It’s been a while since I last posted. I have been given a new time-table and it is hectic to say the least. I’ve found myself actually feeling challenged daily for the first time since I got here. I think I’m beginning to find my job a lot more satisfying. No longer is it a cushy number – at times I wish it still was, it’s bloody hard work.
Trying to handle a class of 27 Korean teenagers (without any help from a Korean teacher) aged 16-17 of whom have no desire to learn English whatsoever and understand barely anything is difficult. Especially when the Korean teachers struggle to control them as well! Consequently every class is a constant battle, and not much fun. It’s the first time I’ve been left with such a big group of students totally alone, it’s not easy.
I’ve been coming home complaining to Amelia about how helpless I feel and at a total loss as to what I can possibly do to keep their attention and keep them interested. My middle school kids on the whole are great, but I have a large number of new students in High School and they are an absolute nightmare. I now know how Mr Adegun must have felt during Maths classes in Abington. Poor bloke. For the first time, I actually feel guilty for how we used to behave in his classes.
Before I hear cries of ‘Oh my he must be a bad teacher’, I teach 9 different classes. 7 of them I couldn’t say a bad word about – of the remaining two – one of them can be hit and miss, the other is the one I just described to you. Things aren’t bad really, but as you can probably see – my high school first graders have managed to stress me out a little. Having said that, I’m now feeling much more optimistic and confident about them. Only time will tell though….
Now for the lighter, less serious stuff.
With my 2nd Grade High School Class (the hit and miss ones) they were not particularly enjoying being sat down, practicing the dialogues that I had instructed them to speak with each other during a class. So I thought I’d experiment and encourage them to walk around the class asking each other “May I borrow your pen” etc… kind of stuff. Unfortunately, although half of them responded well to this exercise, the others saw it as an excuse to mess around and speak Korean instead. In an effort to discourage them, I implemented a rule of “10 press ups if you speak Korean”, this was the first time I’d tried it and we were told during our training back in August that it can be sometimes be effective. There was 5 minutes left of class so I thought why not give it a try?!
Anyway, they liked this rule. Too much though. The boys ended up ‘grassing’ each other up everytime one of them whispered so much as a word of Korean in an effort to make each other do press-ups. It wasn’t working, and my classroom experiment had failed. In an effort to re-gain their attention before finishing I told them ‘Hajumma‘ which means in Korean “Stop this instance’, quite firmly apparently (It’s in a previous post somewhere). As fate would have it though, I’d been played at my own game. In my efforts to discourage them from speaking Korean I had sought to punish them by enforcing the press-up rule everytime they spoke Korean in the classroom, so they obliged by the rules. Unfortunately this made them unruly, so I in turn had spoken Korean in an attempt to re-gain their attention. Tragically for me, this had failed abysmally. My rule had back-fired.
They looked at each other, besides themselves with glee. They had got me. I had broken my own rule.
“Dan Teacha…. Korean….!!!!” *Pointing down at floor, signalling to do press-ups*
I had no choice, it was the end of the class – and it was pretty funny in all fairness. I gave them 3 press-ups before re-asserting my ‘authority’ on them and making them line up and request in English to leave the classroom. I always put particular emphasis on please and send them to the back of the queue if they forget to use the magic word. I made sure I was pretty anal about the rule this time!
The Japanese Earthquake was an absolute tragedy, and the images of the Tsunami that we have seen were a combination of ‘awesome’ (as in being able to witness the force of nature like we did on our television screens) and horrifying. I first found out about the Earthquake from Mr Yoon (who gives me a lift to and from school everyday), he told me “Japan Earthquake…today… very big….. everything stop…… even trains….. tsunami…..very bad” pretty much like that. I was like wow, interesting.
He told me it was “8” when I asked him how big it was (this was literally 2 hours after it had happened) so I knew it must have been pretty bad. Especially to stop everything (including the trains) in the way Mr Yoon has described it. After about a 30 second pause of silence Mr Yoon pipes up “In Korea, many, many people hate Japan” followed by a naughty school boy like giggle. I asked him if he was happy, he replied “No, no, no, no……….. secret“. I’ll leave that for you to decipher.
I was introducing myself to the new High School first grade students, and was giving them a brief Powerpoint presentation entitled “About Me”. I showed them a picture of Amelia informing them I was in Korea with my girlfriend. I noticed Mrs Jeong, my new co-teacher paying particular attention to the photograph. She considered it appropriate to interrupt.
“Is she really your girlfriend?”
Me – “Erm, yes of course?”
Mrs Jeong – “She isn’t your actual girlfriend though right?”
Me – “Yeah seriously, she actually is my real-life girlfriend”
Mrs Jeong – “But your joking really aren’t you?
Me – “Honestly, she really is my girlfriend. I’m not lieing!”
This played out in front of the entire class. Is it really that unbelievable that Amelia could be my girlfriend? I never thought she was that great…!!!
I also did an introductory class for my new first grade middle schoolers. I was showing them images of famous English people and they were to raise their hand if they wanted to answer.
