Some of our second graders were involved in a violent incident that was broadcast on the news last night. And, as much as I am usually able to find some childish element in their bad behavior that keeps it from seeing completely cold, I just don't even have the energy to make excuses for it this time. It was bad. It was premeditated and disgusting and bad. It's hard to even imagine looking at these students with any kind of human empathy from now on. Which I realize is not a very teacherly thing to say, but it's the truth.

Anyway, the whole school is in a state and our schedule is all bungled up, because we're having to have meetings with each class to explain to the students why acting like a fucking menace to society is not okay. These second graders may be the worst I've ever seen. And they're getting bigger by the day.

I don't know. I'm basically more than ready for vacation at this point. Two more days.


I nearly just killed a man.

I mean that in probably the most literal way I've ever thought, said or written it. I came back from my sixth class to find all of the files on my computer completely wiped.

All of them. Everything. Every last lesson plan I've made over the course of the last three years and three months. Gone. One week before winter camps start.

I almost cried. I actually almost cried. Not in the way that people reblog things on Tumblr and talk about how it made them cry in the office. Maybe they actually do cry. I don't know. But Tumblr has never made me cry in the office. My grandfather's death didn't even make me cry in the office.

This. This nearly made me cry in the fucking office.

Why was this horrible man touching my computer in the first place? No one knows. Apparently he came in and asked for my computer by name. By my name. Not my title, but my actual first name. Which is even weirder, because he doesn't even technically work at this school and I don't really know why he knows my name to begin with. But I didn't ask for anything about my computer to be fixed.

So I don't know why he was here. And I don't know what he did. And I don't know what he came back and did in order to put it all back, but back it is. And it's a good thing, too, because I may have ended up deported for what I would've done to him if he hadn't been able to restore it. He attempted to make pleasant small talk while he was doing whatever he was doing to set it to right, and I just wanted to punt his head like a fucking soccer ball.

But he saved himself. Just barely.


One more little bonus:

men club incheon

No. Whatever it is, just don't do it. Take my word on this one.

Google analytics roundup.

I don't think there's going to be too much to say the next few days (or much time to say it in), and it's been a while, so just for fun. Some of the search phrases that have recently brought people to my blog:

gong yoo sexy

You don't really need Google to tell you that, do you?

who dont people like hyuna

Who? Unsexy people. Why? Can't handle the sexy.

korean guys are players

Yes, they are. Specifically, mine is a basketball player.

In korean culture are feet a big deal

Massive. So big. In Korean culture, feet are everything.

daesung penis

Okay. So maybe I once blogged about his head looking like a penis. But I don't think that was the target here. Or maybe Grace and I are not the only ones who have noticed.

im fucing my english teacher

And by the looks of that spelling and punctuation, it's safe to say they might be fucking you, as well.

curing asian yellow fever



Bangsan Baking Market.

Real quick, I just have to say that tonight I finally made it to Bangsan Market to check out the baking shops, and it's been a long time since I've gotten that excited. Gel and liquid food coloring of every imaginable shade, French fluted tart pans, pie pans with removable bottoms, spring form pans, mini pie and tart pans, scoops, frosting tips, pure vanilla extract, Dutch processed cocoa and Belgian chocolate chips. Just to list a few things.

I've gotten really good, over the past year, at improvising with what I have, but there have been some things that I just haven't been able to make because of a lack of equipment or essential ingredients. I don't foresee that being a problem anymore.

Expect the food porn to start rolling in soon.

Baking and boxing.

Things are a little bit crazy right now. It's been decided that there will be a kind of impromptu Christmas party at my place. Which, you know.... is there any place on Earth more Christmasy than Incheon? I think not. But. That means a lot of cleaning and organizing and shopping. My students have informed me that they spotted me at Homeplus on Monday night buying "wine, wine glass, wine, 더 wine".

Christmas party, boys. I'm not some kind of extra classy functioning alcoholic. I swear.

And baking. And cleaning up from the baking. And stressing out over the fact that I'm closer to 30 than I am to 20 and I have a goddamn mini fridge, which I've decided just has to change soon.

