Intrepid Girl Reporter

Monday, 3/31: on not fitting
March 31, 2008, 9:18 am
Filed under: identity, IGR Recommends, media

The music in Holly’s today is unusually bad. However, one of the girls watched my backpack while I went to the post office.

I meant to share these earlier:

Who Are We? New Dialogue on Mixed Race (NYTimes)

Mixed Messenger (NYTimes) 

I don’t think these articles say anything particularly new about race. And it would be disingenuous for me to say that I’ve ever truly suffered due to my ethnic background. I feel, quite honestly, that it’s been something from which I’ve benefited, almost like an advantage others might not have.

But yes, there are identity issues. Everyone has them; I, and others like me, might have a few more than the average bear. What I do like about these pieces is that they call attention to the fact that our notions of race are changing. I don’t fit into most categories, and neither will my children, and neither will theirs. Our spectrum, our heritage will continue to grow. The question is whether or not America, outside these elite circles where such a thing is a mark of distinction, can keep the same pace.


Monday, 3/31: last night I dreamt that somebody loved me
March 31, 2008, 7:10 am
Filed under: classes, host sister, life on Jeju, skool, students, teaching

Actually, what I dreamt was a lot more mundane: that I had curly hair. And that I finished a poem.


1G – The Price is Right

  • introduced clap thing to control loud classes (i.e. I clap in a pattern and they clap back – much like Summerbridge)
  • did it work? or did it work for girls?
  • stop same kids from answering

1A – The Price is Right

  • one girl way ahead of everyone else (understood me when I said they would make me go deaf)
  • did clap thing

1-3 – The Price is Right

  • ril low…some didn’t even remember me
  • did clap thing
  • did NOT make anyone cry this week

1I – The Price is Right

  • not so hot…ACT punished them, didn’t get to game
  • did clap thing but then they mimicked it (uh oh)

The copy shop people at my school live in this bizarre alternate universe. Whenever I go to the shop, the door is always closed (“to keep in the heat”), so I have to knock –

This kid who is – I don’t think he’s special ed, exactly, because he’s in my class, but he’s allowed to wander at will and no one seems to question his total absence of work – anyway, he just came into the teacher’s office and tried to take the Punisher’s cell phone. When I attempted to get it back, he tried to play keepaway.

Anyway. So in the copy shop, they have a television and an armchair, and whenever I go in there I’m interrupting either a soap opera or some sort of game show, and they’re always just sort of sitting there, chilling out and smoking. Sometimes they will do whatever job you need. Other times they’ll show the teachers how to do it and go back to socializing and TV watching. There are three people who work there, and I never see them anywhere else. They might live there.

Saturday I went to see KES’ concert, and he was mortified to find that I had brought him flowers, as, it turns out, he was not actually playing in the concert, although he does live at the orphanage. Actually, orphanage isn’t exactly the right term, because a lot of these kids have families who are still alive, but for whatever reason they’re wards of the state. Which, as you might imagine, carries a much greater stigma than having parents who are dead. Anyway, there were a number of my students performing, including a few students whom I didn’t even realize were my students, but I didn’t have enough flowers to give all of them one, so I let KES keep them, even though he tried to give them back.

Apparently a lot of the kids at the Child Welfare Center (which is what the orphanage is officially called) go to my school, because the center is maybe ten minutes away. Sweater Girl lives at the orphanage. So does this kid whose English is pretty good, but who is not particularly well behaved. I think to myself that I wouldn’t have guessed – but what am I expecting, smudges of soot?

This particular center is rather well appointed, I think – I visited the babies there once with Host Sister, and the older kids were rollerblading around, and the people seemed nice and the grounds looked pretty, etc., and at the concert on Saturday they had soloists who appeared to be from the Jeju Orchestra or similar. Of course, it probably still wasn’t the kids’ first choice. Still, though, I’m starting to reconceptualize my notion of orphanages. The foster care system is so flawed in so many ways. We have this very “Little Orphan Annie” idea of these places in America, but are they so much worse than being shuttled from family to family?

Another surprise from the weekend: I had always assumed that Host Sister wasn’t a particularly good English writer, given her extreme reluctance to do so. But I proofed a report she wrote yesterday, one that included words like “attractive” and “consistent” and referenced the phrase “the clothes make the man.” I feel like I don’t even know her.

Sunday, 3/30: The Price is Right/I Wish…
March 30, 2008, 6:18 am
Filed under: ESL, lesson plans

Here, for your teaching pleasure:

Lesson 3 – The Price is Right! (lesson plan) 

Lesson 3 – The Price is Right! (PowerPoint) 

Lesson 4 – I Wish (all, incl. song)

Now in the archives as well. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 3/26: the laws of the jungle
March 26, 2008, 11:50 am
Filed under: actual transcripts, anatopism, skool, students, teaching

[Dear Lee Myung Bak]…Please help the economy. I want my parents to smile.

