Archive for the ‘Bad’ Category

A Cup of Coffee Please

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

One thing I need to get better at doing is unit planning, and planning out my semester so that it makes sense. If you look at my topics they’re all individually good (I hope) but the order in which I teach them makes no sense, and there’s no real connection from week to week.

Last week I taught PBFV pronunciation. I like to do pronunciation lessons in-between other writing or grammar intensive lessons, or right after tests because there are so many fun and interactive things you can do with pronunciation. After making the students write postcards for fifteen minutes, I figured that doing a pronunciation lesson would be a nice, if abrupt, change. I showed them mouth-shape diagrams, we practiced tongue twisters that I had to make up (there’s a sad dearth of FV tongue twisters):

A cup of coffee please (p versus f)
Please don’t feed the bees peas (p, f, b)
The vehicle fee is very fairly voluntary (v versus f)

This week we’re teaching articles, which has no connection whatsoever to pronunciation. I wanted to save this lesson for later in the year, but it’s a two-week unit and this is the only point on my schedule where I teach every single class two weeks in a row with no interruption. As articles are really difficult (there are no articles in Korean, not in the same sense anyway), and as I was teaching articles as a set of four rules, two rules per class, it was important that these classes were taught back-to-back.

The one of the rules that I’ve been teaching this week are “countable versus uncountable” (“a stick of coffee,” countable, versus “coffee,” uncountable). I’ve been demonstrating the difference by showing a stick of coffee, then opening it up and pouring it into a mug (which, for some reason, always gets kids gasping about. TEACHER WHAT ARE YOU DOINGGG? – it’s baffling, really) and showing the coffee powder and asking students to count that. As I walked in, BAD, being the smart alec he is, yelled out “could I have a cup of coffee please?” I response I pulled out my stick of coffee and ask if he really wants one. The look on his face just about made my day.

So, I guess, there are some ties between my lessons after all?


Monday, September 10th, 2012

Ran into fistbump kid and 형우 walking around campus, and had a short but interesting conversation.

FBK: “Teacher! Nice one piece.”
E: “Thanks! You know ‘one piece’ is Konglish. In English we say ‘dress.’”
FBK: “Ah, but this is Korea. So we say ‘one piece.’”
형우: “Yes. This is our culture.”
E: “Well since this is English cl—Well actually, this isn’t English class. This is outside of class. So, sure, because this is Korea right now I’ll say ‘one piece,’ but in class I’ll say ‘dress.’”
FBK: “Very good. Anyway, I like your dress.”
E: *rolls eyes and fist bumps*

Speaking of Fistbump Kid, he now has a fauxhawk. It’s hilarious. Also two other students saw us fistbumping (one of which being BAD) and they now want to fistbump too. Which, of course, makes fistbump kid jealous. What a strange and charmed life I lead.

Hair CURLiosity

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

My BAD student has very interesting hair. It… well… kind of looks like he’s been electrocuted. He’s got really thick hair, that he styles so that it goes up and falls over the front and left side of his head, almost like a tsunami. Our school’s hair regulations are fairly strict (at least, for the male students – the female students can get away with much more) so while there are a few boys that have slightly more outrageous haircuts, or use hair wax (Hongdae being one of those), most of them toe the line.

I was convinced that BAD was blatantly breaking school regulations and had gotten a perm (as were most of the other English teachers – BAD’s hair is a fun topic to gossip about), but according to his homeroom teacher he’s actually following the rules. What happens is every morning he wakes up early and curls his hair by hand. Only in Korea…


Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

I’ve had two really fun interactions with my second grade boys today.

This week as a post-midterms fun class in second grade we’re playing Chalkboard Scrabble (and they’ve been killing it – the last class had teams that created the words “candidate” and “zebra”). At the end of class I was putting away all of the letter tiles and a student came over to help me.

“Oh! Thank you! You’re so sweet.”
“I cannot be sweet. I am not a candy.”
“Ah, but we can use ‘sweet’ to describe people too.”
“오 진짜?”

 As if on cue my second grade boys started running around the classroom and yelling in their friends’ faces “You are so sweet!” and proclaiming “I am SWEET GUY.” So cute. Then it got kinda not cute.

“But you must be careful with the pronunciation. It’s swEEt not swEAt.”
“아, Yes, and it is not SWAT. Special Weapons Attack Team [Before you correct me, yes, I know that that's the wrong acronym]. I wish I was SWAT. Give me a machine gun please!”
“… Never.”

I also taught Bad and BAD’s class today. After class I saw Bad in the hallway.
“Teacher! BFF.”
“Ah, you mean BAD?”
“No. YOU!”

The Good, the Bad, and the BAD

Friday, May 4th, 2012

It is incredibly hot today. Korea seems to think that regardless of its position compared to the rest of the calendar year this week deserves to be a part of summer and has ramped up the temperature to 80 degrees. Apparently next week it will go back down to 70, and that can’t come soon enough because my apartment doesn’t have air conditioning.

