Week 5, Monday

Seungkwan Jr stuck his head in the teacher’s lounge during lunch to shout “Hello Abigail teacher!” Yes, Seungkwan Jr, continue establishing my popularity in front of the other teachers! Gold star!

Guitar teacher can sense when I need support at lunch so he asks me questions. Thank you.

He said drank and ate 전 with his friends this weekend (at what point can we be friends sir?? I need more Koreans in my life and 전 is my favorite Korean food, sounds like the basis for a great friendship). He said something new so I made everyone at the table stop, repeat word for word, and break down the sentence “잘 놀러 다녀요”
I knew that:
잘 means well
놀(다)means play/hang out
-러 is a particle that indicates going somewhere to do something
다나다 means to go somewhere every day/routinely

It comes together to mean something like “you’re really getting out there and having fun every weekend”. It’s great that I learned but also please imagine how my life is, hearing a constant stream of not-quite-understood sentences like this. Oh well I’ll just keep annoying people until I’m fluent. Hahaha YOU ALL MUST SUFFER WITH ME.

The counselor teacher across from me asked if I was American or British. “I’m American.”

“Wow really? I thought you looked British.”

“What? What does a British person even look like?”

My coteacher chimed in to say I look like Keira Knightley (“your eyes” so maybe she’s not wrong, and I’ve been told by Americans that I look like Phoebe Waller-Bridge). The music teacher added that “your ancestors came from Britain”.

I tried my best in broken Korean to say that our American ancestors came from Europe, Africa, are Native American, etc and basically that it’s all a big mix. So yes, but also no (Korea, much like China, emphasizes its 5000 year history and can trace back to the “first” Korean. There’s a reason why DNA ancestry testing is popular in the US but would be an absolute flop in most of Asia).*

5-3 and 5-2 were exhausting. It took me two classes to understand that they are really low level. In all of fifth grade about a quarter of students couldn’t even fill in sentences, even when given the answer. So suffice to say trying to explain my information gap drawing game had a very rocky start. But we stumbled through together and I have some hilarious drawings that I saved. And Strong Girl and Weak Boy are becoming my champions of 5-3. They don’t always know but they always try.

Weak Boy was precious today, he volunteered answers and was so genuine. Strong Girl cracked me up with saying pants like panties (Korean uses the English word panty to mean unisex underwear, a strange Konglish phenomenon). Tank Boy couldn’t write at all but I saw him in guitar club and figure that all students have their own strengths.

When I went to my fourth grade class immediately after fifth grade I was overcome with relief. Fourth grade is still precious and willing to participate and their chaotic cacophony brings me great joy. I dramatically slid the class door open and they all cried “Abigail teacher!”

4-1 are my squishiest little buns and it’s a struggle to not pat them on the head. I had a fun linguistic experiment with them lifted directly from an exercise I did with my Chinese kiddos: short A versus short E can be difficult to distinguish. So, first I made everyone dramatically smile for short E and act like they were on a roller coaster for short A. Then I silently mouthed “Kat” and “ket ” and made them guess the vowel based on my mouth shape. It worked well! I love teaching phonetics. And a student in 4-3 saw me dab once and now he throws it in at least once per class.

During my planning period after school is over, there are still some clubs and groups that meet: for example, guitar club next-door meets after school on Mondays. En route to brush my teeth a distant voice called “Abigail teacher”. A familiar girl whose class level I couldn’t place wanted to talk to me. She had a lot she wanted to say but struggled to say it in English so I switched to Korean. We had a really long chat in Korean about various bands and what songs she likes as we stood between the guitar club classroom and the bathroom. I made a lot of speaking mistakes and had to self correct (I talk about food and music with people often and these words are very similar in Korean; I kept saying what food do you like when talking about bands HA) but she was very patient, like all my kids are. It was so heartwarming and a good reminder that I don’t have to directly talk with all my students in class to have an impact. And I’ll remember that her name is HeeJoo. She’s one of my once-weekly sixth graders.

After everything I wandered the alleys near the local university to get a handle on other restaurants in my neighborhood. I don’t think it worked, I just became even more overwhelmed; I probably passed 100 restaurants in a 15 minute walk. And all of them sit-down, no help for my eating alone conundrum. Where are all the street vendors when I need them? Baby steps I suppose.

Some of the best drawings from grade 5.

*Note from the future: One day I will learn not to do this because I will realize that people don’t want a lecture on American history.

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