Friday, October 18, 2019

Korean Sister School's Educational Visit

KMJH’s Official YouTube Channel’s Coverage

Doing a DAMN GOOD job with two ceremonies, eight classes, and two homestays for the sister school partnership between Kyungpook National University Middle School and Taichung Municipal Kuang-Ming Junior High School

Yes, I dared to say I fulfilled my promise to make this exchange meaningful and full of fond memories. The Korean principal, my counterpart, and many colleagues' genuine feedback would back that up. Also, from the MOU signing, host family recruiting, to both welcome and farewell ceremonies, I learned everything from scratch, in which I especially took great pride.
Of course, I can't pull this off by myself. Never before, I got great help from the Academic Office, General Affairs Office, and some other staff members with logistics support this time, complete with some colleagues' help with lesson planning for the English campus news, bubble milk tea, room escape, and dance exchange. 

Welcome Ceremony

Taiwanese host parents, students, KMJH's staff members, along with the Korean delegates from Daegu, took part in the ceremony. Secondary Education Chief, both principals and the president of KMJH's parents' association, took turns giving a speech to kick off this three-day international exchange. 

The setup of the ceremony, including the national flags of Taiwan and Korea, the banner and posters, and name tags of the students, indicated we warmly welcomed our partners from KNU Middle School.

What made it a lot more meaningful was that the very next day was our sister school's birthday. The very first sister school in KMJH's history came for an educational exchange on its birthday. How about that?

The Homestay

As one of the host parents myself, I could not thank my partners enough. Together we made the very first sister school's visit in KMJH's fifty-year history unique and memorable. For that, I was truly proud of what we achieved.

Based on all the beautiful photos in our LINE group, our host parents did live up to the reputation that Taiwanese people are super nice and friendly to foreigners. They came up with all sorts of activities to introduce the beauty of Taichung City. On top of that, The host parents exchanged ideas of what would be a welcome souvenir for their young Korean guests to bring back home.

We invited the host parents to a meeting one week before the Korean delegates' arrival. I could not stress safety enough and even requested them to apply for a no-criminal certificate from local police stations. Not only that, I asked the host students to write an e-mail to their Korean counterparts, giving a simple self-introduction and expressing their hospitality. 

A Full-Day Course

The thinking behind of lesson planning is that I divide all students into five groups, with both Korean and Taiwanese students mixed in each one. I also want to incorporate cultural differences, hands-on tasks, the use of English, and the unique characteristics of KMJH and Taichung into the course. 

1. Earthquake Exercise

My Korean counterpart said we could not emphasize safety too much, and I agreed with her. Also, it would be a good idea that the Korean students took a walk around the campus after we got to the designated spot in the playground. 

How not to make the students bored with the drill? Well, I got two students from each school to demonstrate how it was done. Then, we practiced the three-step exercise, including drop, cover, and hold on. Following that, we gathered outside of the classroom and proceeded to the playground. Finally, we did a headcount to complete this task. 

2. Being Different Is Beautiful

Taiwan and Korea are not far away from each other, but we have so many interesting cultural differences. After watching a few Korean YouTubers based in Taiwan talking about their biggest cultural shocks, I think it would be fun for those students to do some compare and contrast. 

And I was right. We did scooter waterfall, girls riding scooters, how students greet their teachers, whether to hold up the bowel to eat, to name just a few. The way Koreans bow to the seniors worked best because I got some Korean students to demonstrate, and then Taiwanese students followed suit. 

3. Reader's Theater

I was proud to show off another bragging right for our sister school bring home, the Junior High Reader's Theater Competition of Taichung City. We have won numerous awards and prepared to win another next month. 

I first introduced what would make an excellent RT performance. Each reader uses their pronunciation, intonation, and emotion, or PIE, to bring the story alive. Then, we practiced rising and falling tones, complete with connected speech. Next, I called on some students to present a short dialogue. Last but not least, the school RT team gave an excellent example of how this should be done. 

4. KMJH Campus English News

Alex and his students fully prepared for this activity. They not only made an English speaking video to introduce a typical Taiwanese school life but had the recording setup and interview questions ready. Korean students rotated three stations, which were the library, the playground, and Classroom 818, to make the videos. 

Students from Class 818 had the camera, microphone, and even a clapboard to call "action." To top it off, they made the "follow me" signpost to guide the Korean students to the next station. They considered many factors for sure. Once they complete the editing, I'll also send the link to Kim. 

