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A year away

There are times when I forget I lived in Korea. Having been away for over a year and having moved back to the U.S. has put some much needed physical and psychological distance between between me and my time in the country. I’m glad I left. I was angry and frustrated. A cursory look at anything I’ve posted here regarding teaching would tell you I was burned out. 

So a year has passed and the blog’s still here. I’ve kept it around in case the urge to write comes back. 

Take what you will from those earlier posts. They were a product of a time, a place, and a mental state. 
Rock on, everyone.


Rant from 31 March: The chattering vortex of apathy

I wrote this several months ago about my high school 2nd graders, to they stayed the same all semester. More on that later.

There are days when I have to wonder just what I’m doing here. What, if any, utility do I have for the kids besides being another 50 minute block of time to get through. What, if anything, I can teach them when they’re too busy being sick, sleeping, or talking about who knows what. Two classes in a row. Slap happy or sleeping. That’s all it is. Monday morning and they’re carrying on like it’s the last day of school. Because that’s what it is. Every damned day is the first day and the last day for these kids. It’s the first day because they act perpetually dumbfounded about where they’re supposed to be or what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s the last day because they know my stuff isn’t on the exam and therefore isn’t worth listening to. They know that in 50 minutes, the bell will ring and they’ll have 10 minutes of nothingness and craziness before the next class begins…so they can continue dozing or yammering.

They’re 17 damned years old. They’ve been in school for over 10 years, yet some have yet to master the first principle of school: LISTEN.

Was today’s lesson difficult? Well, maybe. I don’t know. Asking them about inventions or important inventions doesn’t seem that hard, not when enough of the students can (in a few words at least) explain why Facebook or Twitter is important. And for them to draw up an invention? Sheesh. Draw something–anything–present it in a few words or phrases. Move on.

My coteacher does her best to translate, but even she thinks its difficult. Maybe she’s right. I don’t know. Plenty of middle and high school lessons were difficult, but I got through them. Everyone else did too. There is no learning without thinking. There is no progress without some difficulty. It goes with the territory.

Maybe she’s right. I’ll try going with the words, phrases, and idioms list she has. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll work. I doubt lecturing for 50 minutes will do a damned thing to improve their speaking, but that’s not what this is about, is it? No, it’s Korea, where everything is about tests and memorizing stuff for tests. It doesn’t matter that some can barely write their own names, but I’m supposed to explain what “Evolve” means. Well hell. And getting them to write stuff down? Forget it. It’s been 2 years and it ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS takes them 5 bloody minutes to write their names and the dates on their papers…EVEN IF they know their names and the dates and page numbers are WRITTEN ON THE BOARD. Yeah, I have to do the thinking for them because despite their advanced teenage years, they all seem incapable of doing ANYTHING independently–aside from going to the mart next to the school, that is. Oh, they KNOW how to walk to the mart and buy ice cream.

And bloody hell. I sent her the damned PPT on Friday afternoon. She has my email address and my phone number for phone messages. If the PPT was that bad, she could’ve told me and I would’ve fixed it over the weekend. The problem is, that didn’t happen. No, she tells me AFTER we’ve done the first two classes. So now I’ve got to draw up something completely new for the last class. That and do the middle school stuff for tomorrow. And the midde school stuff for Thursday. Sure, that’s all SOP, but this is nuts.

Funny how the kids say class is a waste of time when they’re the same ones who spend the time joking and, well, not paying attention. It’s IMPOSSIBLE for something to be a waste of time that way, but to them, it is.

And therein lies the Catch-22 of teaching here: I’m supposed to make the lessons interesting, but the MOMENT I have them do any actual work or do any thinking, they become “too difficult,” which means they must yammer incessantly about who knows what, because all of that’s certainly preferable to actually DOING THE FRAKKING WORK. How can I POSSIBLY make an interesting lesson this way? The EPIK gospel is “If the lesson’s interesting, then you’ll have no problems?” Oh yeah? What about the kids who don’t give a damn? What about the sick kids that cough all hour? What if they don’t want to be interested out of spite? And yes, I’m convinced it IS spite for some of them. Why not? They’ve nothing to lose. They can bitch about me, give me a bad eval, and have me fired. They’re part of THAT equation. Once I get fired, another person comes in…who they can continue tormenting. I’m starting to wonder if that’s indeed the case here.

Interesting classes require thinking. Something isn’t interesting if it doesn’t brook any thought, yet telling them what to do removes all thinking from the equation.

Solo Christmas

They nail it here.


Christmas in Korea is quite different from Christmas in the United States and many other parts of the world. I was first alerted to this fact, of course, by my students.

“Are you excited for Christmas next week?” I innocently asked a class the week before Christmas. “Oh, solo Christmas!” students yelled. In my next class, while eliciting words related to Christmas, I got some standard responses: Santa, tree, snow, Rudolph, presents, etc. However, I also got “couples,” “girlfriend,” and “boyfriend.”

On further research I have discovered that although Christmas is celebrated in Korea, it is not the widely celebrated family event it is in the U.S. In Korea, Christmas is more of a day for couples to go out on a date to a nice dinner.

This video maybe sums it up best. “Lonely Christmas” by Crayon Pop with English subtitles. Enjoy ^^

^^ This little symbol is how…

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“Gross. I felt violated and couldn’t help but laugh. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a hot girl.”

Neither can I, but this helps some. Violated, though? That’s an interesting take. Could it be that you’ve hit upon how women say they feel when the “wrong” man looks at them?

Also, good job in noting the things the women did when they wanted your attention. It goes to show how similarly silly the sexes can act when trying to “attract” each other.

Diligently arriving early to do nothing

A miracle happened this morning. It was something neither myself not my corrected could have foreseen: Everyone including the kid I’ve dubbed Hangover Boy arrived on time with materials in hand. In fact, many arrived so.earlier that I forgot that class didn’t officially start for two minutes at one point. What is the reason for this miraculous event?

A study hall.

A study hall that half of them did not know about, judging from their reaction to my announcement. This week’s the dreaded Week Before the Exams, wherein the students have a collective 멘붕 over their upcoming tests and proceed to conquer their fears of low grades by doing naught but bitching.

Before me sits the vaunted Korean studying machine, a machine fueled by Kakao talk, entitlement, and ramyeon. They showed up to moan and mash buttons with religious fervor because doing so
‘s easier than learning the stuff they complain about not knowing. Whatever. I’m just glad they’re awake.