March 16, All By Myself

“What do Americans think of Korea?” asked Jack at lunch.

“Honestly, Americans don’t know much about Korea. If I’m being frank, the question I get asked most often is ‘do they eat dog?'”

Americans aren’t taught much (any) history or culture of Asia which is strange given that a country like China was and is a major and influential world power that drove much of technical advancement and trade throughout late human history.

I told him I think Korea is more efficient in a lot of ways and he responded, “but in America the land is wide and you can own guns.”

Sometimes I want to tell people, if America is so great, then why don’t you move there? I would never, but still.

It seems impossible to get any Korean over the age of 40 to admit that America might not be perfect.

Fifth grade was falling asleep and uncharacteristically listless. I was thankful for the over-dramatic girl in 5-5 since she repeated after me the loudest and thus the other students followed suit. One boy cried in a corner after our game and another slept on and off. I don’t know their disabilities or their home situations, so I didn’t try to make the sleepy boys sit ramrod straight, and the other to take a break at the back to release his feelings. The personality differences between classes is astounding.

Thankfully, my mature and active sixth grade classes were also today. I’m a rotating teacher at my main school and thus travel with my little binder and USB from class to class.

Two girls from 6-2 ran up to me before class to say, “Teacher, you are tall. And your eyes are big. They are pretty.”

Now I actually don’t think physically my eyes are bigger than a Korean person’s eyes. In fact, someone in middle school once told me my eyes were small. But the power of mascara and covering most of my face apart from my eyes tends to set an allusion.

But I never got compliments about my eyes in the US, so I’ll take them now where I can get them!

6-2 is my favorite sixth grade class and the kind homeroom teacher sits in the back to grade papers and occasionally looks up to see what I’m doing and how the students are behaving.

That was not true for 6-1. I waited outside of the classroom with no sign of the teacher and figured like my 5-5 class earlier in the day, the homeroom teacher would not be coming to supervise at all. In fact, a sweet girl from 5-5 had to come out and tell me to go ahead and enter the classroom which remained absent of its homeroom teacher.

The lacking 6-1 teacher was a problem since the teacher’s computer was locked.

“Uh…”

I stepped back into the hallway and saw her from afar. She sped walked up and asked in Korean if all the students were there, as if to wonder why I needed her. I told her I needed her password.

After class she wrote down her computer password and mentioned it was the same for all of sixth grade. The implication that I didn’t need to wait, and wouldn’t have a homeroom teacher in most sixth grade classes, was not lost on this English teacher.

That’s fine by me, sixth grade is well-behaved.

I worked on intonation with 6-1 by making a bell curve type shape with my hand. They had the bad habit repeating well after me but then saying “What GRADE are you IN?” when speaking on their own. Intonation is incredibly important and we worked together to correct this. They loved copying my bell curve move (almost like an orchestra conductor) and didn’t realize that as silly as they tried to be, it really worked.

I speak to my classes in a mix of English and Korean, mostly because I’m not proficient enough in Korean to explain fully, but this system works well for us and I appreciate their help. Week by week we are adjusting to each other well and I don’t spend Sundays in dread but rather excitement for the week ahead when I can see all my babies again.

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