Archive for the ‘names’ Category

I Will Remember You.

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Sports Day is always awesome. Because I’m the foreign teacher and they never make the foreign teacher judge any event (except when I got roped into helping with a dodge ball game because the other judges went to lunch. That was fun) I spent the day roaming and talking to teachers and students. I’ll be honest, I barely watch any of the sports on Sports Day, I just relish the extra time talking with my students.

A lot happened on Sports Day so I’ll be blogging about it in installations, but first I want to blog about a student:

The most memorable, and most enjoyable, part of Sports Day was the long and in depth conversation I had with these four boys. They’re all from 2.5 (no surprise there) but they’re the more quiet ones. The one all the way on the left’s name is Solomon. Really. His parents named him after King Solomon. He’s interested in speaking English, and comes up and talks me at the end of class a lot, but oftentimes gets drowned out or shouted over by some of the louder personalities in that class. The one all the way on the right is Hongdae. The one to the left of Hongdae is Hongdae’s friend, and while they don’t seem as close this year as they were last year, I tend to think of them as a pair. The last student (in between Hongdae’s friend and Solomon) is the one I want to talk about.

Class 2.5 had not won a single event, and they were very disheartened, but they had one more chance – basketball. They made it to the semi-finals, and were just waiting for the third-grade boys’ semi-final match to end so that their team’s match could start. I told them that I’d cheer for them (spoiler – they lost anyway. 2.10 swept the floor with all the other 2nd grade boys’ homeroom classes in almost all of the events, it was kind-of sad), so we sat down and chatted while we waited.

Hongdae asked me to teach him some swear words in English, because I “look like the type of person who uses swear words. Just kidding. Fist bump?” and then the other student started telling me about his previous foreign teachers.

When he was a first grader in middle school (7th grade) he had a male American foreign teacher. One day the foreign teacher got mad at him (he wasn’t sure why), called him over, and started beating him with one of his indoor teaching shoes and swearing at him in English. The foreign teacher was fired, and a new female foreign teacher was hired. My student had a good relationship with the second foreign teacher, and always visited and talked to her. Recently on Teacher’s Day this student went back to visit all his middle school. His foreign teacher didn’t remember him.

This student had related his story about the male teacher almost without emotion, but looked so disheartened after he told me about not being remembered. He quickly bounced back and changed the subject to what I normally ate for Thanksgiving (he really wants to try a turkey one day. I told him he could buy one at Costco. I then had to explain Costco, which was a lot more difficult than I originally anticipated), and then it was time for the basketball game, and we went and cheered for 2.5.

This student is so sweet, and so sincere, and in my mind is every teacher’s dream student. He pays attention in class, tries hard and participates while being respectful of the other students, and many times comes and talks to me at the end of class to ask for clarification, or with a cultural question. He was in my advanced class last year, and participated in the Korean Students Speak project. He’s been disappointed multiple times with his foreign teachers, but he still tries to connect with them. The thing is, I didn’t know his name.

So I went home, I looked through my students’ mugshots, and I found him. It took me a bit to place him, because his picture is really blurry, but I found him. 형우, I will remember you.

Names

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

My boys, my boys.

Imagine, if you will, that every time I say “my boys” in this blog I do it with a slight shake of my head and a smirk, and you’ll get a good idea of our relationship.

This week I’m working with the second graders on numbers. Two second grade boys classes have discovered that the word “Million” is similar to “Emily” (… it really isn’t). The Million Photos of Sky jokes are going to start rolling in any day now. Today I also taught some second grade boys how to say “well played” after they kept yelling “GOOD PLAYING! WAHOO! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” at each other after every single math race game.

Today I also saw one of my favorite students run down the hall arms frantically revolving like a windmill. “HI EMILY TEACHER!” he said, then quickly grabbed his mouth. “I have to be quiet because my best friend is… how do you say… violent?” At that moment, his friend BURST out from the neighboring homeroom and proceeded to BEAT HIM OVER THE HEAD WITH A PLASTIC BROOM.

What is my life.

Today I met my girls for after-lunch conversation club. Imagine that when I say “my girls” I make a little heart with my hands and beam. These girls have asked me to help them choose English names, and have told me that they’d pick out Korean names for me. I tried to pick out names for them that either had similar meanings, or sounded like the first letter/syllable  of their Korean names (The students names are 승리: seungri, which means victory, and 조경: jo kyeong, which means… well, something about authority towards elders, it was a bit difficult for her to explain). I offered a number of choices, and they chose Serena and Jamie. They then presented me with my name, 인애. 인애 is not a very common name, and it was a bit difficult for them to explain. There are many different Chinese characters that become 인 when brought into Korean, but the one they chose here means 참다: to bear or tolerate, and 애 means love.

As a general rule, I don’t like the idea of giving students English names. Obviously this is different, as it’s on a one-on-one basis with students I regularly see during lunch time, but I’ve done it before as a class-wide exercise – during my first semester at Sapgyo I had students pick names from a sheet of paper and write them on their name tag. With the exception of a few students who DESPERATELY wanted to be named something other than what was on the sheet (I had a few Lady Gagas and an entire class filled with Brazillian soccer players), no one chose anything too extreme. However, not only did that prevent me from learning their real names, but also other teachers had no idea who I was talking about, when I would mention Messi from class 1.1.

Names are important, and names are powerful. During the Japanese occupation period not only did Koreans have to learn Japanese at the expense their native tongue, but they had to give up their names and adopt Japanese ones. While my class is obviously nothing like the Japanese occupation, I can’t help but cringe when I think of stepping in as a foreigner and asking my students to chose fake names from my language. Because that’s what they are – fake names that they use once a week during English class. There’s no real connection to the names, and even if they know the name’s meaning, it’s still just an assumed, temporary identity.