Archive for the ‘Student Profile’ Category

Student Profile: Math God

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Here are some choice interactions with Math God, a first/second grade boy. He’s a student government representative, a giant with a bowl cut (taller than me by a good head and a half), and the other student in this conversation with CAPS LOCK KID.

Before class.

“How are you today? Are you excited to be at school?”
“Yes, because I can see YOU.”
I shake my head. Class continues.

During the ball toss activity:

“What did you do during vacation?”
“I met a girl!”
“Oh really?!”
“Yes. She is my mother.”
“She’s very beautiful, my mother.”

After class.

“DID you know I am a MATH GOD!”
“I thought HS was a math god?”
HS ducks his head, blushes, and starts to speak, but is drowned out by-
“HS is just human. I AM A GOD”

Student Profile: Member Koo

Monday, November 19th, 2012

His name isn’t actually Member, that’s just how Conversation Lee refers to him. Or rather, his name IS in fact Member, in Korean, just like how Conversation Lee’s name actually is the word for “conversation,” but Member didn’t quite own the name like Conversation did up until recently. Every time I ask Conversation Lee to present something, he starts by standing up and proclaiming ”I am Conversation Lee!” Member Koo’s acceptance of his moniker has been much more gradual.

Member Koo confuses me. He has, by far, the lowest level English out of all of my club class students, and possibly out of the whole school. I’ve never seen his English scores so I can’t confirm this, but I’ve never seen him write more than a sentence in English at any time, and he’s never voluntarily spoken in class. His behavior in my normal class is almost identical to his behavior in my club class – he’s apathetic and tends to fall asleep. I’m pretty sure his original reason for joining my club class was that he got cut from the soccer club along with Conversation Lee, and Conversation dragged him along.

While everyone else writes a paragraph or two in their journals, he writes one sentence. This is a vast improvement from the first few times we did the journal, when he would just copy half of the prompt and then stop. The thing is, though he’s only writing one sentence, that sentence is getting better every week. These days he’ll ask his friends for help. He’ll ask them to translate the prompt, how to spell a word, or how to spell something. When I go help him, he’ll actually look at me, and though he may not answer my questions verbally, he’ll start writing when I leave. He smiles and waves at me in the halls, and nods when Conversation Lee yells “See you in club class!” After six weeks of giving him scrap paper to use during journal time, and hounding him about not having a notebook, he finally brought one. Granted, it has another student’s crossed-out name on it, but instead of writing his name in hangeul, or writing it in Romanized Korean, he chose to write “Member Koo.”

I don’t know what his academic background is. I don’t know how he does in his other classes. I don’t know if he’ll choose to take my club class again, in fact I’d be very surprised if he did, but I’m glad to know that my class made some sort of impact. I hope he continues to try harder and improve, not because his English level is important (though, unfortunately in Korea there is a lot – some would say too much – emphasis on English language ability), but because I like the direction he’s going in as a student. I don’t mind that his English level is relatively low, as long as he puts in some sort of effort, even if that effort consists of borrowing another student’s notebook, and writing “Member Koo” on it.

Student Profile: Solomon the Writer

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

You know, I really can’t believe that I haven’t talked all that much in this blog about Solomon. Solomon is the perfect student – at least, in English class. He pays attention, he asks additional questions, he’s participatory without excluding other students, he helps fill in students that are falling behind, and he thinks critically about whatever task you give him. Compared to most of his classmates, (2.5), he has to be one of the most down-to-earth, serious students I’ve ever taught. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t have a sense of humor, but compared to most of the other male students I teach, he’s much more interested in having a deep conversation with me about the education system, or issues in Korea, or anything really, than joking around.

I’ve mentioned him twice before on this blog, one time was interacting with him and some of his classmates on Sports Day, and the other in my blog post talking about my letter exchanges with students.

Today I was in the office studying Korean when he came up to me. He gave me a book, all in Korean, that had two pages bookmarked. It turns out that Solomon, apart from being a high school student, is now a published author. I asked if this publication was for students and apparently it’s not – he’s the only student in it. I think I embarrassed him by how congratulatory I was. I then asked if I could borrow the book to read it (and practice translating) and he said that it was a present for me. I got really quiet, my eyes got really wide, and I burst into a gigantic smile, probably scaring him half to death and kept repeating some combination of “thank you” and “congratulations” and “wow” and “I’m so excited to read this!” until he slowly backed out of the office, with a smile on this face.

