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밥 맛이야! Lobotronic in Korea

Lobotronic/Ally, 26, Canadian. I live in a small city in rural South Korea. I teach Middle school English. I study Korean as a hobby and for my future. I'm aiming to work in translation, interpretation, and curriculum materials development-- that is to say, I want to write English textbooks that don't suck!

I like comics, sci-fi, boardgames, foreign languages, reading,writing novels, weightlifting, roller derby, k-pop, and cute things. This blog is LGBT friendly.

Posts tagged EPIK

Aug 27 '14

old and new

My replacement has never taught before…bless her heart. the kids are going to eat her alive. the current lineup of co-teachers is great, but none of them were here 2 years ago when I was just starting….let me tell you people…I am now a semi-capable teacher, but when I just started I was shit. I had bad timing, my lessons were too hard or simply disorganized…nothing flowed. My transitions were akward and I had zero classroom management skills. oh god. It was not good. 

I’ve figured my shit out now, but it took over 1.5 years before I could  objectively call myself a decent teacher. I still make mistakes, and occasionally I have flop lessons, but I’m a good teacher overall. Mostly it’s about effort. I actively improved myself and learned from my failures (…so many failures…soooo maaaany…ughhhh)

I wrote the new girl an 8-page letter detailing the things no one ever told me—moving around to each homeroom, with no luxury of a fixed English zone; which kids are lazy and which are actually malicious when acting out; what kind of format the students react to best during lessons; which games to always play and which games to avoid….etc. I hope it helps.

I got my new schedule for uni. I’m…feeling…guilty. I knew uni jobs were cushy, but this is…….ridiculous.

I took a pay cut of about 400k a month to get this job, and it’s worth it. I have back-to-back classes from 7:30am~12:20pm, Monday through Thurs. I can leave as soon as all my classes are finished—no deskwarming means I work 5 hours a day. I never work Fridays! There are classes during vacation time, but they’re real classes and not “camps”. (I cannot describe in words how excited I am to never have to waste my time with English camp ever again..)

I’m planning to use all my free time to get up to TOPK 5 by January, and TOPIK 6 by next November. Not to mention all the hours I can put in a the gym. Gogogo!

Aug 18 '14

well then

I thought this was my last week, but apparently since my contract “finishes” on Monday, I still have to come in and teach on Monday. so awkward for the kids who are really confused as to why I am still here.  new NET comes on Tuesday, fresh off orientation with no idea what the hell is happening.

I’ve run out of ideas and the energy to care about lessons right now. wtf am I going to teach?

And then on Thursday of next week they are having a farewell dinner for me, which is very kind and sweet and lovely but I don’t….want it. I’m not sure how to express this. They’ve done nothing bad to me and I’m leaving on great terms. I just… want to go away and be done with it. I don’t like being the center of attention at dinners or parties. and I know the other teachers probably just want to go home to their families…

Just gotta get through. in other news, my severance pay is a nice chunk of change that I can use to buy a car. veryvery exciting. it’s even a tiny bit more than I was expecting! so good.

Apr 4 '14

Pros and cons….looooong post.

The time to decide whether to renew, transfer to cheongju, or move to gyeonggido is approaching. I still have no idea what to do. Ughhh.
I like my schools. But maybe I should grab that nice hagwon job. I need to weigh my options so imma post about it.

OPTION 1: Stay in Current city for my third year in Korea.
PROS: good rapport with rural school. Boxing gym. Volunteer work. Friends. Quiet and calm city. Not having to move. Familiar routine and environment after 2 years. Easy to renew. Renewal bonus and 1 week renewal vacation.

CONS: 1.5 hours from boyfriend. Main school students make my life hell. Small and boring city. No Korean classes. I feel guilty about leaving and am honestly trying to find reasons to go. I actually dislike my main school sooo much.

OPTION 2: Move to Cheongju
PROS: same province, so EPIK renewal is easy. Renewal bonus and reneweal vacation. Good friends….Good friends who have an apartment for me available to rent. Korean classes at YMCA. Big city with more stores and nightlife. More foreigners. Big city life/ people is very different from countryside life/ people.

