Intrepid Girl Reporter

that which we call Host Sister…
November 30, 2007, 1:55 pm
Filed under: host sister, Uncategorized

1L (boys) – fun vs. funny

  • I mean they just keep getting better and better
    • except for that kid with the X-Acto knife
  • got to board races and everything
  • also taught Tall Jeong difference between fun and funny (who knew?)

2F (girls) – movie reviews intro

  • reasonably smart but really, really annoying
  • I think girl in back is maybe class scapegoat? watch
  • good participation/less hostility from 80s Ricki Lake (is girl who sits next to her class captain?)
  • WotD: “cinema”

When I was in high school, one of my favorite books to not buy at Barnes&Noble was this name book, which I found to be terribly fascinating and hip with its snide commentary on naming connotations. Admittedly, it’s a little forced and dated now, but I still find myself wishing I had a copy now that I’ve been charged with helping HS rename herself.

IGR: You have an email, right? So when you make friends in America, you can give them your email address and keep in touch when you leave.

HS: I want an American name.

IGR: Oh.

I’m never entirely sure if HS is losing a little bit of nuance in her translations or if she’s just really blunt.

As an ESL teacher, as an American, and as a person, I’ve found the politics of naming to be more than a little dangerous. The problem with renaming people according to one’s own culture is that one risks charges (and cases) of cultural imperialism, especially when the person in question comes from (ahem) the most dominant country in the world. The unspoken corollary is that Your Korean Name is Not Okay, But This American One Is. It’s kind of a problem, especially because America – while its politics are not hugely popular – remains this sort of glamorized dreamland. Even among my savviest kids, there’s no sense of any “Well, I’d really rather go to Sydney or London because it’s a little more diverse and less explored, you know, a little more fashionable” sentiment. I’ve taken an informal straw poll of a lot of them, and when I ask them if they want to go to America they look at me like I’ve asked them if they like breathing.

And, as always, personal – and hardly rational – experiences shape my own views on the subject. I posted about this on the blog I’m not allowed to connect to here, the one that makes my name and identity really obvious, but my own history makes it difficult for me to look objectively at the subject. Since childhood, I’ve been obsessed with names, their sounds and connotations; they’re the only thing I really collect, and I have a running list of my favorites (all of which have earned their place for widely varying reasons). My family doesn’t even really have a name; my father’s original family name (another convoluted story, for another post) was lost when his first stepfather adopted him and his siblings, and as a result the name I carry has no real resonance. I sort of picked it up by accident, it seems. But to lose it – and its Caucasian identity – in favor of something more closely tied to my own ethnic heritage would be, in a way, to distance myself from my Caucasian mother, to tell her that her culture is not good enough for me.  Is it any wonder that I have the urge to name my child something ludicrous, just because I can?

So HS is convinced that her name is too hard for Americans (it’s not really, although it’s not easy). Ergo, I find myself browsing these baby name sites, all of which are laden with popups and unimpressive design. Even the promisingly named has nothing real to offer me – no insight on the added layers that come with all names, no suggestions on whether Jane is plain or chic. I just want to make sure that she doesn’t, like a girl I knew at Orientation, rename herself Eddie. And to fight that temptation – the temptation to tell her that yes, all the girls in America are named Hortense. I’d just show her the Top 20 Names List from the US Census, but I can’t let her name herself Makayla or Nevaeh. America. I’m ashamed.

he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

IGR: When you go to America, we will have a party for you, too.

HB: Yes. All of America.

IGR: All of America will have a party?

HB: Yes.

IGR: Like a holiday?

HB: Yes. When I come, it will be a national day.

1G (boys) – fun vs. funny

  • had to cut some material to keep their interest
  • probably best behaved ever but still kind of noisy
    • good behavior probably due to the presence of Scooter in the back of the room after I had told him how horrifying my students can be
      • way to make me look bad, kids
  • WotD: “hilarious”/quiz: “What holiday was last week?”
  • no worksheets – printer issues

1H (boys) – fun vs. funny

  • tolerable
  • same work as 1G
  • no worksheets

1F (girls) – fun vs. funny

  • surprisingly bad (My Best Student told Visiting Co-Teacher that they had been rough all day)
  • didn’t get to scared vs. scary but did hand out worksheets for the first time
  • TBB did some work again, which was good

