Intrepid Girl Reporter

November 16, 2007, 12:03 am
Filed under: dumb miguks, NaBloPoMo, the authorities, travel

– oranges for:

  • the Ambassador
  • the Internship
  • the Program Head
  • the Teachers in the Program

– packaging for said oranges

– big camera for the Election Publication

– like, five different outfits, including a blazer that is too small but still professional-looking

– not gloves or a scarf, since I don’t have any

– shoes that may or may not fit since I can’t find mine (I think HM moved them or is maybe wearing them)

– purse (currently filled with trash)

I’m going for three days. Three days. OTTOKEEEEEEEEEEE*



wired and phoned to a heart of glass

There is a single 모기 (mosquito) who, despite ample opportunities to escape, has been flying around my room for the past few nights, biting me when I’m asleep. Essentially, this mosquito’s entire diet, at this point, consists of my blood. I can’t handle that much commitment. Also, these bites itch. I forget about it until it flies by my ear, its whine causing my blood to slowly boil. </haterade>

Recaps: I FINALLY got 1K to behave, totally by accident. This kid was making fun of the way I talk to the class – and I do hate slowing my speech down, even though it is rather necessary – so, in a fit of pique, I taught them at approximately 80% of the speed I speak to my friends. Which, to put it in layman’s terms, is around 110% the speed of the average American speaker. They listened. The whole time. They weren’t exactly angels, but they did pay more attention than they have for weeks. Maybe they’re really smart and were just bored? I guess stranger things have happened.

Also, I’d like to deliver a short ode to HBBFF, or Host Brother’s BFF, who showed up at our door yesterday around 45 seconds after my family called him to invite him over for ddeokbokki. HB and HBBFF have a sort of Pinky-and-the-Brain-esque relationship, wherein HB is the Brain and HBBFF is the hapless Pinky. For example:

IGR: HB, would you like to play a game?

HB: I will kill you.

IGR: Right. HBBFF, do YOU want to play?

HBBFF: Of course!

HB: Shut up, no you don’t.

HBBFF seems to like a few things, like me, and HB, and computers, and eating. I.e., he is the sort of person to whom one can offer food and have him show up 45 seconds later.

Tomorrow: Seoul for a number of exciting things, including an interview for an internship and dinner with my Korean teachers from The Program. Today I skipped out on the afterschool program – I have GOT to organize my time better on Thursdays, because as it stands I have five classes and RIGHT after the last one I have to head down to City Hall or I’ll be late, even though I’m exhausted. In retrospect, Thursday wasn’t the best day for me to volunteer, but it’s too late now. I wasn’t feeling well and I was running late and, unsurprisingly, I found myself trying to rid myself of a headache, lying in bed and watching “The Office.” (Side note: I ❤ Creed.) 

same old story/in a middle school, in a city, which is every middle school in every city

from a future tense exercise:

“I will study about squirrels_____.

You will not study about squirrels___.”

A lot of the best stuff from my students comes not from mistranslation – this kid clearly knows what he wants, and the level of exclusivity reserved for that activity – but from the fact that the unbridled mind of the seventh-grader comes up with some pretty weird stuff. I like people before the filters hit. 

Despite these small joys, however, there are still, you know, PROBLEMS. Hey, is teaching hard? Wait – what did you say? Teaching is hard? Are you sure? Because I’ve never heard that before. I mean, I never even imagined that such a thing was possible.

Yes. Yes, I know. None of this is news; teaching is tough, life is rough, it’s good work but it’s heartbreaking except when your students sing in harmony or stand up and recite “O Captain My Captain” or defend you in some sort of trial against The Establishment. And these things, my readers, they do really happen, not just in the movies – the great thing about teaching is that you find these inspirational stories to be true, a little bit, in between yawning stretches of unbelievable surreality and the blackest of humor. (Between. I taught that today. It means when you have something that’s surrounded by two other things.) But I know that these highs and lows exist, so I shouldn’t be surprised when they happen to me. Right?

