Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New Semester

First: Let’s pray for the people of Japan to stay strong enough to endure, but to break down when they need to. They suffered a tremendous loss. The earthquake images were something out of the movie 2012, and the nuclear reactor problems are some scary stuff. I think this proves that the Japanese can withstand anything that is thrown at them, but it’s going to be long, agonizing road back to healing. Just know that we’ve got your backs! If anyone has any charity site recommendations, feel free to post them here.

New Semester Kick-Off

I FEEL extraordinarily lucky to be so happy after disaster left its footprints all over the next-door neighbor’s front yard. The new semester’s kicked off. It’s great walking into the classroom and seeing familiar faces. We’ve established a rhythm in the classroom: they know what I expect from them and vice versa. Everyone seems to be warming up to me, and it’s not just the kids. My co-teachers, too, want to hang out and study Korean/English together. Just the other night, my most senior co-teacher, who’s appointed herself as my Korean “mom,” had me over to make 호박죽 (hobak guk) a pumpkin porridge and 보삼 (bosam) a succulent pork dish. Everyone in the US: we need to catch on to eating this pumpkin thing. It’s amazing and sweet and makes you feel all warm and sleepy.

My goal for this semester is to meet the needs of all the students in my classroom. Quite a few are high-level—leaps and bounds above the others because their parents send them to many hagwons. Others are very low-level and assume the deer-in-the-headlights look to basic greetings like, “How are you?” Then there is the string of students in the middle, who have the potential to join their high-level peers, but they’re often overshadowed by them. And the vast majority of students have a high effective threshold when it comes to confidence in speaking English. It’s lowered as time goes on  and the students feel comfortable with me, but the wall easily goes back up again.

Last semester, I catered mostly to the high-level students since they’re the loudest and I wanted to challenge the class. I still want to challenge the class, but that means implementing more means to get the lower-level students involved. If anything, I want the students to leave my classroom confident in their ability to speak English. That’s half the battle right there: many of the girls, for example, can speak English decently, but they’re too nervous in front of their peers. I don’t want my students to be slaves to any such fear.

Teacher: “How’s the weather today?”
Students: “IT’S SUNNY!”
Teacher; “And hot?”
Students: “No. Cold.” 

The Koreans have a saying, “꽃샘 추의.” It means: “The winter is jealous of the flowers.” It refers to the sudden cold spells that strike in early spring, killing all the budding young flowers and chapping lips and fingers. Just the other evening, there was a dramatic hailstorm over the city at sundown. Since I’m up on the eleventh floor, it was a striking sight to see penny-size ice shards flicked about on the wind against a rosy pink horizon.

Recently calculated by scientists: the Japanese earthquake shortened the length of the day.
There’s never enough hours in a day. Every day I leave work—dodging the horde of middle school boys who like to hang out by the ddeokbokki food stand and bombard me with “Hello! Hello! HELLO!”s—and head back home to a night of persuading myself to do chores. I go through food amazingly quick. I’ve found that the market fruit vendors offer the best deals on strawberries, oranges, and apples (compare 2,000 won for an overflowing container of strawberries to the 6,000 won they charge in the store). I’m confident enough in my Korean to approach them now. It took me so long to adjust to life here.

Semi-Sentient Robots

Many of my friends are worried about their jobs right now. The Dude-in-Charge has made tremendous cuts to the foreign teacher budget, and so many of my fellow teachers won’t be able to renew their contract next year. Some people got cut immediately, despite the signed contract. The wind switches direction without warning here. One friend posted a video of an English-fluent robot teaching the kids English. It would scold them if they made a mistake with such gems as: “One more mistake like that and you’ll be waxing my circuit boards!” Yeah. Technology is on the rampage. Check it out: 
Post by ImatvapI.

Disclaimer: The above is presented as fiction, not fact.

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