1E (girls) – fun vs. funny

  • okay
  • got to scared vs. scary but not to board races

2D (girls) – movie reviews intro

  • probably the best I’ve seen them in a while
  • lots of mid-level girls in low-level class (like that girl with the angular face in the back)
  • dialogue with Short Jeong went surprisingly well; he is unexpectedly expressive and the girls ate it up

Today I got up early to go see Scooter’s advanced morning class at his school; his boys were adorable, even though they had no desire to talk about the given topic, only about me. Which was fine, as they were much nicer to me than my own students tend to be. Both at his school and at mine, of course, I had to go through the “NOT my son, NOT my boyfriend, like my brother” spiel, which they seemed to accept (which was good, because I wasn’t inclined to share any further information). How they would ever get the idea that we were parents of each other is completely beyond me. As he left, one of my students came up to me and told me to tell my father that he was very handsome.

The most exciting news about today, however, is that Host Sister is FOR SURE coming to America – she passed her visa interview. !!!!!

Today, IGR Recommends: getting your visa.

sweet child o’ mine
November 28, 2007, 12:54 pm
Filed under: actual transcripts, host brother, host fam, host mom

“You should learn to play the game called ‘How to Use Chopsticks.'”

– HB

HB also just bought some silver sneakers with gold accents and they are super fly. We went to get his yearbook picture taken and I mistakenly thought I had to get it taken with him, but really they just wanted me there for moral support, I guess. The students here seem to get their yearbook pictures taken at studios, which gives them an oddly poignant air; the majority of the pictures are…I don’t know. I have to figure out a way to share them without violating my students’ privacy. I have NO IDEA how that is going to happen.

Oma loves Cadbury chocolate. Bringing gifts back from the States will not be very hard.

November 28, 2007, 7:24 am
Filed under: actual transcripts, classes, ESL, IGR Recommends, skool, students, teaching, the authorities

2M (boys) – movie reviews intro

  • would not shut up for PowerPoint
  • mostly did worksheet
  • “Ice Age” clip held attention pretty well
  • need to find more high-level kids than just that kid in the front

2J (boys) – movie reviews intro

  • beasts
  • Short Jeong almost redeemed himself in class, but then afterwards told me that a) watching a movie would be “more fun” and b) my movie of choice (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) would not go over well because the students have seen it too often
  • okay well first I have to teach them some ENGLISH instead of just babysitting them, also other teachers will yell at me if I only show movies
  • also, it’s not like I have a pile of American movies that work in Korean DVD players just sitting around
  • ALSO, one might think that having seen it once, they could write a better review, and I certainly saw movies I’d seen before in school*
  • kept sassing me, telling me to “sit down” and asking me why when I told them to do stuff
  • apparently one of the kids has the nickname “Togo” because – you guessed it – he has dark skin

*I usually read or drew or slept. Seeing as how I understand most of the sloth and delinquency of my students from experience, I’m not sure that I’m the best candidate to discipline them without hypocrisy.

1J (boys) – personal ads intro

  • horrid AGAIN – maybe because Tall Jeong keeps leaving in the middle of class? Keeping a co-teacher around would probably help
  • my head hurts and my patience is wearing thin
  • is the kid in the back with the freckles new?

1K (boys) – personal ads intro

  • would have been worse had co-teacher not been there – as it was, relatively time efficient
  • have to figure out how to keep them from screaming “fuck you” and blaming it on other students
  • my head really, really hurts

Today in IGR Recommends: the New York Times Dining&Wine Section, specifically this review, mostly because it refers to an eel terrine as tasting “like cat food splashed with Yoo-Hoo.” There’s also an interesting article about redefining soul food, a concept that makes enough sense that I wonder why I’ve never contemplated it further – how likely is it, after all, that the few dishes we’ve come to know define an entire demographic? As is well known, I am a loyal NYT food section reader, but I found those pieces especially notable.

IGR does NOT recommend: the “cocoa pastries” from Paris Baguette, whose filling tastes like cheap pudding.

IGR recommends with reservations: strawberry chewy candy – it is not as bad as I thought, but still nowhere near as transcendent (yes, that’s what I said) as the apple and melon versions. Note: this has not stopped me from eating almost the whole pack.

tell me more tell me more
November 27, 2007, 4:12 pm
Filed under: actual transcripts, IGR Recommends, media, meta, okay seriously Korea, students, teaching

Today’s featured thing is idealist, probably because it is my last best hope for job finding. Idealist also sponsored the COOL Conference where one of my former roommates and I presented, back in 2005, and they treated us well. I support.

