June 25, Question

The same trio of fourth grade girls that ask for high fives called out to me excitedly in the lunch line. I gave them more high fives and they told me I’m pretty. Win win.

One from the trio caught up with me on the stairs later and asked me an interesting question in Korean.

“Are you a foreigner?” She posed politely.

“Am I a foreigner?” I repeated, to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding this conversation. She confirmed.

“Yes, I am. I’m American.”

“You’re American?”

“Yes,” I answered, holding back a laugh. She was cutely serious so I asked her why.

“You’re the first foreigner I’ve ever met.”

“Really? You didn’t meet one in third grade?”

“No.”

I have no idea why she needed to confirm that I was a foreigner, given my obvious foreignness, but ten year olds have 4D thought patterns.

I did action reading (each word in a sentence is assigned a movement like clap or spin) with fourth grade and a group of boys giggled so hard doing spins and jumps while reading they couldn’t get the words out.

“Wow, that was… interesting.” I commented. One kid caught on to the nuance and laughed then explained to her nearby classmates what I had said.

Fifth grade did even better with active reading and wore themselves out to the point of breathlessness. I had four levels, the last of which combined three moves at once per word.

After tiring them out, they drew a three panel comic of their summer plans. As usual there was “I’ll kill the people” or some other form of exaggerated violence which is not as controversial as the kids thinks. If you want to shock me, you can spell correctly.

One sweet, quiet girl wrote “What will you do this Christmas? I’ll go to church.” Another two higher level girls wrote about going to Hogwarts and meeting “handsome Draco Malfoy” which, girls, I have news for you…

Anyway, all the fifth graders (well, the two problem classes are next week) did well so I’m happy. I was surprised how well they could read given how tough English is for my travel school kids.

In all the commotion I didn’t notice until the afternoon that “up” had suddenly appeared in black sharpie on my USB to indicate proper orientation. I figured the only culprit was the 5-4 teacher. She once changed my PowerPoint sentence (that was already correct).

It’s something I’ve been meaning to do anyway but it’s amusing she’s involved to this extent. I think a long past me would be offended but post COVID me has bigger fish to fry.

And the other morning when I was coming into school I heard a quiet “good morning” and to my great surprise it was the 5-6 teacher. Good to know she doesn’t hate me? Ha.

I try to incorporate as much comic drawing and role playing as possible to get my kids as comfortable as possible speaking. This was further bolstered by a message I received in the foreign teacher group chat. One departing teacher was collecting advice from her coworkers and the Korean science teacher had advised the next foreign teacher not to feel sad if people at school seem unfriendly.

Koreans basically have a fear of English. I think because Koreans have a strong sense of community and value what others think of them so they might be ashamed of themselves for not being able to speak English….

They also tend to avoid talking to foreigners. They don’t hate you, so you can approach them first. They might feel uncomfortable and answer incorrectly but they will talk to you.

Ah yes, my favorite pastime: forcing people to small talk in their non native language. Remember when I talked to the English fluent admin and she got so nervous her chin started to shake and then she never spoke to me again? Good times.

I don’t want my kids to grow up with that mentality, though I’m not sure it can be avoided given the nature of higher level English education. Regardless, I’ll do my best to instill speaking confidence now.

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