Taking Korean class while teaching English is panning out to be a handy arrangement. I’m learning some of the same things my students are, so I can pull them out in class to enhance my explanations. Plus, my kids hearing not just that I’m making an effort to reciprocate by learning their language while they study mine, but that I’m a student like them and far from perfect sets a good atmosphere. You should see the surprise and laughter in their faces when I drop a badly pronounced translation. It gets their attention, and I hope it makes them feel more comfortable speaking in class, because that’s a major issue when it comes to getting kids to participate. My cruddy Korean helps level the playing field I think and take some of the intimidation out of being assaulted with 45 straight minutes of English. It just feels fair. I’m learning Korean, they’re learning English. I make mistakes, they can too. All I ask is they try, because I know I am.
Meanwhile, I’ve also had the opportunity to further explore English. I enjoy the various questions my co-teachers ask me that cause me to stop and examine the language. Native speakers just inherently know many things without ever considering the reason, so it’s so valuable to have fresh minds giving me impetus to consider things such as why “wildlife” is the plural and not “wildlives.” These things are so interesting to ruminate upon, but never would’ve occurred to me on my own.
Sometimes I sit alone at lunch, I guess because the other teachers think I’m not social or feel their English/my Korean isn’t enough to be worth even attempting conversation. But Thursday at lunch, I finally was able to talk a little to a new co-worker (with a lot of gesturing and help from a co-teacher). The school’s Chinese character teacher said my English accent was “like TV.” I explained that I live near L.A., where most TV/movies are filmed, so that’s why I have the same accent/lack thereof, depending on how you look at it. She also said she’d been to Finland, and I look Finnish (or at least I’m pretty sure that’s what she meant, based on the extensive cheekbone gestures, haha), so I told her I’m Norwegian, so that was a pretty good guess! I’m studying Korean quite a bit in my free time, so I hope to take matters into my own hands and be capable of breaking the ice with more teachers soon, because chatting with them is really fun, and being isolated is, well, lonely.
Other than Korean class, what’s keeping me going is the little things with my students. Although I have a terrible habit of coming upon some great vignette or observation for a tweet or blog post, drafting it to perfection in my head and then forgetting the whole thing when I finally have access to the appropriate technology, I at least have these… the palest ink is better than the sharpest memory, and thankfully I make my kids get the ink out every day:
One thing I can remember is that this week as I finished a lesson a group of girls approached me and begged me to play an EXO music video for them. I caved, and they were so happy one of them grabbed me for a microsecond, the closest thing I’ve had to a hug in… a month now. It took all I had not to grab her and squeeze the living daylights out of her right then and there! I often find myself on the verge of just falling over and yelling “BE MY FRIEND!” until my students acquiesce. But all in good time, I guess… or hope.
I have no plans this weekend as always, but Chuseok break starts in the next week, so maybe I’ll have something interesting to report next time. 아자 아자