Archive for the ‘I miss you so much(e)’ Category

On Rice Cakes, Traditional Rice Taffy, and Hot 6

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Today was the 수능 (Suneung – the college entrance exam), and life here in CP went on like normal. You’d think on a day that determined the future of so many young people you’d be able to feel it in the air, the very atmosphere would be crackling with electricity and you could smell the standardized tests from miles away, but if you didn’t know you’d assume it was a day just like any other. If you live in a city you can tell. Planes aren’t allowed to take off or land, all high schools and some middle schools are closed, the police escort late risers to testing sites, and parents often spend the entire day in prayer. However in sleepy sleepy CP, less than a mile from my high school where all of the third grade boys in the county were taking the exam, the cars trundled along as per usual and the old people sat and chatted on the street corner for hours.

The first group of students that I really connected with, the students that were first graders back when I was a first year teacher, took the Suneung today. One of them was my host sister, who I have only seen twice since leaving Yesan at the end of my first year. We’ve tried to keep in touch through kakaotalk and skype, but with both of our schedules it’s been difficult. When I first moved in she was one semester into high school, and in February she’ll graduate and, depending on the results of this test, go on to the university of her dreams, or to a university she had to settle for. I want her to do well. I Miss You SO Much(e) Boy also took the Suneung. I also hope he did well. Same with all of the students who stood on their desks and shouted OH CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN, all of the students in class 2.2 of SGHS I did the pen pal exchange with, the girls in my club class my first fall at CPHS, my thousand kilowatt senior, and so many more. I want them all to do well.

Unfortunately, they can’t. The nature of this test, and the way that it’s scored, is that in order for someone to do well, someone has to fail. You receive a percentile ranking, which is one of the things that makes this test so competitive. If it’s not my students that do poorly, it’ll be someone else’s students.

The students all know this, and though they are friendly and support each other, though they’ve spent the last three years eating, and sleeping, and studying, and playing with their classmates, when they walk into the classroom on Suneung day they know they are walking shoulder-to-shoulder with their competitors. On this day, a senior has no friends. The first and second grade students recognize and understand this burden and cheer on their seniors, knowing that in one or two years the same will be done for them. This goes beyond the actual testing day – you can see it all year. On an average day at CPHS, you’ll see the second grade class captains standing in the stairwell of the main building during lunchtime, two boys and two girls. They rotate this duty so that different students do it on different days, but it’s always four students standing there, ready to shush the loud first graders as they run up to their classrooms after lunch, because the third graders need lunchtime to study without any distractions. The first and second graders, though they dislike each other, take note of and respect the third graders’ drive to succeed, and do their best to help them along.

Korea has a lot of superstitions about tests, more so than Americans do, at least to my knowledge. As there’s a lot more emphasis on testing, this isn’t all that surprising. On a test day, you’re not supposed to wash your hair, because then you’ll wash all the answers out of your brain. Another superstition, is that you cannot eat 미역국 (miyeokguk – seaweed soup) before an exam. The seaweed soup is so slippery that it will cause you to do badly. This belief is so prevalent that an idiomatic expression for failing a test is 미역국을 먹다 – I ate seaweed soup. A surprisingly logical reaction to this superstition is the idea that if you eat sticky food, you will do well on the test. Therefore, it’s thought that eating 떡 (deok – rice cake) or 엿 (yeot – a traditional and very sticky rice taffy, normally eaten by the older generation) is optimal test food.

On Tuesday I ran into multiple students leaving school. I walked with a first grade girl for part of the way to the market, where she was buying rice taffy. I asked if it was for her, and she giggled and said that it was for the seniors taking the test. She mimed chewing rigorously, and then explained that it would help all of the things that they had studied stick in their brains on Thursday. I told her that if flavor didn’t matter she should get the pumpkin because it was the best, and she giggled and raced off. The second student I ran into, a second grade boy, was also buying presents for the seniors. Instead of rice cake or taffy he was buying Hot Six, a ridiculously powerful energy drink. I was struck by the differences between the two gifts – one, a traditional and difficult-to-eat snack that followed superstition, and one, a very modern invention guaranteed to take years off your life. However, more than that I was struck by the effort the students went to in order to support their seniors.

