Archive for the ‘sports day’ 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.

Em in Asia! 2012-05-25 00:10:24

Friday, May 25th, 2012

I’ve got a lot of blogging to catch up on, about how I’ve been sick and missed two days of school this week, and how I’ve been preparing for a diplomacy competition, but I have no time to do all of that today. Today is Sports Day, and I’m too busy being force fed random food (the current count is… 2 pieces of watermelon, a coffee ice cream bar, and a soda – this doesn’t include the chicken sandwich and coke I was given but managed to give to another student, nor does it include the ice cream and watermelon the teachers have tried to give to me), watching students compete, taking pictures with students, and gossiping with students and teachers. As we all know, Sports Day is the best day EVER.

Black 기분

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Ugh.

This week. This week.

My 기분 has been weird all week, and throughout the day as my thoughts continue to brew in my head, they just get darker and darker, and more bitter. Nothing tremendously bad happened, but it’s a black 기분 day, and it doesn’t take a lot on these types of days to make me upset.

The day started with an uneasy feeling, and I accidentally prepared the wrong lesson for one of my classes. I managed to realize and correct my mistake before the students noticed, but it still threw me off balance. I then went to teach my favorite class (2.5) and at the end of class I heard that for Sports Day they had given the German teacher a class jersey to wear. Now. The German teacher and I have a strange relationship, one I’ve been meaning to blog about, but suffice to say I’m not pleased. They then asked me which class’s jersey I was going to wear. No one’s, that’s who. They then looked kind of guilty, and told me that next year they’d give me a jersey, and I told them that next year I wouldn’t be their teacher. I didn’t mean to guilt trip them, that wasn’t my intention at all – I was just stating a fact. However, it’s always been a dream of mine to get a Sports Day jersey, and I’m 0 for 2. It doesn’t help that the German teacher’s been at CP for half the time I have.

Then I went onto 2.10 who after a week full of teaching never really stick out in my mind. They’re one of the classes that if you ask me to describe them, I just can’t really think of anything to say. Terrible, I know, but when you teach 24 individual classes sometimes the details blur. They were just the icing on my terrible cake-of-a-week. Not super bad in and of themselves, but fidgety, consistently talking, and sleeping. There was a quartet in the back that were especially bad – while what they were doing was perhaps no worse than any of the other students’ actions, they weren’t attempting to hide their actions.

Don’t worry, I’m not going all third Spiderman movie on you (see, I can still make jokes. The true tragedy in that movie is that Peter Parker takes himself too seriously), plenty of good has happened today as well. I just need to accept this black 기분 for a little longer, and then let it disperse.

Sports Day Photos

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Finally! Remember how I talked about Sports Day? Well I’m getting off my lazy bum and putting up pictures.

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Day 1: Kids in their jerseys stretching and getting ready on the field.

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They stretched to this really funny brass and wind song that had a man chanting on top of the music “1, 2, 3, 4…” All of the stretches were synchronized to the type of music, this lasted for about 5 minutes, and all of the teachers up on the bleachers with me were doing it too, because apparently this song is really old and everyone except the awkward foreign teacher knows it. Suffice to say I just watched.

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Sumin! One of the advanced 2nd grade students (2.1). Her English is really really good.

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Advanced 1st grade (1.5). Hehehe this has got to be my favorite picture of the day. There is just so much going on here

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some of the 3rd grade girls. I taught them last year but I don’t teach them this year :( . Ye Il (the girl with the short hair to the left of me) is the school captain, and is a total badass. She was in my pop-song group, and is an amazing dancer, artist, and is in the advanced 3rd grade class.

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2nd grade intermediate girls (2.2)! Maybe some of my gentle readers sent a letter to one of them?

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They made him carry the banner for his homeroom (1.5) all by himself. On the back of everyone’s jerseys is a nickname… they nicknamed this kid “Camel.”

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One of the boys in this picture is I Miss You So Much(e) Boy. Can you guess who?

Sports Day

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Two weeks ago we had Sports Day. Sports Day is actually two days that consist of sports competitions where homeroom classes compete in different sports tourney-style, and a school festival (what might be more accurately termed a “talent show”) where students danced, sang, rapped, and cross-dressed in order to win the crown of Ms. School Festival.

One student told me that Sports Day was like their Prom. At first I took issue with this statement – Prom is a formal dance, and there is nothing formal about Sports Day. Sports Day is full of screaming high school students dressed in matching jerseys competing in various sports in the hot May sun, to claim that out of all the classes at their school their class is the BEST AT DODGEBALL.  American Prom is not like Korean Sports Day at all. American pep rallies are more like Korean Sports Day. However, the sentence was not that “Prom is like Sports Day,” it was that “Sports Day is like Prom.” I was being too hasty. Sure, Sports Day and Prom are incredibly dissimilar, but the sentence still stands. Korean Sports Day is like American Prom, because it is the only school-wide event that all Korean schools have. It is the closest thing to American Prom just by default.