– PopSongBoy #1


2-7 – The Price is Right

  • Co-Teacher F doesn’t want them screaming out answers
  • good efforts
  • how can I channel the energy of that kid in the back?
  • PopSongBoy #1 won AGAIN…next time don’t let that happen

2-6 – The Price is Right

  • one of my louder good students got mad when Co-Teacher F punished her for being late
  • liked game pretty well
  • WotD: discount

2-11 – The Price is Right

  • Soccer was here
  • students well behaved/got a TON of letters
  • Malcolm X agreed to read Holes – get him map for Kidari English Shop bookstore

2-10 – The Price is Right

  • tried clapping thing for first time – worked well
  • Co-Teacher F made them stop yelling (“was not my plan”)
  • Min Ho incident

2-8 – The Price is Right

  • what am I going to do with BeatBox Kid?
  • clapping thing

1. I have lost maybe 4 different chalk holders. Chalk holders are highly coveted because they prevent your hands from getting chalky. Because they cost roughly $3.50, they are not kept in stock by the supply room. I was given two in the beginning. One of them disappeared from my desk. One of them I left in a classroom. Since then, I have received more, accidentally left those in classrooms too, and have run back literally two minutes later to find them gone, with the current teacher professing to have no knowledge of said chalk holder and the students looking as doofy and clueless as ever. Today I was given a chalk holder by one of my students and decided to keep it, as the other teachers keep keeping mine, but then he reclaimed it when I wasn’t looking on the grounds that it belonged to some other teacher. None of my students do this for me.

EDIT: One of my students returned a chalk holder to me! This was a high point in my teaching career. Last period, however, I left it in the classroom. I went back to get it ten minutes later – bear in mind that this is the last period of the day, and there are no more teachers in the room after me – and it was gone. There are no witnesses.

2. As previously mentioned, Miguk Oma sent me trail mix. I like to eat trail mix at my desk, as eating small snacks throughout the day prevents me from getting cranky. School etiquette says you are not supposed to really have private property. I have seen teachers eat breakfast at their desk, but that’s about it. So I’ve been trying to eat this surreptitiously, because it is food for a specific purpose and food that was sent to me from America and I don’t feel like I should have to share it, but then this science teacher who sits diagonally from me came up to me the other day and told me to give her some, thus blowing my cover. GREAT. I am now eating it only when there are three people or less in the office with me.

3. Soccer came to see one of my best classes today, which was fun. They liked her a lot. But once she left, I ran into some trouble with Co-Teacher F – he hit Min Ho in the head for talking too much, which is an ineffective way of dealing with him, and Min Ho got angry and refused to even try at the game. I am not allowed to share this info with Co-Teacher F, however, as he is about forty years my senior and it would be considered rude. Also, the BeatBox Kid, who used to be really nice before he decided he was going to be both a pro soccer player and a pro beatboxer, is more of a jerk every time we have class. BLAHGAH.

Other occurrences of note today: Moon River, who is chubby and has a lazy eye and is all around rather goony looking, proceeded to shout, during a review of numbers, “Million Dollar Baby!” In response to the quizzical stares of his classmates, he explained, “American movie.” (When I asked, he assured me that he had watched it, which is pretty impressive, considering I’ve never seen it.) Later, when I pulled up the Price is Right PowerPoint, he christened his team “Show Me The Money.” His knowledge of American pop culture continues to both baffle and inspire.

Then KES stopped me in the hall and gave me a ticket to what appears to be a handbell concert this Saturday. While he is in my top 5 of worst students, none of my best students ever invite me to anything.

Tuesday, 3/25: a two-copier-jam kind of day
March 25, 2008, 3:35 pm
Filed under: IGR Recommends, lesson plans, poetry, skool, students, teaching

Twice in ten minutes, if anyone’s counting.

2-4 – I Wish…

  • Famous American: Nina Simone
  • I could feel them dragging…this is such a confusing concept
  • liked song

1-6 – The Price is Right

  • well-behaved
  • responsive to numbers (but didn’t know million)
  • took threat of point subtraction seriously (GOOD)
  • WotD: discount

2-2 – I Wish

  • Famous American: Nina Simone
  • started class with genie scenario, kids were receptive
  • more “I Wish” examples necessary to fill time
    • ended up doing rhymes to finish class

2-3 – I Wish

  • Co-Teacher E thinks they need more time to practice
  • covered “I wish I could” and change of subjects (i.e. “I wish she could”)
  • Famous American: Nina Simone
    • find picture of Nina Simone that students will not compare to: giraffe, monkey, me

I’m beginning to realize that I should have paid more attention in fifth grade. My knowledge of grammar is roughly comparable to the Supreme Court’s knowledge of pornography: I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it. Teaching the subjunctive is really hard. On an unrelated note, I tried to take a shower and discovered that the tub is covered in a fine matting of hair. I have come up with a number of explanations for this scenario, and none of them hold up. Maybe I’ll go to the jjimjilbang tomorrow instead.

Reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma makes me want to be a farmer, which is a bad idea for so many reasons I don’t have time to list them all here. Less self-destructively, it also makes me want to learn more about Wendell Berry, who comes from my state, or one of my states, at least. I regret that I didn’t learn more about him when I was there – I have friends who have recommended him to me before, but I was not fully appreciative of Kentucky at the time. Well. Now I am.

In A Motel Parking Lot, Thinking Of Dr. Williams

Wendell Berry
<!– Wendell Berry poem –>


The poem is important, but
not more than the people
whose survival it serves,

one of the necessities, so they may
speak what is true, and have
the patience for beauty: the weighted

grainfield, the shady street,
the well-laid stone and the changing tree
whose branches spread above.

For want of songs and stories
they have dug away the soil,
paved over what is left,

set up their perfunctory walls
in tribute to no god,
for the love of no man or woman,

so that the good that was here
cannot be called back
except by long waiting, by great

sorrows remembered and to come
by invoking the thunderstones
of the world, and the vivid air.


The poem is important,
as the want of it
proves. It is the stewardship

of its own possibility,
the past remembering itself
in the presence of

the present, the power learned
and handed down to see
what is present

and what is not: the pavement
laid down and walked over
regardlessly--by exiles, here

only because they are passing.
Oh, remember the oaks that were
here, the leaves, purple and brown,

falling, the nuthatches walking
headfirst down the trunks,
crying "onc! onc!" in the brightness

as they are doing now
in the cemetery across the street
where the past and the dead

keep each other. To remember,
to hear and remember, is to stop
and walk on again

to a livelier, surer measure.
It is dangerous
to remember the past only

for its own sake, dangerous
to deliver a message
you did not get.

Monday, 3/24: more spreading of the Gospel of Barker
March 24, 2008, 12:54 pm
Filed under: skool, students, teaching

1H – The Price is Right

  • WotD: discount
  • took away tickets bc too noisy
  • only got through one part of game
  • sent two kids to back of room for making fun of me
  • computer broken

1B – The Price is Right

  • WotD: discount
  • game takes longer w/first graders
  • make them write stuff down

1D – The Price is Right

  • a little slow but perfect angels
  • got to game
  • computer broken
  • WotD: discount

1J – The Price is Right

  • rude, noisy, smelly
  • but they seem pretty smart…
  • Co-Teacher F actually kicked me out so she could punish them (ergo, no game)
  • WotD: discount

I discovered a new kind of orange (I’ve heard there are five on Jeju) that is smaller than a golf ball. You eat the peel and all. It’s incredibly delicious, although in retrospect it was probably a bad idea to stick them in my eyes in an effort to make my baby host cousin laugh. (It didn’t work.)

The other day at dinner Punisher told me how much he likes sitting next to me in the gyomushil. Fab. But I did get an awesome Easter package from home that included Trinidads, Mounds Eggs, Reeses Eggs (does the joy never end?), and Phase 10.

Sunday, 3/23: and hoping and praying and dreaming
March 23, 2008, 2:12 pm
Filed under: IGR Recommends, lesson plans, music

I’m currently trying to plan what appears to be the only ESL lesson in existence based on Skee-Lo’s “I Wish.” The plan is to teach my students a) the construction “I wish,” b) how to rhyme, and c) the word “baller.” I suspect, however, I’m going to end up using Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free,” which is also a good song, but one which mentions neither ballers nor Impalas.

In the meantime, I’ll try to post the Price is Right lesson soon. The election lesson needs some pretty serious modification before it can be put up.

And since I’m on the subject of Ms. Simone, I’ll go ahead and Recommend one of my favorite songs of hers:

Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddamn 

You can download most of the rest of that album here. I’m not sure why I don’t have all the songs.

EDIT: I went to Mass today in short sleeves, because it was the only remotely springlike outfit I could find, and HM asked me three different times if I was going to be cold. People at church asked me if I was cold. Complete strangers came up to me, rubbed my arms, and asked me if I was cold. HM had HB call me to ask if I was cold later. When I came home, HM asked me if I was cold. And now that it is 11:11 PM and I am wearing pants and a sweatshirt, HD just came in and asked me if I was cold today. I GET IT. Isn’t there a point in your life where how cold you are becomes no one’s business but your own?