Anyway. At the moment the students are watching magic shows, riding horses and listening to a very large man speak very quietly about boxing. It's some kind of a showcase for optional classes during winter vacation. The boxing room has about 80 students standing outside waiting to get in. Because that's what my students are actually missing -- formal training in how to kick someone's ass.

I miss Busan. He's on the 야근 again this week. But I honestly don't even have time to be fooling around with him right now, anyway. Let's just hope it's a good weekend to make up for it.


Strippers are people, too: On Hyuna.

Okay. So.

I'm the first one to admit that I don't know anything, really, about the female K-pop idols. I can be forthright and say that I, for whatever nonspecific reason, tend to pay more attention to the men of K-pop. Ahem.

But, my boys are in exam today, so I've got some time to get myself all caught up. So. First of all, here's the lady in question:

Hyuna, "Bubble Pop".

Hyuna, "Trouble Maker".

Now. First of all. The claims about Hyuna not being sexy, or somehow awkward, or too flat, or whatever else? I mean. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and there should certainly be a lot of different versions (as many as possible) out there about what qualifies as sexy. But. I mean, the first time I saw the "Bubble Pop" video, Busan was sitting directly to my right. And we both kind of sat there for a few seconds afterward, with our mouths hanging open. If conventional "sexy" doesn't do it for you, that's fine. But I'm really not about to hear the argument that somehow Hyuna is not fitting that mold. I don't know in what universe that's considered the truth, but it's not mine.

But do you know what else I see in these videos? Something that, perhaps, may be inspiring people to compare Hyuna to a stripper? Intentionality. I see Hyuna looking directly at the camera, without a smile. I see a consciousness about what she's doing, an awareness of the male gaze. A direct interaction with the male gaze, that is not incidental, or allowed to be imagined by the viewer to be something that the male gaze is inflicting upon her otherwise innocent actions, which just so happen to be sexy, if you, as the viewer (as the power-holder) choose to see them as such. She's turning you on, on purpose.

There's a lot of murky water surrounding the issue of mass marketed female sexuality, wrapped up in far too much history between pro and anti sex feminists to go into for the purposes and audience of this blog. I need to give a hat tip to that, and if one really set out to do so, one could write an entire thesis on this subject using these two videos alone as subject matter. But that's not what I'm trying to do. I also think it's a bit of an easy trap to fall into, trying to size these videos up from the Western perspective of femininity, and socially acceptable femininity. Calling Hyuna a stripper, for example, is already starting from a troubled position, because in South Korea.... well. Maybe you know something I don't, but I've never seen a fucking stripper here.

What I have seen are girls who are paid to sit beside you and cover their mouths while they laugh at all of your jokes and pour you drinks and act a little embarrassed as you slide your hand up their thighs.

It's different. See?

The reason why the stripper argument just doesn't work is because, in the West, it's already an old archetype. The girl who flaunts it all for attention. Who wears the tight, short skirt, dances too provocatively and looks the men straight in the eye while she does it. Our feminism has been down that block and back around again, a couple of times now. We've been through several phases of this argument, spanning decades. Female chauvinist pigs. Girls gone wild. The virgin and the whore. Free love. Is she daring and defiant and in control of her own sexuality, or is she just a pawn and a sellout playing right into the hands of the repressive patriarchy? The enlightened parts of these conversations have mostly happened behind closed feminist doors. But. The results have been seen in our pop culture and in our vanilla media.

From my point of view, in the West, the issue is far from settled. But it's settled enough that feminist leaning liberal individuals have had enough space to kind of lap themselves and come back around to somehow making the same exact arguments that the biggest, most conservative antifeminists are making. For different reasons, of course. But still, the same arguments.

Because whatever starts as a revolution will always, always be misappropriated by mainstream society to pull it back into the fold. Always. That's the way that power structures work. When it becomes clear that women are just going to be sexual in public, and there's not a lot that society can do to shove that back into the closet, then the best next move to make is to grab a hold of it and claim it was your idea all along. Slap a price tag on it. Give it some perimeters of social acceptability. Put it in a box and make a dollar off it -- mass market it and get it under control.

But this is not the West.