CONS: new school might suck. 1.5 hours from boyfriend. Adjust to living in a strange city. Might have to work at a city middle school which can mean bad students. Have to move all my shit. Big city, but still in the countryside area of Korea.

OPTION 3: Hagwon job in gyeonggido
PROS: same salary as I make now. Little to no lesson prep. Hours 11~7:30 suit my sleep cycle. Small classes. No more useless deskwarming and shitty camps. New experience. Same city as boyfriend (!!♥). Less than 1 hour by bus to many parts of Seoul. Big city means Korean classes. Close to roller derby. More interesting nightlife. Access to good stores and activities. Quitting EPIK gives me my severance pay of 2 years.

Cons: Even a good quality hagwon can be stressful. New city might not be fun. Korean classes might not fit my schedule. Quitting EPIK will mean reapplying in the future requires new docs (annoying). I might break up with boyfriend (omg nooo). More classes back to back while working. Less vacation. Big change from public to hagwon; I’m scared of regret. Moving all my stuff is annoying.

I am scared of change. I am terrified. But I feel like moving to gyeonggido is the best choice….until my students say something sweet or my coteachers give me a hug, and then I want to stay.

Part of me is scared that one of my reasons for wanting to move is for my boyfriend, which is usually a bad move. But if he is just one of many reasons, isn’t that okay? I am not some stupid girl in love. I have my own shit I am working towards…it would just be nice to live closer…and being near Seoul while I prepare to try and get into grad school would help.
I love my current city but….there’d always a “but”….

I am just so, so scared to change. I actually wanted to transfer elsewhere for my second year but I got scared and stayed. It has been good but….not that good…!

Mar 28 '14

life updates

update 1: my boyfriend is cute and amazing. <3

update 2: I asked the school that offered me the job to hold it until May, so I can think more. I’m going to gather docs for re-applying, which is a pain in the ass but necessary.

update 3: quit dance hagwon, joined boxing gym. SO HAPPY. Dance was cool but it gave me more stress and I sucked so bad it wasn’t fun. Boxing gym has weight training, crossfit, and sexy trainers who think I am cool. I am SO happy. I look forward to kicking ass every day. Definitely the best choice for me. And it’s a 3-minute walk from my house.

update 4: I need to buy some new clothes soon, because most of my stuff is fall-winter and I can’t survive another summer like this. :/ but I’m probably going to lose some weight if I keep going to the gym every day, so I’m hesitant to buy too many pieces in case they stop fitting. ugh. what to do.


Mar 25 '14

massacred by anxiety. a ramble by moi

One thing you should all know is that I am awful at decision-making. I worry and second-guess myself to the point of sabotage all the time, every time. I go to the same restaurants and coffee shops. I stare at the menu for five minutes, thinking carefully, and then I order the same damn thing every time. dwenjang jigae or soondae or vanilla latte or green tea or americano that is literally all I eat

So about that great job offer. And I mean…it’s great. I’ve compared it to some other contracts/situations I’ve seen and it’s awesome.

but it’s so early. What if I find something better later? Better like a public school. But as far as hagwons go I am not joking when I say this one is the most legit. It ain’t paradise—no job is—but the hours, security, and happiness of current teachers make it an attractive option. the salary is the same as my current one through public school, so no paycut is good news! And it’s in a satellite city of Seoul. I won’t start until September, obviously, but they’ve seriously offered the job now. I could live out the rest of my contract here in Chungju worry free—knowing I have something lined up and solid in September. That is a good feeling.

Buuuuuut. What if I find something else later? Maybe I should wait and apply to GEPIK in June and find a great public school job in gyeonggi-do? But what if I turn down the hagwon job and I DON’T find something good enough? People like to use scare tactics about GEPIK cuts and the end of NETs but there really is a tightening of belts happening. All those qualified middle and high school teachers are now gunning for the elementary schools, and it’s tough.

