Originally published on Jenna Smith’s blog, here.
This entry originally appeared on a Fulbright grantee’s personal blog and is published with permission here. The views expressed in these entries are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fulbright Korea or the Korea Fulbright Infusion staff.
Messages written on the congratulatory cards for Jangdeok’s 3rd grade graduates:
“No pain, no gain”
“I love you and I will never forget you until I die.” (Rather dramatic for Middle School graduation…)
So what? You graduated! (Not entirely sure if this message was sarcastic.)
“Bye.” (much creativity, such thought)
Brabo! Brabo! Brabo! (Bravo?)
And my personal favorite…
“No money, no honey”
My students have a way with words.
Conversations with Ji Su, secretly, but not so secretly, my favorite 3rd grader:
Jenna: “What are you going to do this weekend, Ji Su?”
Ji Su: “Last weekend I went dancing with some boys (interesting…),” but this weekend I need to pop my zit (the second half of this sentence was spoken in Korean and through a graphic pantomime).
So if you thought your weekend was rather lack luster, Ji Su split his time between math academy and popping his zit.
Ji Su: “Teacher, do you like kimchi? (A devilish, knowing grin spreading across his face.)
Jenna: Yes, I do Ji Su (lol no, I don’t)! But it is too spicy for me (something like that)…
Ji Su saunters to the door, and whips his head around when he hits the threshold… “Don’t lie teacher…”
You caught me Ji Su. Let this be a lesson to everyone reading, middle schoolers can smell rubbish from a mile away.
Questions I’m asked by my students:
“Teacher, can I cheat this?”
-At least now they are asking for permission to copy their friend’s worksheets.
“Teacher, are you good at art?”
-I responded, “Yes, I can draw a little.” The student followed up with, “Show us! Draw a pig!” After drawing a cartoon pig on the board, he assessed my work like a connoisseur of fine art. “Okay, Teacher, now turn it into the devil.” The devil pig: a true test of creativity, talent, and imagination.
Student: “Teacher, do you have a boyfriend?”
-This happens everyday, multiple times a day…Thank you for the constant reminded that I am single.
Jenna: “No, I don’t. Do you have a girlfriend?”
Student (addressing me and other student passersby): “No, but Jenna is a girl, who is also my friend so…”
-I chuckle as I think to myself, “Oh… I see what you did there, creepy, yet clever.” And by that logic if I at some point in my life meet Ryan Gosling, I will practically be dating him according to Gyeun Min’s logic.
A Chore Chain
The sage editors of my English textbook decided to dedicate last week’s lesson to chore vocabulary. I don’t think I could have written a more boring lesson if I’d tried (and this is saying a lot, because I have engineered a lot of supremely boring worksheets for my students, met with an eye roll at best, or pretending to be sick at worst).
Let me paint you a picture of what my classroom looked like as we covered the chapter vocabulary. My students were hanging on my every word as I described the difference between mopping and sweeping. It was getting a little too rowdy when we switched to discussing what dust looks like and the proper terminology for tidying up your bedroom. And if this lesson wasn’t already “raising the roof,” we read a story about “David” and his Korean fried “Yuna,” who volunteer to clean their classroom. Talk about a true cliffhanger. “Making the Classroom Pretty” is an instant classic with all its twists, turns, and the surprise ending.
(This is in fact the exact opposite of what happened in class.)
Heck, I was even bored teaching this lesson. So whenever I get bored in the future I will remember that week I spent a total of 12 hours discussing the nuances of chore vocabulary.
But I have to hand it to the editors for crafting such a fanciful story about David and Yuna, two students, who are too AMPED to make their classroom “pretty.” I seem to think that some editor at this publishing company knew how poorly this lesson would go over so he threw in some subtle humor for the English Teacher presenting it. In this thriller… Yuna is chomping at the bit to paint the walls in her classroom and hang the curtains (two classroom chores that I didn’t know students were ever responsible for hmmm…). David, however (it should come as a surprise to no one that David is Yuna’s white, male friend) does not share in Yuna’s enthusiasm and altruistic spirit. After hanging the curtains David knows he needs to draw the line with all of this “manual labor business.” Thus, when Yuna suggests that they clean the windows too David promptly declines. His response is priceless and I quote, “We don’t need to do that. The others students will do that tomorrow.” I like the way he thinks. Delegation.
We rounded out this chapter with the introduction of the key phrase, “I had my hair cut.” Aw yes, after I dust I typically want to go out for a nice hair cut, or at the very least I desire to state that I did so in the past tense.
Up next we will tackle the lesson titled, “My Internet Friends,” and though this is a trend I don’t think we should be promoting to middle school students, I will teach anything that does not involve me pantomiming the act of vacuuming or finding samples of dust on the floor in my classroom. Luckily the latter is not hard to do, since my students are more like David and less like Yuna so my classroom has not seen the likes of a broom since it was built.
I also now know that there is literally no conceivable way to make learning the word “vacuuming” fun, no amount of fun gifs of celebrities vacuuming (the things I have Googled since coming to Korea are both comical and terrifying… and no, gifs of celebrities vacuuming do not exist) will do the trick.
My favorite failed attempts at the lyrics to the song “Lost Stars” by Adam Levine:
And the (yams) are on the run. Actual Lyrics: “And the lambs are on the run.”
-Rein in those pesky yams everyone.
So let’s get drunk on our (beers). Actual Lyrics: “So let’s get drunk on our tears.”
-This is definitely a more literal approach to the song. Some 1st graders have no time for metaphoric frivolity.
Hero of the Week
Nature Valley Bars are SOLD in KOREA. I nearly cried when I discovered this in the grocery store today. My parents keep these well stocked in the car for a healthy snack on the go and I would begrudgingly pick at the contents of each package when I was bored after school. They have since turned into a staple in my diet that (I dare say) I look forward to eating twice a day. Though I once thought these tasted like saw dust and glue in America it beats the heck out of “pizza toast” (a tomato and corn mash baked until crusty on top of a slice of bread, and then sprinkled with cheese), quail eggs, purple yogurt mixed with sliced tomatoes, and my favorite new dining hall concoction “pizza meat” (the same tomato and corn mash baked until crusty a top a patty of mystery meat, and then sprinkled with cheese). Yum? In retrospect it is quite sad that I am so excited about this discovery that I decided to include it in a blog post.
A few of my favorite students…
Meet Queen Ji Eun…Hannah’s host sister and the sassiest sixth grader in Korea. She showed me how to edit my photos with an app so that I look prettier… Guess which one.
A few pictures from my trip to Jeju Island! The “Hawaii” of Korea.
Cherry blossom season has already come and gone. The picture on the left is my school and the right is my apartment complex.
Snapshots of Seoul…
I kissed that dead pig head for good luck, the “ramen bun” burger looks like a nightmare and it is on “sale” this season (people must not be lining up for this one), and green tea bingsu from Jeju YUM!
And finally… drum roll please. Jun So (his English name is “Swings,” I have not heard this English name in all of my English speaking life, but so it goes…) was elected Jangdeok’s fearless leader aka school president (my host mom told me that he was only elected because the first graders think that he is handsome). The teachers are not too pleased about his victory, because Jun So has been caught breaking the school rules on a regular basis this includes, but is not limited to his penchant for eating popsicles by the school gate after lunch! Shame, shame, but to the victor go the spoils (first grade admirers and illegal popsicle licks).
Here’s to the world and the wonderful,