school daze…

school DAZE

Kim Jong-un hard at work. Photo is compliments of my good friend, JW, complete with the following caption: “OH MY GAW… IF [KRISSI TEACHER] GIVES ME ANY MORE HOMEWORK I AM GOING TO FLIP OUT!!!!”

So, let’s talk about the reality of my job for a minute.

In short, I LOVE IT! And I’m not one of those people who will lie to you and say, “Oh yes, I love my job because I love the children!” That’s a lie, folks. They’re LYING to you. I WILL say that there are some of them that I’ve grown to ADORE on a completely professional teacher to adorable-Asian-child level. There are some of them that will lean on me while I grade their tests or little girls that will play with my hair… These are the ones that I want to kidnap, take to my apartment, and force them to cuddle with me while eating assorted chocolate treats and watching a vast array of Disney movies… Both of us would LOVE it. And then there are some that make me want to advocate for bringing spanking back into schools…

But back to the point. I love my job because while I don’t want to kidnap every kid that steps foot in my classroom (and I’m not even sure that I want children of my own, for that matter), I believe and understand that these kids are the future of our world. And I’m sorry to say, but most of them seem smarter than American kids… These are the kids that will save the planet from a massive zombie outbreak or a meteor flying to planet Earth. I am ALL ABOUT being a white girl on the Asian English train right now.

There’s also a more emotional side to all of this, also, which we can get into on another day. But let’s just talk about the mechanics of how all this crazy Konglish communication works on a daily basis.

Now, I teach kids ranged in age from about 5 years old all the way up to about 10 or 11 years old. (They, of course, tell me they’re a year or two older, as Koreans count their age differently. More on that in a future post!) And obviously, based on their age, usually, these kids have varying levels of English comprehension. And EVERY class has its moments where I repeat, “Uh, WHAT?!” or “HUH?!” or “Say it again, but slower.” There are a lot of moments where we stumble through together. I enjoy correcting their speech or making the students “learn” a new word, which of course, they forget five seconds later. (Well, the younger ones do. The oldest ones, my “Sapling” students, are pretty good about remembering.) My newest favorite thing is to say a word and make them repeat it a good three or four times. If their pronunciation is off (which it often is, as “l” and “r” are a little less distinguishable in Korean versus English),  I make them repeat key sounds. For example, one class was trying to explain how they can get “hurt,” but “hurt” sounded like “hut.” So, we said “hurt” a good four times, and when it STILL sounded like “hut,” we made engine-revving sounds to get the idea of “rrrrrr-rrrr!” in “hurt.”


A student’s recent writing submission about the advantages and disadvantages of online vs. offline friends. Note the mention of offline friends being “ugly..”

So yeah, I love my job, sound effects and all.

I get really excited when they read or say something correctly or make a perfect sentence without help. Who knew my daily dose of excitement would come from hearing kids speak with proper English!?… Class time can have MANY frustrations, but it can also be tons of fun.

But perhaps my strongest love-hate relationship in my job is with the weekly writing notebooks. Some of these seem more like a torture method to read through. The writing is scrawled, literally, ALL OVER the place. Not in the lines. Letters are indiscernible. I had one this week that I honestly COULD NOT READ and told the student on his homework. I gave him VERY low scores because he appeared to have done the work and turned it in, but I couldn’t read beyond the first line of the short paragraph… Then, there are others that are easier to read, handwriting-wise, but the sentence structure is so screwed up it reads like a cat wrote it or something… These are equally irritating to grade, as you can’t read the kid’s mind, so you guess. Or, occasionally, I write a whole new “example” sentence so they can see what it SHOULD look like, assuming I’m following their main idea.

And then, there are the ones that make me laugh out loud. Take, for example, the picture to the left. This is a “Sapling” student’s writing submission from a few weeks ago. One of our lessons was on the differences between online and offline friends, and the homework writing assignment was to write about the advantages and disadvantages between the two and then “pick a side” of which you prefer. Jamie prefers offline friends, but my favorite disadvantage she wrote about was that sometimes offline friends “are ugly.” BAHAHAHA. Considering how obsessed this culture is with physical appearance, I can’t say I’m shocked to have read this in MORE THAN ONE writing notebook (only the girls’, of course), but it still made me laugh out loud to the point of having to share what was so funny with my fellow teachers and office mates.

And so, the point is, some days I leave the office in a bit of a daze from the chaotic nature of teaching classes full of energetic children, and other days I leave with nothing more than a stupid smile plastered on my face.

For better or for worse, this is the best… job… ever…


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