K-pop is still a place where men are allowed to do this:

(1:20 for the money.)

Without the slightest trace of cute playfulness, or hand-over-the-mouth, "Oops! Did I do that?" And not have their character questioned or assassinated.

Meanwhile, if women want to grind a little:

You'd better make sure they're wearing a cute little bunny tail and adding in a lot of smiling and 애교 posing to soften the blow. You don't want to make the audience feel too uncomfortable.

I want everyone to take a minute to notice something about "Trouble Maker" and these other videos as well:

Brown Eyed Girls, "Abracadabra".

2NE1, "Can't Nobody".

Miss A, "Bad Girl, Good Girl".

Do you notice a common theme? Because I sure as fuck do. What do you want to call it? Revenge? Anger?


Now. I'm not about to argue that these highly preened, highly stylized pop icons have come to set the women of Korea free. But I think looking at it that way is a bit backwards, to begin with. Pop culture is exactly that -- popular. It caters to the masses. It finds a way to tap veins of atmosphere and emotion running through certain large portions of society and bleed them dry. It reads the mood, and responds accordingly, thereby also perpetuating the mood.

So, who do you think these videos are marketed toward? Hormonal young men with a perpetual hard on? Maybe. Definitely, partially. Partially, also, maybe to the men who don't exactly mind the idea of a woman pushing them up against a wall and kissing them, for once.

But I don't think they're the only target audience.

Let's not forget: strippers are people (are women), too.


Later on.

No. I'm not going to talk about KJI. Mostly because I'm probably one of the least qualified people to be doing so. And I know it.

But, if I have enough time, I am going to get into this whole Hyuna thing I apparently completely missed over the weekend and how, although I don't give a crap about Hyuna, what she's doing is actually important. The same way G-Dragon humping a backup dancer on stage was important. But more so. I'm sure you can imagine where this is going, but hopefully I'll have the chance to get specific later tonight.


Opting out and staying in.

You people are fucking lovely. I just want to start out by saying that.

There's not much going on at work right now, because this week was finals, but I still feel incredibly tired somehow. I kind of bailed on Busan tonight, who invited one of his friends to meet me last minute. Tomorrow afternoon, his brother (who I've already met) is coming up, and we've got some things to get done in the morning, and when I found myself nodding off at my desk around 3 pm, I reckoned rushing home to get presentable to meet the new friend for the first time, taking the bus and the subway for a combined 1.5 hours, trying to keep up with the boys drinking, only to wake up in the morning and face a full day probably was not the best plan. One thing at a time, eh? It's a busy season.

So. Instead, I stopped by the local grocery store on my way home and picked up all the stuff I would need to make a grade A big ass pot of kimchi jjigae to get me through the week (and to send photos of to Busan, to rub in his face, because his kimchi jjigae is just shit), and have spent the evening so far catching up on laundry and housework, doing that cooking, and now settling in to bake a batch of these for Busan and his brother tomorrow (already tried out the recipe, and it's excellent, by the way -- highly recommend it), dye my hair and do all other manner of boring domestic upkeep type things.

Steadily making my way through a bottle of red in the process.

It's fucking cold out there, by the way. And that probably had a lot to do with my motion to come home and put on several layers, rather than brave it out in the world until midnight. But there you have it.

I can't fucking believe next week is Christmas. It feels like there's a lot to be done before then. New Year's, which will be the first one year anniversary I've ever had.

My dreams are keeping me feeling a little restless, still, at the moment. But I'm happy and settled in. Maybe a bit too settled in. But somehow, these days it feels more like being anchored than socked away and solitary. It's good.

But those cookies are calling my name.


What happened last week.

I realize this blog has become pretty cold and impersonal, lately. Which is a far cry from how it started out. But at some point, it's become difficult to talk about more personal things here. Part of it is because most of that just goes up on Tumblr, which is a blog I started specifically for that reason. But I can't help but feel, personally, like this blog has suffered a lot from that.

I had a really rough week last week, and I wasn't sure that I wanted to blog about it. In fact, I was pretty sure that I didn't. But I let a week come and go, and I feel a lot better now.

