How to Survive a Long Flight – An Allegorize Magazine Featured Article

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Some of my favorite tips for a long flight can be found at Allegorize Magazine!  Check out allegorize.com or follow the link below.

http://www.allegorize.com/#!How-to-Survive-a-Long-Flight/c1nni/54e300c30cf2d691d1f7f5cf

Teaching ESL in the USA

…and Alissa Teacher is officially back in action!

I recently flew down to Miami from Detroit to interview for a job teaching ESL …and I landed the job!

I’m currently sitting in a South Beach party hostel scouring over tomorrow’s lesson plans and I honestly couldn’t be more excited!  I never thought I’d get the opportunity to teach English in America, but here I am in Miami – apartment shopping!

The only difference I’m seeing with my past job in Korea verses teaching English in the US is that lessons here are centered around adult students.  I’m having a hard time transitioning my quirky teaching style to fit a more formal and mature approach.

Any adult ESL teachers out there – I am happy to take some pointers!

Lesson One: Travel Dialogue

Lesson One: Travel Dialogue

How to Travel on a Tight Budget

http://www.allegorize.com/#!5-Ways-to-Travel-on-a-Tight-Budget/c1nni/54cc664b0cf26e5660843c7d

Here’s a sneak peak at what I’ve been working on lately.  In this published article, I talk about some of my favorite budget travel tips.  Take a look and support me!  Thanks fellow bloggers!

http://www.allegorize.com/#!5-Ways-to-Travel-on-a-Tight-Budget/c1nni/54cc664b0cf26e5660843c7d

Why I Left Korea

I know I have no need to explain myself, I’m only publicly recording this because I want others to see the truth.  If you are considering teaching English in Korea, thoroughly investigate what you are getting into before you jump, I know there are wonderful schools out there.

My last posts I hinted about staying or leaving in Korea.

I can finally muster up the courage to say I am writing this from home: the USA.

For weeks, even months I was so up in the air about what to do.  I loved my job and I adored the kids and began to realize that this was something I want to continue and pursue as a professional career.  The only downside, it was basically a volunteer job.  My co-workers and I worked without seeing our pay…for months.  We all kept telling ourselves, “We’re never NOT paid” or “They will eventually pay us what they they owe.”  Now that I think of it, I was never paid on time from the moment I arrived in Korea, it only kept getting progressively worse.

My breaking point came on April 7th.  The week prior, I had asked Michael (I guess you could refer to him as a manager) when I would get paid.  He could not even look me in the eye when I came into his classroom and asked for my money.  His reply as he looked out the window, “YOU will be paid on Monday but I don’t know about the other teachers.”  His response infuriated me, not only did he neglect to look me in the eye, but he was also playing favorites.  So, I went and told my co-workers exactly what he told me because they deserved to know just as much as I did.

Well, that Monday came around and nothing appeared in my account.  I was down to my allotted emergency fund, just enough to get a plane ticket if anything horrible ever happened.  It was something I thought I would never have to use.  After waiting the entire school day, I marched down to Michael’s classroom and turned on my phone to record everything.  Michael came in and I told him I had a plane ticket for the following week and wanted the $5,000 the school owed me for my work the past few months.  He got up from his seat and said,

“Tell that to the labor board” and walked out on me.

At that point, I got up from my seat and out of nowhere my outrage and fury stopped him when I said,

“DO YOU KNOW HOW UNACCEPTABLE, UNPROFESSIONAL, and ILLEGAL THIS IS SCHOOL IS?!  IT’s ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING!” Then I walked out.

I have never worked for a more unprofessional company in my entire life and I’m writing this post so that anyone out there conisdering work at TN English will reconsider.  If you want a volunteer job and to be treated like a dispensable individual, then by all means…indulge!

After the meeting, I ran up to my classroom and was shaking with such anger.  I have never been more disgusted with the lying and unfairness of an individual or a whole institution.  Michael eventually thought I was going AWOL and requested I sign a whole bunch of documents saying so.  He wanted me to resign from my position.

I thought this was absolutely absurd and instead of giving him the chance to make me look like I was the awful person….I left that night.  With the help of some friends, I traded in my plane ticket for the following week for that night.  I quickly packed all of my belongings into my two suitcases and ran.

I do not regret a second of it.

What I do regret is not saying goodbye to my students.  I would walk into work every morning wondering why I’m even putting in the effort, then Howie and Jake would come running with HUGE smiles and shout, “GOOD MORNING, TEACHER!”  That made working for free bearable at least for a few months.

You have to respect yourself enough to know when to say you deserve better.  On April 7th, I decided my respect for myself far outweighed any reputation I would leave in Korea, so I ran and I ran like hell.

Play Doh Pandas and Big Butts

Today in activity class, I was getting the supplies together for our play doh activity.

As I walked out of the classroom, I heard Sally yell, “Alissa Teacher!”

“Yes, Sally?”  

“You have a thick butt.”

I just stood in the doorway for a few seconds as it all registered in my head.  What did this six year old little girl just tell me?

As I stood there, she quickly added, “But you have an amazing body!  You are small but you have a thick butt.”

She said this all so seriously and genuinely, I couldn’t help but laugh.  

It’s also worth noting, her word choice was thoroughly thought out as she refuses to use the word “fat” because it has a negative connotation.

These children amaze me with their genuine, yet thorough understanding of the world around them…and at SUCH young ages!  It’s so awesome (in every sense of this word) to watch them grow each day.

I came back with all the supplies for our play doh pandas and showed the girls a picture of what we were about to make.

Sally again piped up, “Teacher, I think this is going to be way too hard for us.”  

That’s when I told her: “It might look hard, but we are going to make pieces and stick those pieces together to make the whole panda.  Just watch, it will be easy.”

