I'm officially really digging challenging the hell out of my hellish, not-so-little-anymore high level second graders. They've been bored in their English classes for ages, and I realized this week that, although we have a lot of little random conversations while I walk around during their boring scripted speaking drills, I've never really pushed them that hard on their listening comprehension and spontaneous spoken responses. And it's even better that they aren't expecting it. It captivates the entire table. When the one student I've chosen to begin with freezes up on a question, another who understood will inevitably jump in, and then I'll switch to him. The end result is a round of "ooooooooooh!"s and high fives when we reach the end. They love squirming under the pressure.
This week, one of the dumbass examples in the book is, "What time does the movie end?/At 9 o'clock." And you wonder why they aren't foaming at their mouths in anticipation of this class? Ee-gads. At first, they think I'm just running the basic drills, but it quickly escalates:
"Park Ingyoo... what time does the movie end?"
"At 9 o'clock."
"Okay. If the movie ends at 9 o'clock, what time does the movie start?"
"Uh... uh..... at seven o'clock!"
"Okay. So. If the movie starts at 7 o'clock, what time should we go to the theater?"
"Listen. The movie starts at 7 o'clock. Right?"
"But. We have to buy tickets, buy popcorn, use the bathroom, and find our seats. So. What time should we go to the theater?"
"Oh! At half past six!"
"Right! So. Should we have dinner before or after the movie?"
"Oh my god...."
"Listen again. Should be have dinner BEFORE or AFTER the movie?"
"Oh! A late dinner? Okay. What should we eat?"
"Should we eat bulgogi? Dakgalbi?"
"Oh! We should eat kimchi jjigae!"
"Kimchi jjigae!? Is dakgalbi too expensive?"
"Congratulations. You can make a date with a girl in English."
Whole table: "OOOOOOOOH! CONGRATULATIONS!" High fives, etc.
My poor third graders. They're a bunch of little storm clouds these days, being under the pressure of just having gone through exams, and now applying to high schools. They have about three months of the good life of middle school left, and then they all know it's the doomed march straight on to the hell that is high school in this country. Today, two of the boyfriend crew came in to visit me during lunch. I was sorting through papers at the desk and they were sitting on either side of me. They weren't chattering away to each other in Korean like they usually are.
Suddenly, this cold dead feeling hit up against me from the right. It's been an age since I've gotten a physical vibe off of someone like that. I shuddered and jumped a bit to the left. The student on the left said, "Oh! Teacher, why doing that?"
I looked at the student on the right. "You... you are really stressed right now, aren't you?"
"How you know, Teacher?!"
"Listen. Do you know the word 'sensitive'?"
He looked at his friend: "Sensitive 뭐야?"
I answered for him: "It's sort of... I think 민감한? Is that right?"
"어. 민감한. 맞아요."
"Anyway, I'm sensitive. I just got this really cold feeling from you. Really bad energy. What is that?"
Student on the left: "YES! Teacher he bad energy today! Really bad feeling!"
He told me how he's stressed out because of his exam results, and because in January, his family is moving a couple of towns south, and how he's nervous about moving away from all of his friends and starting at a new school. Then they both started to talk about high school and how scared they are about it.
"Listen, boys. You know lots of stupid adults, right?"
"Adults. You are kids. I am an adult. Grown up."
"So. You know lots of stupid ones, right?"
"No really! I'm making a point here. Right?"
"So. They survived high school. You're not stupid. You will survive, too. Don't worry about it."
I went to visit my favorite Beethoven loving student today during cleaning period, too, because I knew he would be stressed out about his exam results, even though they would be close to perfect. He hates getting even one wrong answer and dwells on it for absolute ages. Sure enough, he told me all about how he missed making number one student by one question. It turns out, though, that there's a reason for this unnecessary pressure he puts on himself -- it's actually coming from his parents in the form of a bribe with a new cello. Last exam period, he made number one and the next day, the teachers reneged on an exam answer, which put him down one and another student up one. He thought he would be getting the new cello, but had it snatched out from underneath him. Bless his heart.
He went on and on about it, for nearly ten minutes. I finally just told him, you can't go backwards. It's finished. You can't change it. Just look forwards -- not back. Then he started to tell me that he wants to go to a normal high school in the area, with his friends, but his parents are making him go to "very study hard high school" instead. I know in the end, it will probably be better for him, in terms of university entrance and his future. It can't be an easy call to make as a parent. But. But but but.
These kids are just too damn young for this kind of pressure.
In other news, I saw my one male co-teacher's bare torso today and he asked me if I was free on Christmas, after telling me that he hates Christmas because it's a couples day and he never has a girlfriend. This is headed in an interesting and awkward direction. The teachers' trip at the end of the semester is starting to have a lot of potential. I have a feeling I'll have a real chance to test my Korean. Better study up. How do you say, "So who wants to bunk with me?" in Korean?
Just kidding! Yeehaw.