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.


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.) 

October 15, 2007, 1:24 pm
Filed under: ACT, life on Jeju, life progress, music, pipe dreams, Pop-Song, skool, students, volunteering, yoga

My PopSong boys – the boys who had left because they were embarrassed that they were the only boys, the boys who skipped out for two weeks – came back today! I LOVE THEM. I was so happy. They still can’t hear pitch, but their presence, you know, it just adds so much.

Today I wore a plaid flannel skirt and met Scooter for coffee, which is almost usual now, and then Soccer and I went to see this art thing at the Art and Culture Center, and then I went to yoga and had dinner with ACT and her daughter so that we could talk about the winter camp I’ll be teaching. I am exhausted exhausted exhausted – and tomorrow will be the same; I’m going to school, then to pottery, then to Korean class, and THEN I will go home. That will be around 9. Today ACT asked me if I wanted to do any more volunteering, and I felt bad, but I was like, NO. Now I am going to take a shower and watch “The Office” and dream about my students singing sweetly. Or showing up, whatever.

Korean for beginners

Additions to my list of favorite travel poster slogans:

“Come On Baby”

“Nice To Meet You, Sphinx!”

1J kept me afloat, but 1K brought me right back down again. Usually 1K is in my top five classes; they’re obnoxious, but they’re smart, which is what I tend to like. Because the desks were out of order, however, they took that as a license to totally disrespect me and do whatever they wanted, and as a result I gave out my second – my second! – Noise-O-Meter 5, on the same day. When my co-teacher for that class – we’ll call him Mr. Kang – finally showed up, they quieted down and started listening, but unfortunately he didn’t come until halfway through, and by that time they were already writing me letters of apology. Letters that, I should admit, almost redeemed them. Almost.

Here’s a taste.

Proof! PROOF that they were swearing in Korean! (Although “Teacher, do you know this word?” followed by repeated chanting of said word is a pretty clear giveaway.)

Well, NOW my heart many hurting.

Even as he denies it, he requests another chance.

I know.

And what might be my favorite:

I also got this unexpected bit of wisdom from a notebook some careless student left in my classroom:

Since when did anthropomorphic chairs become so wise? And how did they know that I needed reminding of this now?

My friend C asked me today how I do it – “it” being, I guess, teaching, pottery, yoga, volunteering, the journalistic outlet for which I’m writing, and allotting adequate time to spend with the Crew. The truth is that I didn’t know how to answer. The truth is that I don’t feel like I’m doing it, or much of anything really; I’ve been on the same lesson plan for WEEKS, because it turns out that what I had allotted for one lesson actually required three. (On a side note, I almost punched Quagmire at the English teachers’ workshop last Friday, when he kept talking about how HIS students could do activities that involved picking out adverbs from a story and couldn’t mine? My students do not understand the phrase “Use this word in a sentence.” But as one of the other teachers reminded me today, students at his school have a lot more parental support [and wherewithal], and anyway it does us no good to compare.) My lessons at the ASP, or Study Room, involve jumping and screaming out the names of colors, and usually I plan them on the way there. Somehow, when I think about what I do every day, the first thing that comes to mind is watching reruns of “The Office” on TVLinks. It just seems like I may be getting credit where it isn’t due.

I did, however, add another activity today: Korean class. It’s free, it’s offered at one of the local universities here, and it’s taught by a primary school teacher who just so happens to have been HB’s teacher last year. HB is apparently the spawn of the Devil. I didn’t know. I’m not entirely surprised, but I don’t know that I expected to see her face freeze when I mentioned him, or to hear her say, “Always, when I am drunk, I scream out his name.” Well, I like him? D kept calling me the HB of our class, because I asked too many questions and apparently accidentally cheated during a game, and every time he said his name, it was like he had mentioned Lord Voldemort. But then I walked home with this other teacher who had been sitting in and helping out with the class, and as we talked, I realized that getting involved helps me feel less like a foreigner. (Duh.) Then she told me all about how people used to compare her to Anne of Green Gables, and in English (and Korean!) we talked about our favorite cities. I’m going to learn a lot.

psycho student, qu’est-ce que ce?

Probably the highlight of my friend C’s visit to my school today was not the fact that she got to watch my classes, not the fact that we ate fried chicken and gossip for lunch, and not eating weird cake in my principal’s office as he sat staring at us, mute. The highlight was probably my students saying things like “Teacher’s friend, are you from Africa?” and “He is handicapped. He is handicapped in head. Many handicap.” C is from the Philippines. Not from Africa. Not from anywhere NEAR Africa, actually. However, in Korea, it appears that all dark-skinned people look alike. (Although this still doesn’t explain why one of my students once asked me if I was Uzbek.) I’m also not sure where to go with the “don’t say handicapped, ‘handicapped’ is not a bad thing” lecture except to say that, you know, they shouldn’t say handicapped, because a) that’s not a term in common usage in America as much anymore and it is my duty as a teacher to inform them of that, and b) their statements are ril insensitive, especially with the implication that being handicapped is, in fact, an unequivocally bad thing. I’m not exactly politically correct myself, so I’m loath to teach a “these words will get you beat in America” lesson, but really. For a country whose cell phones are capable of cooking dinner, one would think that such outmoded ideas would be…well, outmoded. If I can keep them to the more common epithet of “Psycho! He famous Korean psycho boy!” I’ll be happy. Psychos, after all, do have a commonly accepted negative connotation.

I did play alphabet games with some truly adorable elementary school students over by City Hall today, though. Like, actually the cutest students alive. The girls were, anyway – which is a change from my school, where the boys are far more endearing. We played this game where we tossed a ball and each student had to say the next letter of the alphabet when they caught it, and when the ball got to a given letter, that kid had to come dance with me to “Come On Eileen.” (I got tired of Prince.) Then we played another game where they had to make the letters with their bodies. That wasn’t actually a game. It was more for my own personal entertainment. There were a few older girls who helped the tiny ones with their letters, and some boys who mostly pushed each other and occasionally the girls. Jerkfaces. Most of the little girls were really shy, but there was this one who was really funny – she wasn’t quite as quote-unquote cute, she wore these pink glasses and a ratty turquoise polo and her hair was messy and her teeth were kind of funny, but she totally marched up to me and was like, “What’s your name? My name is Jie-Min.” (All names changed, of course.) The nice thing about these kids, also, was that they all liked me. Then I had coffee with my friend D (really, I’m going to have to start making up names, the letters will begin to overlap soon) at two different shops in City Hall, which gave us the opportunity to compare and contrast the ambiances of both, and I mailed some letters. And tomorrow is the weekend, and Pop-Song.

(Note: I was talking to one of my students today, and I told her I would see her tomorrow in choir, and she gasped, “You remember me?” and threw her arms around my neck.)

OH! And I got a box today from America, box 1 of 2, containing, among other things, maple syrup, cumin, vanilla, and a copy of Ender’s Game for my host brother. If you’ve ever read Orson Scott Card, raise your hand. If you can name the song that references EG in the title, bonus points.