On Wednesday of last week, several teachers stopped into my office to let me know that a student's mother had passed away. She had gone in to take a bath, and then never come back out. After an abnormally long period of time passed, he went in to check on her and found her lying in the bath with blue hands and feet. He called his homeroom teacher and said, "My mother's dead."

This student is meant to be our student body president next year. He's well known and well loved throughout the school. No one dared to make the suggestion on the day, but there was a niggling at the back of my mind, and somehow all night on Wednesday I couldn't stop thinking about it. Sure enough, on Thursday morning, the same coworkers came in to tell me again that it was suicide.

I felt like I'd been slammed into a brick wall. The fact of the matter is, I know what it feels like to have been there -- physically there -- when someone decides to make that choice. To be the one to find them. To be the one to wonder why they couldn't have just come into the next room and talked to you. Or why they didn't think about you enough to realize that you would be the one to discover them in that situation. Someone you love more than your own life, and someone who has been the foundation of your own upbringing. I know what it's like to have to replay those thoughts of how you should've said something, should've greeted them more kindly that morning, asked them, with more sincerity, how they were. Or noticed that something was strange earlier.

I know what it's like to have that image of them lying there in that state flash through your mind at the strangest moments for months and months and months afterward.

And I was fucking furious. I was furious at his mother. He was leaving for school in a matter of minutes, rather than hours. She had the choice, at the very least, not to do that to him. That was the last thing she could have done for him, as his mother.

I know that's not fair. I know on a very real, fundamental and personal level that that is not fair. But a lot of things I had put very far behind me and buried very deeply suddenly came slamming back up the surface.

I swear to God I'm not making this up. As I left the office after hearing this news, just trying to breathe and somehow push back down all of things that were starting to jut out of my chest, to get to class and just fucking teach, I spotted a tiny bird in the corridor linking one of our buildings to another. A group of students spotted the bird at the same time, and it suddenly got frightened and flew up into the ceiling, only to come crashing back down and lie heaving at my feet. I asked a student to hold my stuff and carefully scooped up the bird to carry it outside and place it in the grass. I squatted down next to it and watched as its breathing slowed and its eyes closed. My students had gathered around the window and were watching me.

Don't cry. Don't you dare fucking cry right now. It's a fucking bird. Don't you dare fucking cry in front of your students over this fucking bird.

Slowly, the bird's breath began to pick up and its eyes opened again. It didn't move, but it became clear that it wasn't seriously injured, but merely in shock. After my class finished, I went back out to check. It was sitting in the same place, upright and puffed out in the cold. As I approached, it looked at me, and the fluttered off into the bushes.

I held it together for two more days. On Friday night, without having told him anything, really, I went to meet my boyfriend in his neighborhood for dinner. I had no choice but to take the train, which was full, of course, of rudely jostling bodies. He was seven minutes late meeting me at the station, which ordinarily I wouldn't even mention. But I greeted him with a reluctant eye-roll instead. As we walked, I asked him where we were going. "To eat dinner," was his answer. My "eye thing", as he calls it, happened again. I know we're going to eat dinner, but where? "Uh.... 고기? 삼겹살? 아 갈비!" He settled on what he knows is my favorite, trying to appease my attitude problem, the source of which he still wasn't sure about.

He quickly found a place, but we were told there was a wait. I huffed about that as well. Only if you knew how uncharacteristic that is of me, would you know how worried he was getting at this point. "아 거기!" he said, and pointed.

"What is 거기?"

"거기! It means 'there'."

"Are you-- I know what 거기 means. What is there?"

As you can imagine, my refusal to just simply speak completely in Korean had this situation escalating rather quickly. Add a mostly gentle, but a bit cocky, suggestion that I "천천히 가" and, before you know it, I'm doing something I have never done to anyone before. Something that would make me completely irate, had it happened to me. Something that I didn't plan or even pause to think about, but did in slow motion, as an out-of-body experience. I walked away and left him standing on the street. Without saying a word, and without looking back.

I walked for a few blocks and then ducked into a coffee shop, placed my order and sat down at a table to breathe. Lit a cigarette and tried to figure out what had just happened.