I am tired of wasting time deskwarming and teaching English camps that no one wants to attend and stressing myself over lessons that the students sleep through and making worksheets from scratch that just get torn and scribbled. I’m tired of fighting with 25 teenage boys or girls just to be ignored. But what if…..?? I don’t know. I know I’m not happy at my school now. I’ll miss my rural school but my main school needs to gtfo. but no one ever has anything good to say about hagwons? Perhaps I am letting others’ opinions sway me too much. I should go with my gut feelings…

I just don’t want to regret anything. I hate change….

Mar 11 '14

smooth sailing? semester rambles. super boring schedule talk.

okay so the semester is NOW off to a start, not like last week which spawned several complainy posts. Sorry! I get really antsy the first semester because simple problems never get solved and everyone seems to forget I exist as a teacher, while simultaneous expecting me to do teacherly things: I can’t do my job unless you tell me what my job is, dear school! But now I have a “fxied” (ha! we’ll see) schedule and I can just settle in and focus on keeping up with lessons.

They’ve finally smartened the fuck up about scheduling. Since I came to Korea, I’ve been teaching ALL the classes—which seems nice and fair, but in reality it means I see every class every other week—last semester I saw the 1st grade classes once every three weeks. That isn’t enough time to do anything of value.

This year they’ve kept me to grade 1+2, middle and high levels. Which means I get to see each class EVERY WEEK and I can spend 2 class hours on my designated 4-5 textbook pages instead of 1 class hour (yes, you understood that correctly—they wanted me to teach 5 pages and include speaking games and activities all in 45 minutes. Hahahah no.)

I have more classes (5-6 a day) compared to before, but I’m satisfied if it means I can finally make connections and develop relationships and remember names. Teaching 700 students is too many. But now I only teach about 300, and I can learn those names!

My rural school is screwed, though—I have six classes total there. Five classes on Thursday, and then on Fridays I have one first-period class. A sweet schedule for sure, with lots of lesson planning time and room for moving classes around (it happens) But then my main school wants me to come back RIGHT AWAY for a 6th period class??? because they randomly stuck it on Friday??? so I have to catch a bus at 7:40 am, teach a single class from 9:30 to 10:15, then catch the bus back to my main school in the city right away. Fuckingfuck. Terrible end to an otherwise decent week.

Other than that, things seem to be falling into place. The students are great but it’s only the 2nd week. We’ll see if it keeps going! Things tend to go downhill after midterms. 

Feb 27 '14

Ch ch ch changes

Big changes are coming this semester. Something like 7~8 new co-teachers, a large number of new intake teachers from EPIK (I am gonna miss my friends….this week was an unusually large exodus of really cool people…) and I am joining a hip hop dance class as well as tutoring a new student. I am also cranking the study dial to an 11 and going all-out in preparation for TOPIK in April. Wish me luck! (yo i’m gonna die.. ㅜㅜ for real..ugh)

My rural school is moving my desk out of the teachers’ office and into the special English classroom!! I finally get to sit in beautiful silence while I work. Fridays I only teach 2 classes which means I get to study and lesson plan ALONE all day. They think I’m crazy but this is the best thing that ever could have happened. I love being alone♥♥♥

My new handler co-teacher at my main school is the guy who lived in England for 8 years. He has never taught before but is motivated and really good at English. And he gets what it is like to be a foreigner so I am excited to complain to him. He is def gonna crash and burn at first (my first semester of teaching was a shit show! We’ve all been there, amirite?) But he is SUCH a nice guy that I am gonna help him as much as I can. Fighting!!

Goals for this year:
~invite co-teachers for dinner and coffee and hiking. Be brave!
~crack down on discipline. You show up to my class with no pencil or textbook? You lose your chair. Don’t fuck with Ally teacher.
~put energy into non-study and non-teaching things like exercise and dance class. Stress relief is 2014 priority.
~get that TOPIK 3~4! Nothing less than 100% of your best efforts.
~don’t hide in your apartment. If someone invites you for dinner, GO. hang out with other expats more often, not just the same 4 people.
~stay cute♥

Oct 16 '13


Yo, anyone on tumblr an EPIK person? do you guys have regional RPDP meetings too? (for those who don’t know, it’s a professional development thing where the native english teachers get together once a month and discuss issues/teaching strategies. we just bitch a lot and talk about who has the worst students and share classroom management tips)

they’re pretty lame and everyone hates them, but sometimes we have nice discussions. I’m ambivalent about them at this point. Mandatory though!

