Part 3: The Decision

Read Part 1 & 2 here.

Part 3: The Decision

The big day had finally arrived. It was Tuesday morning. After months of preparing, worrying, and excitement, it was time to make a decision. It was 6:30am. I knew that in the next 12 hours, my life would change, hopefully for the better.

I had my interview at 8am with the school in Singapore. I waited anxiously outside the interviewer’s room at 7:50am. I tried to stay calm. For the next hour or so, I answered questions for a good 4o minutes. Then, I had a chance to ask a few more questions. As the interview was wrapping up, he asked me what my time line was like.

I explained that there were two other schools that I was considering and I would have to make a decision by the end of the day. He told me that he wanted me to Skype with the two elementary school principals who were in Singapore later that day. He also let me know that he would do his best to make a decision quickly.

I received an e-mail from the principal in Singapore when I got back to my room. We were going to Skype at 2pm. Then, I went to a second interview with another school at 10am. I ended up getting the job offer with this school and they wanted me to give them a decision by 4pm!

I came back to my room, weighing the possibilities in my head, the choice would be super easy if I was offered the job in Singapore, but I still had one more interview left with them. All I could hope was that I would get an offer from the school in Singapore before 4pm. I would have to tell the other two schools I was deciding between by 4pm.

I paced in my small hotel room overlooking Bangkok. Which school should I go to? Would I even get the offer from Singapore? Which school and country would I be most happy in? I needed clarity. I had about 2 hours until my Skype interview. I attempted to eat some lunch and ordered room service. I tried to do some last minute prep for the interview. I kept wondering if the principal like me. Skype interviews were always a bit more awkward and harder than face to face interviews. I could only hope that there wouldn’t be any technical difficulties.

Two o’clock rolled around, I heard the signature Skype ring from my computer. The interview lasted a good 30 minutes. At the end, she said that she would recommend to the superintendent that I would be hired! I couldn’t believe it. All I needed now was the official offer. I told her that it would be best if they could contact me immediately. I knew that the superintendent was also in the middle of interviewing other people. I had an hour and half left.

It was three o’clock, and I received the e-mail from the superintendent. He offered me the fifth grade position! I couldn’t believe it! However, I still did not know any of the details of the salary or benefits of my package. We agreed to talk at 4pm about the contract details.

I decided to tell the other two schools that I would not be taking their offer. One was a 6th grade math/science position and the other was a 6th grade English position. I knew in my heart, I wasn’t ready to leave the fifth grade and especially reading and writing workshop quite yet.

I was a pretty emotional time telling the other two schools I would not take the offer. It was surprising, but it felt kind of like a breakup. You’ve made a certain bond and connection with the school and administrators over the short time, and it’s hard to say that you are going to pick another school. You feel really bad and it’s not like you don’t like their school. Overall, it did go well. Both schools told me to consider them again in the future when I’m ready for a change. They were both so understanding and supportive.

As four o’clock rolled around, I headed to see the superintendent at the school in Singapore. He went over the contract and the benefits.
“So, how much time will you need to make a decision?” He asked, with the crisp contract in his hand. I looked over my copy of the contract carefully.

“I’m ready to sign right now.” I replied with a smile.

“Oh really?! That’s great!” He answered surprised.

Now, the real journey starts, a new country, a new school, a new path.
Night Vision

Singapore Night View @ Marina Bay Sands

Singapore Art Museum

Marina Bay Sands on the Last Day of 2011..

For more slice of life entries, go to two writing teachers.

The e-mail, the job fair and the decision

Part 1: The E-mail

December 2, 2012

“Thank you for your interest in the Grade 5 position. The position is now closed.  We wish to express our appreciation for your time and effort in submitting your application for consideration .

Best wishes in your search.”

I couldn’t believe. My heart sunk. This was the one school I really wanted to teach at. The door was completely shut.  I had about a month until the job fair for international schools that was taking place in Bangkok. I decided at this point to let go of Singapore and the school. I thought this was a sign that God wanted me to go somewhere else. Perhaps China? Maybe stay in Korea?