Everything I'd held in for the previous three days had simply crumbled and melted at the sight of him. I hadn't felt like going to dinner in the first place. I had felt like just giving up and crying, the second I laid eyes on him. And that pissed me off. Or, being pissed off was easier than crying in the middle of the street. Or crying at all.

The thing about the kind of sadness that comes along with something like suicide is that it is accompanied by a hell of a lot of anger. Anger at someone who you love very much, and because you love them very much. One of the things I love the most about my boyfriend is the way that he reminds me of all of the good and gentle parts of the person who I found lying unconscious on the living room floor that morning.

I took one last deep breath and prepared myself to eat crow. I sent him a message saying I was sorry, and would he please come back and meet me again. His reply was curt, but he agreed. I grabbed my coffee, buttoned up my coat and headed back out into the cold. The second he saw my face, all of the resolve flowed out of his. He took my arm and said, "I'm sorry." I don't think either one of us knew what he was supposed to be apologizing for. But as we finished the walk to the restaurant, he tried to come up with something. I think what he saw in my face made him want it to be something he had done, rather than whatever thing that it was he could see there instead.

I used the fewest possible words to explain the issue over dinner that night, as he carefully watched my face and silently refilled my soju glass. And then, after it all, he said the most stupidly naive and foolish thing he could have said, and the only thing he could have said, which was, "I hope you won't have that pain anymore."

My student should come back tomorrow. I don't know what he's going to do about his exams. He's the only child, and had to carry the burden of the funeral duties alone. I don't know what to say to him when I see him, but I have a feeling the words won't be the most important part anyway. There really is nothing to say.

9 things that are making my winter a hell of a lot better.

I'm sorry. I already know this kind of post is a little lame, but I just have to say.... I'm a Texan. And, although I lived in New York for six winters before I came to Korea, it's safe to say it's a pretty different ballgame. I've had to learn how to cope. I still am. So.... for all of you who are not mid-January t shirt wearing Canadians, here are some things that have made my winter life in Korea a lot easier. Only nine. Because top ten lists are just annoying, right?

1. Humidifiers.

Everyone knows that ondol is drying as fuck. And the air outside isn't much better. My first winter in Korea saw me sitting on a train between two of my Western male friends listening to them swap moisturizing tips. Because they were becoming girly boys? No. Because their fucking face skin was peeling off. They had no choice.

A humidifier is not really an optional luxury here, in the winter. It's pretty much a necessity, and it will help not only with your reptilian skin situations, but also with your dry throats, irritated lungs and inflamed sinus cavities. We're (mostly) teachers, and our voices take enough of a beating on a daily basis. Sleeping next to a humidifier can do wonders to keep you from gagging at the front of the classroom for ten straight minutes, while your students stare at you in awe and wait for you to continue the 'listen and repeat'.

2. Sleeping masks.

See afore mentioned reptile reference. Everyone knows about moisturizer, but something I've only recently discovered is the wonder of sleeping masks. They're like heavy duty industrial strength moisturizer that you can apply before you go to bed and wash off in the morning. Since I started using one, I don't have to reapply moisturizer several times throughout the day. Once in the morning is enough. Of course, we're not into the razor sharp icy winds portion of the season yet, so we'll see how it holds up.

Boys, don't get goosey about it. No one here is going to judge you.

3. 현미녹차 -- brown rice green tea.

Dirt cheap; available everywhere. I keep a box on my desk at work and just steadily drink it all day every day to help with the cold hands created by insufficient office heating, while also keeping my throat in tact for teaching. You may have come around to the mix coffee, but nobody wants to suck that shit down all day.

4. Fleece lined tights.

Again, guys.... just calm down. They're worth it. I promise. And you can buy them in a manly package designed for men. In fact, I buy the men's version for wearing around the house under my sweat pants, because they're longer and a bit thicker than what's available for women. They're all over the place at the marts right now, available in a wide variety of colors, including dark brown, dark gray and black. Well. They're not very fashionable, okay? But they're warm as fuck. Warmer than pants, in fact. And you can't tell the difference without feeling them.

