So today I made a very poor teacher decision. I decided to do my first lesson flying entirely solo without the book as a guide with a low first grade class where the coteacher has a habit of not showing up.

The first class went surprisingly well, given all of the circumstances. The idea was that we would review basic vocabulary dealing with shapes, colors, the body, patterns, and animals. Then, each of the six tables were told to draw a monster. After, the monsters would be redistributed and one boy from each table would have to stand at the board and draw while his table-mates described the monster to him using only English.

Fuck sake. It sounds simple, but when you're trying to explain it to a load of twelve and thirteen year old boys who speak almost no English by yourself.... well. I warned them to take careful notes of anything they didn't remember while I was going over the vocabulary, and I did take great pleasure in watching the ones who didn't listen once they realized why I had told them this. Those of them who understood what I was saying, anyway.

Of course, give a bunch of boys some paper and colored pencils, and you're going to get a lot of nonsense in return as well. I present my case:

Loads of cock and balls.

Some naughty words and slurs against the Motherland. If only they knew how little "Fuck the USA" offends me -- I'm just very proud to see that they included the "the". As for "fuck sex", well that's just funny. This one got wadded up and tossed across the room and handed to me. The whole of the table responsible immediately turned bright red and put their heads down. You should've seen their little eyeballs protrude when they finally caught the meaning of what I was saying when I asked them, "What do you know about this word? You know nothing about this."

This one looks like it should be hanging in a gallery in New York somewhere, with a Pratt artist's name underneath it, to be quite honest. Nonetheless, being -- once again -- the teacher, I had to confiscate it.

Guns and cigarettes.

I'm not sure what kind of hermaphrodite theme these boys were going for with that genitalia, but I'm pretty sure the right hand is a penis. After I took this one up, the boys decided to draw this for their monster:

Not bad for my first student-drawn portrait. I think they could have put a little more effort into the tattoo, though. It's quite good, actually.

This one is Mr. Blog. I'm not quite sure who Mr. Blog is. The boys tried to explain it, but weren't able to come up with enough words. This one makes me proud because of the inclusion and nearly correct usage of the word "bonus," which I taught this table last week as meaning something extra, or added.

This one scares the shit out of me. By far the scariest monster.

This one appears to be chained to the sun.

And this one was done by my little darlings up front. They decided their monster would be a good guy. I have no idea what's going on at the bottom there, though. Maybe they're working with a Jekyll/Hyde concept.

These guys seemed to grasp that what I had showed them beforehand would be in some way important (triangle, circle, square, rectangle). Then there's a random assault rifle in the background....

And I believe this one is the artists' depiction of the events that took place in second period, which did not run as smoothly as first. The doofus kid kicked off again today, and I just wasn't having it. The rest of the class was being fairly well behaved, despite the absence of a coteacher and the fact that they had basically no clue what was going on. I believe the reason for this was that, after first period, I think I looked a bit strained. When second period came in, the boys noticed and asked if something was wrong. I said, "I'm not in a very good mood today."

"Why, teacher? Angry?"

"No, I'm not angry. Just a little sad."


"Yes. Just a little."

"Why, teacher? Miss family?"


The rest of the period the boys mostly policed each other, shouting in Korean and following with, "Be quiet! Teacher sad today!" in English.

Anyway, Doofus kicks off and hits another kid in the eye with his book. The kid looked pretty upset, and I know Doofus has problems and all, but my main point in escorting the kid out this time was in drawing attention to the lack of a coteacher situation to the higher ups. As I was trying to get him out he started crying and taking off his jacket again, but I just picked them up and asked the South African kid if he would come with me in case I needed to explain the situation to a teacher/VP who didn't speak English. I don't know what the hell got into the South African kid, but as I was struggling to get Doofus up and out, he just hauled off and hit him. The South African kid was well pissed off. I don't know if something got said or what, but he just fucking snapped. I kept trying to break his eye contact to calm him down, but he wouldn't look at me. He seemed to be near tears. There wasn't any exchange as far as I could see.

I set the other boys the task of drawing their monsters while I was gone and took the other two down to the main teachers' office. My coteacher was sitting at her desk, doing some paper work. She thought I had just come to get her for class. When I took her out in the hall and she saw the two boys standing there, she got a big sympathetic look on her face and told me Doofus had problems and I should be gentle with him. I understand that, and I'm not trying to get the kid in trouble, but leaving me in charge of 40 kids who I can't reason with because I don't speak their language, with one kid who continuously picks fights and hits other students and can't be reasoned with in his own language is not acceptable. I'm tired of wasting entire periods because I can't hear when trouble is starting with this kid until the volume and tone is raised enough for me to notice, because I can't understand what's being said. I'm tired of trying to sort out arguments on my own with the boys' broken English and my extremely limited grasp of Korean.

The main point is that things go to hell in a hand basket fast when the boys don't know what they're supposed to be doing. And if they expect me to teach without a book, they're going to have to provide someone who can translate my instructions. I'm not out to get anyone in trouble and I do truly wish I could leave my coteacher alone to do the (I'm sure) a million other things besides teaching she's expected to do, and I have tried for nearly a month now. Most of the classes I'm managing alright, but this one just can't be done. And if they really want to optimize their usage of a native speaker, it would seem reasonable not to make the native speaker waste time explaining something forty different ways before the boys understand what's going on.