It’s absolutely amazing that he was published, don’t get me wrong. I’ll comment on that more when I’ve actually sat down with a dictionary and poured through his three pieces. What really gets me though is that he wanted to share his work with me, work that he’s done that’s impressive, but also completely unrelated to English. He didn’t give one to all of his subject teachers, because his main English teacher didn’t receive one – she borrowed my copy to read it. He made a deliberate decision to give a copy of his work, which is pretty advanced Korean, to the Native English teacher. He even wrote my name in this copy and signed it.

My goal is to have at least one essay read by Friday so that I can barrage him with questions at the school trip. I’ll have to play this by ear, as I don’t want to embarrass him in front of all of his classmates, but he should be proud of his work. Argh my heart. I am so ridiculously excited to read this.

Student Profile: EC

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

EC was one of my YDAC participants, and the only one that after her interview I was 100 percent sure about. Out of the second grade girls there were three that I thought would do a good job, though I only had two spots, and while SJ a top candidate, his interview wasn’t to the same caliber as EC’s. EC’s interview was miles ahead of anyone else’s, and her essay was amazing as well. The last paragraph of her application essay (the topic of which was “why is diplomacy important”) went like this:

“It’s a period that a little change of one country can influences the whole world. In the sensitive and changeable situation like this, becoming a closed country is similar to choosing a self-destruction. Today, what we need is a interaction and it requires a proper diplomatic relationship. This world is covered with a lot of dominos that transfer incessant discoveries and innovation from one country to the whole world. we have to remember it is no wonder that stationary water without change become spoiled.”

Remember, this is a fifteen year old girl. What impressed me most about EC was not her English (though, out of all four students she had the best writing ability), it was her grasp of complex topics, and her ability to process and write about them in a foreign language.

I have a word document for every single class upon which I write my post-class thoughts.  I noticed EC on my first day of class, and  wrote about her afterwards. She had approached me, and asked in almost flawless English, how she could improve her English. She mentioned that  she likes to read English novels in her free time, and she used to have an American penpal.

If I had to describe EC in two words, it’d be “hard worker.” She works harder than almost any student I know. In my English classes, when I ask them to write one sentence, she writes two. Just for practice. She constantly carries around flashcards to quiz herself. She’s easily in the top of her class. Even for the competition, she was constantly doing extra work – emailing me mock questions, and extra graphs that she had found, asking me to proofread them for her.

The problem is, her family doesn’t quite see it that way. Her father’s a teacher at my school, and apparently pushes her very hard. According to another teacher, after tests he goes to her homeroom and publically asks her for her scores. Even if she does a good job (which, invariably, she does) instead of saying “열심히 공부했어요 (you worked hard)” he always says “더 열심히 공부하세요 (you must work harder).”

EC keeps her hair up in a bun, with long strands framing her face in front of her ears. She has a very sweet face, but unfortunately doesn’t smile very often. Now that I think about it, during our meetings preparing for YDAC and during our dinner afterwards was the most I’ve ever seen her smile.  She constantly has her head down, and is scribbling notes. She’s one of the only students I can count on to be paying attention constantly. If she ever fell asleep in my class, I would let her sleep, because there would have to have been something wrong. She doesn’t need to “work harder” –  if EC works any harder, she might have a nervous breakdown before she gets to third grade.

Student Profile: SJ

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

SJ is a character. He was not only the only male student on the team, but also the only male student to apply for the program. That’s not why I chose him, though. I chose him because of his English ability, his interest in diplomacy (he wants to be a diplomat), and for his confidence. It takes guts to apply for something when you don’t know a single other person applying, other than the teacher who’s conducting the application process. In SJ’s case, it’s not just courage – because courage implies that you’re scared. SJ… doesn’t seem to ever get nervous. He’s probably the most self-possessed fifteen year old boy I’ve ever met, which is a great quality in a debate participant.

At our school girls and boys rarely talk, even when given the chance, and there’s a big divide between second years and first years. The first time we met, and we had three girls (two second years, one first year) and one first year boy, I foresaw a whole lot of awkward. I ordered pizza, and worked out our schedule so that the first hour would just be chatting.  The girls arrived before SJ did, and from them I found out that SJ is somewhat famous at our school. During Sports Day the name on his jersey was “Prince.” He’s just charismatic, and well-known among the second grade girls for being “cute.” When he arrived, even though he was outnumbered by girls on all sides, that didn’t faze him in the slightest.

