Intrepid Girl Reporter

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.

Thursday, 3/13: she will be loved
March 13, 2008, 1:37 pm
Filed under: actual transcripts, classes, IGR Recommends, life on Jeju, skool, students, teaching

(IGR), I want to be a your husband!

(IGR), Do you want to marry me?

– inscriptions on raffle tickets received from a (female) student

“My friends, they are, um, they are, awful?”

– Host Brother on the risk I’ll face of being the victim of a prank when I teach his class next week

2A – Guess Who?

  • I hate when no one tells me that my schedule has changed and then they have to get me out of the office
  • apparently I ate all of my melon chews yesterday…I really need one
  • only class to really get into the interviews
  • a little loud
  • Sweater Girl is such a jerk

1K – Introductions

  • having kids repeat questions proved too noisy
  • the same ten kids answered all the questions
  • the one on the far left seems more advanced?
    • used past tense properly: “the paper you gave me”
  • rather raucous
  • Co-Teacher C not particularly helpful (only class with him)
  • have to come up with plan for next week

I keep my Secret Candy Stash in a place (on top of my closet) where I actually have to stand on my bed to get it, a measure one would think might stop me from eating so much of it all the time, if one did not know me. Alas, it has no effect. This is not helped by the fact that I stopped in the new KosaMart convenience store near my house to check out their candy selection and, while it was nothing special, the store was so packed with merchandise and so empty of customers, and the woman at the counter looked so nice and so sad, that I ended up buying a bag of Cookies and Cream Hershey Kisses out of pity. And then I sat on my floor in my room, watched the first ten minutes of the Project Runway finale, and ate five of them.

This, I believe, is a genetic failing. Miguk Oma (who, in her mid-forties, is still a size 4) kept cans of frosting under her bed in high school. THANKS MOM.
Anyway, I tried to make up for it by going to yoga for the first time in a month and a half, but I tried to tell my yoga teacher I’d bring my money next class and I accidentally told her to pay me instead. Oops. The endorphins sort of shook me out of my funk though – I should, of course, be studying Korean and writing and doing all sorts of useful things instead of napping a lot, but I haven’t been, and now I feel more like doing so. And afterwards I had the urge to listen to actual dancey music, so I put on some Daft Punk and the Faint (which I was listening to for the first time, because I am not cool at all) and decided that “Southern Belles in London Sing” is my new favorite song. At least for the moment.

My iPod’s latest trick is to pause in the middle of songs, sometimes three or four times in one song. Can you make it to July, iPod? iPlease?

Today IGR Recommends: Southern Belles in London Sing, by the Faint.

Note for Jeju peeps: My yogawon (that’s yoga studio) is behind the Boseong Market gate, which is in City Hall as you’re coming from Jungangro. I highly recommend it. My teacher is very kind and there are many levels of students. Price is about 50,000 won for eight classes.

Tuesday, 3/4: New York City, capital of the world

2D – Guess Who?

Lesson: Introduce students to each other through question-based guessing game

  • Teddy Bear Barrette has switched over to rhinestones
  • but she’s doing her work!
  • Eun Jeong actually competed for tickets today
  • Future Vet*, Good Twin*, Super Woman* all present
  • surprisingly well behaved
  • next time don’t have teams come forward, make questions more difficult

2B – Guess Who?

  • Help Woman*, Kind Mother*, Field Trip, that girl with the pink glasses
  • not too participatory but generally good
  • guessing game doesn’t work as teams, maybe have kids find matches

2C – Guess Who?

  • Bad Twin*…oh God
  • those girls in the front need to QUIT talking
  • one of the choir girls still wants to be “social poverty designer” (Catholic girl)
  • Canada, Lisa Loeb*
  • having kids practice easy questions with each other, answer hard questions, find random matches worked better
  • new co-teacher less effective

I moved gyomushil (teachers’ office) yesterday and it was TOTAL CHAOS. Apparently it had not occurred to anyone working at or affiliated with my school to, I don’t know, do this stuff sometime before the first day of school.

In this room I could practically see my breath and I couldn’t feel my fingers to type; the windows were open and no one would allow them to be closed, so we all stood there, huddled around an ancient freestanding gas heater with a teapot on the top. The teapot, in case you were wondering, serves as a humidifier. Those of us who were not gathered round the campfire were counting to eight repeatedly and shouting my name; evidently there was some discrepancy regarding the desk I was supposed to have versus the desk I actually had, and while I was supposed to receive the eighth desk, which desk became the eighth varied depending on where the person started counting. Meanwhile, the students, teacherless, roamed our dirty halls like packs of hyenas, waiting for the first of us to fall. Did I mention that the first graders weren’t even there? I kept asking people if I could help – I couldn’t figure out what to do on my own, as everyone simply seemed to be moving each other’s stuff around and back again – and no one would give me directions, so eventually I just sat at my desk. Meanwhile, the teacher with the broken arm had the papers and folders she was moving propped between her coat and her cast.

My absence from this blog would be inexcusable were it not for the fact that a) I’ve been working for Uncle Sam, who possesses powerful Internet monitoring superpowers, for the past month, b) the Internet at my house on base was more fickle than a Korean middle schooler’s chosen favorite singer, and c) I got a bead stuck in the optical drive of my MacBook and had to have it serviced. Oops.

But anyway, I’m back. And reasonably sure that I can never work for the federal government. To illustrate this point, I would like to offer a series of questions I received from children at the American Corner (like a mini-Embassy) in Busan, via teleconference, during a presentation on American Food: Diverse and Delicious, followed by both actual and given answers.

Q: Who were the first immigrants to America? How did they start American food?

AA: Well, in the seventeenth century, the white man came and pretended to be friends with the natives for a while, but then he killed them off, took their land, and shot the animals and grew the crops that would become the basis of American cuisine.

GA: Well, in the seventeenth century, many immigrants came from Europe. They made friends with the natives, and from the bounty of the land, they all cooked food together.

Q: Why is American food so sweet?

AA: Because Big Food is filling it with high-fructose corn syrup!

GA: Because we have many immigrants from Europe, where they make very sweet desserts.

Q: Can you tell me the story of how New York City came to be your country’s capital?

AA: No.

GA: No.

*These are obviously my actual class notes, with changed names. Hopefully soon I will make a glossary of pseudonyms. In the meantime:

Bad Twin/Good Twin: These girls are not actually twins, but they look like it. One is good. One is not.

Super Woman, Kind Mother, Help Woman: attended winter camp, created Super Woman, Kind Mother, and Help Woman, respectively

Lisa Loeb: v. smart, a little morbid, has dyed hair and Lisa Loeb glasses, as well as a general Loebian aesthetic; I wave at her in the hall and she looks at me and shakes her head

Future Vet: started emailing me because she has a cat (rare in Korea) and I have one too; originally wanted to be a vet, but because this may be too difficult, is currently planning on being a “pet beauty artist”

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.

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.