I'm trying not to worry too much about the fighting. Where I come from, a fight in class is a big fucking deal, but Mr. Wan is in charge of handling fights at our school, and there were five yesterday alone. In every one of my classes there is at least one boy with a cast or bandage of some kind, and when I ask what happened, there's a story about how some other kid did something horrible to them. Mr. Wan was late for our cigarette date today because there was a fight during lunch, and then another in his fifth period. This week I've heard of last week's shenanigans including one kid knocking another kid's teeth out with a jump rope and a kid breaking another kid's glasses with a soccer ball.

Anyway. It was a rough day. But after these two classes, I had an incredibly good one with Mr. Wan. As he put it, "This class has no interest in studying. But they are very cute." I also spoke Korean to a student for the first time in class today because I just so happened to know the answer to what he was asking in Korean, and it was easier than trying to explain it in English or call Mr. Wan over. The entire table was very impressed, but I expect that's why they prefer their natives not to know any Korean. Of course one simple phrase in Korean resulted in a total barrage of Korean from the entire table. I explained that although I am learning, like them, I can only understand so much, and -- above all else -- they have to slow down.

I'm trying. It's getting tiresome having to sit and stare at walls during entire portions of conversations and wait for someone to translate for me. I don't think I'll be able to tolerate it much longer. But every day it gets a little bit better.


MikejGrey said...



What happened with the co-teacher?

And those pictures are pretty awesome

how did the powerpoint come out? Did I do anything helpful with it?

I'm no Picasso said...

Nothing happened with the coteacher that I know of. The VP was in the office and did look concerned when I came back the second time (after the South African kid came back to class and told me he was getting in trouble too, because the coteacher didn't understand when I explained to her that the second kid was just there to help explain what happened and I went down to re-explain the situation to my coteacher, who had decided to go back to her paperwork rather than join me in class). The coteacher apologized for not being there to control things, but as I said, still just went back to what she was doing. After the second time I came down, she did come up to class for the last ten minutes though. Way too little too late. The class wasn't any quieter or more controlled once she was there, and she decided to spend those ten minutes in the back corner sending text messages and not translating anything. I really don't like her...

The PowerPoint... I'm just trying to figure out how to make the words only show up once you click on the screen. I'll ask someone to help me at some point... probably Mr. Wan, since he's the only one who shows any interest in helping with anything.

Hm. I'm bitchy today. But all of this on top of Main Coteacher being minimally helpful with the bill situation and a growing intolerance for what I'm starting to notice, as I pick up more Korean, as an awful lot of Korean office chatter directed at me with me sitting right there has got me in a pretty nasty mood about work at the moment. I really hope I don't become one of "those" expats...

MikejGrey said...

Try explaining to your co-teacher or the vice principal that they're contractually obligated to have someone in the class with you. The monster exercise was a good idea, but I think it might be better with an english camp, smaller size.

Fuck sake korea. Stop being useless.

You won't become one of those ex-pats. Those people are much too stupid.

Hopefully things'll be better tomorrow

ms park wants me to do a music lesson for the first graders. she says she will translate the song for the students. I dunno. We'll talk about that tomorrow. As part of my america presentation I put a bunch of musician pictures in it. They laughed at the Mountain Goats cause cows are in the picture, and they thought the Foo Fighters were big bang. I found a pretty gay picture of them they would like.

I'm not very good with power point. Tomorrow, unless things explode and we don't hang out, I'll try to download powerpoint for you and you can fiddle with it. I was really tired this morning and forgot to do it last night. Sorry.

As part of my adjective lesson I had student draw picture on the board according to descriptions from the rest of the class. They kept drawing me. Oy vey.

MikejGrey said...

And they just keep telling me how tired I look.

Ive started to put my headphones on in the office when I'm not doing anything, just killing time, so I don't have to hear them comment about me.

I'm no Picasso said...

It actually went quite well once they realized what was going on and were done drawing dicks on everything. I forgot to post the photo of the first round today. They did quite well. The trouble is in policing the use of Korean.

The Foo Fighters Big Bang? Uh. I don't think so.

No worries. I'll figure it out eventually. I'll just grab Mr. Kwan after class one day next week and ask him to show me real quick. That is, if he even knows. Lousy teacher.

I'm actually quite surprised that, given that it was an act of vengeance, the picture they drew didn't come out so bad. They could have done a lot worse. I'm not sure why my boob outline is purple though....

Are you very handsome when your students draw you?

I read somewhere that the Korean "you look tired" can mean a lot of things. I think it's just a way of saying you look somehow distressed. After listening to the coteachers talk at that stupid "business trip" thing, I think most of the K teachers are always on the lookout for signs of potential runners. Can't say I blame them, but Christ, everyone has bad days.

MikejGrey said...

Well, hopefully tomorrow will go better with the monster exercise.

I might try to download some comicbooks the girls would like and do a lesson with that.

I don't think I was very handsome. One student drew me with deep circles around my eyes, and I always have long curly hair. They drew Mr K too and he took a picture of it