The Suneung is over, for most of the third graders. Some of the students that scored very poorly will elect to take off a year and study again. They’ll take classes in the city at an academy designed to prep students to retake the Suneung, and rent rooms roughly the size of closets near these academies to reduce distractions. For the ones that receive good test scores, or scores that are good enough, they’ll embark on the time-consuming task of applying to university, but also they’ll find themselves surprisingly free. If they hang out of the windows of their homerooms it’ll be to breathe in the fresh air, and gaze at their surroundings, instead of to keep themselves awake while studying. If they stay awake late at night, it’ll be to talk to friends instead of cramming for the practice test. If they go into the nearby city, it’ll be to go to academies that fulfill their own interests, or to get their driver’s license, instead of to study math or any other core subject. They’ll get perms and dye their hair, join gyms to throw off the weight they’ve gained studying, buy new clothes for university, and some of them will get plastic surgery. As they slowly come to life again, the second graders – my CPHS babies, my life for the past year and a half – will slowly start to fade into the 360-odd day “final” push to the Suneung, something that seemed so far away when they first entered high school.

This is my final Suneung as a teacher in Korea, I’ll leave six months after my host sister graduates. That’s good, because I don’t think I can take another one. It makes me sad that I won’t see Hongdae, Solomon, Fistbump Kid, EC, or any of my other CPHS students (or the SGHS students I was only able to teach for a semester) graduate, and I’m sad I won’t be there to support them through this process, but I’m also happy I don’t have to see them go through the pressures of Suneung day. I’m also happy to know that their juniors, the students who come after them, will support them.

Goodbyes Part 5: Friday- Oh Captain, my Captain.

Friday, July 15th, 2011

This morning Mr. M gave me a replica of a famous Baekje dynasty era incense burner as a going away present. Yesterday he told me that he was sad that I was leaving, and he thinks of me like a daughter. He is super sweet.

Today was difficult. Is difficult, really, because though I’ve finished my classes I’m not done with my goodbyes. Today is also my last day at hapkido.

I taught class 1.2 in the morning (low-level, 1st grade, all boys, approximately 25 students). They’re good kids, and they try reasonably hard, but I don’t have a super strong bond with them as a class. The class I was really fretting about teaching was class 2.1, during third period.

Class 2.1 (advanced, 2nd grade, co-ed, approximately 30 students) is the first class I really got to know student’s individually in, because the students in my lunchtime conversation club were all from this class. I don’t even know what to say about this class – they’re amazing. I’ve rarely had discipline problems, and normally it’s just that they’re too high energy and won’t stop chatting or shouting out English answers. This class has IMYSM(e), most of my pop-song contest girls, my host sister, and it seems like every person in there is a character. I knew they would be the hardest to say goodbye to.

I’ve always put a disproportionate amount of work into 2.1’s class compared to the other classes. I write one lesson plan for most of my low levels, one for the two intermediates (though sometimes the intermediates do the lower level lesson), but class 2.1 always gets its own lesson, and I normally only use that lesson plan one time. It’s not that I don’t work hard on the other lesson plans, it’s just that I spend a few hours on one lesson plan that I can use for four or five different classes, but then spend the same amount of time on the lesson plan that I’m only going to teach to 2.1. However, there’s no other class at the school that’s really anywhere near their level – their speaking and comprehension is really good, and they’re so motivated and so enthusiastic that I haven’t wanted to just teach them a more difficult version of the intermediate lesson and lesson planning for them has actually been a joy. I tried my hardest to make lessons for them challenging, but enjoyable and ultimately useful. In class we wrote poetry, made up protest chants, and debated the ethics of who should be left behind in a burning building. Every class was speaking intensive.

I knew that this was going to be the hardest class for me to say goodbye to, and also I think the class that has grown the most attached to me as well. This class I normally teach in the English room instead of their homeroom, but 10:30 rolled around and no one was in the classroom. A student came up, got me, and told me to come to their homeroom instead. I got there a bit too early and came through the back, so they weren’t ready, but they had written phrases all over the board (my personal favorites being “I love you – and I’m a girl!” and the Korean words for “adjective” and “noun” written the way I normally say them – i.e. wrong). They had also made a chocopie cake topped with a candle made of paper that they asked me to blow out.

