For the last week or so, I've had a new name at school that's been confusing me a bit. I'd heard other teachers being called "Sem!" but it's never been directed at me before. Suddenly, amongst the third graders, I'm Sem. I finally asked New Coteacher what it's about -- she says it's just a shortened version of sunsengnim, and it just means the boys are getting more familiar with me.

This week we're working on, "Do you know who ____ is?" The chapter in the book is completely bizarre, so I told the boys, look -- if you can listen and pay attention well enough, we can forget the book, because I don't really want to talk about this guy:

And I'm pretty sure you don't either.

So we talked about Rain, Big Bang, David Beckham, Gamblerz Crew and Chris Metzen instead.

Then, when it came time for them to do their own examples, I offered it up as a chance to teach their stupid American teacher a thing or two.

"Sem! Do you know who Lee Myeong Bak is?"

"Yes, I do. Isn't he the Korean president?"


"Sem! Do you know who Goo Joon Pyo is?"

"Yes, I do. Isn't he one of the F4?"


"Teacher, me! Goo Joon Pyo! Me!"

"Mmmm.... I don't know about that."

"Sem! You Korean language speaking!"

"Ahni. Hangookmal muteyo."


Today's classic moment came in the form of:

"Sem. Do you know who Mahatma Gandhi is?"

"Yes, I do."

Kid points to the other side of the room. My eyes follow his finger to find a kid who is the spitting image of Gandhi. God help me, I nearly died. I tried to make up for it by explaining that Gandhi is one of my biggest heroes....

Things are coming along okay with the Nightmare Class. I still haven't worked out the perfect formula to keep them all the way under control, but I did remind myself fervently throughout the day that the most important thing is to never, ever lose your cool (which is exactly what I did last week). Instead, I did my utmost to keep my sense of humor about me. Today, when the main culprit started to kick off, another more sympathetic student shouted from the back, "Teacher! He handicapped!"

To which I responded, "I know."

It took the badass kid a second to catch on, but then he busted out laughing and said, "'I know?!'" and put his head down on his desk.

I have to try my best to remember that what comes across as super aggressive sometimes to me, because I can't understand exactly what's being said, and because our boys are not exactly well-versed in the more polite ways to speak English, is sometimes much more innocent than it seems. I've got to learn to give the boys the benefit of the doubt. It's just that it's a pretty threatening situation, when you're supposed to be in charge, but you don't speak the primary language. I wish there was a way to make them understand what it's like.

Anyway, we're getting there.


Kel said...

omg who is that Raul guy?? i am obsessed with him now.

today I had to explain to my class that it was not okay to call someone "a cripple" but to use "handicapped" instead, even though the kid was talking about himself... these kids are funny. where are they learning this stuff??

Laura said...

Do you know what "sunsengnim" translates to?

cherry garcia said...

um...that book cover is classic...

MikejGrey said...

Teacher, do you know who Big Bang is? Yes they are my friends.

Teacher, do you know who BOA is?

Oh yes. Enemy.

He is bad boy.

I'm no Picasso said...

Kel: I have no idea and I have no idea. I don't know how they all know the word "handicapped" but no one can remember the word for "bathroom".

Laura: Sunsengnim means teacher, as a title.

Stepho: Unfortunately it's an album cover. And I don't get why this guy is in an English book in Korea.

Mike: I got to see the "Rainism" dance again in full today -- an ENTIRE CLASS.

MikejGrey said...

Oh man. Did they sing it as well? Just imagine an entire class of 15year olds singing about their magic stick spinning.

I'm no Picasso said...

I don't have to imagine -- I lived it.

I told them they either had to dance or do their English work. I think I might make this a regular option.

MikejGrey said...

I dunno. They'll choose dancing over anything, and it gets real old real fast. At least with my classes. I wish them well. In that I would wish to throw them down a well.