I showed them a picture of the great Sir Winston Churchill giving his trademark ‘V for victory’ sign. My student’s didn’t even raise their hands for this one.
“Hitler!” they shouted out in unison. Totally serious.
My heart sank, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Serious words should be had with their elementary school teachers!!!!!!
I did of course re-educate them, and made them aware of what they had said. It was pretty funny, and they apologised. I didn’t actually mind. They are only 11 after all!
One of my 3rd grade High School boys has added me on Facebook, in Korea it is the norm for students to have teacher’s email addresses and phone numbers etc… This boy is a particularly fine young chap, and one of the best students in the school. He wanted to be friends with me, I felt like I couldn’t say no as I didn’t want to offend him.
I put him on limited profile so he can’t see my photos and posts etc… but he can see my profile pictures. Of course, he has stalked my photos and showed some of his classmates my profile pictures (they are not incriminating, don’t worry Mum and Dad). Apparently they saw the photo where I tried to emulate Daniel Craig rising from the sea-water in James Bond’s Casino Royale last year. As a result, they now call me Superman. They were telling me one afternoon “Woahh Dan you big…. very strong” and then they pointed to my chest and shoulders as they didn’t know the english word for them. “We call you ‘Superman’ now”. My ego was going through the roof. If my nickname is to be Superman among my students, then I for one, am cool with that. They could call me much worse…!
We went for a ‘beginning of school year’ dinner a couple of weeks back. This is something I’ve been meaning to share with you for quite a while. Korean men get very ‘touchy feely’ when their drunk. Uncomfortably so at times. You shake their hand, and they will not let go of it. They’ll just hold it for at least a minute or two. This is a regular occurrence.
Anyway, this particular evening, Mr Bae decided that he wanted to link arms with me as we walked down the road to the Neurobang. Fairly standard for Korea I guess. Mr Yu (one of the ‘big dogs’ at our school) has particularly taken a shining to me these last few months. He’s a lovely guy, and speaks a little English. He wants my parents to visit his house for dinner when they come to Korea, as he wants to meet them. He’s also the same age as my dad.
So, we are in the neurobang and he’s decided that he wants me to stand next to him for the final sing-a-long (in Korean). Mr Yu, being the considerate man that he is took it upon himself to translate the lyrics to me.
Korean’s like slow, love ballads to sing-along too, so Mr Yu ended up translating the entire song to me. “I love you’ “Hold me” “I want to touch you” were some of the lines that remain etched in my memory. He also had his arm draped around my waist, swaying to and from with me whilst totally invading my personal space. I felt like he was going to kiss me at numerous points as he looked into my eyes and sang to me, so lovingly. Even though I knew he meant nothing by it, and he was just having fun (like middle-aged Korean men do) no grown man has ever made me feel quite so uncomfortable as he did. I noticed the other teachers all laughing as they could undoubtedly see the alarmed look in my eyes as he sang and held me.
In other developments, we have also made it onto the Korean equivalent of the BBC’s news at 10. We went to the Sanchaneo Fish Festival in our town a few weeks back, with our friends Ryan, Rachel and Sophia. Needless to say we were the only foreigners in attendance and there was a heck of a lot of media. They particularly took a shining to Rachel and I with our blonde hair and we were all interviewed several times. Rachel even went bare hand ice fishing and subsequently caused a media scramble upon catching a fish with her bare hands. See below.
We then tried to sit down and eat it before we were mobbed once more by photographers and television cameras. I’m not exaggerating this in the slightest, it was ridiculous. Quite surreal but pretty funny, we were just wondering what the big deal was. But alas, we were white people?! In Hwacheon?! Crazy. So the reporters made us eat Sanchaneo (which is a local type of fish) and shout in unison with horribly cheesy smiles “Sanchaneo machu-sayor” which means “Sanchaneo fish is delicious”. After this we showed our friends Hwacheon, took a walk, hung out on a tank, hid in a bunker, posed by a humongous artillery gun and checked out the lake. Fairly standard day in Hwacheon. As we got into the taxi to take us home we saw our friend Rachel on the television mini-screen being interviewed. Pretty funny. Look Rachel, your on national TV!!!!
By the following Tuesday (3 days later) I had just about forgotten about our new-found fame… That is until 3 of my middle school girls ran into my office excitedly to announce that they had seen me on the news with our friends toasting to the Sanchaneo fish in Korean on the Monday night as well. So between the group of us, we were quite a big deal that day and we were on Korean national television several times. Photos are below.
I really hope our lives haven’t just peaked and that we will have another 15 minutes of fame one day!
Anyway, time to go. Lot’s of love to everyone at home.
PS – Nana this morning I was trying to teach my middle schoolers (aged 13-14) the concept of “Guess What” “Just Kidding” etc…. I showed them a picture of you and me taken during the summer with the caption “My nana is 100 years old”. You’ll be pleased to hear none of them thought you were 100, they told me you looked really young and not a day past 75! Thought you’d like that.