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At the end of class, the students started standing on their desks and chairs, and then one of them (“Changyeonce” as the other students call her – “Chang” being the first half of her name, and “yeonce” being a reference to how she’s like Beyonce. She’s a member of my pop-song group) screamed “Oh Captain, my Captain,” a reference to Dead Poet’s Society. I can’t tell you how moving that was, especially if they think that I’m on par with the teacher in that movie.  Most of the students stayed after to talk to me even after the bell for the next class had rung, meaning as a class they were late for gym, and I got attacked by individual students hugging me, telling me not to cry, one of them crying herself, and wishing me good luck. They also gave me two pieces of paper decorated with messages in Korean and English from all of the students in class 2.1.

I then ran to the bathroom and burst into tears right before I got there.

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Goodbyes Part 3: Wednesday

Friday, July 15th, 2011

So far this has been my hardest day, though I think that Friday will prove to be the most difficult (being my last day, and also my last class with class 2.1 – my advanced second grade students). I teach two of my best behaved classes on Wednesdays – class 2.6 (very low level, second grade, co-ed, approximately 10 students) and 2.2 (intermediate, second grade, co-ed, approximately 30 students – one of my two penpal project classes), and I also teach class 2.3 (low level, second grade, all girls, approximately 20 students) which is not exactly well-behaved, but well-meaning and full of spunk.

When I walked into class 2.6 today I found a giant pyramid of chocopies on my teacher’s podium, decorated with fish-flavored crackers, and I found out that there were only four out of my usual seven (which again, is out of my actual ten) students. Two students were sick, three were off doing sports things, and one was being disciplined. The four students that were there (three girls and a boy) participated well. It was actually interesting teaching only them – they are normally the shyest students in the class, and at the beginning of the year I couldn’t get them to talk. This class was my most difficult class in September 2010, and it’s become one of my favorites. Unfortunately the two girls that were sick, and one of the boys that was off doing sports things, are the three highest level English speakers in the class, and thus the ones that I end up talking to a lot outside of school and have really bonded with, and it was sad that I couldn’t say goodbye to them. I’ll have to go back to their homeroom later. Rose (her Korean name literally means Rose) is actually older than I am, has really awesome tattoos, and is an absolute sweetheart. The other girl is my only student that to date has written down everything I have written on the board. The other boy has a part time job and sometimes I see him late at night delivering pizzas. He runs with the cool gangster crowd, but every time he sees me says “hi” to me, which I think he gets some flak from them for doing. Not only does he say “hi” to me, he starts up conversations and makes them talk to me too.
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before and after fish chip inspiration.

I left 2.6 late because I was chatting with them, then realized that I still needed to print papers for 2.2 which I was supposed to teach immediately afterwards. Therefore I ran to class, was a bit late, and didn’t think that it was odd that two students met me in the hallway and walked me into class.
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On the chalkboard all the students had written messages to me (including my favorite message written by Smart Alec as I’m going to call him, which read “Hi Emily. I’m fine thank you and you?” – my least favorite phrase in the entirety of the English language) and they had a song cued up on the computer. Without missing a beat the students started singing at the top of their lungs. I didn’t catch all the words, but I caught “thank you.”

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After class (where we played American Geography & Flat Stanley Penpal Project Jeopardy and then wrote letters to the new English teacher introducing ourselves) some students came up and gave me coffee, notes, and I even got one picture of me with some of the girls at Sports Day. I love this class, there are so many fun personalities. There’s Smart Alec who was the only boy in my winter English camp and totally lived it up, being a total, well, smart alec. There’s ILY Boy as I’m going to call him, who every time and everywhere I see him (much like I Miss You So Much(e)) starts screaming “EMILY TEACHER I LOVE YOU.” Literally everywhere. There’s my Piano Prodigy who every Tuesday and Thursday rides the train into Seoul and takes piano lessons there because she’s just that darn good, who also happens to be amazing at English. There’s Rock On Boy, who when the other students came to greet me, gave me a fist bump instead of a handshake and then bragged to his friends that we were friends on facebook. I Miss You So Much(e) also came into this class at the end to rub it in everyone’s faces that he would see me on Friday. He’s somehow taller than me now, I don’t know if that’s a recent development or he’s just always been taller than me and I never quite noticed…

During class they told me not to cry, and cheered when I promised to visit them. I made them promise to be nice to the new English teacher, and they harrumphed but obliged. I’m going to miss class 2.2 so much it’s not even funny… this is the closest I’ve come to crying over leaving yet.