5. How to Conduct a Skype Session

The purpose of this class is to demonstrate how creating such an authentic environment can help extend our learning experience without leaving the country. Once again, Jessica made a great teammate in a situation like this. 

I first talked about why Skype sessions worked well to help students use English to know each other, introduce school life and the beauty of their hometown. Next, the setup is not complicated at all because you only need an internet connection and a laptop. To have better audio and video quality, you then consider an external webcam, mic, and speaker. 

The Korean students stood in a line and asked Jessica a question. Following that, they came to the camera to talk about themselves, with Jessica's following-up questions. 

6. Experiencing KMJH's Homemade Escape Room

Thanks to Cyuan-jin's help, who built a homemade escape room from scratch, using used desks and chairs to establish compartments. Under his guidance, gifted students designed riddles and came up with stories to complete a full-scale escape room, which got media coverage then. 

My colleague first introduced how he got the idea of building an escape room. Then he used some props to explain how to find clues and break the codes. To my surprise, those Korean students were quick to get the job done. After that, we went to Mark 2 on the fifth floor to experience a bit. Kim told me that students back in KNU Middle School also interested in building one in the classroom.  

This was also a brand new experience for me, for the class was conduct in three languages, including Chinese, English, and Korean. My colleague was quite happy about the Korean students' response, too. 

7. Making Bubble Milk Tea from Scratch

Before this visit to my school, Lilia and her students came up with the recipe and did it twice to get a better result. It paid off all right. 

I began the class with a PPT presentation about how Taichung earned the recognition as the birthplace of the world-renowned bubble milk tea. Next, I presented three features that made it special. Then, I showed them how to order one in English, including a custom-made amount of ice and sweetness level. 

Lilia's students then skillfully got the ingredients ready. I was amazed by how they used tapioca starch and brown sugar to cook the edible pearls. They then proceeded to prepare the sugar water and milk. A nice cup of bubble milk tea was ready to serve. 

Principal Li and my counterpart spoke highly of this hands-on class. I couldn't thank Lilia enough for working with me to conduct such an exciting lesson. 

8. The Dance Exchange

I will remember the moment that both Taiwanese and Korean students together did a Taiwanese indigenous dance. They were willing to chat with each other using the target language. 

Students from the sister school performed a traditional Korean fan dance, with the students wearing "hanboks." Of course, the next was the popular K-POP MV dance. The students from the seventh-grade Dance Class were screaming and shouting to welcome our guests from Daegu. 

Following that, Taiwanese students showcased their graceful carriage with fancy dance moves. Their teacher kept saying this was for basic training only, but I failed to see how fundamental it was supposed to be. They were absolutely amazing. 

Then they taught their Korean counterparts some basic moves of a Taiwanese indigenous dance to a pop song by the most famous Taiwanese aboriginal singer, A-Mei 張惠妹. When everybody held hands and formed big circles to perform the dance, I was delighted to see the smiles on their faces. 

During the break, all the students were chatting with each other. They sat in circles, laughing and smiling again. I thought to myself this was IT. This moment said it all. I'd love to remember it for a very long time because I saw the true meaning of international exchange. 

The Farewell 

It was sad to say good-bye. Right after the ceremony, I didn't know why but opened my arms and gave Kim a big hug. After the countless back-and-forth communication via email, Line messages, and phone calls, we finally made it this far. Knowing she will transfer to another school next year, I couldn't help getting sentimental. She was such a great partner to work with. Kim, if you're reading this, I meant it from the bottom of my heart. 

The ceremony went well with speeches from two principals and the president of the parents' association. Hu invited everybody else to reflect on this exchange, including every one of the Korean students. 

We exchanged gifts. Mr. Ke gave them some popular Taiwanese snacks that were highly recommended among Korean tourists. Principal Hu gave the students a miniature KMJH school bag. 

In conclusion, when Kim said, "You know you really did a good job, right?" I replied, "Yes, I did a really DAMN GOOD job." 

I was a mediocre homeroom teacher. My students did not get the best scores on tests. However, when it comes to challenges like this, I'm sure I'm second to none. Why? I am capable of teaching in English. Also, I'm good at task-based lesson planning. Moreover, I love cross-cultural communication, and it helps me think of intriguing activity ideas. 

Last but not least, it felt so good to have actual support from the director of the Academic Office. I did not feel alone doing all these by myself anymore. When I need help with logistics, I know who to turn to. Not only that, she thinks ahead and then takes care of things. 

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