He’s also vicious. When I asked them to come up with questions to ask the other teams about their resolutions, he asked if  the purpose of these questions be “to destroy” the other teams. I responded that, as this was a diplomacy simulation, probably not. He looked disappointed.

So, charismatic, self-possessed, with a slight competitive streak. However that’s not all – he’s also really really weird.

He’s super strange, in a fully aware-of-it sort of way, and it’s wonderful.

The girls noticed it too. One time when he left the classroom they mentioned that he always likes to talk for a long time about very random topics. Here’s an example of a conversation that mostly SJ and I had, with a few interjections from the girls.

SJ: Ah, I wish I had patbingsu now (patbingsu is a Korean dessert). The convenience store has patbingsu. We eat it a lot.
E: Really? I didn’t know they sold patbingsu.
SJ: Yes. You can also add milk to the patbingju. Either banana or choco is the best. You can use one milk for two patbingsus. But it is very expensive. 1,500 per patbingsu, plus the milk price. Normally I do not pay though. The first grade boys we play rock scissors paper and whoever loses must buy everyone patbingsu. Normally we do this with bread, but now we do this with patbingsu. I am the rock scissors paper champion of first grade, so I never buy patbingsu. This way I can eat many patbingsu for free. I also normally eat many bread for free.
E: How many patbingsu do you normally eat per week?
SJ: About four or five. This is the first week the convenience store has had patbingsu.
E: … then how on earth do you know so much about patbingsu?
SJ: I like patbingsu.

Because we finished working on our posters a little early (11:00 pm, and they didn’t have to be back at the dorm until midnight, and the boys’ convenience store is apparently open until 1 am) I went and bought them all patbingsu and ice cream.

SJ: Teacher! Let me mix your patbingsu and milk for you. I will mix it deliciously.
E: Oh, thanks SJ.
… A few minutes pass…
E: SJ… I can mix the rest – you should eat your ice cream, it’s melting!
SJ: Oh, that’s okay. I like this sound.

As we’re eating our dessert, the conversation continues.

E: Oh wow you’re right, adding banana milk gives it a whole different flavor. Like coffee!
SJ: Yes. It makes it taste like coffee. If you add choco milk it tastes different too. I… cannot describe the flavor well, but more than choco. You know, it is one of my regrets that we do not have time to eat patbingsu slowly like this.
E: Yeah, if you only have 10 minutes in-between classes, when do you eat patbingsu?
SJ: We hide it under our desks during class and every time our teacher writes something on the board we eat a spoonful of patbingsu. However, sometimes we drop our spoons, so we must drink the patbingsu instead.
E: …
SJ: It is very difficult.
E: So… what if you get brain freeze?
SJ: Then we grab our friend’s hand and squeeze hard, and pretend like we’re concentrating hard.
E: …
SJ: But normally our friend is also eating patbingsu. So we must grab both hands.

We change the subject for a bit, and start talking about YDAC. But before long…

SJ: Teacher! Do you want to hear more about patbingsu?
E:  Always.
SJ: Sometimes we like to go patbingsu hunting.
E: …?
SJ: On any given day there are 20 patbingsus. We once calculated the amount of money that the convenience store makes off of patbingsu, given the price of 1,500 won and that it probably costs 1,000 won to manufacture. But yes, there are 20 patbingsus. So what you do is you find a person eating patbingsu and you stand in front of them and say like this: “Hello. Are you eating patbingsu?  Is it delicious? I think it does not look delicious. Here, let me taste it for you. I will tell you if it’s delicious or not.” And then you eat a spoonful. On any given day, I can have maybe twenty spoonfuls of patbingsu.
E: …
SJ: This is patbingsu hunting.
E: … SJ, are you popular? Because you steal people’s patbingsu and you keep winning at rock scissors paper. I’m worried that if you’re not popular, you will get beat up.
SJ: Oh. Don’t worry. I’m popular.
E: Okay then. Our school’s only had patbingsu for like, a week, right?
SJ: I like patbingsu.


And that is basically SJ.

Our Patbingsu Party. I took this while he was mixing it for me.

Student Profile Introduction

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

YDAC was a lot of things. It was a lot of work. It was stressful. It was incredibly fun. It was tiring. Above all, it was a chance for me to get to know four of my students really really well.


I really like writing blog entries that focus on people, so my next four blog entries (unless something absolutely amazingly bloggable happens in between) I’m going to write will be profiles of my four YDAC students, starting with SJ.