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Here are some excerpts from 2.2′s student notes. I debated whether or not to post these because they’re private letters, and also it seems somewhat self-serving, and like I’m trying to make myself seem like a better teacher than I am, but I decided to post them for numerous reasons, the biggest reason being that it’s my gosh darn blog, so I can do what I want with it ^_^. Also , because I’ll be moving around so much in the next few years, there’s a good chance I could lose these notes, which would be tragic, so if I post them here at least I’ll still have the message.

To. Emily teacher

Hi, Emily teacher ~~
I’m GW
Today of the last lesson. so, I’m sad.
In the meantime Sapgyo for high school passion very thanks and take the trouble ^_^
Spent with a teacher time I’ll never forget.
Do you know?
Emily techer is attitude makes popular with students.
You are the best a native speaking instructor I’ve ever had.
I hope you go to a new school that’s plug along.
Good luck <3
Bye ~ Bye~

Hi Emily! I’m Piano Prodigy.
I heard that you leave the Sapgyo high school. So, I’m very sad. ㅠ_ㅠ.
I’ll never forget recollection with you and Young Rim. (Cheonan).
Emily! thanks for teaching me.
When you teaching me I feel very happy and fun.
I never forget you. Contact me!
goodbye, I love you! <3

I then ended the day with class 2.3 which has always been a hit or miss class. They’re very sweet, and they’re very well-meaning, but they’re also very loud, which combined with the fact that they’re low-level, can be a difficult combination to work with. Started the class off on the wrong foot, when I went to their classroom and half the students were missing. The class captain then burst into the room, started screaming at another student, and wouldn’t answer any of my questions or even acknowledge me, then stormed out of the room. I immediately followed, yelling her name down the hall, as other students kind of stared at me, and she turned out of my sight around a corner. She then immediately came back, with a bunch of choco pies stacked into a cake along with the other half of the class. They weren’t late or disrespectful, they were just trying to surprise me. Oops.

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They then sang me a song but my camera died halfway through, whoops.

Giving Advice

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Today I taught class 2.1, my advanced class. I Miss You So Much(e) Boy came up to me with his man-possee, who proceeded to tell me that IMYSM(e) was just like TOP from Big Bang.

 
TOP                                                                               GD

 I told them they were wrong, because TOP has ridiculous hair, and IMYSM(e) has fairly normal hair. Then he told me that he was just like GD from Big Bang, to which I responded that GD was way more attractive. Then he said he wasn’t talking to me anymore, and all the boys in the class called me a heartbreaker.

Of course, then it was time to start class. Today I taught them four different ways to “give advice”

You should VERB.
I think you should VERB.
My advice is to VERB.
I advise you to VERB.

First I had them brainstorm problems that high school students commonly had. Of course, the first example was shouted out by IMYSM(e) who had promptly forgotten that he wasn’t speaking to me. Many of these problems dealt with issues with significant others (taught them the term SO today), studying, parents, etc. My personal favorite was “I am too handsome.” Oh man, such a problem.

Then I gave them scenarios, and the students had to write advice for what to do if you were caught in that sort of a situation. My conclusions are that 2.1 class is full of BAMFs.

BAMFy examples:

Scenario TWO: Cheating boyfriend/girlfriend (SO/significant other)

 If your SO cheats on you, you should _______.
punch him/her. (multiple students)
kick him/her. (multiple students)
poke out his/her eyes.
eat a lot of pizza, pasta, cake, ice cream.

Scenario THREE: Pop quiz

If there is a pop quiz, I think you should ______.
write “I love you teacher” on the quiz.
cheat. (awesome, thanks student)
go home. 

Scenario FOUR: Visiting Yesan

If you visit Yesan, I think you should _______.
go somewhere else.

Scenario FIVE: Bear attack 

If a bear attacks you my advice is to ________.
fight (4 students)
climb a tree (4 students)
act like death.

 Scenario SIX: House fire

If your house catches on fire my advice is to _______.
buy a new house.
take a picture.
call insurance company.

 Scenario SEVEN: Zombie apocalypse

 If there is a zombie apocalypse I advise you to _______.

[teacher what is apoca-apo-apocali?
apocalypse.
apocalypsuh?
end of the world.
ohhhhhhhh.]

become zombie (at least half the class wrote some variaton of this)
die with SO.
hunt and kill the zombies (the answer written by my ever awesome host sister, who is also apparently going to fight the bear, kick the cheating SO, and buy a new house.)

 If I ever need advice, I now know I can count on class 2.1.

