The VIP of SP

I’ve been sitting here for over 5 minutes trying to think of a good way to begin this post. It’s been such an incredible week that I really should have posted every single day, but then again, I’ve been so busy that I honestly just did not have the time. I suppose I’ll begin by explaining the program that we currently have here and then just keep typing until I’ve talked about everything from this week.

During this past week and for the next 2 weeks, we have businessmen from all over Asia here to improve their English before they go to the SUS for a year. They have all been accepted to the MBA program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and most of them are not recent graduates – the vast majority of them have at least 5 years of successful business experience. They are a mix of Koreans, Japanese, Taiwanese, and there is one woman from China (and there are only 2 women out 24 students). To give you an example of who these people are, one of them is the CEO of a pharmaceutical drug distribution company that oversees the distribution of their drugs all over Asia and the Middle East. Another is a designer who creates new and innovative software for smartphones and ATMs. Once I learned about some of their backgrounds and accomplishments, I was honestly a little intimidated, wondering what in the world I could possibly teach these highly educated and successful businessmen. I remember feeling a similar intimidation back when I worked at English Now! and taught English to diplomats and ambassadors.

The pre-MBA students arrived last Sunday after lunchtime. As we gathered them all together and began Orientation, it had started to snow. By the time we finished Orientation, there were already a couple inches of snow on the ground, and it was still snowing. Hard. And it continued to do so during the level test (which is when we take the students one-by-one to a separate room and have them talk to us in order to determine their level). It continued still as we boarded the bus that EV provided and took us to a restaurant nearby for dinner. At this point, there were at least 4 inches on the ground, and the bus had to take us to a different restaurant than the one we originally planned to go to, because the roads were so snowy and slippery and Korea is a hilly country. So, we found a different restaurant, ate there with the students (which was fun), and then we stopped at Emart for the students to buy supplies since everything in EV would be closed the next day (everything is always closed on Mondays). However, because the roads were so bad, the bus couldn’t make it into the parking lot and we had to walk to Emart from the road, then walk back carrying our bags of groceries. Glenn and I ended up buying just a few things to get us through the week. We then had to carry it through 6 inches of snow from the back gate to our apartment; we all had to. (We got 2 more inches of snow on Tuesday. None of us were happy about that.)

By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, all of this happened on a Sunday. That means we worked an extra day this week.

Monday morning, we hit the ground running and started with AM tutoring sessions. What we did was divide the students into groups of 3, and assigned them to a tutor for the week. So, every morning this week I had the same 3 students in my tutoring session, and then again in the afternoon – except the afternoons were a little different because we worked with them individually (they each got a half hour of private tutoring). For homework each night, they have to read 3-4 articles and then think of questions and discussion points to bring to the AM tutoring session. For the PM tutoring session, they were told to bring questions for their teacher about anything (grammar, vocabulary, about EV, etc.). The sessions always went well because luckily, I had 3 talkative students who led their own discussions; I just sat back and took notes on what they said so that I could address and correct any mistakes they made. In the PM sessions, if they didn’t bring any questions for me, we would just start talking and always ended up having interesting conversations – mostly about culture and cultural differences. I had a student from Korea, one from Japan, and the other from Taiwan, so I got to learn all about 3 different cultures this week, which was pretty cool.

Our schedule was rather intense because we were only given 2 hours of devo each day, which sounds like a lot, but in reality goes by incredibly fast. I ran into issues with people coming over to talk to me during devo (which in itself isn’t a problem; it’s nice to know that people like talking to me, but it was impossible to get any work done), but even if I wasn’t talking to anyone, I would spend time reviewing the lessons I would be teaching next and by the time I’d finish doing that, I didn’t have enough time left to work on anything. Moreover, I’m developing a cooking lesson for them on “dorm food” and nutrition, but was barely able to make any progress on it. All of that, combined with having so many teaching hours this week and having to work an extra day, has made it my busiest week at EV thus far.

The lessons themselves have been pretty good, although there were a couple of them that made the students question why they were learning it (e.g. proverbs; though interesting, a lesson on writing in APA format would have been more useful to them). Overall, though, both teachers and students have been satisfied with the curriculum. The only other complaint I heard a lot from students was that they have too much homework, and I agree. They have to read 3-4 articles every night, write an essay every other day, AND get together with their group throughout the week to prepare for the Friday presentation. Additionally, every Tuesday evening is a mandatory 2-hour activity. This is done because the program asked to have 1.5 hours for lunch instead of just an hour, so to make up that time, we have to meet Tuesday evenings as well. The good part, however, is that we get to play games during that time (this week we played Texas Hold ‘Em). The students just don’t have a lot of free time, and considering some of them haven’t ever been to Korea before, I think it’s unfortunate that they’re bogged down with so much extra work when their class schedule is already so intense.

What’s been so rewarding working with the pre-MBA students is the fact the high-level conversations. Instead of teaching middle schoolers about ladles and spatulas, I get to have intellectually stimulating conversations with highly educated adults who I get to help when they’re stuck on a word or something they say needs correcting. Though slightly intimidating, like I explained earlier, it’s truly been a lot of fun and I wake up every day looking forward to working with them.

Aside from not doing anything Monday night after work, my days have been quite full. As you know, we clock in at 8:50am, go to the morning meeting, then start work promptly at 9:00. Normally, we clock out at 5:50pm, but with the PM tutoring sessions we go right to 6:00pm and then clock out around 6:10pm. Tuesday evening, we had to be back at 6:50, which barely gave us enough time to cook and eat dinner. We played Texas Hold ‘Em and finished at 8:40pm, then clocked out and got back home around 9:00. That doesn’t sound late, but trust me… 12-hour work days are exhausting. Wednesday night I went to the mall for dinner with my friend, Ellie. Thursday night, I led an informal exercise class for some of my friends who wanted to work out. It was good practice for me since I’m getting my Zumba certification next month and can “officially” lead classes afterwards. Tonight, Friday, a dinner was organized for the students and Glenn and I attended. Luckily, it was short since the bus that EV provided was then taking students straight to Seoul after dropping me and Glenn off back at EV. We have a 3-day weekend for Seollal (the lunar new year, which is celebrated in Asia) and so all of the students made arrangements to party together in Seoul over the weekend. A couple of the Koreans will be going back to the hometown for the weekend to spend the holiday with their family.

Those of us in SP (Special Programs) are having to work next week, but everyone else in OWP has the whole week off and the vast majority of people are travelling. Glenn and I had originally planned to go to the Philippines, but this was back when we were still considered to be in OWP. Anyway, because there are a few of us who aren’t going anywhere for the holiday, we’re getting together Monday night for a potluck dinner. Tomorrow, there is a Korean cultural festival going on in Seoul that a few of us EVers are planning to go to. Sunday, Glenn and I will probably go to a party with my friend, Steve (the one from my hometown who is also working in Paju).

It’s been such a great week and I think the weekend will be awesome, too. I’ll take more pictures and post them next week.

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone!

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2 Responses to The VIP of SP

  1. Harlan and Edna waltz says:

    Dear Rachel,
    Have been reading your blog. Find it extremely interesting. Looking forward to your next blog, and wishing you well.

    Love, Uncle Harlan and Aunt Edna.

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