5. Big ass circle scarf.

Yes, those huge long thick knit scarves that are showing up all over the place this winter look appealing. But what the fuck are you going to do with that thing once you make inside the crowded coffee shop, bar or restaurant? Give it its own seat? Let it dangle over the back of the chair, soaking up spilled beer off the floor?

The best thing about a circle scarf is that, once you take it off from around your neck, you can just slip it over either shoulder and turn it into a wrap to keep a little warmer inside without your coat on. And if it starts to snow and you're caught without an umbrella, you can pull it up over your head to cover your hair.

I'm still not very good at dressing for winter -- there's always something I don't think about. But my 20,000 won circle scarf from Homeplus has seen me through a lot of situations.

6. Down comforter.

I honestly didn't even know you could get these so easily in Korea. The Korean bedding shops are great, and all, but I've missed having a big puffy homestyle blanket. I should've just checked the back of the housing section at Homeplus, though, because there they were: a range of plain white comforters of different sizes and qualities for decent prices.

7. A low table and floor cushion.

I'm sorry. I'm going to say it. When winter comes around, I move to the floor in my home. Sitting (or sleeping) directly on the floor can help you keep your energy costs way down, while also staying warmer. When you're literally on top of the heat source, you don't have to turn it up nearly as high.

8. My toaster oven.

Last winter, my mothers' class hauled me down to the local recycle (second-hand) shop and battered the helpless ajeosshi into giving me a lightweight, small toaster oven for 25,000 won. It's small, but gets the job done. Being able to bake cakes and cookies and homemade breads and loaves, as well as pasta dishes, meat, vegetables.... it's all pretty important this time of year. And it's light enough to carry to school to use for projects during winter camp, as well.

If you don't want to buy an oven, then do some reading up on what your rice cooker can really do, including acting as a slow cooker for meat stews, cooking pasta dishes, or even making breads and cakes.

If you do get an oven, and need a lot of other stuff to go with it, Claretea just recently let me know about the baker's market in Jongno. But you'd be surprised how much you can find in the homeware section of your mart these days.

9. 편의점 snack sausages.

What? Not for eating. For your smart phone. Here. Seriously though. Don't eat them.


On being a (foreign) teacher.

You know. I saw this first thing this morning when I woke up and logged on to my computer. And it kind of followed me around for the rest of the day. I made a brief response over on Tumblr, and have been thinking about what, if anything, I wanted to say about it here.... if it was even worth it to try to say anything about it here.

It's been an emotionally exhausting day (and, kind of, week) at work. Not because of my students' behavior (although I am doing the first real full listening and speaking spontaneous response class with my first graders this week, and that is definitely exhausting -- balancing the yanking of English out of them with the controlling of their Korean chatter, when they're not used to this format at all), but because of a number of horrible things that have gone on, including one third grader kicking one of my English teacher coworkers, the ongoing standoff between HT and the other English teachers, a couple of our students getting caught on CCTV blatantly stealing entire cartons of cigarettes from an old grandfather's store in the neighborhood, and our next year's student body president finding his mother dead in his apartment's bathroom this morning.

Horrific. And, on the other hand, the students have been mostly really great with their classwork this week, although I know it is by far the most challenging and difficult class they've had with me to date. Both in terms of their English and in terms of their behavior. And I've just been very happy with and proud of them.

And I saw that post and I just thought.... you know what? Fuck it. And fuck you, basically. I'm living here in the real world as an actual person and I don't have time for your fresh-out-of-university idiotic pondering of things you don't have the first clue about. I don't have to deal with your opinion of me or my life as a foreigner or my job as a teacher. You apparently don't even know how to digest statistics in a newspaper article correctly, so I'm not that worried about it. You're not the critical thinking type. It's fine. There are millions of your ilk back in my home country running their mouths about Korean immigrants, as well. And I wish we could just stick all of you and all of them in one country together, so that the rest of us could occupy the other country in peace. But life's not perfect, eh?

But I couldn't just blow it off. It was grinding away at the back of my mind all day.

I'm not even going to get into the drunken behavior/in-it-for-the-money arguments, because I don't really take issue with those. I am of the opinion that yes, a lot of foreign teachers in this country would do well to remember that they are teachers. And I'm never going to argue that people acting like dicks should be acting like dicks. You're a teacher -- don't act like a dick. You're an adult -- don't act like a dick. Koreans shouldn't act like dicks. Foreigners shouldn't act like dicks. Right? Sorted.