I wasn’t looking forward to the job fair anymore. I didn’t really have any other second choices in terms of countries or schools I really wanted to work in. I would find a great school, but then the country they were in was not as desirable. However, I knew that I had to continue to stay open. I never wanted to come to Korea four years ago.

The week before the job fair, I did two Skype interviews with other schools. As the fair approached, I received another e-mail from a school saying that they wanted to interview me at the job fair. Finally, I was starting to feel a little wanted after months of hearing nothing.

I saw that on the school website that there were actually now two fifth grade openings at my dream school in Singapore! I couldn’t believe it. However, I didn’t hear anything from the school. They had my application, and it seemed pointless to e-mail them. I knew they would contact me if they were interested. Like good dating advice I heard, he’s just NOT that into you, if he doesn’t call you. So, I just sat and waited.

Part 2: The Job Fair

When I arrived in Bangkok on Saturday. I was contacted by one of the administrators I skyped with for an interview on Sunday morning before the fair started. The interview went well. The principal seemed like a great administrator to work with. I was excited about this possibility. They offered me the 6th grade math/science position and even gave me time to think about it. It was Sunday, I had until Tuesday afternoon to let them know.

After putting my resume in the various folders for about 10 different schools, I started getting messages back for interviews. Still nothing from my dream school.

After going out to dinner, I arrived back to our hotel and thought I should check my mail box again. Then, I saw it. A small white envelope. Inside, it was postcard sized note from my dream school in Singapore and a USB. The superintendent wanted an interview me for a fifth grade position!

As I ran up to my hotel room, I had a few messages on my machine. Two messages were from the school in Singapore, asking about an interview! I called him back immediately and scheduled the interview for the next morning at 10am.

The USB had a video clip about the school and a few pdf files of their school magazine. I immediately watched the video and I couldn’t help but fall in love a bit more with the school. I did some more research on the school and tried to get a good night sleep.

I woke up early on Monday and got ready for my interviews. I was in my crisp blue and white pin striped button down with navy blue dress pants and black high heels. I was ready.

After many different interviews, a whole range of questions on my practice, teaching philosophy, interactions with students, parents & administrators and more, I was tired and stressed out. All day, I was trying to read people, getting a sense of the school, looking interested and coming up with quick answers. It was exciting, but exhausting.

The interview with the school in Singapore went well, and the superintendent wanted to schedule a second interview on Tuesday morning. This was going to be 1 hour long, and the first 40minutes he would asked me detailed and specific questions about my teaching. The last part of the interview, I would have a chance to ask questions. My interview was at 8am on Tuesday.

As the evening rolled around, I had a lot on my mind. I had received one offer from a school I wasn’t really that interested in. I had another second interview tomorrow with another really great school.   However, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to move to that country. Plus, I had the second interview with my dream school in Singapore. My options were starting to open up, but time was running out.

Stay tuned for Part 3: The Decision

View from our hotel window

Bangkok @ night!

Enjoying Thai food.

For more slice of life entries, go to Two Writing Teachers.

Study+ study + study = Smarter students?

It was new year’s day, and I was gathered for dinner at my aunt’s apartment in Seoul. One of my cousin’s kid, who is in 8th grade, was sitting in the living room with a notebook in hand. It turned out that he was working on his math homework. Not for school, but for his hagwon (academy that Korean students go to after school and on weekends).Then, one of my relatives suggested he get help from my brother and I.

As we looked at the four problems, trying to understand the Korean and the math was a struggle. I had no idea how to solve the problem, as my high school precalculus knowledge was pretty rusty. My brother, the math teacher, seemed to understand better what the problem was asking. In the end, we weren’t much help. About 15 minutes later, before we started eating dinner, he left the apartment, as his father drove him home. He wanted to go home and study more.

There are some “good” aspects of the Korean hagwons. If you are spending more time studying more, you are going to be able to reach advanced levels of high school/college math while you are in middle school. You can also get exposed to harder science as well. I have some students (fifth graders) who are really into chemistry and were recently talking about the periodic table of elements and showed me this cool IPAD application they had on the periodic table. We don’t cover that in the fifth grade curriculum at my school. They had learned about it in their science academies that they go to.

