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Saturday, 31 July 2010

Student Faces

I think I posted something like this already, but for some reason it is in my head, so here it is (again):

A few weeks ago when I went to one of my favorite classes, a post-beginners class (they are learning fast!), I began by joking around with them. They are used to this by now, since I have talked about monkey burgers and tomato ice cream for a while.

However, on this particular class day, I picked out the quietest girl in the class and said, "Haley's mom called me this morning and said Haley loves to take tests!"

The girl in question jerked her head up towards me and said something to her partner in Korean (there are 10 kids, our max, in the class).

Since Haley was obviously quite flustered, I asked her partner, "What did she say?"

"She said 'Teacher tell a lie"."

Although I was joking, technically this was true, so I could hardly get mad at the statement. I wrote on the whiteboard "You are telling a lie," "Don't joke with me," etc.

But the look on Haley's face remains with me--a look that communicated "My mother wouldn't call you, and if she did she would never say that!" without any words whatsoever.


I have tried to recreate the look in other students' faces ("Justin's mother called me this morning and said . . .") without any success.


I need a new strategy.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Name That Convenience Store

Though I think it's corny (like all those beauty shop names in the U.S.), at least someone gave this one a creative shot . . .

It's Hot and Humid

And the kids are mobbing the fountain in the central pedestrian area. I wish we had had one like it when I was a kid . . . the water cuts on and off, goes low and high, and the whole area is flat so there's nothing to trip over. Whoever designed it had kids in mind.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Name That Restaurant

The creative brilliance in the name is simply breath-taking.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


One of the classes I teach is for young, fluent speakers. These are 1st and 2nd grade Korean kids who can communicate at an advanced level (even compared to American kids of the same age/grade).

I only have 2-4 kids in the class. One of the newer ones is Julie.

Julie is a really cute little girl. 1st grade. She is a more recent addition to the class, having transferred from another academy. She's a great speller, a super reader, and a real mental whip.

When she first came, her behavior wasn't so good however. We--she and I--have had to work on politeness: please, thank you, etc.

Then there are the times when maybe I displease her, or maybe she is just feeling naughty. Those times, she will look directly at me and say:

"Can you please be quiet, or I might lose my temper."


"You're bald."

The first few times I heard those types of comments I was completely floored. Now it has become a daily wondering, as in "What will she come up with next?" (These are the only students that I teach 5 days a week.)

The other day we had a sentence with "she's" in it, and, to make sure the students knew the difference between a comma and an apostrophe, I wrote "apostrophe" on the whiteboard.

Julie said, "I know how to spell that. I learned it at my last academy. This class is too easy!"

Needless to say I have learned much about patience, and have repeated to myself a number of times, "She's just a little girl, she is just a little girl."

Sometimes her pencil or eraser will fall off her desk. Shoes on the floor, feet up on her chair (because she is so little her feet will not reach the floor when she sits in a chair), she will glance at the fallen object and get a calculating look in her eyes. Then she'll look at me and say, "Can you get that for me please?"

"No, you need to pick up your own pencil."

"Why? I said 'please'."

I was never educated in child psychology, but working with kids in Korea has given me something close to a degree, I think, just as motherhood does for most women. Now, however, I feel like I am working on a 2nd master's degree.

Friday I found out shortly before class that I was going to have Julie alone, as the other students would be absent. I had just finished making a new game to play, but had to shelve it. What to do? A co-teacher said something that made me think, yes, I can work on Julie's reading.

Her reading is not bad. In fact it is good. Too good. She reads almost perfectly, but she reads too fast. I used to do reading races in the class, where I would time the kids with my watch, but I stopped doing that activity because Julie always won. She reads at about twice the rate of the other kids.

I had an insight.

In class I asked her to read two pages, and I timed her. She was super fast, and I congratulated her. Then I said, to make it a challenge, "That was 33 seconds. Do you think you can slow down and do it in 40 seconds? I know it will be hard, but . . ."

She took the bait.

It took 3 tries and a bit of coaching, but she did it. Then I slowed it down even more, with the promise of a special prize. 43 seconds.

Her reading was SO much better, and yes, she got the prize.

Again, I congratulated her, this time more sincerely.

