Intrepid Girl Reporter

Wednesday, 12/5; the art of losing

The time between meeting and finally leaving is sometimes called falling in love

– Lisa Loeb

Yeah, I quoted Lisa Loeb. You want to make something of it?

2L (boys) movie reviews, part 1

  • okay for the most part but loud
  • got through everything

2M (boys) movie reviews, part 1

  • usually lower-level kids seemed interested
  • except for that kid in the back who kept asking why he had to do it
    • I thought I made real progress with him but maybe not?
      • although he is obv smart because when he wrote “fuck” on his paper and I yelled at him he told me that it was just a joke, and that maybe it was bad in America, but “I am Korean”

1J (boys) – personal ads, part 2

  • TOTALLY redeemed themselves today
  • v. participatory
  • titles: “‘Who Likes ‘Muhan Dojeon’?”
  • Malcolm X is my favorite kid ever
    • ad title: “I Am Seeking My Future Wife”

1K (boys) – personal ads, part 2

  • as usual, not as adorable as the class before them, but reasonably well behaved
  • made The Smartass hold his hands above his head
    • should have been a desk, but he claimed to have some sort of rib injury (?)

Malcolm X is fat – not obese, but unquestionably fat – and he has Malcolm X-style glasses, hence the name, and he has the sort of permanently disgruntled look that only the fat kid can possess. I wish I could put his roster mugshot on here; he’s looking at the camera as though he’s asking it, Are you serious? But his English is amazing and he, himself, is pretty great. Today I let him rent a pen – the pen costs a shoe, which they get at the end of class when they return my pen to me – and he managed to finagle another one shortly afterwards and kept demanding his shoe back. When I forgot, he yelled, “Teacher! MY FOOT IS LONELY!”

The Smartass, on the other hand, is whom I suspect to be the ringleader of this whole groping Thing. For his level and his age, he speaks English pretty well as well – and I have so few of those students, maybe fifty of my thousand, that I’m loath to alienate any of them – but he’s become the leader of this gang of maybe four boys in the class, all of whom need him in some way; he’s already hit puberty, obviously, and he’s reasonably tall and good-looking, and the other boys who circulate around him are, in order, incredibly short, a little chubby, and…obviously forgettable, because I can’t remember exactly what his thing was. At any rate, they tend to talk about sex a lot and ask really inappropriate questions, which I ignore, because I don’t want to encourage them, but what I thought might have been a groping incident happened with one of those boys a few weeks ago. I’ve seen him around my classroom when I’m not generally there, e.g. at lunch, and I’ve seen him try to get in through the window too, so I suspect him – or someone associated with him – with the vandalism I’ve dealt with, too, but I can’t prove anything. The major thing I hate about him is that he’s a terrible influence on kids who might otherwise be decent human beings. Plus, you know, he could be one of my best students if he weren’t one of my worst.

So. Progress on a few things my loyal-est readers will have followed: TFANY is almost surely out. I talked to The Program today about what would happen if I terminated early, aside from the fact that I’d have to buy my own ticket home, and the answer was that I would no longer be able to claim any association with The Program at all. Ever. Which is problematic in that I’m depending on The Program to help me get into grad school, and also psychologically demoralizing in that my entire year would be annulled. If that was what I wanted, I would just have done TFA in the first place. I’m trying to see it as liberating, but really, honestly, right now I’m just depressed. Because even after the fact that I have to lock my classroom, that a few of my students see me less as a teacher and more as the object of some sick game, I still wanted to be part of TFA. And I know there are other things I can do, and that I should probably cultivate my interest in things besides education so I get a wide range of experience before I figure out on which area of development I want to focus. This is, however, a dream I’ve had since the age of sixteen – and, honestly, much longer. I’ve only wanted to do TFA since the age of sixteen; I’ve wanted to teach kids who needed teachers since (and this is rather embarrassing) I read the condensed version of My Posse Don’t Do Homework in my grandmother’s Reader’s Digest. See, my life is almost unbelievable, but not in the entertaining way, more in the are-you-SERIOUS-that’s-really-dumb kind of way.