Also, I just realized that what I am doing is essentially a personalized version of McSweeney’s Recommends (although nowhere near as funny and interesting), so now I will be referring to this as IGR Recommends. See tag changes, etc. (Also, I am obviously recommending McSweeney’s Recommends, too.)

The Joni Mitchell link is working now. I still haven’t put up the fixed lesson plan links, sorry. Today I went to a TESL conference that was well-intentioned but really, really boring – not that teaching itself isn’t an interesting thing to discuss, but, well, this was really dull. During one lecture I started writing a letter to my friend Captain Badass at home (give me a shout if you read this still, CB) and during two others I fell asleep.

The workshop proved worth it, however, in that I got quality time with Mrs. Yoo, who teaches all my first grade girls’ classes and who is generally really interesting and sweet. She filled me in on a lot of my students’ backgrounds and performance in other classes, which turned out to be really enlightening and possibly useful; 1A, for instance, is the lowest-performing first grade girls’ class, which I would never have guessed based on their work with me. Also, apparently my best Pop-Song girl will not be able to sing in a concert, should we have one, because she will be having surgery for – and I am not making this up – a brain tumor. GOOD GOD. I would like something good to happen to one of my students, once.

When bad news is delivered in a second language it seems to be divested of its weight; when I was in Cambodia with My College, for instance, one of my most distinct memories is of our tour guides:

TOUR GUIDE Here in the countryside there are many temples. Over there you can see (insert temple), which was built by (insert Khmer king). Next to that is the field where my brother was shot by the Khmer Rouge, and over there you can see a gate to another temple. Soon we will have lunch…


Exchanges like that, you should understand, were pretty much par for the course. We had two tour guides like that, and they said stuff like that ALL THE TIME, always without any evident sense of irony. There’s a lot of that here too, and I don’t know if we just have a dramatic culture in America or if something is being lost.

As a result of the workshop I skipped pottery and therefore should have gotten a lot more done than I have. Here’s a brief list in order to make myself feel better:

– sort of figured out budget software

– wrote rec letter for former professor

– half-finished tomorrow’s lesson

What have I been doing?

with love and squalor
November 26, 2007, 3:06 pm
Filed under: classes, lesson plans, life on Jeju, PCT, skool, students, teaching

Sample titles for more personal ads today:

“I am so lonely”

“You will be my boyfriend”

“Do you want a girl?”

1C (girls) personal ad (part 1)

  • unresponsive but not bad
  • quiz: what holiday was last week?
  • WotD: “ideal”
  • next week: finish PAs

1A (girls) personal ad (part 2)

  • quiz: describe your ideal boyfriend
  • no WotD
  • reviewed adjectives
  • practiced titles
  • each girl made ad, some read
  • more high-level girls

1D (girls) personal ads (part 2)

  • see 1C (same work)
  • significant progress: Field Trip*, Orphanage**
    • now volunteering ^^
  • Canada brilliant***

2D (girls) movie reviews (part 1)

  • mixed now (thanks)
  • made up lesson as I went along
  • discussed: why do we like movies?
  • got about 20 minutes into “You’ve Got Mail”

1B (girls) personal ads (part 1)

  • usually Tuesdays, got switched bc of conference
  • Eun Jeong and Mi Yeon came to class EARLY so I gave them the sarang hand sign (hands in the shape of a heart)
  • overall pretty good

It appears that all my second grade (read: eighth grade) classes are combined until the end of the year, which is a good thing in that it will allow the low-level students to work with the high-level students and stop them from being paralyzed by these ridiculously low expectations, and bad in that I JUST HAD LOW LEVEL STUDENTS and they made me want to pull out my hair piece by piece. Also, I had no lesson plan for a combined class; in addition to the fact that the high-level lesson I had ready was way too hard (um, making a new Mayflower Compact?), the low-level girls did Thanksgiving last week. Naturally, PCT didn’t tell me about all this until, oh, today, which meant that I had to make something up. I was going to let them watch a movie, out of spite, but I caved at the last minute and sort of improvised a movie-review lesson. I should have stuck to my vengeful guns, but fortunately for PCT, my nagging neuroses that I am actually a very bad and lazy teacher made me turn it into a Real Lesson. (Note: PCT also failed to tell me that I had an extra class today due to the workshop I’m attending tomorrow. DOES she do this on purpose?)

