Fucking hell. What a disaster.
First of all, I'm not the only person Coteacher's dicking around with her disorganization apparently. The boys were given the complete wrong schedule and -- given that there were no teachers downstairs who speak English -- we had to spend fifteen minutes of class time while I tried to sort out: 1. If they were given a different schedule or if they were just showing up late, 2. What schedule they had been given, 3. Who's schedule was the correct one, 4. If I changed the schedule to mine, whether or not they would all be able to come still.
In addition to this rocky start, the "high" level students -- the best in the school -- I've been promised are nowhere to be seen. Which means high level everything with lesson planning is going straight into the garbage. These boys have no fucking clue what's going on. ALSO I have two third graders in a class that, otherwise, consists entirely of first graders. And they are not happy campers. At all. They both looked as though some terrible mistake had been made as soon as they walked in and saw all the little kids happily doodling their names with colored pencils. I feel so, so, so bad for them. But I've got to work on the level of the majority, here. They're already clearly being forced into this, and now they've got to play fucking games for candy... oh God. Cringe cringe cringe.
I don't know what to do. They're sort of disrupting class -- one is just one massive grumpy rain cloud of sixteen-year-oldness and the other has got his Big Man attitude on and laughs uproariously at the little jokes I've taken to making under my breath that the boys almost never understand, which makes the other boys endlessly confused. He is the only one that has a decent level of English, though. And he's not being disrespectful. He was a little at first. Then, when we were sorting out the schedule problem, he asked if they would leave at the scheduled (earlier) time today, or stay until the later time they had been told. I said, well it's up to you -- you want to go or stay? He shouted, "GO! I'm hungry..."
To which I responded, "What?! You don't want to spend your vacation here? With me? In the English Zone? Weeeh-eeh-eeh?"
I seemed to have won him over after that.
Maybe I'll just pull them aside tomorrow and explain that I know it sucks, and I know they're too old for this, but there's nothing I can do about it. And try desperately to come up with something for them to do that won't make them want to die. Although with boys that age, absolutely nothing is cool enough. Especially if you're technically an authority figure.
One of the first graders came out with "shut up" in response to something I said -- I don't remember what, but he was asking a question in Korean and "shut up" was just mixed in with it. I don't know what he was trying to say, but I was aware at the time that "shut up" wasn't directed at me. After class, he approached me and said, "Teacher. Oh. Teacher I not say 'shut up' to Teacher!" I just laughed and patted his arm and told him I knew that already, not to worry.
I was more prepared for disaster once the second group came in. They are sweet as hell. A little bundle of the biggest nerds I've ever seen. They all cited "computer games" as their hobbies, and when I asked what music they liked, one kid came out with Peter, Paul & Mary. I don't even know any American kids who know Peter, Paul & Mary.
I don't know where it's coming from, but all of the boys are suddenly incredibly meek and quiet and bashful. Behavior is definitely not going to be an issue. But getting them to talk is. With the second group, near the end, they got going a little bit. But there's a whole hell of a lot of shoe gazing and blushing -- it feels like the beginning all over again.
Aish. I dunno what I'm gonna do. But I'm determined to make this time out of their vacation in a freezing cold classroom as painless as possible.
Anyway, all the technical lecturing is getting dumped in the garbage. They aren't going to be able to understand anything without translation. Tonight I'll be up late trying to find games and other activities that will get them talking as much as possible, and requires as little direction as I can manage.
The good news from work today is that it looks like I'm not going to go back to being ignored. The two PE teachers that don't speak English were in the office -- the one that lives in my apartments and another one who's married with a beautiful baby. They startled the hell out of me when I walked in after my last class and they both stood up and waved wildly, shouting, "Hi!" One has never, never acknowledged me at school before, and the other has only ever given a very serious little bow, when I've managed to catch his eye contact and bow first.
They were sitting over at Sharp Dressed Man's desk having coffee and congregating near the heater. Sharp Dressed Man, never one to let an opportunity to mock slide, looked just as shocked as I felt.
"Mwa?! 'Hiiiieeeee!'" He waved frantically in imitation. Then he pointed at me and said something in Korean that I think probably amounted to, look you scared the shit out of her. That or, why are you tossers being nice to the foreign teacher? I really have no idea.... (must study harder).
There's also another older female teacher who has decided that it doesn't matter that I don't speak Korean -- she will talk to me anyway. In Korean. I have no idea what she's saying, but I appreciate the effort.
There was some sort of calamity going on with a storage cabinet in the office this afternoon. There's something really classic about watching the teachers carry on in Korean and not being able to understand what they're saying. It was almost like watching a Charlie Chaplin film or something.
Anyway, I'm getting bolder now the school is mostly empty and the teachers have fuck all to do except be warm bodies. There was a group of boys standing out on the front stairs this morning when I came into work, and for the first time I approached students instead of the other way around. You can see it on their faces when they see me coming -- I'm well aware that, to students and teachers alike, I'm the equivalent of an English hand grenade they see rolling toward them with the pin already pulled. I know the feeling -- it's the same look I'm sure I have on my face when the waitress at an out-and-out Korean restaurant starts to make her way over. It amounts to:
Crap. I'm going to have to speak that other language I don't really know now.
But hell. We're all just going to have to get over it. Because I refuse to become a social shell of a person, or to have come this far in challenging my various social phobias, only to have it all putter out into an existence at work that amounts to a silent white face that passes without recognition in the halls.
Anyway, the boys were there so early for hand ball practice. They were cold and tired. And two of them, "Englishee. No."
Maybe tomorrow I'll bring in my Korean book and entertain the meager office staff with a pathetic rendition of, "저는 리스예요. 저는 미국사람이에요." Hell, it's only fair, if I'm going to expect them to keep trying to talk to me in English.