Caveat: Student Goodbyes, Part 1

I didn't make it an official homework assignment, but I told my students I would welcome thoughtful goodbye messages. Mostly the elementary kids wrote on paper, while the middle schoolers wrote me emails.

I will scan the handwritten messages tomorrow and maybe post them once I get to Oregon. For today, here are some of my older students' typed messages. I place them here unedited in any way. I can only say that I am deeply touched by all these messages, and I will miss these students greatly.

지은

 

My Dearest Friend Jared

Hi, Jieun – Joy – Park Daegi is writing this letter.

I sincerely cannot believe where you are going tomorrow. I’m very sorry to say good bye to you. But I also know that you have to be, you must be, should be happy despite of your living area. And you will be, too. You are the one of the best teachers I have ever met. Jared, You taught me so many valuable things including English skills. Speaking, Writing, Listening, Comprehensive Class, and all the kinds of games, – such as Mafias, Beans, Board, Taro – I will never forget what you gave me. In the moment of writing these sentences, I feel like I’m gonna cry a little, thinking about the past (with you). Maybe, …I remember when I first met you in 2012. Even though I did not know much about you, I felt comfortable and I liked you a lot. (Still I do.) You are like my father, and sometimes you are like my best friend. I really like the way you are and respect you as a great teacher. Whenever I have a talk with you, it is fresh, new, and fun. You are highly helpful person to me. You respect me as a human. So I’m gonna respect your every decision. This flight is by your own decision, and I respect it without saying a complaint. You are estimable. Except me, all of your friends would think like that. The person who made my dream is you. Jared affected me very much. From now on, I am going to learn Spanish and Latin, sometimes Japanese to realize my hopes. I would love to write stories, I love talking with ‘my’ people. When I am more than 20 years old, I want to be a writer who writes essays, novels, and plays. I want to be a linguist as I told you. I want to be counselor for young wandering children. I want to be a linguistic professor. One thing is indisputable. Even if I do not realize those dreams, I am sure I must be happy anyway.

There are still many words to convey, but I cut it out because there are also many letters to write later.

Just remember you will do well. The road you take would be the best way for you. Take care. Will miss you a lot. Will often write a letter when I feel relaxed. God Always Blesses You, haha.

 

Thank you again for all you have done.

To. 왜 저래 쌤, Jared, Mr. Way, Jared Way, Jared Owen Way, My honorable teacher

From. 지은(2003.10.03.)

2018.07.20 on a sweltering Summer day in front of my black laptop

수민

Jared. I'm Su Min. Wow, you are leaving ? I can't beileve it. I think it was so short time for us to share our episodes. I can have so interesting informations from your class. Thank you. I always expected to get fresh stories in Toefl class. It was really fun. I wish you had feel how concentrated I am. I can remember El Nino and la nina. Of course I can't understand yet. I only know that it is the climate changes that give negetive effects when temperature is stop by 10 years … bla bla Whatever, good information. I am exactly surprised when you can explain everything about any topics and I haven't heard you are yelling. I really respect about that points.^!^ You are my role model. I love teps listening because I like your style. Thank you for making interest in teps listening even if it was hard.  In addition, I really want to thank you that you are always confident about me. Believe it or not, I felt in my heart. I wish this is true! I built confidence because of you. Thank you. I'm afraid that I can't speak with you, so I can't get awesome stories. I felt I gradually hear what you are speaking and now I can understand excatly 98.3%, because 1.7% is my vocabulary skill. See~~ I get confident in this section. My strength is listening!! Thank you for being my best teacher. Oh! you said I have to write Who I am and Why You should remember me. Okay, Don't forget me Jared. I can't forget you either. And you should remember me because I'm the student who likes your class most. I have seen many foreign teachers for 10 years. However, you are my best. You should be proud of this. ^^ I think Every students will think like me. I will work hard and of course I will get in touch with my curious questions. I will expect incredible reply. Please be healthy. And be happy. I will miss you and your greeting, Hi alligators~! Are you ready for fun English?~~ (Is that right?)  What ever, Thank you so much Jared. Thank you.

소연

Here we go

 

Um…This kind of thing is so shy….

 

When I first saw you, I wanted to go out. I mean really!! You were too scary to me. But later, when I read a book with you, I started to think that you are not scary. And the next day, I became the top student. At that time, I have never been to an academy I just studied alone so it was hard to do homework or memorize words. Bu t because it was easy for me, I started to do homework in Karma. Of course, it was a wrong choice. When I went to honors the homework was too hard for me to do it. Anyway, I'm so sorry to hear that you are going to Alaska. I'm still a little bit sad. But if you don't forget me, I won't forget you either. We really had a long time with each other. When I was in honors, a teacher came instead of you. It was really boring. I didn't have anything to eat. Oh, never mind. ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ I wish you to be healthy wherever you go. You were a nice teacher. It isn't 300words but I did my best. I really wish that we can keep in touch and visit Korea someday. OK, I think this is real goodbye. Bye!! -from your lovely student who wrote your last essay, soyeon-

 

은별

 

Hi, I am Olivia.🙂

I am very surprised to hear the news that you leave Korea. To be honest, I am very sad that I have to say "Good bye"to you. To tell the truth,you are the first native English teacher I have ever met. And I have studied with you in Karma since last December. First, I could not speak English very well. But after I met you, I practiced speaking more. So my speaking skill became better than that time.  Your explanations and own stories helped me very much. Oh I think also my listening skill became better. Now I can concentrate on what others are saying in English too. I think I could not became better without your help.