This week we had midterms so I didn’t go to school Wednesday and Thursday, and I went today because it was the teacher’s sports day. Teacher’s sports day is a once or twice-a-year event at CPHS and though the two teachers at the school I’m closest with weren’t able to go, it was still fun interacting with the non-English young female teachers, and my favorite older co-teachers. It was also fun watching the middle-aged men at my school regress to their high school ages and kick ass at a sport I didn’t even know existed (foot volleyball. It’s like soccer meets volleyball – there’s a net but you can’t use your hands).

I went to the Bamboo festival with some of my friends on Wednesday and Thursday and I’m supposed to take a bus to Mokpo, a city further south, to meet them but I’m stalling because I don’t want to go back outside in the heat. While I cool down, drink my iced tea, and prepare myself for the weather, I’ll tell you about what happened to me on Wednesday afternoon.

I have quite a few Bad students (students who either don’t study or do poorly on tests, or students who Do Bad Things like break curfew or even smoke). That being said, I rarely come across any BAD students. BAD students are those that are just bad people. Not those who’ve had bad days or a few behavioral problems, and maybe they’re not even BAD to everyone, but those where they’ve decided that they Just Don’t Like You and have No Interest in Pretending To.

I tend to get along with the Bad students rather well. They tend to range from shy and embarrassed about their ability to rip-roaringly exuberant. It’s not easy, but if you give the loud ones a stage and coax the shy ones to speak you can create some really deep relationships. The shy type generally get ignored, and the exuberant tend to be labeled as delinquents, so in putting in that extra effort to really see them as not just students but young adults, personalities, people, they appreciate it. However, the BAD students, well… that’s another story.

Now, I never want to label a kid as BAD, because once that label sticks in my mind, once I associate a face with BAD, it’s hard to approach them the same way. A warning siren goes off in my head when I see them and it’s difficult for me to judge what a good reaction to the things that they say and do are. I had an unreformed BAD at SGHS. He would sleep, swear at me in Korean and English during class, and try to stare me down, but other than him I’ve been pretty lucky so far. Most of my BAD-to-bes have redeemed themselves in my eyes at least (though, maybe not in the eyes of the school).

Fast-forward to Wednesday when I was waiting at the bus stop to go to Gwangju. I was wearing a shorter skirt than normal (which, by the way, followed the fingertip rule and I was wearing opaque leggings and a long sleeved high-necked baggy shirt – what more can you really do) when I heard a “whoo-hoo.” I assumed it was a middle-aged man or a soldier commenting on my outfit so I steeled myself and turned around, and saw a Bad and a BAD.

The “whoo-hoo” had come from the Bad, who was trying to get my attention, and who had immediately followed the whoo-hooing with frantic dual-arm waving, which was unnecessary as he was only about five feet away from me. The Bad’s an identical twin, and his brother’s also a Bad. A few weeks ago they were caught smoking and drinking in the dormitory and were temporarily kicked out, so they now commute to school everyday. I really like both boys – they’re exuberant, fun, try really hard in my classes, and quite a handful.

I have a long and complicated history with the BAD, and other teachers have had problems with him as well. Last year after I had lectured his class on being chatty and asked why they were so unfocused, he stood up and said that it was because my class was more boring than the previous ETA’s class and that I expected too much of the students. We had a one-on-one talk afterwards about his concerns about my class and appropriate venues for airing these concerns, but since then he’s been on my radar. His actions in class are strange – sometimes he’s focused and volunteers, and sometimes he tries to derail me or other students. He’s kind of spacey, but also he can seem really sincere about what he says,which causes other students to laugh, and I can’t tell if his spacey sincerity is genuine or if he’s putting on a front to amuse the other students and make me lose face by taking him seriously. Evidence from one class will point to the former option, but then the next week I’ll think it’s the latter.

Back to the bus stop. The Bad goes to chat with another student who’s waiting for the same bus a little further down the road and I steel myself for a confrontation with the BAD. Instead, we had a conversation. He asked me where I was going and said that he was going to Gwangju as well for music academy, and that he plays guitar. We then saw his father who works in Changpyeong and he asked if I thought they looked alike. I said “a bit” and he then went to go talk to him, and came back with two drinks – a coke for him and mango juice for me. I was so surprised that I practically shouted thank you, and he slowly smiled at me.

At this point the Bad (who is much less spacey, much more talkative, and basically demands attention) comes back to chat and tells me that the two of them are BEST FRIENDS. I teach him the term BFF (“Oh. Ok ok we are BFFS!”) and then the Bad questioned me about the American school system. He then mentioned that he wanted to be a doctor, but his friend (the BAD) didn’t have a goal. I asked the BAD what he wanted to study in college, and he said that he wanted to be a musician and do Christian music – like gospel. This causes the Bad to interject and state that since he (the Bad) was a Buddha (read: Buddhist) they were no longer able to be BFFs but only Just Friends. As I’m clutching my sides laughing at the turn this conversation has taken, the bus rolls up, we get on, get separated by people, a little while later get off the bus in Gwangju, and I wave goodbye as they troop off to the stationary store.

Maybe the BAD isn’t so bad after all?