Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An American Educator in South Korea

We welcome you to our new series! If you are reading this you have stumbled upon something truly special! Today we proudly introduce to you Maria Mataragas, one of our volunteers (you may remember her as the Fortune Teller at last years Halloween Romp amongst other roles.) We are pleased that Ms. Mataragas has agreed to let us into the life of a traveling education innovator!

Teacher is a position of highest value in all cultures. Every country and person around the world is shaped by the knowledge, passion and kindness of this special group of dedicated individuals! With the economy here in the states leaving something to be desired and less steady jobs available more and more of our recently graduated and young teachers are answering the call of duty in nations across the globe. The lure of steady pay and the adventure of travel can seem almost too good to be true

Maria is a passionate educator whose involvement in teaching has carried her from one side of the Earth to the other. She now makes her home in Gangneung, South Korea, bringing lessons she learned in the states and at the Museum to the upcoming generation of enthusiastic learners! Her love of innovative teaching techniques and hands on learning through engagement makes her a leader of a new generation of teachers! Maria will be contributing articles for us about education & culture. She will also be twittering for us, keeping us all up to date on what's going on in international education and answering any and all of your questions! Check her out www.twitter.com/MariaCME. Without further adieu, here she is!


Education is of special value. Whether it is teaching a large or a small class, the key point of success in education is to have the students trust you. Once trust is placed, everything else is easy.

This is how I felt in America. I was a Title I Reading Tutor in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. The school I instructed was the most beautiful, well organized and above all, caring environment I’ve ever worked in. This school inspired me to become an educator. The love I feel for teaching was equally matched to the love I hold for traveling.

With the recession, my job for Title I Reading was cut. As I joined others for the enormous job hunt, many websites about teaching abroad jumped directly unto my attention. The itch for travel became stronger with every resume, cover letter and email I sent to companies, schools and other businesses. Finally, the decision to teach abroad was apparent. I applied. I got the job. I left.

I teach in Solol (straight pine tree of the sea) Middle School in Gangneung, South Korea. The school is very professional, very strict with guidelines for students to abide. Guidelines such as uniforms, hair length, types of glasses and shoes are targeted and must be followed. Individuality and expressing oneself through creativity is prohibited. Studying for the purpose of exams is education according to my school. If a student breaks the rules punishment is physically severe, something which an American parent would never tolerate.

Korean students have a mounting pressure put upon them due to competitive reputations. South Korea is a community based country; everything is done together and shared. Every family name is known in this association of people and neighborhood. If a child succeeds or fails, the reflection is upon the parent’s ability or inability to provide for their child’s education. The only way to prevent their reputation from being tarnished in the community is to send their children to private schools until the late evening. For example, my students come to school at 8 a.m., stay for an after-school program until 4:30 p.m., then go to a private school for each subject that they are not passing. They don’t go home until 11:30 p.m.

I’m an American and I know what it’s like to be a child and get dirty with scraped knees. That is the spirit of being a child. American children are allowed to run wild with their imaginations, get paint on their cheeks and have gum stuck in their hair. Being a teacher to American children means I get to understand them more, help guide them to achieve any dream they want, as long as they know they can do it. Being a teacher in South Korea, the freedom to choose, the freedom to express, the freedom to get dirty and get to understand the children is not entirely there, because their future is already molded for them. These children are only allowed to study and work. From an American point of view, their childhood is taken away from them; however from a South Korean point of view, their future is being built.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nickelodeon's Parents Choice Awards

Vote for the Children's Museum in Easton at Nick Parents Choice!
It's a happy day! We found out today that we were once again nominated for Nickelodeon's Parents Choice Awards! The Best Local Museum category is a tough one, stacked with serious competitors!

We know we're an underdog but we've always done our best no matter how the odds were against us just like all of you!

Every day is a pleasure to serve you and our community! We can't thank you enough! We would appreciate your vote! Without you and your support everything we do would be useless!

Voting is open until June 15th but that doesn't mean you should wait! Vote now, bookmark it and vote every day! Only you can power us to the top of the rankings!