 

And I also feel sorry for you because,I did my best but I could not write my essay well.(This means homework..haha) But you told me how to write essay correctly. From then on, I am practicing writing essay correctly.. I think I would be better more and more if I practice many times.

 

You also helped me adapt to Karma. Your classes and games helped me to get along with my good friends. And your story and joke  always made us to have fun. (Like 'Jamesfied'..) You made classes fun!

I do not know other people's opinions, but I think your class is the most fun. So I always waited for your listening,speaking,writing class.

 

You were very good teacher for us. You have many knowledge and experience, so we could learn about culture of the world, what the tornado is, why did the water dried on some river,..more than that. So I am very sorry that you are leaving. But I will keep in touch with you after you leave Korea!!

 

From. Olivia

준희

 

Hi, Jared teacher. I'm June.

You must go U.S.A. Your uncle is sick. When I was six grade, I met you.  I was nervous when my foreign teacher was not familiar. But my teacher is really good, so I think I enjoyed my class. It was good that you always teach me a lot, but I feel bad because you go to America. I had a class with you for 7 months after I came to middle school. It was so fun! I don't want you to go, but I have to go because someone like your father is sick. Teacher must be sad because uncle is sick. I don't know when you will come to America, but you can contact me! I still don't know who I'll be with if you go to the States. I wish I could be an interesting person like you. Teacher, if anything happens, I'll listen to your advice. I'll think you're going, but it's next to you. I will get along well in my school life, so I want you to get along. Take good care of your uncle, too. I will also pray so that the disease doesn't get worse. Of course, you should take care of your health. I will stay healthy, too. Let's meet in good health the next time we meet. Teacher! Then you should always be healthy. Then I'll write it down to here. Goodbye! See you later.

승훈

 

Hello, Jared teacher. I am writing this letter because you will come back to the United States of America. I met you when I was in 5th grade. And you are always seem happy. When I listened you will come back to the United States of America? I was little bit sad. You always kind to everybody. When I was in the Newton1 class? I played many games with you. It was very fun. I want to play that many games with you again and again. But you will come back to the America because you’re uncle is sick. I do not have that experience. But I empathize your situation. You said that your uncle is like second father. That means you need him and he loves you. So maybe I think your uncle is very important in your life. So if I am in your situation, I will do like you. I will pray your uncle is not sick. If you have some times in the United States of America? I believe you will check the E-mail. If I have some problems, then Can I send you E-mail? It was a very good time. Time is very fast. As I said, I met you when I was 12 years old. It is just 2 years. I want to see you everyday. I am happy to go to the Karma. Because there are many teachers like you. I think you are very kind. Lastly, If you want to come to Korea? Then come to Korea. Maybe there are a lot of memories. Bye bye teacher. I will pray for your uncle.

 

-Toby

 

지윤

 

Dear Jared

 

Hi teacher!! It's Julie. It is really sad that I can not see you anymore.

Beacause you taught me hard from when I did not know alphabet until I was in the highest class now.

I learn a lot thanks to you. Such as history and how to talk with foreign well. Also you make me love English.

Thank you. Actually I was young,  I was scared when I saw you.

That is because you were the first foreigner I saw.

It is mean you were my first foreign teacher. But now, you are my favorite teacher><

Please stay healthy and happy when you go to America.

And do not forget me. I will not forget you, either.

I want to keep communicating with you.

Will you help me even if you are in America?

Please contact me if you come Korea again.

I want to see you until I'll become adult.

Bye teacher. You are very good teacher to me.

 

재연

 

To Jared teacher

 

Teacher I'm great students James. I'm so sad when I hear the news about you have to go to USA. I'm so happy when you teach our class. I have seen you for two years. I remember the first time when we met. I was in 6 grade, and I was in newton 1 class. There was Ray,me,Toby,Harry,Eric. However, now there is only Harry,Toby, and me. I learned writing,listening, speaking from you for 2 years. and my English is more improved. I want talk about your personality. Jared teacher, you have very special personality. I envy your personality. You have very good personality, because your personality can make many friends. I think you are very funny and very kind. Also, I want ask some questions for you. I wonder why you pick Korea about your job. Maybe you like Korea, but I want your answer. If you have time, please answer me. Korea is not famous country, and I wonder how can you know Korea and why you move to the Korea. Also, I think Korea's food is spicier than other country's. How about your first Korean style spicy food? Also what's the food? Our class wants to buy you a very spicy food. That name is stir-fried Rice Cake. If you want eat that, We'll buy that. I'm so sad because I met you only two years. If I come Karma early, and I could met you for 3~5 years. I want you don't forget me, and my classmate. Our class is very noise but our class always like you, so don't forget us. I'll call you after 3 months with my classmate. So please don't forget me……

 

By great student James.