A half hour later, all the pieces were in one place and we had Polly the Panda, Cutie the Panda, and Cutie the Panda number 2.  

In retrospect, that activity reminded me a lot of my mom.  She always tells me to take things a bit at a time rather than crossing bridges before I come to them.  Life’s little lessons and priceless moments….I’m thankful for them all.

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Sally, me, Olivia, and Daisy all posing with our pandas!

TN English Gwangju: The Brutal Truth

Enough beating around the bush.  I’m over writing passive aggressive status updates.  If I get in some kind of trouble for writing this good, it means that I have a decent reading base and I’m capable of satisfactory social media.

The facts need to be known.  I spent the last week scouring the internet for any possible information on this school and I only found a few bad reviews on well known ESL websites and a blog from three years ago, so at least this school has been consistent.

The facts?

As of this week:

  • Tn English has not paid their English teachers for half of the month of January, all of the month of February and come April 15th they will owe us for the entire month of March.  Teachers are paid monthly.  I’m ready to start charging some interest or something!
  • The school currently has six English teachers and one was recently hired last week, the school currently owes five of these teachers thousands of dollars each.
  • The Korean staff also hasn’t been paid.
  • The school lost around eight students this week for various reasons.
  • The school recently fired the cleaning lady and now the teachers are responsible for vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, trash, and any other cleaning within their own classrooms.  No, we are not paid for this extra work.  And no, this work was not in my contract.
  • We really don’t get vacation days even though the contract states we get several days of vacation in addition to Korean holidays.
  • The school has not paid rent on some of the teachers’ living quarters.
  • Sick days?  You better be on your death bed and have a doctors note from the hospital.
  • Management has conducted individual meetings with all English teachers and told us to keep quiet and not tell the others what they told us in our meetings, like they were offering each of us some sort of secret special deal.

They can tell me to keep quiet all they want, but I will make my blog as publicly accessible as possible and tag as much of their lies and wrong doings for all the world to see.

***It’s worth noting not all hagwons are this bad.  I have many friends within the Gwangju area who are completely happy with their company and are treated wonderfully.  Also, my recruiter has done an amazing job getting me in contact with relevant resources and keeping record of all the wrong-doings from the school.  I truly don’t know what I’d do without the guidance from my huge support system at Teach ESL Korea.

I think my story goes without saying, PLEASE research your schools before accepting a contract.

Modern Day Moses Miracle: The Jindo Sea Parting

A miracle: something that seems impossible but happens anyway.

General life advice.

General life advice.

Science explains the “miracle” is a result of extra low tides (click here for an actual National Geographic explanation), but either way the Jindo sea parting festival was an incredible experience not only to walk the path but to see sea life that I’ve only ever read about in books.  As we trudged through the miraculous path, we found some areas not completely clear.  At times, we found ourselves sinking quickly into thigh-high waters.

A Korean news crew followed us.

A Korean news crew followed us.

A starfish!  We threw it back into the water.

A starfish! We threw it back into the water.

One of the coolest experiences was being one of the first people out there.  We were followed by Korean news crews daring enough to bring cameras into the sea.  While locals followed beside us gathering the freshest seafood to cook and sell, we just tried to keep on the path to make it to Modo Island.

A seafood pancake full of seaweed, squid, and other goodies!

A seafood pancake full of seaweed, squid, and other goodies!

Unfortunately, the tide came in quickly and we weren’t able to make it completely to Modo Island, but we were part of the group that was furthest from the main island.  We followed the warning calls and went back to land before we were completely swallowed up by the tide…and it came in quickly.  I’m writing this blog post two days after the fact, and my legs still hurt from walking against the strong current during the walk in.  On my way back, my thigh-high boots filled with water so I was also sloshing around in my boots.

We all made it back to land and pulled our boots off to find we had taken parts of the sea with us;  I literally POURED water out of my boots!  As I sat on the stairs and poured out my boots, I watched the last of the daring souls get rescued because they didn’t take the warning whistles seriously.

So much for the thigh high flood boots.

So much for the thigh high flood boots.

The Jindo sea parting festival has got to be one of my most memorable experiences here.  If anyone reading this is interested, I went with an awesome tour guide and I’ve done several trips with him before.  Pedro Kim rented out several comfortable buses and took us to several locations on the island, including a Jindo dog show!

In spite of the circumstances at work, I’m glad that my co-workers and I still have these moments to appreciate.

One thing is for sure, I’ve found a whole new love for nature while living in Korea.  From gorgeous mountaintops to sea parting adventures, we live in one amazing and awe-inspiring world.

Moses status!  This was toward the middle of the sea!

Moses status! This was toward the middle of the sea!

April Fools!

Maybe this whole “not getting paid in months” debacle is just one really big April Fool’s joke and all the money they owe us will just appear tomorrow morning!  

Now I feel like an irrational child on Christmas eve waiting for Santa to deliver my cotton candy tree house.

We shall see…

Off to sleep and dream of sugar plums.

Care for a Lemon?

When life gives you lemons, you have several options: tequila shots, lemon tea, freshly squeezed lemonade or maybe even grill some salmon and drizzle the sweet and sour goodness all over a feast.

But really, that is one thing I keep telling myself.  Right now, I feel like I’m at the tip of a cliff determining whether to jump or to run the other way, but that’s just it…I have options.

  • One can simply wait.  Patience is the greatest virtue, right?  There’s always that age old saying, “Good things come to those who wait.”
  • One can fight back.  Think of it like a challenge.
  • One can run and never look back.  I’m getting really good at walking out with my head held high and my dignitity in one piece.

 

As for the path I’ll choose, I’ll keep the world posted.  Stay tuned for more updates on my ever changing life.