Anyway.. today……….WE HAVE TO BRING A CO-TEACHER.

Which means no snark, no complaining, no sass (no fun~!)….I’m bringing my super friendly co-teacher. Her English is a little weak but she makes up for it with effort and kindness. I’m very curious to see what everyone else’s co-teachers are like.

It feels like show and tell…..

Sep 26 '13

no contest for me!

The GET teaching contest is due on October 18th or something…I didn’t have time to prep my special lesson. This week I have classes at my rural school, but the next three weeks I have none (holiday one week, exam the next, field trip the week after). I don’t want to record a lesson at my main school (eff those troublemakers! XD:), so I guess I’ll skip the contest this year. If I can’t do the lesson with my rural school kids, I don’t want to record at all. They’re all low level, but the key thing is that they legitimately respect me as an educator. Even the sassy kids know that No means No. My main school kids just laugh and through paper. :/ 

It’s just a shame because I definitely am a better teacher than I was a year ago, and I know I could put together something good. My lesson planning process is smoother and less stressful (though it still gives me a bit of a headache sometimes! damn textbooks and their shitty grammar).

My explanations and activities are more interesting. The pacing  of my lessons has improved greatly. I have a long way to go, especially when it comes to maximizing efficiency (still takes me 2 hours to plan and prep a 45-minute lessons sometimes….) without sacrificing originality. I take some stuff off waygook for inspiration and time-saving, but I make my content original in almost every way I can. :D 

I hope to start uploading more lessons to waygook in the future. I’ve made a few that I really like, and I want to start contributing. I’m just so shy…haha~

Sep 13 '13

2013 GET teaching contest

The POE makes us all do a teaching contest every year. Well— they make the NEW people do a contest. Last year I had only been here for 2 months when I had to record a lesson. All new EPIK teachers HAVE TO do it.

I still hadn’t gotten used to my co-teachers and the students, and I was angry about being forced into it (I HATE being forced to do things…) so I half-assed it. The lesson wasn’t terrible—it was just normal. The contest is looking for those big, shiny, everyone laughing and singing, flashy ppt lessons. I’m not saying the GETs who win don’t deserve it, but I know some people who pre-taught everything to ensure a smoother video. Same as with open lessons. Not cool!

I have a choice now, whether or not to participate, and I decided I will. I know I’m a good teacher …sometimes my lessons are awkward but most of the time they’re great. Really! I’ll record it at my rural school, because I don’t use a textbook and therefore have more freedom. Plus the kids are much nicer and calmer than my main school. They actually treat me like a human being…

I’m pretty determined to do a good job this year. Fighting!

Sep 13 '13

when it rains, it pours holidays

Second semester in Korea is always less intense than the first. There are holidays out the wazoo and festivals and field trips and all kinds of shit. So my Thurs-Fri schedule is pretty light in September and October. For example, this year Chuseok gets me Wed-Thur-Fri off.

Then, October 3 is a holiday while October 4th is a school holidy. NO SCHOOL on THURS-FRI!

The week after, Wed. the 9th is a holiday and so I get the day off form my main school, and Thurs+Fri are midterms—deskwarming!

and THEN the next week on the 17th there is a field trip. I do not teach at my rural school until the 18th of October.

I hope I can use the time wisely to plan out all my lessons and continue cramming Korean! I’ve decided to move up to level 4 at the YMCA, and I know I’m a semester behind the other students.

Jul 2 '13

paper pushers

the amount of paperwork involved in korean daily life astounds me.

I was at the bank yesterday and waited 40 minutes for a wire transfer. takes about 5 minutes online. but at the bank they have to triple-check the info, stamp a bunch of stuff, print out more stuff, then send the transfer and wait for it to get accepted. More papers flying everywhere.

