Tag Archives: teaching

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.


Two things I’d love to do at my schools/one morning’s mood.

    Use every smart phone for skeet shooting practice
    Smash every mirror against the wall

Nothing brings these thoughts to the fore faster when my Wednesday morning class of high school kids saunter into the room. They all work at being overworked and yet bored to the core. How that’s possible, I don’t know, but it’s there and happening all the time.

More than once I’ve had to take mirrors away and hear the incessant sine waves of complaint. The same for phones. They shouldn’t have them anyway, but kids are cleverer than they look. They whine and whine and I look at them and say, “That’s too damned bad. You’ll survive without your phone.” And once the daily reminder of phones and mirrors passes, it comes time to actually work. Every single day involves me barking orders like a battle commander to get the little twerps to actually write and speak in English. Well, half of them anyway. The other half won’t do anything. I’ve talked with them, my coteacher and I have talked to them, and my coteacher and I have spoken to their home room teacher. All to no avail. I can’t send them away. I can’t make them serve detention. They know it, and I know it.

Perhaps this is what semester burnout feels like. I’d do best to remember my days teaching in the inner-city. At these kids aren’t threatening tire slashings and stabbings. Nobody is saying “Fuck you, Mr. Buckyeye.” Nobody’s pimping or trapping. Thank goodness for that. Yeah….I’ll take apathy and self-absorption over gangbanging any day.

I’ll post some more about that sordid era later. The days have grown a bit too busy to do any long posts, but maybe I can get something up if I go back to my old paragraph at a time style of writing that served well in college. Cheers.

Digital Dementia Growing in Korea

Via Korea beat me to it. The Joongang Daily ran a similar article yesterday and I was planning on posting about it.

As a 2 year veteran, I can attest to it. My kids spend every waking moment on staring at their little plastic screens. Their addictions to text messages and games have made the already slow Korean way of walking even slower. Now they putz about with a phone in front of them because they can’t bear to miss their dramas, baseball games, or side scrollers.

Water-Cooler Politics for Korean Children

These are handbills for Dokdo Island. The Hangeul characters translate to “Dokdo is our land.”

I don’t teach elementary school, but I’ve seen plenty of Dokdo politicking at the secondary level. Few things rile the kids up like Dokdo and the East Sea (aka the Sea of Japan) because it allows a few of them to whinge about the Japanese being monkeys. I’m loathe to step into their affairs, but I shut down the monkey talk whenever it comes up because of its blatant racism. America had problems enough with calling certain minorities monkeys and there’s no need to see history repeat itself.