 

준서

 

Hello Jared, I am Jun Seo. I think you will be one of the best teacher in my mind. Because of you, I learned a lot of things. I had a very good time with you and I hope that the time we were together will be the best memory in your mind. I know that you will lose many things if you go to the U.S.A. The first time you said that to us. I was very sorry to heard that. After that, I am trying not to forget you forever, because you were the first teacher who made me laugh and it was very impressived. The first time we met in the Academy, I always looked you very strangely. However, oneday I realized that you are very kind to me and my classmates, so I became a person who do not look you strangely. You know, you are the best teacher that I have seen in the Karma Academy. When you teach our class, I thought that the time we had was only 20 minutes, but it was about 45 minutes. All the time you said to us, and all the time you teach us about something, and all the time you play with us were always fun for me, and I am very sad that we have only two weeks to see each other in HS-1 class. I will miss you and other students like Julie, Toby, Andy, James, Olivia, Linda, Harry, Kevin, Junes, and so on will miss you, too. I am very sorry that I have no present for you. You gave us a lot of information and a lot of present, but I have no present for you. I am really sorry for that, because I do not even know that you will leave this country in a month, and I am busy these days, so I can not give you a present. Thank you for everything, and I hope you to see me someday.

규민

Hello teacher I'm 규민

I'm sorry to hear that you will go Alaska.we will miss you so much.

Thank you for teaching us until now.You are my the best teacher.

I want you to come back to see us.We never don't forget you.

GOOD

B B B B B B B B Y Y E E E E E E E E E E EE E E E

B B Y Y E

B B Y Y E

B B Y Y E

B B Y Y E

B B Y Y E

B B B B B B B B B Y Y E

B B Y Y E

B B Y Y E E E E E E E E E E E E E E

B B Y Y E

B B Y E

B B Y E

B B Y E

B B Y E

B B B B B B B Y E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E

승민

Hello, Jared. I'm 승민 I'm sorry to hear that you will move. 🙁 I've met you since I was 12. You were a good teacher for me and your listening class was always fun. My listening skills became better thanks to you. All the moments with you were meaningful and fun. I hope you will come back.^^

ㅏ ㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷ

ㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈㅈ ㅔ ㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹ ㅏ ㄷ

ㅈ ㅔ ㄹ ㅏ ㄷ

ㅈ ㅈ ㅔㅔㅔㅔㅔ ㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹ ㅏㅏㅏ ㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷㄷ

ㅈ ㅈ ㅔ ㄹ ㅏ

ㅈ ㅈ ㅔ ㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹㄹ ㅏ ㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡㅡ

 

민재

To. Teacher Jared Way
Hello. I'm Min Jae Kim. Thank you for teaching about listening. I hope your uncle health become healthy. Also I hope I meet you again before I quit Karma. Finally I'm so glad to meet you. If you come back Karma, I will welcome you so so so much. I'll miss you so much.
By. Min jae

 

찬희

Teacher, We will miss you so much. I will not forget you. So please don't forget us. I'm really sad when I heard about you go Alaska. I hope that sometime we see again.

소현

Hi, teacher.

I came to Karma Academy late and did not see you much. You said your uncle is very sick. When I heard that, I'm very sad.

We have a short time with each other but I will miss you. Bye.

 

성연

hello i am 성연

i entered this academy 2 months ago.

we have few classes and i"m so sad that i have to say goodbye.

but i was very happy because i had a nice class with a nice teacher.

i won't forget you if this is the last time.

appreciate to you for giving me a nice time

 

[daily log: walking, 9.0km; carrying heavy box to post office, 0.5km]

Caveat: I’m an apostrophe

As mentioned before, we have this thing at Karma called "CC" class – a somewhat opaque name for what are essentially focused listening exercises using English-language pop songs. Mostly, these days, I can proudly say that my initiative to have the students prepare and present their own choices of songs has gone quite well, and 90% of the time, the students do their homework and they lead the class. I love sitting in a class where the students are leading, and even using English fairly successfully to manage the class.

But sometimes a student forgets his or her homework, or some miscommunication causes there not to be a prepared song for a given class. So I have some "backup" songs prepared. One of the "CC" songs that I've been using for this is "Whatever It Takes," by the group Imagine Dragons. Like many of the CC pop songs, I was fairly neutral about the song at first, but with repeated careful listenings and presentations of the song, it's grown on me.

Last Saturday, I presented the song to my HS2-T cohort, because they were returning from their month-long "naesin" hiatus and the song that the student had prepared was one it turned out we'd done before. As usual, I was deeply impressed with these students' amazing listening skills, quickly identifying missing words in the Cloze passage of the song that even I struggled to hear. So we made our way through the song.

As we wrapped up the class, I told the students that I'd grown to like the song. 

One of the girls asked, "Why do you like it?"

