March 30

This morning before class, I groaned quietly and looked away from my computer that had blue screened once again. Little did I know I’d need the same stress tactic for later in the day.

5-5 was once again late and unprepared. They had trouble singing our class song and setting up for class. I was so disappointed and frustrated that I had to take a moment to look out the window of their classroom and remind myself that they are kids and no one will learn if I hold my irritation against them.

I reminded them again about being prepared and arriving on time and the rest of the class went smoothly, though I felt much less peppy. The over-actor girl from the first week seems to be one of the few in that room with enough EQ to recognize when I’m disappointed.

No other of my 18 classes has this problem even if the homeroom teacher has already exited the classroom in advance of my arrival.

I caught the 5-5 homeroom teacher on his way back and told him the students were late and unprepared. He said “oh” like he would do something about it, but nothing more. I can’t expect thirty eleven-year-olds to have that level of self-control: if their teacher doesn’t emphasize class readiness, then it’s certainly difficult for me to underscore its importance.

Jack asked me later about fifth grade if I also had sleepy students who doze all the way through class. I told him yes and we had a moment of solidarity.

He confessed that last year he scolded students who were sleeping and once they woke up they threatened to pack their bags and go home.

As a result, homeroom teachers this year have told him if a student is sleeping just let them be. I went through enough awkward situations in Seoul to know that I don’t know anything: the student’s home situation, the medication a student might be taking… I don’t know and can’t guess so if a few poor kids doze off for 30 minutes I’m not going to forcefully wake them. They’re already under so much pressure to perform academically.

Luckily 6-2 swooped in with their general “here for a good time” attitude to shake off the frustration of the morning. We talked about Konglish (corn dogs are called hot dogs here) and how “ache” can be applied to the heart, too. One boy dramatically said, “I have a heartache” when we did speaking relay and then added dramatically, “Oh, Romeo, my Romeo!” Connecting prior knowledge? Using a new word creatively? We love to see it!

The boy in front of him vibrated and raised his hand to tell me that his male classmate had talked about heartache for another man (Romeo).

“So?” I said.

“Teacher, he’s a boy and Romeo is a boy.” He explained, worried I hadn’t understood the nuance.

“I… don’t care,” I said. “That doesn’t bother me.” I added in Korean. His world looked rocked. But that was the end of that and I moved on to other students.

The sixth graders had a good time and they love to learn quirky bits of English. I even reviewed verb conjugation for “to have” since 6-1 was trying hard to make their own sentences (saying “He has a cold” instead of the book target sentence “I have a cold) which I very much appreciate. I drew he/she/it in one bubble and I/you/we/they in another. I wrote “have” and “has” to the side and asked which bubble went to which verb.

Upon student suggestion I drew a line and then had them practice “to have a cold” with each pronoun. I heard several “aha!” from the crowd and was pleased to see this little light go off for them.

None of the elementary Korean text books talk about conjugation so it’s a wonder they can conjugate any verb in the present tense…

We also talked about irregular plurals like “tooth, teeth” which I connected to foot/feet. I really enjoy the engaged sixth grade classes because they are mature and curious enough to dive a little deeper into English.

I had to physically steer some students for our game and gave others a few light shoulder pats. I desperately miss the physical affection from the Before Times: hugs (where I’m usually the unsuspecting victim), high fives, head pats, linking arms…

As you know, Korean students and teachers are much more tactile than Americans so it was nice to communicate good job through touch, something I think we’ve all desperately missed during COVID!

I’ll be happy for the day I get to see all their full maskless sweet little faces.

I can’t decide which grade I like the best— it’s really dependent on personality and enthusiasm. When students are engaged and comfortable enough to be clever, well, those are the moments I love the most.

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