As it turns out, my students like me fine. Yes, there are a few who leave me bizarrely threatening notes or refuse to speak English when they clearly know how, and no, they never stop talking, but in general my class gets good reviews; I’m helping them understand the things they already know, giving them practice, etc.

My fellow teachers, however, are full of endless advice, advice that often sounds strange or ludicrous or completely wrong to my poor ethnocentric ears, advice that often contradicts itself, advice that goes counter to the other advice that I got the class before from another teacher or another teacher or another teacher before that. And PCT, as is well documented, has more suggestions than anyone else: suggestions on students, on how to run my classroom, on materials, on what I should eat for lunch. Never mind that sometimes these suggestions do not even make sense. I try to follow the best suggestion I can find, but that usually means that I have to face the wrath of the other coteacher or five coteachers or whomever, a few of whom of whom believe that my failure to follow their advice should be taken as a personal affront.

Things came to a head on Thursday when PCT called me aside to tell me that my students were having trouble retaining information without the presence of any sort of worksheet. I agree; I like worksheets; I wanted to give worksheets. But in the first week, PCT told me that worksheets meant that students wasted a lot of paper, so I gave up the worksheet idea in an effort to appease her. Now, of course, it turns out that I’ve been wrong the whole time; also, that my lessons are too simple, that having individual students answer is “boring,” that I have an attitude problem, that I cannot take advice, and that she has never forgotten when I tried to leave the light off during a PowerPoint presentation during the first week (two months ago) and she told me to turn it on and I left it off. Then she told me that of the many ETAs with whom she has worked, she has never had trouble with any – repeat: any – of them until she met me.

I met with ACT on Sunday to discuss the whole thing. She remains, as always, an angel sent from Heaven specifically to make my life in Korea easier. (Yes, I have a personal angel service. Don’t you?) She told me that she didn’t know what to tell me, but then she gave me a hug, which is the Korean equivalent of donating a kidney. Then she sent me an encouraging email with praise from the other teachers. It turns out that they don’t all think I have an attitude problem, and they haven’t all been complaining about me – that’s just PCT. Which puts me more at ease. PCT is leaving after this semester, so I’m just trying to get over the fact that she hurt my feelings and that she was really incredibly rude, even though things happen like the following incident: in which she failed to tell me that my schedule had changed, even though she knows I cannot read the schedule, even though she has told me before when my schedule changed, so that I was late to my own class because I didn’t know it was there. Then she told me that without a copy of my original schedule she cannot tell me when things change, even though she has done it many times before – maybe there was some sort of superpower that she lost? – and told me to put my schedule on my desk so she can see it, and then told me that we should have done that before. Now I am sitting at my desk in the teacher’s office trying to surreptitiously eat chocolate-covered hazelnuts, because I don’t feel like sharing, and pretending that no one can see me.

Things appear to have blown over now, for the most part.

she says, why is my life so uneven
November 6, 2007, 2:26 pm
Filed under: NaBloPoMo, skool, students, teaching

It should not have come as a surprise to find out that two of my worst first graders – Eun Jeong and Mi Yeon – have, respectively, a terminally ill mother and a terminally absent family, that Eun Jeong has been “absent love” for the past few years or so thanks to relatives who keep shuffling her around, as Mrs. Yoo described it tonight at the English teachers’ meeting. It may be a surprise to know that I started crying. But really, these sob stories are inevitable, an inherent part of the narrative of teaching. These things become cliche for a reason.

Miguk Oma asked me the other day why I always find myself with the hard-luck cases, the screamers and the outcasts and the ones who leave notes on my desk saying, “You are die [IGR]. Do you like sex?” I didn’t come to Korea to save anyone. I came here to take a break from doing the hardest work, and still, somehow, I found myself working with kids who remind me every day of Summerbridge Cambridge House E, of Maurice and Tonto and Brianna and Nadine and Charlene and Janine. I can’t even give them pseudonyms without cringing, that’s how real they still are, and how much these students – students who don’t even speak the same language – bring me back. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be in these places or if I subconsciously want to be here, hating myself for feeling so lucky.