As for the money thing, well.... fucking duh. Most people in this world do their jobs for money. And most people in this world take higher paying jobs if they have the chance. What is the big bad point there? I must be missing something. But I'm pretty sure my Korean coworkers do their jobs because they want to have money as well. So?

But the part that I just really cannot abide is this notion that foreign English teachers are pointless. I am so sick of hearing that, from both sides. I'm so sick of hearing foreign English teachers talk about how they are made useless in their classrooms, and I'm sick of hearing it out of the Korean media --- funnily enough, almost never directly from a Korean, despite the fact that this article is supposed to represent what Koreans "really" think of us -- about how foreign teachers don't do any good.

Did you have a foreign English teacher who was a shitty teacher and impossible to understand? Who didn't care about their job and in whose class you felt you didn't learn a single thing? I'm sorry. Have you ever had a crappy Korean teacher who didn't care about their job, was impossible to understand and from whom you felt you learned nothing? I bet you have. I bet you've even had more than one. I know I had my fair share of crappy teachers growing up, and I know some of my students have felt that way about many of my coworkers, as well.

Like, for example, the one that one of them kicked this week. Who is a very nice lady. Or the other English teacher who the students decided to draw caricatures of for their English assignment last week, knowing full well they would be presenting them to the class (for which I obviously punished them, cutting them off at the pass before they could manage to show everyone else). Or the one to whose class students sometimes wander in up to fifteen minutes late, 75% of the class with no pen and no book. Or the one who the students literally shouted at for coming in the front classroom door during the middle of my lecture this week and interrupting.

Why are the students so angry at these teachers? Because they feel like they're not learning anything from them. That's the bottom line. My old co-teacher and I were discussing this rash of bad behavior at lunch yesterday, and that's the conclusion we came to. Because it goes beyond just misbehaving because they're not afraid -- it's just a touch vicious. There's an element of revenge in it. And it relates to the fact that they know the teacher is not doing what the teacher is supposed to be able to do, and they resent it.

Am I going to now talk about how useless Korean English teachers are? No. Because I'm not a fucking idiot. The truth of the matter is, teaching is not something that any person can do. It's also not something that taking a degree or any number of training courses can necessarily prepare you for. It's something else entirely -- it's so many other things, entirely.

It's knowing how to balance being in control with being patient. It's learning how to accommodate as many personality types as exist in the world, and all of the pitfalls and individual needs that come along with them. It's also learning how to control and influence a group mentality. It's knowing how to communicate, in a million different ways. It's knowing how to forgive and let shit go, and how to be firm even in the face of real tears. It's about developing a skin so thick that nothing can ever penetrate it, while also keeping yourself from becoming jaded or resentful.

Take any teacher in the world in their first year of real live classroom experience. No matter their qualifications or degrees or certificates. Observe the mistakes they make, and how utterly inefficient they are bound to be at times. Now, take a group of teachers who primarily exist within that realm, and judge them by that reputation. What does that end up looking like?

If fully qualified, 100% fluent Korean English teachers were rotated in and out as quickly as foreign English teachers are, the entire system would probably be in shambles. That's the God's-honest the way that I see it. And that comes from my actual experience of having seen, at this point, dozens of first time teachers walk into the classroom for the first time, and the chaos that ensues for the rest of the school year. And from my own experience of having gone through it.

I'm the first one to stand up and say that the foreign English teacher evaluations should be strengthened. And it would be so amazing if Korea could afford to just kick out every inefficient foreign teacher in the mix, and carry on with some kind of imaginary abundance of grade A educators. It would also be amazing to see a lot of the terrible Korean teachers I've worked with get the boot, as well. But it's not going to happen. Because this world has more students than it does good teachers. That's the sad truth of the matter. And that truth is just not helped by the turnover rate, in the case of foreign English teachers in Korea.