In fact, I couldn't think of a reason. But I always have to say something, right? That's what I'm known for, and that's my reputation: Jared always has some opinion on anything, and he'll present his reasons in little coherent, organized paragraphs, like a good debate teacher should, right?

So I had to think fast on my feet. Offhandedly, I said, "Because the song has lots of long words in it." This is more or less true. It does have some unexpectedly sesquipedalian vocabulary, which the singer rattles off in rock-rap style quite amazingly.

"For example," I added, spontaneously, "it has the word apostrophe.  I never heard a song with the word apostrophe in it, before." This is true, as far as it goes. But then I elaborated, "'Apostrophe' is one of my favorite words." That was pure confabulation, but it supported my argument with a subjective, emotional appeal. Anyway, it satisfied the girl's request for a reason why I liked the song. 

But then the girls started saying, "Apostrophe, apostrophe," over and over. "Is that good entertainment for you?" one asked.

Indeed. Good entertainment.


What I'm listening to right now.

Imagine Dragons, "Whatever It Takes."

Lyrics.

Falling too fast to prepare for this
Tripping in the world could be dangerous
Everybody circling, it's vulturous
Negative, nepotist
Everybody waiting for the fall of man
Everybody praying for the end of times
Everybody hoping they could be the one
I was born to run, I was born for this
Whip, whip
Run me like a racehorse
Pull me like a ripcord
Break me down and build me up
I wanna be the slip, slip
Word upon your lip, lip
Letter that you rip, rip
Break me down and build me up
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do whatever it takes
'Cause I love how it feels when I break the chains
Whatever it takes
You take me to the top I'm ready for
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do what it takes
Always had a fear of being typical
Looking at my body feeling miserable
Always hanging on to the visual
I wanna be invisible
Looking at my years like a martyrdom
Everybody needs to be a part of 'em
Never be enough, I'm the prodigal son
I was born to run, I was born for this
Whip, whip
Run me like a racehorse
Pull me like a ripcord
Break me down and build me up
I wanna be the slip, slip
Word upon your lip, lip
Letter that you rip, rip
Break me down and build me up
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do whatever it takes
'Cause I love how it feels when I break the chains
Whatever it takes
You take me to the top, I'm ready for
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do what it takes
Hypocritical, egotistical
Don't wanna be the parenthetical, hypothetical
Working onto something that I'm proud of, out of the box
An epoxy to the world and the vision we've lost
I'm an apostrophe
I'm just a symbol to remind you that there's more to see
I'm just a product of the system, a catastrophe
And yet a masterpiece, and yet I'm half-diseased
And when I am deceased
At least I go down to the grave and die happily
Leave the body and my soul to be a part of thee
I do what it takes
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do whatever it takes
'Cause I love how it feels when I break the chains
Whatever it takes
You take me to the top, I'm ready for
Whatever it takes
'Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do what it takes

[daily log: walking, 7.5km; carrying heavy box to post office, 0.5km]

Caveat: on the desirability (or not) of movement

I have a student named N__. Because the current "test prep period" for middle schoolers (colloquially called "내신") is just now ending, a lot of students are still absent, so much to N__'s dismay, she found herself stuck with me in a class where she was the only student present. I know this is unpleasant and awkward for typical teenagers of any nationality: getting stuck in an impromptu one-on-one class with a teacher.

When this happens with an advanced-level middle-schooler, I pull out my pile of randomized Type 1 and Type 2 TOEFL Speaking questions, which hinge on personal opinions and preferences, and I subject the victim to an onslaught of timed, unprepared speaking drills.

N__ was quite reluctant at first, but I shortly realized that despite her being a fairly recent arrival at Karma, she'd obviously done TOEFL style speaking drills before – she was quite competent even relative to her peers who have had to suffer my insistence on this method for several years. Further, although lacking much vocabulary and having rather poor pronunciation, she had a good instinct for making instant, logical, meaningful answers. She even introduced quite a bit of humor at several points.

One question was something along the lines of "What is your favorite season?" Without pause, she simply said:

"Argh! I hate ALL of them!" 

And then she said nothing more. That was sufficient, as far as she was concerned. She folded her arms to punctuate her point.

My favorite was with a question that went as follows:

What is your favorite way of getting around? (This question is meant to evoke responses on the topic of means of daily transportation, e.g. cars vs buses vs walking vs biking, etc.).

N__ asked me for clarification on the exact meaning of the question, nodded her head twice, and then, without missing a beat, immediately began:

"In fact, I don't much like moving at all. I would prefer to just sit at home… "

I broke out laughing, which broke her concentration, so she wasn't able to give more detail. I'm sure this pleased her.

In her several months at Karma, I'd already developed an idea of her personality as one of those laconic, can't-be-bothered teenagers, and here she was showing a full self-awareness and even some humorous intentionality to this image she projected.

By the end of class, she was less sleepy-eyed and more comfortable – I think my positive feedback on her pragmatically appropriate answers, regardless of their official TOEFL quality, helped her feel more confident.


What I'm listening to right now.

Arnold Schoenberg, "String Quartet No. 4" performed by LaSalle Quartet.

