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Sunday, 29 August 2010

A Weird Happening

A guy, Nick, I was teaching with at a Japanese university with told this to me.

One night, feeling hungry, he walked up to a Pizza Hut restaurant. It was one of those take-out-only places, a box without wheels.

Anyway, Nick, walked up to the drive-in window and said, "I want a small pepperoni pizza, please."

The guy at the window looked at Nick and said, "Sorry, we only take phone orders."

My friend was upset; he replied, "What? I am standing right here. I want to order a pizza!"

The Pizza Hut guy at the window, following his training, repeated that a call-in was mandatory.

Then the absurd happened.

Nick took out his cell phone and, looking the guy straight in the face, called in an order for a pepperoni pizza.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Where's Rob & More

This vid

reminds me of a stunt I dreamed up and pulled off when I was an undergraduate at Montana State University. A friend of mine was into acting, and I was a teaching assistant in a 50-student-big writing class.

I raised the idea of creating a scenario for observation/reportive writing with my teacher, and she went for it. So what happened is this:

We were in the middle of class when Sheila knocked on the door, opened it, and looked hesitatingly in. I asked, "Can I help you?" as she was clearly interrupting the lesson.

Sheila said, "I left a book in this classroom, and I am looking for it."

I waved her in, and she began looking under desks and around the classroom. The students were a bit put off by her actions, so I stopped the lesson (although I was a TA, my instructor and mentor, bless her, let me do some teaching), and said, "Ok, what book are you looking for?"

Sheila replied, "I lost a psychology book here and it belongs to my professor so I really need to get it back."

"Everyone look under your desks," I said, and all of the students complied. There was a great rustling of activity, but no book was found. (Of course, as it was all a fiction, but the students didn't know that.)

Sheila then said, "I know I left it here. I think someone is stealing it, probably to sell back at the bookstore!"

This did not go over well with the students, and they began to protest.

Fearing an uprising, I forcefully ushered Sheila out the door.

The students, all 50 of them, clapped.

Calming them down, I said, "The campus police will probably be investigating this incident, so we need to file a report. Here is some paper. Please describe the person you saw and what she said and did."

We had made a point of having Sheila wear a bandana and some other striking items, and the students were given points based on their ability to recall these details.

While the students were writing I went outside the classroom and talked to Sheila. She was worried about her "performance", but when I brought her back inside the classroom and told the students it was all an elaborate set-up, they applauded her.

I tried the same thing again several times, with different results, but ended it based on safety concerns . . .

Friday, 27 August 2010

My Favorite Class

I have written about this class before, but I feel the need to do so again, as they were my first class today and got me started out on a very positive note.

It's a class that, in a sense, seldom comes into existence in the world of Korean English academies.

The kids were in different beginners' classes, then the best and the brightest got placed into this class. So it's kind of an AP EFL (English as a Foreign Language) class.

There are 10 kids (2nd grade) in the class, the max, 7 girls and 3 boys. I haven't really thought about the gender equation before, but that is really an optimum mix, as the girls are usually better students at a young age and tend to mellow out the boys' rowdy behavior.

Last semester we began combining a conversation/grammar book with a reading book, and we are continuing it this semester.

The difficult thing is that the class only meets for 40 minutes, and it is hard--if not impossible--to do everything I want to do during that short time frame. Most of our other classes meet for 50 minutes (twice--one class with a Korean teacher, and one class with a foreign teacher).

So these kids are smart and almost all have some aptitude for language; that is no small matter given that Korean and English are very different languages.

However, as I said to my Korean co-teacher today, after I taught the class, they are not only good students--they are also nice and happy.

Does that sound weird or trite?

Yes, they are a happy class, and I love them. They perk me up.

We banter jokes. One girl today said (mistakenly) "I am thirty". She meant she had thirty homework stickers, which means she gets a prize of a pencil or eraser. I said, "Oh! You are thirty! You're an ajumma!" ("ajumma" means "older woman" in Korean.) The class thought that was hysterical, both the idea and the fact that I spoke a Korean word. They wanted me to repeat it over again.

I also said, "Haley's mother called me this morning and said Haley likes monkey burgers."

Haley, not knowing the words for "teacher is telling a lie" (actually, she forgot, because we did this before), mimed "teacher is growing a long nose" (ie, Pinocchio).

One student said, "We are busy" as I rushed through the two books, and, indeed, it is true. We have little time to play games during a 40 minute period, and I so much want to have 50 minutes, or, better yet, a whole hour. Wow! What I could do with that extra time!

For now, though, it is enough (mostly) that the parents are happy, the kids are learning by leaps and bounds, and I get so much satisfaction from the class. This is one of the things that keeps me in Korea.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Frozen People In NYC

Check out the vid:

Chilean Mine Accident

If you haven't been following the international news, then know that one story is this: 33 miners have been confirmed alive after 17 days trapped underground. View one of these links for the story:

The strange thing to me is that, while the rescuers-to-be are consistently saying that it may take 4 months to bring the miners up (to truly 'rescue' them), no one has yet focused on the psychological implications of 1) being underground for 3 weeks, or 2) remaining underground for another 4 months.

I am very surprised that the media has been so slow on the uptake.