During these past four years of teaching here in Korea, and also growing up with Korean parents, I have learned a lot about the education philosophy and system of Korea. It is interesting to look at the PISA 2009 test results and compare how different the education system in Finland differs from Korea.

Well Korea is obviously doing something right. The PISA 2009 results show that Korea had higher overall scores in reading and math than Finland. Finland had higher scores in science though. These scores are higher than the USA and many other countries. What I’ve seen first hand is an emphasis and importance on school. I can’t say the importance is actually on learning, but more on doing well on the standardized tests and college entrance exams.

This emphasis is seen in how hagwons (academies) in Korea are found in every corner where there are people living. There are academies for almost everything, from sports, musical instruments, academic subjects, arts and crafts, languages and other talents. There are academies for little kids to adults. People are always trying to “learn” something. The hagwons are a booming business, as many families spend thousands of dollars a year on sending their kids to multiple hagwons.

I’ve had multiple conversations with my students’ parents about hagwons. Many of them feel pressure to send their kid to a hagwon because everyone else is doing it, from at least kindergarten age. Some of the parents that grew up abroad in America and other countries are less willing to send their kids to hagwons. However, after a few years, many of them succumb to the hagwon culture as they feel like their child is falling “behind” their peers.

The common belief in Korea seems to be that the more students are studying, the smarter they will be. I can’t say that I disagree with that, but after learning more about the Finland school system, I believe that good learning isn’t always from studying more. The Finland school system has kids studying less hours than the Korean students. 30 minutes of homework a day in Finland is amazing. Most Korean students go to hagwons, that probably give more homework than their actual school. Many of my students say that they couldn’t do my homework because they had too much hagwon homework.

Korean students have vacation camps at school where they “study” for a few weeks during winter and summer vacations. Many students also go to intensive hagwons during their vacations. This is of course in addition to going to hagwons after their daily school during the week. There had to be a new law passed recently in Korea, saying that students couldn’t stay in hagwons after 10pm.

Yes, Korean kids in general are performing well on these PISA exams compared to students from all over the world, but that doesn’t really measure whether these students are truly learning and valuing education. The Koreans have a lot to learn from Finland’s education system. They seem to be way more efficient with their time.

j o y.

2012 has seemed to snuck up on me. I mean I knew that the end of the year was almost here with Christmas rolling on by, but I never seem fully ready for it.  As a teacher, I naturally categorize the beginning of the year in August when the school year starts, and the end of the year in June when school ends. So I always kind of forget that our actual year ends in December, and I should be thinking of new year’s resolutions.

Since Stacey posted about having one little word for the new year on the two writing teachers blog, I’ve been trying to think of what my word should be. It’s always hard to narrow down your hopes and goal for a year into one little word. However, in the process I’ve came up with 3 words that I think are important for me this year:

  • freedom
  • love
  • joy

Out of these three words, I’m choosing j o y as my one little word! I feel like 2011 was a pretty amazing year for me in many ways. I grew a lot as a teacher, friend, and sister. I made some important decisions about my career and really deepened a lot of amazing friendships I have in Seoul and NY.

Even though this past year was really great, it was also really busy. I think that in a lot of ways, I lost sight of the joy I have in doing these things because I was more focused on getting things done than really enjoying the moment.

One of the definitions for joy in the dictionary is a source or cause of delight. I want to rediscover in 2012 my joy for teaching. I want it to be more than just a job. I want it to be something that gives me joy daily. I want to give my students joy in their journey as learners. I’m not really sure what that will look like practically every day, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out along the way.

I’m also hoping that I can experience more joy, not only in my teaching, but in my relationships, family and spiritual life.  I want to really delight in all the amazing people and blessings that God has placed in my life.

Here are some things I’ve found j o y in 2012 already!

Spending time with my brothers who like to take photos like me!

Spending time with my friends who do crazy things. Ok, this is not that crazy though.

Spending new year's with my extended family!

Fry pan chicken, deep conversations & melody JOY welton!

Hanging out with my brother in person!!

Starting a new teaching blog with an amazing, talented, and self confident friend!

What is your one little word for 2012?

For more slice of life entries go to two writing teachers! I hope some of you will join this amazing writing community this year. 🙂