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: 스무th

Today at work I saw a student (I’m not sure who) had added a comment to one of my whiteboard alligators.

They gave the “annoyed alligator” something to say, with a speech bubble. What he was saying was, “스무th” [seumu-th] which is a transliteration of “smooth”, I suppose. I think there’s some kind of meme going around Korean tweenagerdom using this English word. But what I found surprising was that the transcription into the Korean alphabet (hangul) shows a certain phonological sophistication, in that the “th” sound is un-transcribed, which in turn indicates an awareness that the “th” sound doesn’t exist Korean. Normally, the “th” sound is alternately transcribed as either “ㅅ/ㅆ” [s/ss] or as “ㄷ/ㄸ” [d/tt]. And most Koreans seem singularly unaware that in fact it is not either of these sounds but rather something else. So this unusual non-transcription event makes me feel happy that at least one junior whiteboard vandal at Karma has got the concept. Here’s a picture.

picture

[daily log: walking, 8.5km; carrying heavy box to post office, 0.5km]

Caveat: those alligators of sentimentality

The toy plastic alligators are a part of my teaching schtick – the kids enjoy them, including even the normally standoffish middleschoolers. But these "made in China" toy alligators break easily. I go through one every month or so, and some months I don't have one that works.

These past years, I frequently save the plastic alligators, whether out of some misplaced sentimentality or because I've got some vague notion of trying to repair them – I did successfully open and repair one once, so it's not an impossible proposition.

As I clean my apartment, I found my alligator graveyard. I briefly considered including them in a shipment back to the US, but I quickly realized that was silly sentimentality, and utterly unnecessary. I snapped a photo of the defunct alligators, assembled forlornly on my floor, and added them to my current trash bag.

picture

Goodbye, alligators.

[daily log: walking, 8km]

Caveat: The best part of my family is…

We were doing short-speech responses to speaking questions. The question was, "Do you like your family, or not? What are the best and worst parts of your family?"

6th grader Jaehyeon, incorporating a very long pause as he groped for a possible answer, said, "The best part of my family is… me!"

"I see," I said, mildly amused. "So, what's the worst part of your family, then?" I prompted.

"The worst part is… not me. The other ones."

At that, I laughed. At least he was being consistent.


What I'm listening to right now.

Imagine Dragons, "Believer." This was a song recently chosen by one of my students for a CC class. It's grown on me, as tends to happen when I teach a song to several classes over as many days. I like how it's structured like a good debate speech: "First things first… second things second," etc. I pointed this out to the students and they just groaned. 

Lyrics.

First things first
I'ma say all the words inside my head
I'm fired up and tired of the way that things have been, oh ooh
The way that things have been, oh ooh
Second thing second
Don't you tell me what you think that I can be
I'm the one at the sail, I'm the master of my sea, oh ooh
The master of my sea, oh ooh
I was broken from a young age
Taking my sulking to the masses
Write down my poems for the few
That looked at me, took to me, shook to me, feeling me
Singing from heartache from the pain
Taking my message from the veins
Speaking my lesson from the brain
Seeing the beauty through the … pain
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
(Pain, pain)
You break me down, you build me up, believer, believer
(Pain)
Oh let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from
(Pain)
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
Third things third
Send a prayer to the ones up above
All the hate that you've heard has turned your spirit to a dove, oh ooh
Your spirit up above, oh ooh
I was choking in the crowd
Building my rain up in the cloud
Falling like ashes to the ground
Hoping my feelings, they would drown
But they never did, ever lived, ebbing and flowing
Inhibited, limited
'Til it broke up and it rained down
It rained down, like … pain
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
(Pain, pain)
You break me down, you built me up, believer, believer
(Pain)
I let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from
(Pain)
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
Last things last
By the grace of the fire and the flames
You're the face of the future, the blood in my veins, oh ooh
The blood in my veins, oh ooh
But they never did, ever lived, ebbing and flowing
Inhibited, limited
'Til it broke up and it rained down
It rained down, like … pain
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
(Pain, pain)
You break me down, you built me up, believer, believer
(Pain)
I let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from
(Pain)
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: A man who wears many hats

Today is the big show. It'll be a long day, but the end is in sight. The results will be what they are, and there's not much left to be done except just do the show.

Last night my student Gary, a third grader in one of the lower level classes, was putting in extra time preparing his role. He's kind of the main character for the particular little play that we're doing in that group, and as all the teachers have complained to me, the play is a bit difficult for their level. So he has a lot of English to memorize, and it's quite a bit beyond his level. In my defense, the students did choose the skit themselves, after having read through it and several easier choices several times. So they had some idea what they were getting into.

Gary was feeling pleased with himself because he'd managed to get it pretty well mastered. So he took ALL the animal hats that we are using as costumes for the skit and put them ALL on his head. 

I asked him if that meant he intended to memorize all the other roles, too. He quickly removed the hats, but not before I took a picture.

picture

Wish us luck.

