Week 7, Monday

The boys and girls of fourth and fifth grade loved my white boots and were amazed by my increased height. My feet are in pain but it was worth it.

The “handsome teacher” student gifted me two small, cute fruits: “Teacher! 선물.” Strong Girl and Weak Boy translated “gift!”

They are doing so well in English and try hard in class so sometimes I give them hints via hand gesture when the main teacher asks a question (anyone could see my secret hints though so it’s fair).

In 4-1 I got to play Pig 1 for the group that was missing a fourth member in a modern retelling of the three little pigs. I made a chant for us and my loyal comrades even nominated me for best actor.

In the afternoon I received a school wide email which I usually translate for general knowledge only and didn’t think too much of it; If it were serious they would contact S or write me in English. But when I entered the teacher’s lounge for instant coffee, the head teacher pulled me aside to tell me about the afternoon meeting, the same one referenced in the email.

“Oh how do I say it in English… hold on let me call the organizer and see if you need to attend” is what I assumed she said.

She made a quick call and I gathered my presence was not needed (and seeing as no one speaks English I’m honestly not sure what benefit that would be to me or others). The head teacher wanted to chat though and asked me something like

“Are your sons beautiful?” *

“….uh what?”

She repeated but I just answered “Yes the students are good.”

She asked another question but I really didn’t understand any nouns or verbs or conjugation she had used.

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand those words”

“I thought you spoke Korean”

Me: *shrug* me too

I can use basic present/past/future tense but I’m nowhere near fluent**. I graduated from level one! Of six! I suppose so few foreign teachers learn Korean that anything above “1 2 3 give me this please thank you” launches me into a new category, as if there’s nothing in between.

My coworkers are convinced that I learned Korean through dramas, because “how do you know so much”. The truth is that I took an intensive course and use Korean every day.

I’m not afraid to look dumb and take advantage of my 200 little teachers. But if TV watching were a true teacher, every Korean would speak English considering the volume of American entertainment here. And let me tell you, that is not the case. (The irony is everyone at the school has studied English for a decade but doesn’t understand my native speech).

I’m amazed and grateful to my students who understand this more than the adults. Cheers to their endless patience.

I saw my third graders after class in the school field including Nick Jr (my brother’s Korean doppelganger) and a more… rebellious boy who was carrying a cage. Nick Jr smiled and waved so big and ahhhh my heart.

“Is it an animal? 돈물?” I asked the group.

“동물” Nick Jr patiently corrected.

It took me a minute to find the praying mantis hidden among the leaves!

♥️ my kiddos.

**I want to make a note for any of you who might come into contact with non native speakers or learners of your language. Speaking loudly does not help. Speaking more slowly ONLY HELPS if you also simplify your grammar. Minimize colloquialisms and accessory words like “just/right/like/I think…”.

Did you ever go and see the Statue of Liberty?✖️
Did you visit the Statue of Liberty? ☑️

Are you saying that you don’t like pizza? ✖️
You do not like pizza?☑️

Sometimes I just wanna squish his face.✖️
He’s very cute. ☑️

*I later learned that 예쁘게 in many contexts does not mean “beautifully” but “well”. So what she really was asking was “are the kids behaving well?”

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