use it, what period or which step use it, how to reduce using it etc. If teachers do not have specific plans for using it then students can also feel free to use it carelessly.

There are some arguments for and against to use the mother tongue, however I believe that the best solution is to make limited use of students’ native language at appropriate times and in appropriate places especially for lower level students like elementary school students. They have to put lots of effort and time in to learn a foreign language so teachers should think outside the box of using only English and do not hesitate to use the mother tongue to give students comprehensible input like using the sandwich technique for the students' benefit.

[1] She obtained her teaching ability while she taught English at the school, though.