[daily log: walking, 8km]

Caveat: Finger-knitting

In principle, I really enjoy the annual talent show concept we do with the elementary-age kids at Karma English Academy. It takes me back to my own elementary years, at the "hippie" Centering School in Arcata, where for each hour we spent doing math or reading, we spent 5 hours doing drama, art projects, and other "touchy-feely" stuff that was built on creativity and kid autonomy. My strongly held notions of the best pedagogical methods with children are substantially derived from this experience.

But in practice, there are issues. One is the somewhat poor planning that is inevitable in such undertakings in the Korean context, in my experience. Though actually, that doesn't bother me so much, though it can create some stress.

What creates the most stress, though, is differing philosophies vis-a-vis the purpose and goals of the project. In my mind, the main purpose is to give the kids autonomy to create (and/or fail to create) their own expressions using English. I will grant a secondary purpose that it serves to provide some positive "marketing" or publicity for the hagwon. But I don't believe it should be some kind of slick, professionalized production.

But most of my colleagues are incapable of granting kids autonomy, and so letting them fall down on their own is unacceptable. If the kids can't do it, you do it for them. This is built in to the Korean educator's mindset, I suppose. It's partly why kids spend so much time sitting in class, learning so very little. But it has definitely led to some unpleasant conflicts on this year's go-round. I hate to see teachers doing things for the kids. Help them, sure… nothing wrong with that. Show them how, sure. But don't take over the kids' projects because the work the kids have done doesn't meet some ideal standard.

One younger, lower-level class is doing a little play entitled "The Frog's Tail Tale" – a script I found and adapted from somewhere online, based on a traditional West African folk story about how the frog was too proud of his tail and angered the gods, so he had it taken away.

So the kids need costumes, and all the animals' tails play an important part in the story, so that is the focus of our costuming. Grace suggested we do "finger knitting" to make the tails, and it seemed like a fun, creative idea. I got some yarn, I taught myself the basics of the skill well enough to be able to teach the kids, and then we spent a few classes learning finger knitting, and making tails for our animal characters.

Of course, the kids' output was fairly low quality. One of the other teachers said, "Oh, you'd better do it for them, then, so it looks good." I started to argue about it, but such conversations devolve quickly into a kind of debate where we talk past one another because our foundational notions of child pedagogy are incompatible. We don't even share definitions. Previous years have taught me this. And I'm tired of arguing about what are fundamentally cultural issues like that. I live in Korea, now. I feel the onus is on me to just go with the flow. 

I shrug.

And I sit at home, these last few days, finger-knitting animal tails for our play.

I could see myself adopting this as a hobby as an old man, to pass the time sitting in a rocking chair somewhere.

picturepicture

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Premises and implications among 7th graders

This exchange actually happened in a 7th grade advanced class.

Julie: I don't like smart people
James: I'm smart!
Julie: So I don't like YOU.

Tobias: That doesn't make sense.

James (glaring at Tobias): Hey!

I found this incredibly funny, not to mention indicative a lot of cleverness on the parts of James and Tobias. Yet when I tried to explain it to my coworkers, we got bogged down in trying to parse the premises and implications of the statements. It felt like a kind of logic class for standup comedians, where the students were not all native to the same language.

So, here's my question for logic students: Why is Tobias's statement a potential insult toward James?

I gave up, in the end, in explaining it to my coworkers. But I had laughed hard during the class, and the boys were clearly intentional enough in their humor that they were pleased with the appreciation I showed them.

[daily log: walking, 6.5]

Caveat: Cost me all of seven cents

What I'm listening to right now.

Sesame Street Co., "The Alligator King." This is actually a really good song. Yet despite being from Sesame Street, it's probably too hard (in terms of vocabulary) to teach to my students for whom it would age-appropriate.

Lyrics.

One two three four five six seven!
Said the Alligator King to his seven sons,
"I'm feeling mighty down.
Whichever of you can cheer me up
Will get to wear my crown."

His first son brought seven oyster pearls
From the bottom of the China Sea.

The second gave him seven statues of girls
With clocks where their stomachs should be.

The third son gave him seven rubies
From the sheikdom Down There Beneath.
The King thought the rubies were cherries,
And he broke off seven of his teeth.

The fourth son tried to cheer him up
With seven lemon drops.
The King said, "I'm sorry son,
Since that ruby episode, I just haven't got the chops."

The fifth son brought the King perfume
In seven fancy silver jars;
The King took a whiff, and he broke out in spots
'Cause it smelled like cheap cigars.

The sixth son gave him seven diamond rings
To wear upon his toes.
The King snagged his foot on the royal red rug
And crumpled up his nose.

The seventh son of the Alligator King
Was a thoughtful little whelp.
He said, "Daddy, appears to me
That you could use a little help."

Said the Alligator King to his seventh son,
"My son, you win the crown.
You didn't bring me diamonds or rubies, but
You helped me up when I was down.
Take the crown; it's yours, my son.
I hope you don't mind the dents.
I got it on sale at a discount store –
Cost me all of seven cents!"