In terms of daily routines and student body make-up my school is a bit atypical. From what I can tell, in Korea for the most part you have lower-level high schools and upper-level high schools. Within the schools there are divisions based on ability, but for the most part everyone at an upper-level high school will go to a college (or a good college), and everyone at a lower-level high school will either go to a mediocre college or won’t go at all. My school has both: an advanced track full of absolutely brilliant students (example: I asked them to give me examples of superpowers, and one student said “telekinesis”), and also many students who have elementary-level English. This means that some students are shooting for the top 3 universities in Seoul (SKY), and some probably aren’t going to go to college.

The average day (for an advanced track student) at my high school consists of him or her getting to school anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30 am, and not leaving until 10 pm. She has her eight-or-so classes in a row, studies through her lunch period, and then takes supplemental classes in the evenings. After the supplemental classes she self-studies at school, then either takes the last bus home, walks, carpools with her homeroom teacher, or she goes to the dormitory where she decided to live because that means she can stay at school later. When she arrives at home, she studies some more. My host sister is an advanced-track student, and the only days my host sister comes home “early” (around 7 pm) it is because either she is too sick to stay at school for supplementary classes, or she has a meeting with her private tutor.

It’s easy to think that the non-advanced students have an easier time of it. Many of them don’t take supplementary classes, or leave as soon as those classes are done, and I’ll end up riding the bus home with them. However the non-advanced track students also have it pretty rough, because even if they get to leave earlier (“earlier” meaning a very few students leave at 3, but then most of them leave between 5 and 7) many of them have part time jobs and work until really late. I saw one of my students riding a motorbike delivering pizza to my apartment complex at 9 pm on a weekday. He stopped and chatted for a minute, and then told me that his shift ended at midnight. It always makes me sad, because the students who must have jobs have such a steep disadvantage compared to the advanced track kids who have the time and ability to spend all day studying.

The advanced-track students competed in an English essay contest. The essay prompt was “your school life.” All of the quotes below, are what my advanced students have to say about the Korean school system (these are direct quotes, though the bold emphasis is mine):

“…sometimes I feel, our school’s color is gray, mood of depression and silence, though general school life, the teens’ time, is green, mood of fresh and dynamic.”

“We students are still teens. We are not adults. We have to sleep for enough time to reset our brain (take a rest to our brain) and grow well both physical and mental. However we spend sleep time doing such difficult things, we don’t have enough sleep time, so we sleep in class.”

“Sometimes I think I’m like ‘A bird in the locked cage’. Yes I know, school is not cage but like preparing courses to fly away. However, in my opinion, we have not had any adversity or ‘real’ problems because we merely have learned many subjects to enter famous university from high school, we cannot fly away because we have not faced and not tried to solve this problems. We need real experiences, not superficial knowledge.”

“Nowadays I feel sometimes today is yesterday because it running always same pattern. Go to the school, attend the class, eat meals, and go to the self-study. I’m so tired that pattern.

“My first wish is entered good university but it is not my only wish. I wanna be a prom queen and I wanna watch some movies with boyfriend but in real life I have to bear it down for a while. Oh not for a while, for 3 years! Grown ups told me that when I entered university in Seoul my life gonna stunning but I have to pay that in high school. “

However an underlying theme that every single student mentioned was how important their friends were, and how they would not be able to get through school without them.

“I’m sure that my airbag is my friends. When I’m stuck in my gloomy they come to me and cheer me up and makes me amused. This is can be because we play on the same team and they through the storm with me. The hands, what they give me could be a good windbreaker. We are competitor but we never think that we are rival. We play this little bit boring and annoying game together.”

This bond between students has never been more apparent than on Sports Day. When I arrived at school all the students were running around in brightly colored jerseys that they had designed and ordered for their homerooms, and the teachers were all wearing casual clothing and hats. Not a single student was late, and everyone was enthusiastically stretching and getting ready for the day. Normally when I come to school my students look like zombies, and one of the goals of my class is to have an activity that is so energetic that it helps wake them up for their next teacher. On Sports Day the students where more alive than I’ve ever seen them. As I was the foreign English teacher, I wasn’t given any duties so I was able to wander around and interact with my students outside of the classroom.

Sports Day was the absolute best thing I have experienced in Korea – it really showed me how talented, skilled and multi-dimensional my students are. Considering how much time they spend sitting and studying, my students are GREAT athletes! They also can rap, dance, and sing really well! Most of my interactions with the students happen in the classroom, and on average the English level at Sapgyo High School is pretty low. Many of my students become frustrated in the classroom because they feel that they are not able to communicate. Even my advanced-track students get frustrated, because they have all these great ideas or logically formulated opinions that they can perfectly express in Korean, but either cannot articulate, or are only able to do so poorly in English. I know from daily experience exactly how frustrating this can be. However, Sports Day meant that I got to hang out with the students not as my English students, but just as people. They explained the games to me, and showed off their skills. I also saw how many inter-homeroom class friendships there were, which was somewhat surprising because students spend so much time with their fellow homeroom students, but also a nice byproduct of teaching a school with only 500 students.

Sports Day pictures forthcoming.