Anyway I made it to the post office but not in time to meet Soccer; we were supposed to meet to start writing a grant addressed to the Program, requesting money for the after-school program, but then I fell asleep on the bus (note: I also slept through my alarm this morning) and ended up near Soccer’s school, but several bus stops past Soccer herself, who was getting up to leave Holly’s just as I was arriving. The PO, of course, took forever, and I was not inclined to think favorably of Korea, but then, as always, I found myself across the table from Soccer and then later Scooter, eating doughnut holes and giggling. I hope that when I come back my friends are somewhere near as good as the ones I have here.

Africa came with me to yoga, where the teacher gave us a bag of kiwis for no reason – she always seems to have boxes of produce around – and then we went to a dive and ate, and I came home and talked to Oma. There’s this Tupperware of these Korean snacks next to me – the snacks are like Smacks, stuck into bars – and I swear I can hear them snapping, crackling, and popping. I may not have people here bending over backwards to tell me I’m beautiful, or even to behave in my class, but I think I get enough gifts.

*Field Trip: I was paired with her on the school picnic, after which she started talking to me (v. shy)

**Orphanage: I met her at the orphanage – at first in class wouldn’t/couldn’t even write name

***Canada: just got back from studying in Canada

TODAY’S THING I LIKE: this list. I sent it out to the J-crew a while ago, but then I forgot about it until one of the Program kids forwarded it today. Nothing describes my life better.

But if you must know, I have some babies. Mainly by black ladies. But some by white. And a China-baby.

This is the bunny I made with Soccer. (Hers is pink.)

I think I’ve finally got this filesharing thing figured out.

Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans

This is the album I listened to today, instead of going to Mass. I am tempted to say “instead of going to Mass, as I should have,” because really, it probably wouldn’t have been a bad thing, but aside from the fact that I was being legitimately productive and couldn’t really go, I’d rather listen to this and think about the highest than listen to what passes for worship music at most religious services. I’m not saying that “traditional” church music (or, in the case of most churches I’ve attended, the contemporary pop that’s become institutionalized) is necessarily bad. But I’ve never been a huge fan of so-called “Christian” music, and one of the things I really like about this album is how he makes the spiritual personal – i.e., he understands that the power of the stories lies within the stories themselves, and how we’re not so different from the people about whom these tales are told. It’s been said before, but half the time what he sings about could be a lover or a loved one as easily as it could God or Jesus, and I’m pretty sure that’s part of the point, that these things are found everywhere. Besides, the music itself – that banjo! – does so much more for me than most hymns ever have. The joy feels real.

A few housekeeping announcements re: blog: I’m going to continue to post some daily Thing I Like, esp. now that I (roughly) know how to share files, but I think I’m also going to start posting my notes on various classes – I’ve been doing it on paper, for me, but more and more people have been finding this blog lately based on ESL/TEFL searches, so that will provide a look into TEFL life. And for those of you (not many) who revel in the tiny human dramas of my classes, this will provide a better way to keep track. Look for a relaunch of KFB soon too.

Today: watched “Project Runway” with HM (downloaded), translated poorly.

ex. CHRISTIAN I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing.

HILLARY 말허요, “기부니 나빠요!” (“He says, ‘I am very upset!’)

She loved it, as she should have. So far I’ve seen both episodes, and I have to say, I thought Sarah Jessica Parker came off very well in the last one – plenty of guests have been unkind, even out-snarking Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, but she was consistently tactful and diplomatic without being a moron (hello, Paula). And Ricky’s dress was gorgeous. Surprisingly, Elisa’s was too – despite the fact that, much as I do with Quagmire, I found myself staring at her in puzzlement for most of the show. I actually didn’t hate Marion’s dress, at least not until the belt came off, at which point it immediately disintegrated into a potato sack. But mostly I was sad because Marion got kicked off despite his striking resemblance to Tim Calhoun.

I also had dinner with Arkansas and The Singer (who also teaches in Seogwipo) tonight, and got a good dose of the heckling I have so missed. We went to El Paso down in Sicheong – it’s the equivalent of what I imagine eating Mexican food in Canada is like. I.e., it is not authentic, but it isn’t bad, except that they need to quit with the putting of ketchup in the salsa EWWWWWW.

Now I will try to fix the busted file links of before. Check back.