She got that calculating look in her eyes. "Can you tell my mother?"

I said, "Yes, of course."

Then I said, expanding, "I can tell her that you read at different speeds and did a super job."

Her head tilted a bit and she thought for a few seconds. Then she said, "No, that's ok. Don't tell her."

"Why?" I replied, curious.

Julie said, "Because then I will have more homework because my mother will make me read many times."

The really good thing is that this child will undoubtedly become a world-class doctor or scientist someday, and I will know that I had a small part in her education.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

North Korea's Threat

The U.S. will be holding military drills with South Korea, mainly involving ships and planes, beginning Sunday. North Korea has vowed a "physical response", possibly including the use of nuclear weapons.

While I think that NK will not use a nuke, I do think they will do something. Here is my bet--they will send one or more of their mini subs to try and sink a U.S. warship. They would gamble on the propaganda paying off in the case of a hit, and if not, they could always claim it was a "rogue" sub commander acting against orders. What have they got to lose?

Anyone taking bets?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Class Behavior

I've been having some minor behavior problems in a middle school class--nothing significant, just boys being boys . . .

I do remember another boy, this one an American college student, who had a behavior problem. I was substitute teaching one day at my Wisconsin college when he came to class. He had on some stereo headphones and didn't take them off when class began. I had to interrupt the lesson to tell him to do so (take them off), which he reluctantly did. Needless to say, I was quite surprised that I had to tell him to do so.

Because I was curious and asking around about him, I heard about an incident a few weeks later. He was enrolled in the foods program, and in a cooking class he lost his temper.

He was heating some oil to make hard candy, and was goofing off. The oil burned. He got mad, and dumped the pan (of boiling oil) in the classroom kitchen sink.

The drain pipe under the sink was made of PVC (plastic), and so, of course, the hot oil melted it and the oil ran out onto the classroom floor.

He spent several hours of well-deserved punishment cleaning up the mess.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

An Aweful Foreboding

Before moving to Korea, I lived in Japan. Here is an account of a rather freaky thing that happened to me, or rather that I was the unfortunate observant of, while I was living there.

In the city I lived in, outside of my school building one day, I saw a policeman throwing a bucket of water onto the streetside curb. Curious, I walked over to see what he was doing. Turns out he was washing blood off of the street; obviously there had been some sort of accident. A bit gruesome.

A week or so later I was walking down the sidewalk that bordered a shopping mall in my neighborhood (same city) when I came across a policeman yelling at a parked motorist. The driver of the vehicle stood silently, perhaps because his vehicle had blood on the front bumper. He had hit someone. Freaked me out a bit.

I told my Japanese friend about these events, and I remember what she said: "Things always come in 3's". I didn't take it seriously at the time, but I do remember that she didn't say it flippantly, but rather with a sense of foreboding, and perhaps a touch of pity.

A week or so later I was walking down a narrow side street when I saw a high school boy on a bicycle. He rode past me and into a blind intersection. He didn't look at the mirrors and didn't check for oncoming cars. Just when he reached the middle of the intersection, and when I happened to be looking directly at him, a car coming from the other direction broadsided him, lifted him into the windshield (which caved in) and bounced him off. That took both the car and the boy out of my view.

I ran ahead to see if I could help. There was nothing I could do. The boy lay broken, cracked; I knelt beside him but was afraid to touch him.

There was nothing I could do.

I waited until the police and the ambulance came, but the police were more interested in taking measurements than they were in hearing an eyewitness account from a foreigner.

I did not sleep for a while after seeing that accident.

Things come in 3's.

I hope to never hear that in the same context again.

Cake Class

In a recent class we had a student's birthday party. She was So excited about her birthday that the other kids got a bit jealous, but that's understandable. The mom supplied the cake, and I managed the affair. However, I forgot that kids' eyes are often bigger than their stomachs; I gave them the size pieces of cake they wanted (large, of course), but much of it went to waste. Hope I remember next time, cause my fellow teachers would probably have snarfed down the remainder:)

Friday, 2 July 2010

Rainy Season Is Here

Icky sticky weather. I hate it. The consolation is that it is not so hot, but the humidity is awful. This is why fall weather is so enjoyable to me, I think. Just being absurdly positive:)