How are these miners going to remain not only physically healthy but also mentally sane for 4 months? I would already be talking about lowering them books and board games and setting up comm links and so on. Providing a 'natural' night and day cycle. Creating an exercise regimen. But no peep on that so far.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Pachelbel's Canon--Love it or Leave it

Pachelbel's Canon--yes, though I love it, it is a bit overdone. Especially since our school 'bell' is that lovely classical melody, and we hear it many times a day. So I can relate to this vid:

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Books, Books, Everywhere!

We start fall semester classes on Monday at our academy (the same time that many of the public schools reopen after summer vacation), and the books are piled up. Fortunately I only have a few completely new ones, so that part shouldn't be too hard. The new students, however, may be a different story:)

Monday, 16 August 2010

Playing for Change

More "Playing for Change" music video links--a couple of Bob Marley songs, done international style:

One Love

War/No More Trouble

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Some Favorite Videos

These are some of my favorite YouTube videos; quite a mix:

Stand By Me/Playing for Change

What a Wonderful World (Shadow Puppets)

The Black Hole

Rare Exports

Trunk Monkey

Spiders on Drugs


What do you find when you Google

Radiolab + NPR + Words ?

Answer: A cool word/image association video. Watch it!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

North Korea Land Mines

As if there weren't enough to worry about with North Korea, now comes this:

Student Blooper

In class the other day, a student created a rather embarrassing situation for herself.

Some background.

All of my students attend at least two classes, one with a Korean teacher and one with a foreign teacher. That's the norm at English academies in Korea.

In my classes they only speak English (or are supposed to; the actual practice is another thing, depending on their skill level). Their classes with Korean teachers are essentially bilingual education, as English grammar is explained to them in their native (Korean) language.

The classes run back-to-back, so either they have me for an hour and then they have a Korean teacher, or vice versa.

Sometimes it is a bit hard for them to make the switch if they have the Korean teacher first, and I try to be a bit more lenient in that case. As a rule, I would always prefer to teach the students first, and have the Korean teacher follow up.

In this particular class, the students have been at the academy for two years or more, so they speak basic functional English. Currently they are working on language like, "What does he do?"

"He is a mechanic. He fixes cars."

So it's not basic stuff. They know the class routine, they know what is expected, etc.

Anyway, I was in the middle of a lesson with these 8 kids (4th-5th grade), when, as my back was turned, one of them called out "Teacher!" as if to ask a question.

Now, normally this isn't a big deal, even though my boss prefers that they address me by my surname (Mr. __) instead of "teacher." However, in this case the student used the Korean word for "teacher" instead of the English one.

That is kind of like being in a meeting with a male presenter and calling him "Mrs." instead of "Mr." It just isn't done, and it is a glaring mistake.

So this student called to me in Korean, and I was about to make a witty remark, when she, completely unaware of her first gaffe, repeated the error.

She called me "teacher" again in Korean, only this time, the second time, she raised her voice, as if I hadn't heard her the first time.

The rest of the students in the class were doubled up, laughing, for it was indeed a funny and perhaps unprecedented mistake.

I am not Korean, I do not look Korean, and, for the most part, I do not speak Korean. To call out to me in Korean is simply strange.

I turned to the student and said, with a smile, "Gabriella, you are the only student I have ever had who has called me "teacher" in Korean two times!"

The poor girl was so embasassed, so red-faced, that it was hard not to press on, but she is a good kid and it wasn't intentional, so I let her off the hook.

Oh, the little things you don't expect--I like those humorous situations.

Staff Dinner

We went to my bosses' house tonight for a staff dinner . . . good food and company, including a small dog and a pet rabbit. Walked home in the rain together; kind of a nice way to cool off.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Power Outage

Tonight, or rather this morning, we were hit with a power outage. My building shut down for the better part of an hour, except for emergency doorway lights (which almost made it worse).

I have lived in many cities, and in all of those cities that I can remember (in the U.S. and Japan), when it rained it was not unusual for the power to shut off.

It's not raining here right now.

When the power shuts off for no apparent reason in South Korea, people get alarmed, and for a good reason.

If you don't know why, then you aren't keeping up with your world events.

I heard what sounded like some of my neighbors evacuating their apartments.

I was apparently hungry, so I got up and ate some of my most spoil-able food--I made a salad, and ate it in the semi-darkness, with the emergency light reminding me with its shadows of what could be.

As of now, an hour and a half or so later, the power is back on.

That's good news.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Sneaky Teacher and Genius Student

Back to my favorite class.

Ten kids, two textbooks, no spare time.

Ah, but I was able to go to class early, and there sat one girl, one of my most favorite students (always happy, cheerful, nice + smart), and I got an idea.

The class has 7 girls, 3 boys. 2nd grade students.

I wrote on the whiteboard:


We thought that was great. I said (to my little student co-conspirator) , "Shh! Don't tell!"

She giggled, "Ok!"

When class time started and I walked in the door, I immediately said, "Ok, today is Boys' Test Day, so let's get started!"

The girls cheered, but one boy, Justin, said, "Mike has money!"

Money--always a big source of pride. I try to play it up and ask if I can have some, or ask what it is going to be used for. But first I always ask, "How much?", as counting in Korean vs. counting in English are two very different things.

"450 won!" was the total, 5 coins, about 45 cents, and I congratulated Mike on his exceedingly large stash.

Then Justin came up to me and said, jokingly, "Teacher, Mike give you money, we have girls' test?"

I thought that idea was both brilliant and hilarious, so I laughed.

Sometimes I wonder what these kids go home and tell their parents (moms) about me/class, but the important thing is that they are still there.