Archive for the ‘Serena’ Category

Em in Asia! 2012-04-24 02:59:39

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

One last post for today, to balance out the negative one earlier.

Today I met with my lunchtime conversation girls. They had chosen “Democratic Uprisings” as the topic of conversation, which is pretty hefty for a fifteen minute lunchtime conversation. I asked for clarification, as Korea’s fight for democracy has been a very very long one, and they’ve had various uprisings.

“Do you mean when Korea fought for independence against Japan, or the demonstrations against the military dictatorship in the 1980s?”
“uh, 1945 지금까지… I think we are always in the middle of a democratic uprising.”

We then talked about how they dislike president Lee Myeong Bak because he doesn’t listen to the voice of the people and keeps pushing the Four Rivers project, and how Serena’s village is on the banks of one of those rivers and the bank is slowly eroding.

In case I haven’t said it before, let me say it now – these aren’t my highest level students. In fact, they’re right about average in terms of vocabulary and grammar. However, they choose a topic, look up vocabulary ahead of time, and really put forth a lot of effort. It’s quite incredible, really, and talking to them always inspires me as a teacher and as a foreign language learner.

Today MW (the girl who sweeps under my desk and who I exchange letters with) after cleaning came up to tell me that at the end of the month she was being reassigned. Students rotate cleaning duties each month so that no one gets stuck doing the same activity for too long, so I should have been anticipating it, but I didn’t realize it and I’m sad to see her go. She told me that most likely she’d be cleaning the science classroom, and that she was sad to change. She said that talking to me was one of the best parts of her day, and because of our conversations and our letter exchange she now had TWO favorite subjects instead of previously just math – math and English. She also assured me that she’d keep writing letters.


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.