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Thealligu +or wins

My 5th grade student John recently started at Karma. He has never studied English before, so in the context of Korean English education, he's a rather "late starter." It's hard to place him at a place like Karma, because classes at his grade level don't really have "beginner status". Still, I was very proud when he produced the following comic during an exercise in class. He carefully asked (in Korean) how to say each thing in English, and I wrote the translations on the board. Then he copied the letters (he hasn't even mastered the alphabet) into his comic. I thought his characters (an imitation of my alligator character, along with some lion character he created), while quite rudimentary, were cute, too. He might have some artistic talent, anyway.

picture

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: A moment of empathy

On Saturday mornings, these days, I have a pop-music listening class (cloze passages and comprehension) with some advanced students. I have been making them find their own songs, prepare the materials (e.g. the cloze passages) themselves, and present the class, taking turns. I just sit in the back and kind of try to make sure they stay on track. 

This morning, Hyein was presenting a song. She's a meticulous student. The girls in the class were behaving the same way they always do: hyper, constantly drifting off-topic, unremittingly loquacious in utterly unprecocious ways. Suddenly Hyein looked up at me, directly, and sweeping her hand across the front row of students, she said with a matter-of-fact tone, "Now I understand your feeling, standing up here."

Somehow, this served to chasten the other students, at least briefly. The class has about 5 minutes of almost-focused quiet before returning to its more standard low cacophony. 

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: my banggwang is endless

Most students play around during the short breaks between class periods. Then, when the second bell rings, they ask earnestly if they can run to restroom. This is perfectly rational: they want to maximize their fun-with-friends time and minimize the painful class time.

Two minutes after class started, Soyeon asked if she could go to the bathroom.

I said, "Really? You couldn't do it during the break time?"

This is such typical and irrelevant teacher-talk, she didn't even deign a response. And of course, she had to take a friend, because girls are constitutionally incapable of going to the toilet alone, as far as I can figure out. This seems to be some kind of human universal, at least based on the four countries I've had a chance to live in. How did it arise? How is this behavior gendered and socially constructed? Well, I digress…

So they went, and took their sweet time. And then, less than forty minutes later, before the bell was about to ring the end of the period, Soyeon announced that she needed to go to the bathroom again. I said, again, "Really? Are you OK?"

She didn't even wait for my approval – she took it as a given. I'm too nice, I suppose. At least this time she didn't need to take her friend – perhaps she'd seen another friend going by in the hall. Going out the door, she laughed dismissively.

"My banggwang is endless," she offered by way of unidiomatic explanation. "banggwang" is 방광, which is Korean for bladder. This was sufficiently amusing that I forgave her transgression.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: The worst possible gift

The below is paraphrased, because the level of English is a bit lower than is easy to quote directly – there are a lot of re-phrasings and "do you know what I mean?" from me, and from the student, a lot of false starts and "teacher guesses at student meaning with requests for confirmation". Actual classroom conversation at the lower levels of ability are pretty complicated and drawn-out negotiations of intent and semantics. But the spirit of the conversation is accurate, after we worked out our meanings.

Teacher: "What is the worst possible gift you could receive?"

Jack: "An English book!"

Teacher: "So if I gave you an English book, what would you do?"

Jack: "I will give you a Korean book."

My students are sometimes quite adept at detecting my anxieties.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: A message for the spies

Some months ago, the whiteboard in room 212 had been coming loose. There was worry that it would fall down at an inopportune time, so Curt told Mr Park (the 과장님 – literally "supervisor" or "chief" but really he's a kind of glorified handyman and janitor at Karma) to add some reinforcements to its support. He duly attached some extra screws with fat washers to hold the whiteboard in its place on the wall.

I guess for whatever reason, one of the girls in my HS2-M cohort noticed these rather larger features in strangely placed, apparently random locations on edges of the whiteboard.

"It looks like a CC camera," she observed. It did rather, if you didn't look too closely.

"Someone is spying on you," I observed, perhaps teasing a bit.

Another girl turned and pointed at the "official" CC camera, mounted on the ceiling in the corner of the room. "Of course," she observed.

Such CC cameras are ubiquitious in Korean life, and as far as I can figure out, are actually legally mandated for settings like schools and hagwon. Presumeably, they serve to provide reassurance to parents that nothing bad can happen to their children because there is a record of classroom activity. And I know Curt has spent money to make sure they are all working and well-maintained, which supports the idea that there's a regulation requiring them – but I don't know this for certain.

"That one is unofficial," I clarified, pointing at the screw-with-washer on the whiteboard. This obligated me to spend several minutes explaining the word "unofficial." Which, of course, is exactly the sort of conversation I most like to have with my students: relevant, student-driven, but, hopefully, full of new information and/or vocabulary.

After that, one of the other girls, Gayeong, asked, "Who would want to spy unofficial?"

"Kim Jeong-eun," I joked. One of the other kids laughed.

"Oh no!" Gayeong declared, and mimed an insincere, mocking look of shock and terror. The North Korean leader is mostly an object of derision and gallows-humor for typical South Korean middle-schoolers. He's not taken very seriously.

But then a soft-spoken and shy girl, who happened to be sitting closest to the whiteboard, really shocked me. She leaned forward, toward the "camera," and in an earnest whisper said, simply, "Fuck you."