Respect

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

I know I haven’t written in awhile… and I’m currently in the process of writing a nice long write-up about the epicness of my school’s Sports Day, but I have to break that for one of the nicest comments I’ve received from a student.

Thursdays are my horrible days. I have my two worst classes back-to-back first and second period. In most of my classes my students are fairly low level but I don’t mind… while it does make certain aspects of classes difficult, it also makes me feel more needed and like I’m making more of an impact. However if a student can’t understand anything that I’m saying, that means that they really have to try and focus. There’s only so much I can teach, if my class is sleeping, constantly chatting, throwing socks, making paper airplanes, getting into fights and throwing each other into headlocks, or having screaming tantrums (this has all happened). I can deal with low levels, and I can deal with behavior problems, the issue is when students have both and also don’t respect me as a teacher.

This morning I went to my first class (who seem to alternate from week to week between comatose and pixie-stick-injesting kindergarteners) to find that not only were they incredibly active today but the computer was missing. That’s right, not broken, but missing. I’m still not sure where it went and if I’ll ever get it back. Good thing my lesson was mostly tech-free this week…

After that super special class I was on my way to my other difficult class which normally consists of 25 hyper-active  first-grade boys (today they were practically catatonic, very strange. Also the computer was broken. Not missing, just broken) when I ran into one the “I miss you so much(e)” boy, who is one of my favorite students (I mean what? I don’t have favorites, hrum hrum hrum) and the class captain for my advanced second-grade class.

I Miss You So Much(e) Boy: “Hi teacher!”
Emily Teacher: “Hi!”
IMYSM(e): “I miss you so much(e)! I have not seen you for a long-long time”
ET: “I know! It is sad. However I will teach your class tomorrow!”
IMYSM(e): “Yes I know. I am inspire by your class. I wish we have your class everyday.”
ET: “You know what? I wish I had your class everyday too. Thank you, I needed that.”
IMYSM(e): “Bye teacher!”
ET: “Bye! Have a good day!”

Schoolhouse Crush?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

This post title does not refer to me.

So one of my advanced students has taken to saying “I miss you so much(e)” whenever he sees me, and you know, randomly throughout conversation, to the point where I’m not quite sure he actually knows what that phrase means. Today he came into the teacher’s office because he had hurt himself so he came up to me to show his academic war wound (a cut on his finger) and chat.

“Emily Teacher! I hurt myself! I miss you so much(e)”
“Oh no I’m sorry! Stop hurting yourself” (this is the second time this week he’s hurt himself). I continue to wrestle with the copy machine that has decided to eat my lesson plan and spit only half of it out, and is now choking on my scholastic endeavours.
“I am inspired by your class.”
“Really?” That’s something every teacher wants to hear. “That’s so sweet”
“I like you. I like you. I like like you. I like you very much(e). Much(e) much(e). I miss you so much(e).”
“… thank you?” (honestly, I’m still not entirely sure what to say to stuff like this. As I’m really not that far in age from my students I feel like it’s inappropriate to say “I miss you so much(e)” back, so I’ve settled for the super awkward “thank you” which actually doesn’t make a lot of sense… also not sure he’s inspired in the way that I want to be inspiring >.<)
“Our class is next next day!”
“Yes it is! Friday! I will see you on Friday!”
“Yes. I miss you so much(e) goodbye.”

Oh Tuesdays…

In other news I’m starting a pen pal project! I’ve already bothered people about it on facebook/email/gchat/skype but the project deadline’s approaching and I still need about 40 or so more addresses, so I’m going to shamelessly plug the project. Basically it’s a pen pal project with my two intermediate classes where they write a letter and draw a picture of themselves and send them to America. The recipient of the letter takes a picture with/of the drawing and writes a letter back in email form, and emails both the picture and letter to me at msemilyteacher@gmail.com. Then the recipient sends the student’s original letter and picture to someone else and the process repeats. I’m going to be documenting the whole thing through the blog I have shamelessly plugged not once but twice. click it. CLICK IT.

As most of my readers live in South Korea… how can you guys help? Well, do you have friends outside of Korea that speak English? If 진구가 없어요 do you have, family, a co-worker, anyone who you communicate with in any shape or form? If you know anyone who’d like to get involved please have them check out the project description on the blog and then email me their mailing address at msemilyteacher@gmail.com. For my non-Korea-dwelling readers who want to get involved send me your mailing addresses at the aforementioned email address, but also feel free to talk to friends etc, the more the merrier!