So there’s that, and the aftermath of yesterday’s incident – ACT is horrified, as I believe I mentioned, and held a powwow with the other teachers today about teaching the other kids about respecting women and the fact that, if you’ll pardon me, I AM THEIR FUCKING TEACHER. The student in question continues to insist that he did nothing, that it was a “mistake,” which I am absolutely positive is not true. This was not a misunderstanding. I am still so angry, so appalled, and more so that he can sit there and say that it didn’t happen, that he can lie with such sincerity. Miguk Oma suggests taking that kid out of my class, and I’m starting to think that it’s not a bad idea, but I am also about 98% sure that it is not just him. Honestly, I don’t entirely know what to do.

But then there are moments of such unbelievable delight – I LOVE Malcolm X. I love being bowed to by one of my most disrespectful students. I love how my students scream my name in the halls. Today I gave Canada a copy of one of my favorite YA novels, The Westing Game, to read instead of doing classwork, and she was so excited. And one of my students from PopSong – who also, of course, happens to be in 1J – turned in a personal ad describing himself as a “just student.” I love him so much; he is the kind of boy whom you just know loves his mother, and she him. He will be teased by his friends for being “the sweet one” long into his twenties. AND I received this personal ad from another student, which I sort of promise is the last one I’ll ever offer:

I am a 1. dark and bright, 2. don’t need glasses and 3. kind person. I like 8. warm 9. sleep and 10. friend. I have 6. brown eyes and 7. short hair. I am as attractive as water. I am 155~ cm tall. If so, please send me an email at 15. you look like happy.

This has nothing to do with mistranslation and everything to do with the fact that a magical alien has apparently landed on my doorstep.

I met with Soccer at Zini Book tonight to finish writing our grant for the after-school program. We talked, as always, about how it is with emptiness and changing love, and the unchanging (thanks, Coleman Barks). Also about Jeremy Piven. With all the stress I’m dealing with right now, there are other shifts in my relationships here that make me afraid I’m going to lose the state of affairs with which I am very happy – but surfaces change, and I can’t do anything about that. And I know that no matter how ruffled the water on the surface becomes, the floor of it remains the same. But it’s hard not to flail out in fear, and also hard not to get more specific, so I’ll leave it at that.

We also talked about the island and the year, and how we’re all here together for a short period of time before we get thrown apart again. But that’s how it is with everything, right.

I would recommend something, but my congestion is making me lightheaded, so maybe not tonight.

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.

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.

minute after minute/hour after hour

“I am thankful for food because can fly.” 

– a student on Thanksgiving gratitude

“I would bring Spiderman because he can build a house.” (out of webs?)

“I would bring a scientist because he can find a super pig if we are hungry.”

– 2nd graders on passengers they would choose to accompany them on the Mayflower 

I’m sitting here in the gyomushil again sneaking pieces of melon taffy because I don’t have enough for everyone. And I don’t want to share. I am not a melon fan, but this candy is delicious enough that I originally bought it for The Roommate Box and, um, started eating it. (…Sorry.)

I’d like to say that I’m chowing candy thanks to the stress of seeing one student hold a knife against another’s neck in class today, but honestly, I don’t even know how surprised I can be anymore about anything. To be fair, it was clearly a joke, and was clearly just a pocketknife…See? Listen to me! I took it away, and I immediately received protests from the students, because apparently the pocketknife was doubling as a keychain for some kid’s house key. To which I can only say: WELL MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T CARRY KNIVES AROUND HUH? I gave it to Short Jeong, who, unsurprisingly, didn’t seem all that fazed.

In other news, I now have two Internships to choose from. All things considered, my problems could be a lot worse.

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*


and NOW
November 14, 2007, 5:48 am
Filed under: okay seriously Korea, PCT, skool, the authorities

PCT told me I have 1K 6th period, which isn’t usual, but as previously mentioned I’ve already had one schedule change today, so I was banking on being home early and getting stuff done. I don’t have them 6th, of course. I have them 7th, which means that I had a two-and-a-half hour break in which I could have – at the very least – taken a nap. (Reading this sentence, I realize that I sound ridiculous. My life’s not all that bad.) PCT told me she was “confused.” Presumably, her confusion is also somehow my fault.

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.