I'm not going to try to explain what I do in my classroom, or justify myself as a teacher. Because I am not my own student, and I understand that that argument may not hold much weight, in the public view. But I will tell you this:

Even though I had been studying Korean for months and months, and even though I lived in a situation where I was surrounded by the language, by the time I came around to taking my very first Korean class, I was functionally absolutely useless with the language. I could barely understand a word, let alone a sentence. I was at a lower level than most of my students are in English.

And guess what? My Korean class was taught exclusively in Korean. Was it a struggle? You fucking bet it was. It made my head pound and it completely stressed me out. And for the first few weeks, I had to fight with all of my mental strength just to stay afloat. But you know what? I fucking learned. I learned more in those three months than I have in a year of self-study. How did that happen? Because Korean is easier to learn in Korean than English is? No. Because I had an amazing teacher. A teacher who knew how to read our reactions, bring things down to our level, phrase and rephrase, adjust and make us understand exactly what she was saying, even if we didn't actually have a single clue what she was literally saying. My teacher was about 24 years old. I didn't know much about her, but I wouldn't be shocked to hear that she wasn't a certified teacher. My best guess is that she had two things: a. the natural ability to communicate well with others and b. a lot of experience.

You can judge foreign English teachers for not being good at their jobs. For being lazy. For just not caring. But until you've given a good foreign English teacher a chance, it's probably best not to judge the entire practice. Maybe it doesn't work for everyone -- there's rarely a single teaching method which does. But I know for a fact, from firsthand experience, that it does work for some. Because it worked for me. And I bet if we all pooled our resources, we could find a number of our students for whom it has worked, as well.

I'm tired of trying to justify my presence in this country as a teacher in words. I'm tired of having the skill set I've been working my ass off for years to develop shat all over by casual observers or people for whom the system hasn't worked, one way or another, because sometimes all systems fail. If you really want to know, come sit in on my class sometime, and I'll show you what I really do. Until then, I don't want to hear what you have to say about it anymore. Your opinion doesn't matter. Sometimes it's best to know when that's the case.


The Rare Bad Day.

You may or may not remember the other subject teacher who works at my school who seems to think that her children's English education is more important than my existence as a human being. Well. She's just struck again. Tomorrow night is our first 회식 in ages. 회식 is an important time for me especially, because it's the time when I get to really sit and talk to the other subject teachers and show them that I'm not as odd or different or awkward to deal with as they might think. Plus, it's just a really nice time all around, and I like the chance to spend time talking with teachers who I don't normally get to see.

So. I'm sitting in my office this afternoon, already annoyed about this particular 회식 for a number of reasons, when my desk phone rings. It's the afore mentioned self-absorbed teacher. She's calling to ask if she can bring her daughter to the musical tomorrow night.

Why would she ask me that? Good question.

She goes on to explain that her mother has gone out of town to Japan, so her daughter would be left alone if she didn't bring her.

Awesome. Still nothing to do with me, right?

Well. Of course what she wants to know is if she brings her daughter to the musical, can I watch her? While speaking English, obviously.....

I only just managed to quit going to this woman's house for absolute hours every week sometime in April or May. It was leaving no time for me to meet my boyfriend or study Korean or do much of anything else, or, leaving me exhausted in the case that I decided to do all of those other things anyway. Since then, she has several times informed me that her daughter's English is getting worse. And then looked at me as though I were personally responsible.

So. Tomorrow night, during my 회식 with my coworkers, which I am missing out on seeing my boyfriend for possibly the entire weekend to attend, in order to spend some much-needed quality time with my coworkers, I will instead be babysitting her daughter for free.

You know what? I'm just not going. And I'm going to tell my old co teacher why I'm not going, which is that being put in that position makes me feel like I don't belong to the group, and like this teacher assumed I would have no other reason for being at 회식 to begin with, much as how she routinely assumes that I can't do things like shop or read Korean or go to the hospital on my own, because I'm a foreigner, and I just couldn't possibly fit in here. In any capacity.

And I'm going to let the miracle of the grapevine do its thing. And I hope, for once, that this teacher feels like shit when it gets back to her. Because I'm tired of her making me feel like every bitter stereotype I've ever read on Dave's is actually true, when it isn't -- it's just her.