"Jiwon," I declared, both impressed by this very idiomatic experession and dismayed by its vulgarity. "What's that about?"

Of course, even without teaching them, all the kids know this type of English – it's too ubiquitous in American pop culture (movies and music) for them not to know what it means and how it's best deployed effectively.

Jiwon just shrugged and smiled. "He's a bad person."

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: the testaments they told

What I'm listening to right now.

The Chainsmokers (with Coldplay), "Something Just Like This." The video is "unofficial," but cute and sappy. This was a song chosen by one of my middle-school CC classes recently. I'm letting them choose their own songs completely, now. It's going pretty well, actually.

Lyrics

I've been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
Achilles and his gold
Hercules and his gifts
Spiderman's control
And Batman with his fists
And clearly I don't see myself upon that list

But she said, "Where d'you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I'm not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts.
Some superhero,
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can kiss.
I want something just like this."

Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Oh, I want something just like this
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo

Oh, I want something just like this
I want something just like this

I've been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
The testaments they told
The moon and its eclipse
And Superman unrolls
A suit before he lifts
But I'm not the kind of person that it fits

She said, "Where d'you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I'm not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts.
Some superhero,
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can miss.
I want something just like this.
I want something just like this."

Oh, I want something just like this
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Oh, I want something just like this
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo

"Where d'you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I'm not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts.
Some superhero,
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can kiss.
I want something just like this."

Oh, I want something just like this
Oh, I want something just like this
Oh, I want something just like this

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Eiffelgators

Another picture in what seems to be turning into a series of student artwork inspired by my whiteboard cartoon alligators. There seems to be a sort of competition emerging among the youngest cohort of students, as to who can present me with the most elaborate drawing of alligators. These alligators are a "couple" (커플 [keopeul] a "konglish" borrowing into Korean) on some kind of romantic getaway to Paris, evidently.

picture

I like Yejun's work because it's actually rather sophisticated, in a technical way – note how she's drawn the screen of the "phone" (the 2010's version of what was once called a "camera") being used to take the picture of the alligator couple. She's got a reduced-size version of the scene being photographed, represented in a rather realistic way. This shows quite a bit of understanding of things like points-of-view and even perspective, for a 2nd grader, and exploits a conceit common to much great art: that of the "picture within a picture."

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: I need to see that

We were looking at Christmas song videos the other day, in a middle school class – as a kind of reward at the end of class. So I was searching on youtube, and it was up on the screen with the projector. I actually like to do things like this – the kids can engage with a routine, day-to-day "how to search the internet in English" undertaking, at a practical level. They can sort of "look over my shoulder" as I try to find something, all the time as I also talk, explaining what I'm doing. They pick up vocabulary about things like "click there," "search for X," that kind of thing, which is often missing in formal curricula, if only because a lot of this terminology is still pretty new.

A girl who sometimes goes by Sally was quite funny. I had the youtube search results up, and I was scrolling through them. She jumped up, as if it were an emergency.

"Teacher! Stop!" She said, assertively. "You need to click that 'Official Video.' I need to see that handsome man right away." 

Of course, I broke down laughing. "Oh, you 'need' to see that?" 

She nodded vigorously, all seriousness. 

So I clicked the video – some saccharinely handsome American pop star, singing a forgettable rendition of a Christmas song. I didn't bookmark it. But you get the idea.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Actually, your behavior is pretty weird

I had my middle school 7th grade cohort, HS1-T, write "Letters to Santa." But the idea was to create coherent, reasoned essays. They are my most talented class, linguistically and intellectually, if not, erm, motivationally.

I think in this case, however, they were very creative. One girl, Yeoeun, wrote a quite humorous letter. Here it is, unedited or modified.

Letter to santa.

Hello dear my Santa. Now I am writing letter to you! Wow very crazy. Very weird because I think you are not real and you are crinimal. If you are read this letter you will not give me the present. I am sorry . HAHA.

Actually, your behavior is pretty weird. You don’t know the people who believe Santa. However you trespass in to people’s houses. There are many criminal events similar like you. The crinimal inspire about your behavior and they use their crimine method. It is seriously bad event. Please stop being weird trespassing. It is peace for the world.

If you are a real, I want to go concert with you ! On Christmas, there are a many concert. There are ‘Golen Disc Award’, “Seoul Music Award’, and SBS, MBC, KBS’s ‘Song Festival”. I am the fan. I like the boy group ‘ Seventeen’. I try to get ticketing but I failed. I have very bad slow hand. So I want to see them. I love them and I respect them.

Third, I want to be a lotto winner! There are many people who win the lotto. But I am not win the lotto. So I want to be them ! I want always getting many money. If I have many money, I can burn the money. Overuse is always happy. Buy the clothes, cars, airplanes, buildings and do it all. Also I can get the concert tickets! I really want this things come true.

I know this is not a real. But many people believe you because of comfort.But I want you are a real. Your behavior is little bit crazy but maybe have a good heart. Merry Christmas !!!

[daily log: walking, 1.5km]