School is the worst, though. My co-teachers have no time to teach and plan because they’re just filing papers all day!

even more frustrating is their insistence on perfection. In my eyes, j if youmess up you can just put some fucking whiteout over it, and re-write it! But noooo. They have to print a whole new sheet and make me fill everything in all over again.

And then there’s the endless lesson-plan submission. I will suddenly be given 1-3 hours to come up with 32 hours of classes. Not just lame “titles” like I usually bullshit (and then I don’t even use half the lesson ideas I came up with, and choose other ones)—no, they want a few points about each teaching hour’s content. My bullshit skills are stretched paper thin these days.

When I’m finished they won’t even look at it. It gets filed somewhere in someone’s desk after passing through the VP’s hands (he has no idea what it means). At the end of the year it gets recycled. Useless system.

So you can see why I get irritated. Just now the other teacher saw my line of whiteou0 on the English club attendance sheet and let out a loud gasp. (if you photocopy it, the copy will have no traces of whiteout…just saying…faster than me writing everything over again….)

nope. I have to rewrite. Aish…

May 26 '13

it’s almost midnight and I JUST found a perfect activity for my classes this week. This saves me from doing another boring “get into pairs and make a dialogue” bullshit lesson. I’m trying to be more creative but there are serious limitations when all you have to work with is a stupid textbook. The only clear objective for this lesson is the phrase “I’m sorry to hear that” highlighted in blue. 

I’m going to be using the Sentence Auction activity. If the classes focus and pay attention, it will go well! High level will get a kick out of it, and low level just likes the idea of having money. Crossing my fingers!

Mar 21 '13


I had my mind made up to move to Seoul (or near it) in September.

But I might not be finished here in Chungju. Not yet. I can’t bring myself to commit to the idea of moving. Even though I said I was gonna do it.

This decision wouldn’t be so hard if I didn’t have a boyfriend in Seoul…a boyfriend that I genuinely would like to stay with. But I am just getting into my groove here in this little city. And my #1 goal in the short-term is simply saving money, which I can do anywhere—but especially in a quiet place like this.

My volunteer class is going well. My teaching style is improving. My coteachers continue to be flawless. I’m at a high enough level of Korean that language exchanges are truly beneficial, because I can carry a decent conversation with strangers. Do I really need to go to Seoul just to go to a Korena-language hagwon? I’ve gotten to intermediate level after one year of self-study. I think that’s pretty indicative of what I can continue to do on my own. I can always pay for tutoring.

If I stay another year in Chungju, that’s 2 years experience in Korea. Then when I move to Seoul (which I know I WILL do eventually) I’ll have 2 years on my resume, which helps with finding a nice public school job. The pickings are slim these days. Newbie teachers will have a hard time this fall. But after another year here I will no long be such a newbie.

I really like JB (the bf) but…….I want to stay in Chungju…….and I don’t like this semi-long-distance thing. As of this weekend I haven’t been able to see him for a month. It’s really hard. ㅠㅠ

What the hell am I gonna do?

Mar 7 '13

rural school: freeeeedom

While I’m glad to be rid of those bullshit textbooks, creating original lesson plans for three grades at two different ability levels is no easy task….the third graders are split but the other grades’ high and low level students are in one class again. It’s gonna be tough. And the “high” level students are not even that. At most I’d say they’re intermediate (which is…still not saying much).

My problem is that I have awesome ideas but that’s not enough—it needs to be realistic and applicable. I need to find speaking activities that are easy to learn and adapt to other classes.

This is my chance to create cool lessons from scratch, to prove that I can. god knows I have the time. I think my teaching hours are finally up to 18! Last year I’d be lucky if I got 16. For those with heavy schedules: Cheer up! :D

It’s going to be a good semester. If I follow through with my plan to leave….it may not be as easy as I thought it would be….but I’m gonna prepare myself professionally. My two new coteachers seem really legit and on top of things. It’s extremely comforting. The only drawback is that I have to submit lesson plans, which is fine—keeps me from doing everything last minute. Because I totally do…..:O